Searching for social justice : an ethnographic study of a historically black university's PETE classroom



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Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played and continue to play an important role in uplifting African Americans through education. Most of these institutions began as normal schools designed to prepare teachers who would train and educate students of color— a population that has been historically marginalized and oppressed. Scholarly conversations regarding teaching and teacher education for social justice omit the contributions of HBCUs. Likewise, scholarship about social justice within the field of Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) has been minimal. These trends including the current overemphasis on the training of a monolithic White female middle class teaching force served to justify the ethnographic study in an historically Black PETE program. Rooted in situated learning theory, this study used ethnographic methods and methodology to explore the manifestations of social justice and (physical education) teacher education at Jackie Robinson University— an HBCU. This study uncovered several cultural manifestations of social justice within JRU using interviews, artifact analyses, and observations of several cultural manifestations about social justice and teacher educating for social justice were uncovered. One of the most prominent manifestations is “The Gap”, a theme that can be seen throughout the historical and contemporary culture of JRU. In one sense, “The Gap” represents the void filled by the university as it provides opportunities for education for students with limited educational options. In another sense, “The Gap” represents tensions within the institution. These tensions exist as gaps among students, faculty, administration, and the university as a whole. Despite “The Gap”, Teacher Education for social justice exists in the culture of JRU as forms of care and culturally relevant pedagogy. While these cultural manifestations were located within specific classrooms, they represent the ethos of the university as a whole. The findings of this study offer both theoretical and practical value. From a theoretical perspective, the findings shed insight into the meaning of social justice and (physical education) teacher education for social justice in an ethnically diverse context. In a practical sense, the strategies utilized by (physical education) teacher educators at JRU foster a classroom culture of holistic education.