Multicultural Education places cultural diversity at the center of teaching. It realizes the importance of teaching students about themselves and the diversity that exists around them.Our world is drastically changing. In the United States, the ethnic make up of the student population is becoming more diverse. Twenty years from now, students of color are projected to make up nearly 50% of the nation’s student body. Already students of color comprise the majority in Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Academic institutions cannot afford to ignore the need for multicultural education. But the reality is that schools do not or, if at all, superficially teach the lessons of multiculturalism and diversity. According to leading multicultural scholar, Dr. James Banks, there are four stages to multicultural curriculum reform: the contributions, ethnic additive, transformative, and social actions approach. The goal is to advance to the transformative and social actions approach.
- Focuses on discrete heroes, holidays and cultural elements
- “Foods, Festival, and Folk dancing”
- Examples: Lunar New Year, Black History Month, Columbus Day, King Kamehameha Day
- Results in students having a superficial and stereotypical understanding of ethnic and cultural groups
Ethnic Additive Approach
- Ethnic content is added without changing the mainstream or Eurocentric structure of the curriculum
- Ethnic content is viewed from a Eurocentric perspective.
- Examples: Adding Native American content into a Unit called “Westward Movement” which privileges the Eurocentric and pioneer perspective
- Results in ethnic content being unauthentic and an "afterthought"
- Restructures the curriculum to allow concepts, issues, and events to be viewed from diverse ethnic and cultural perspectives
- Content is organized around big universal ideas.
- Examples: Creating a unit called “Encounter between Two Worlds” which equally
validates the viewpoints and experiences of the “discoverer” and indigenous people i.e. James Cook & Native Hawaiians; Christopher Columbus & Taino Native Americans
- Results in showing diversity and unity among people
Social Actions Approach
- Actions and decisions are made related to the concepts, issues, and problems that are being studied to make the world a better place
- Ultimate form of putting theory into practice
- Examples: Writing letters to the editor, service learning projects, campaigning
- Results in empowering students to be social agents of change
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