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Crosscurrents logo 2021

Redefining education with Kenneth Monteiro

San Francisco State University

San Francisco has pioneered many concepts for the country. One of them is recognizing the importance of a college education that’s diverse, and multicultural, reflecting the populace. And so, the country’s first Department of Ethnic Studies was launched at San Francisco State University in 1968.

The current Dean of this department is Professor Kenneth Monteiro. He was drawn to ethnic studies as a student of psychology at Stanford when he started noticing that much of the material didn’t apply to his own experience as a black man. Neither, he says, did it apply to Latinos, Native Americans, or Asians. It was, as he calls it, “white psychology”. That’s when he and his colleagues knew it was time for a change. He spent the rest of his academic life helping redefine American education, and he says the process starts at childhood.

KENNETH MONTEIRO: Your first knowledge, you already had. You had it from your family. You had it from your culture. Then you go to the library and read books you weren’t assigned. And then you start saying, wait a minute. These are people who I share a culture with who wrote this poetry. You remember that your mother and father played music or told stories. You then start connecting this academic knowledge to your life.

Click the player above to hear the full interview.

Hana Baba is host of Crosscurrents, KALW's weeknight newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area.