in various practices. From this perspective, culture becomes a question of situating the social practices and histories of groups and less about attributing certain styles to groups. In other words, culture is “the constellations of practices historically developed and dynamically shaped by communities in order to accomplish the purposes they value” (Nasir et al., 2006).
Over the past several decades, concerns about equitable access to science for nondominant groups (as well as underutilization of the nation’s human resources) have been strong motivators in the issue of science equity. To that end, equity in science education has primarily focused on defining and identifying science content standards—that is, what students are expected to learn and achieve in science classrooms (Lee, 1999). Within these standards science has typically been represented as objective, universal knowledge—and culturally neutral. Moreover, some educators have stressed science as a set of practices that define a singular “culture of science” that would-be scientists must acquire. This view assumes, implicitly or explicitly, that the culture of science does not reflect the cultural values that people bring to science. We question this assumption, which is analogous to assuming that learners of a second language naturally speak without accent, without any trace of their first language. This assumption has resulted in an approach to equity that does not adequately address systemic factors that might restrict access or hinder individuals from nondominant groups from engaging and identifying with science (Secada, 1989, 1994).
Thus, science equity has often resulted in attempts to provide equal access to opportunities already available to dominant groups, without consideration of cultural or contextual issues. Science instruction and learning experiences in informal environments often privilege the science-related practices of middle-class whites and may fail to recognize the science-related practices associated with individuals from other groups. In informal venues for learning science, for example in museums, some initiatives are aimed at introducing new audiences to existing museum science content, such as outreach initiatives offering reduced-cost admission or bringing existing science programming that is, already offered to mainstream groups, to nondominant communities. The goal of such initiatives is to enable students to become members of the science community without changing existing science systems (Good, 1993, 1995; Matthews, 1994; Williams, 1994). This view of science equity has been called the assimilationist view of science equity (Lee, 1999). The logic of this view is that particular groups have not had sufficient access to science learning experiences. So to remedy that situation, educators deliver to nondominant groups the same kinds of learning experiences that have served dominant groups.
Participation and achievement in science, however, are mediated by