Multicultural Education Is a Field of Study Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2350 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Race

Multicultural Education is a field of study and an emerging discipline whose major aim is to create equal educational opportunities for students from diverse racial, ethnic, social-class, and cultural groups. One of its important goals is to help all students to acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to function effectively in a pluralistic democratic society and to interact, negotiate, and communicate with peoples from diverse groups in order to create a civic and moral community that works for the common good. (Banks p. xi)

An increase in concern for the implications of the demographic shift for education has been brought about by the pressure of increasing diversity in cultural and ethnic groups in American schools.

The RAND Report

In an open session of the National Science Board on February 18 and 19, 1999, at the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles, Dr. Peter a. Morrison of the RAND Corporation gave a presentation called "A Demographic Perspective on our Nation's Future." Discussing the global context of decreasing numbers of births per family, he said lower fertility rates have led to higher percentages of adults in the population, and increased numbers of women in the workforce. He then gave outlines of four major areas of change in the U.S. partially tied to this: (1) the maturing age distribution; (2) the impending generation gaps; (3) the disparities tied to education; and (4) the complex ethnic mosaic.

Dr. Morrison said there would be, of necessity, three major policy challenges: "Reducing structural impediments to individual opportunities,... nurturing human capital for the nation's science enterprise; and tempering competing interests in the context of ethnic diversity" (National p. 1).

Commentators on the RAND report outlined the resulting trends and repercussions. For one, local populations that become ethnically more diverse must exercise care when they redistrict to ensure equal representation for equal numbers of persons and to avoid diluting the voting strength of any "protected" group. Three case studies of California cities illustrate tensions arising because of cultural pluralism. Redistricting efforts in the 1990s heightened tension between the traditional "melting pot" assimilation and the concept of a "mosaic." Society must strike a compromise that expresses the national goals of ethnic and racial empowerment as well as the local interests that arise from the bonds of proximity (Clark i).

Pertinent literature from anthropology and linguistics is available to bring to the forefront concerns about child-service delivery programs in mental health, social service, public health, and community development. There is little focus in the national research agenda, but indications are for a basic policy directive for effective education of a diverse population (Tharp 1).

Recent projections point to minorities in the United States eventually making up one-third of the population, and in some metropolitan areas African-Americans and Hispanics will make up a majority of the school-age population. In other communities, there will be concentrations of school-age children from both Native American and Asian backgrounds, along with immigrants and refugees from Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Currently, most prospective teachers are White females, who stand in sharp contrast to the students they will teach (Coballes-Vega p. 1)

The question on race for Census 2000 was different from the one for the 1990 census in several ways. Most significantly, respondents were given the option of selecting one or more race categories to indicate their racial identities. Because of these changes, the Census 2000 data on race are not directly comparable with data from the 1990 census or earlier censuses. Starting with Census 2000, the OMB requires federal agencies to use a minimum of five race categories: White, Black or African-American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Additionally, to collect data on individuals of mixed race parentage, respondents were allowed to select one or more races. For respondents unable to identify with any of these five race categories, OMB approved and included a sixth category "Some other race" on the Census 2000 questionnaire. (U.S. Census 2005)

Although it appears that more immigrants have come to the United States in recent years than in the past, in actuality, immigration has decreased since 1901, when 8,795,000 entered the country. In 2004, only 958,000 entered. Most of these were admitted for employment-based preferences (155,330) or because they had relatives who are citizens (417,815). (U.S. Census, 2005).

Multicultural education not only draws its curriculum, ideas, themes and theories from interdisciplinary fields such as ethnic studies, women studies, history and the social and behavioral sciences, it also questions, challenges, and reinterprets curriculum, ideas, and themes from established disciplines. Multicultural education applies content from these fields and disciplines to the educational setting. Therefore, we may define multicultural education as "a field of study designed to increase educational equity for all students that incorporates, for this purpose, content, concepts, principles, theories, and paradigms from history, the social and behavioral sciences, and particularly from ethnic studies and women studies." (Banks p. xii).

The ethnic mosaic began to shape itself in the 1960s in the wake of the civil rights movement as a correction in the long-standing de facto policy of assimilating minority groups into the "melting pot" of dominant American culture. To allow ethnic minorities to practice and revive their cultural heritage within their segments of the community is both natural and controversial. Multiculturalism has captured the headlines in recent years, as it has become a battleground in politics and in actuality. Attempts to establish multicultural curricula in New York City and California made headlines and garnered public attention. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. voiced his opposition to New York's Children of the Rainbow curriculum in 1991, when he argued that diversity was divisive along racial and cultural lines, rather than uniting them as Americans. Strong attacks from both opponents and proponents of multicultural education in California's curriculum claimed it either carried diversity too far, or barely supported the traditional curriculum.

In May 1994, a school board in Lake County, Florida, voted that its schools could teach children about other cultures, "but only as a way of teaching them that American culture was inherently 'superior,' a decision that sparked debate around the country"(School Board," 1994).

This points up the fact that there has been little agreement on the exact nature of multicultural education. While some say its applicability to curriculum is limited to multicultural classes, it has also been defined as processes by which schools work with rather than against oppressed groups. One scholar said that multicultural education can have an impact upon every aspect of a school's operation.

Multicultural education, however, cannot be all things to all people. A typology can provide a useful framework for thinking about multicultural education, giving schools and the general public a clear understanding of what people mean by the term. Two or three are discussed below.

Content-Oriented Programs

Content-oriented efforts are the most common and immediately recognizable types of multicultural education. Their goal to include content about different cultural groups in the curriculum and educational materials to increase students' knowledge about these groups adds a multicultural patina to a standard curriculum. Other versions add numerous multicultural materials and themes to the curriculum.

These programs can transform the curriculum into something wonderful for all students. The programs have three goals: (1) in all the disciplines to develop multicultural content; (2) in the curriculum to incorporate different viewpoints and perspectives; and (3) to develop a new paradigm that transforms the canon.

Multicultural education tries to reflect the growing diversity of America's classrooms, including the academic needs of carefully defined groups of students, often minority students. While curricular programs attempt to increase the body of knowledge about different ethnic, cultural, and gender groups, student-oriented programs are intended to increase the academic achievement of these groups, even when they do not involve extensive changes in the content of the curriculum.

Inclusive Teaching

Inclusive Teaching means teaching in ways that do not exclude students, accidentally or intentionally, from opportunities to learn. Students are excluded from the classroom by:

Conveying Disrespect, Unfairness, or Lack of Confidence in Students

Disregarding Student Backgrounds, Preparation, or Life Events That Affect Learning

Interacting With Only a Subset of the Students (Research has shown that instructors can appear to be highly selective in their interactions with students -- for example, not acknowledging answers given by female students in the same way that they acknowledge answers from male students -- even though the instructors being observed reported that they were not intentionally doing so.)

Teaching in Ways That Favor Particular Backgrounds or Approaches to Learning.

Although teachers may expect students to come into the classroom expecting certain things, this does not mean that all students have the same expectations. Students coming in from diverse backgrounds may have experienced prejudice and suspicion elsewhere and they expect it in the classroom. Also, their educational experiences are greatly influenced by the messages students have received throughout their earlier years." Even in the absence of explicit disrespect, bias, or expressed doubt in students' abilities, not all students recognize a course as "neutral… [END OF PREVIEW]

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