Multicultural Education: Piecing Together the Puzzle
When a child opens his (or her) first puzzle and the pieces fall to the ground, it may seem very confusing. What are they to do with this pile of shapes in front of them? It often takes a parent to explain to them that all the different pieces fit together into one whole picture. Although every piece is different and unique, when they are all put into their place they form one whole picture. In the same way, teachers can teach multiculturalism in the classroom. Although every member of our society is unique, with different cultural backgrounds, we all fit together to form one unit. As stated by Noel (1995), "Understanding our own identity and the culture of our community requires knowledge and recognition of our cultures and communities and how they have shaped us" (p. 267). By adding a multicultural component to their curriculums, teachers can help students see how each individual fits into the big picture.
There are, however, arguments against multicultural education (Banks, 1995). For example, some critics believe that multicultural education is directed toward only minority groups, thus discriminating against middle class, white, heterosexual males. Others believe that multiculturalism is against Western and democratic ideals. A final argument is the claim that multiculturalism will divide our presumably
united nation. Although critics of multicultural education may feel they have valid arguments against the issue, I feel that the goals of multicultural education make it an important part of the curriculum that every student should experience.
I agree with Wurzel (1988) and Noel (1995) when they stress awareness as a key component to multiculturalism. Students must become aware of their own culture and how they are similar and different from others. Awareness also involves an understanding of issues involving differences in culture and a knowledge of which of these issues are present in their community. After becoming aware of these issues, students often react emotionally. With an awareness of the richness and variety of cultures in their community and a personal emotional reaction, students can take social action, another goal of multicultural education (Noel, 1995). Noel says that students would take "action aimed at positive multicultural change"(p. 272).
I feel that these goals are proof that the arguments against multicultural education are invalid (Banks, 1995). Multiculturalism promotes positive change for persons of all cultures. It involves not only teaching majority groups about minorities, but also teaching minority groups about the majority groups. It has its base in democratic ideals
such as equality, freedom, and justice. Multiculturalism will unite our
divided nation into one unit which will have no mainstream culture, but
many diverse subcultures which will cooperate for the good of everyone,
not just the majority or the minority.
I feel very strongly that multiculturalism should be included in all curricula. My school experience (until college) didn't include multicultural perspectives and I feel as if I missed out on some important things. I often feel a little clueless when confronted with situations involving people different from me. Without some knowledge of our surroundings, how can we be expected to survive in society? This question reveals one of the purposes of education, survival. Learning about the other people who share our community is an essential part of this survival in modern society. Multiculturalism becomes increasingly important as our society becomes more diverse.
In the past (Lynch, 1989), efforts to provide multicultural content to students have, as critics feared, created more diversity and tension among groups. However, more recent methods are aimed at creating relations based on commonalities. Lynch (1989) suggests providing "a basis of common knowledge, skills, and insights about the things that all human societies should hold in common" (p. 43). Stressing similarities will unify groups with differences.
Davidman (1994) defines the goals of multicultural education as:
"(1) educational equity; (2) empowerment of students and their parents; (3) cultural pluralism in society; (4) ...understanding and harmony in the
classroom, school, and community; (5) an expanded knowledge of various cultural and ethnic groups; and (6) the development of students, parents, and practitioners...guided by an informed and inquisitive multicultural perspective" (p.2). Just as the goals stated by other crusaders for multiculturalism, Davidson's goals follow a specific order and stress knowledge, understanding, and equality.
I believe that it is very necessary and completely conceivable for our education systems to move toward a multicultural curriculum. By following the goals I have mentioned, we can finally understand how the many pieces of our society fit together into one big picture.
Banks, J. A.(1995). Multicultural Education: Development, Dimensions, and Challenges. In Noll, J. W. (Ed.), Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Educational Issues (pp. 84-93). Guilford, CT: The Dushkin Publishing Group, Inc.
Chavez, L.(1995). Demystifying Multiculturalism. In Noll, J. W. (Ed.), Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Educational Issues (pp. 94-98). Guilford, CT: The Dushkin Publishing Group, Inc.
Davidman, L. (with Davidman, P.T.) (1994). Teaching With a Multicultural Perspective: A Practical Guide. White Plains, NY: Longman Publishing Group.
Lynch, J. (1989). Multicultural Education in a Global Society. Bristol, PA: The Falmer Press.
Noel, J.R. (1995). Multicultural Teacher Education: From Awareness Through Emotions to Action. Journal of Teacher Education, 46, 267-272.
Noll, J.W. (1995). Should Multiculturalism Permeate the Curriculum? Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Educational Issues (pp. 82-83). Guilford, CT: The Dushkin Publishing Group, Inc.
Senese, G.B., Tozer, S.E., & Violas, P.C. (1995). School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Wurzel, J.S. (1988). Toward Multiculturalism: A Reader in Multicultural Education. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.