Multicultural Education Term Paper

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Education

Multiculturalism in Education: Creating a Brighter Tomorrow

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Multiculturalism in education is an essential element in shaping America's increasingly diverse society. Different ethnic, linguistic, racial, and religious groups bring to the contemporary world a wide range of experiences and viewpoints. Many are the victims of years of prejudicial policies and degrading stereotypes. Others face these conditions as they arrive on our shores. Immigrants who do not speak English fluently, along with African-Americans and other oppressed groups, are often wrongly tracked toward special education programs, or even tagged as mentally disabled. They are denied even the opportunities for education and advancement. Multiculturalism seeks to expand the horizons of all Americans through a comprehensive program of showing off the histories and strengths of all the diverse people who comprise the American mosaic. Multiculturalism opens the eyes of students and teachers alike, and lets them know that there are other ways of looking at our society. Yet multiculturalism also has its shortcomings. Too often, proponents look only at the bare facts, and the training of teaches to impart those facts, without looking at how those facts are used, or even selected. More work needs to be done to realize the full potential of multicultural education in reaching the goals of a society in which opportunity and happiness are freely available to all regardless of ethnic, linguistic, religious, or racial heritage.

Introduction

TOPIC: Term Paper on Multicultural Education Assignment

America today is an increasingly multicultural society. Immigrants from many lands and backgrounds add daily to the ethnic and religious mix. Increasingly, children of new immigrants do not speak English as their native language. They follow customs and religions that "mainstream" Americans find exotic or even threatening. These new arrivals add to a population of native-born minorities, many of whom have long faced discrimination and second-class citizen status. African-Americans suffered for generations under the legacy of slavery. They faced prejudicial laws and exclusion from the American Dream. Denied access to basic opportunities in education, most found themselves condemned to a life of low-wage, dead end jobs. They and their children lacked many of the attributes of the "good life," sharing little in the newfound affluence and prosperity of a burgeoning suburbia. Poor and overcrowded, with substandard housing and paucity of facilities for education, healthcare, and recreation, the nation's inner cities became home to large numbers of African-American and newly arrived immigrants. The situation remains perilous today. Education offers a way out. Multicultural education, in particular, presents opportunities for those of different backgrounds and national, ethnic, and origin. Multicultural education offers hope to those who speak other languages, and follow other traditions and religions. But multiculturalism also presents problems, not least among which is the chance for friction between minority groups and the majority population. As well, there are the potential difficulties in perpetuating a situation in which ethnic, religious, and racial minorities remain as distinct groups outside the American mainstream. Each of these areas must be examined in any consideration of the possible benefits of a multicultural educational system.

What We Know

Multicultural education is based on the premise that individuals of different backgrounds possess different attitudes and assumptions in regard to learning and to the social and cultural constructs that going into the learning process. Teachers too often teach those things that they consider important to themselves. An educator who comes from a white middle class background will almost inevitably approach the classroom from that perspective, thereby ignoring what might be the special needs and perceptions of minority students. As stated in Allen and Hillman-Wilmarth,

To implicate oneself in one's own narratives of learning and teaching means turning habituated knowledge back on itself, and examining its most unflattering - for many, its most devastating - features. It also means exploring how even this most unflattering moment may offer insight into making significance. (Allen & Hermann-Wilmarth, 2004)

In order to help their students learn, teachers must be able to reach out to those students, to peak in terms that they understand. Doing this requires expanding the educator's horizons, undertaking a study of other cultures and religions, learning other languages, and in general, immersing oneself in another tradition. Burch and Higbee make reference to several goals of multicultural education as they relate to the developmental process. Among these are the inculcation of respect for members of one group for those who are members of another, together with the exposure of students to numerous varied cultural possibilities and permutations. Young people learn to communicate better with those of other backgrounds, in the process breaking down inherently self-centered notions of identity. Stereotypes are worn away as pupils become more aware of the true personalities of their peers. The approach encourages a dialogue between teachers and students of all backgrounds, leading directly to an expansion of possibilities and a greater opportunity for learning as students and teachers learn to help one another and to assist in building up strengths and eliminating weaknesses. (Bruch & Higbee, 2002) lack of tolerance and respect for diversity frequently results in stigmatization and permanent problems down the road. Members of minority groups with limited proficiency in the English language are commonly single out as learning disabled. Though these individual's limited success in traditional course of English literature, and reading writing, may largely be ascribed to their never having attend full fluency in the English language, or to their community's use of English on a level that in to consonant with school standards, these considerations are nevertheless ignored, and the person is labeled learning disabled. Caroline T. Clark cites one case of a young Latina in Los Angeles who, in college, was declared to possess a learning disability in reading. The parameters used to make this determination ignored other possible factors, but even worse, they ignored the objective criteria that should be used in the making of such a determination. Clark calls this kind of objective judgment, "authoritative discourse":

Authoritative discourse] demands our unconditional allegiance.... [it] permits no play with the context framing it, no play with its borders, no gradual and flexible transitions, no creative stylizing variants on it. It enters our verbal consciousness as a compact and indivisible mass.... It is indissolubly fused with its authority. (Clark, 2003)

Yet, Clark underscores the even greater danger of allowing this authoritative discourse to get in the way of the real facts of the case. In the instance of this particular individual, the "facts" were clear, and the evaluations all added up to one thing - that this young women, like so many other Latinas, was learning disabled. The tests never considered any other culpable factors. Under these circumstances, the judgment was absolute and objective... But wrong. Authoritative discourse is not always the best, or sole, course to be followed.

From the over-inclusion of minorities among the ranks of the learning disabled to their designation as mentally retarded is not that great a step. More even than Hispanics, African-Americans are labeled as emotionally or mentally handicapped. In the 1990s, African-Americans accounted for fully thirty-five percent of those labeled as trainable mentally retarded. (Paul, French & Cranston-Gingras, 2002, p. 35) Pamela Block, Fabricio Balcazar, Christopher Keys underscore the dangers of this kind of racially and ethnically-based designation process, linking the overwhelming labeling of African-Americans, and members of certain other minority groups, as mentally retarded with the concept of eugenics that was popular in the first half of the Twentieth Century. (Block, Balcazar & Keys, 2001, p. 18) in this most dangerous of situation, concern is not with the care of the supposedly mentally retarded, but with their isolation from the mainstream of society. If one race or ethnic group can be deemed naturally inclined toward mental deficiency, it can then be reckoned an inherently inferior group. Care, whether in the home, or in school, or as an inmate of some institution, is essentially beyond the point. Racially inferior groups simply do not deserve the same considerations. As described by Block, Balcazar and Keys,

The concept of "disability," when applied as a medical or psychological diagnosis, can subsume the culturally, socially, and historically derived identity of an individual beneath a label of pathology. When individuals enter the service system, other personal characteristics become secondary, and people become defined by their disabilities. Whether the disability is physical or mental, labeling a person as disabled attaches stigma and results in social exclusion.

(Block, Balcazar & Keys, 2001, p. 18)

The notion that single group is more inclined to be mentally disabled becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The group itself, much as with the English as Second Language Students who saw themselves as less intelligent than Native speakers of English, begins to view its own behaviors, customs, and traditions as inherently inferior, or even pathological. Being Black becomes as good as being labeled "mentally deficient." A group that comes to identify itself with mental deficient will only move further outside the mainstream. It will be seen by its own members, as well as by those outside, as deviant; potentially criminal, or in other ways injurious to the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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