Value of Multicultural Education Programs Term Paper

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Value of Multicultural Education Programs

Multicultural education is often seen as a recent result of an educational system overly concerned with political correctness. However, the concept that was eventually dubbed as "multicultural education" has actually been around since the 1960s. With the advent of the civil rights movement, educators began to question the wisdom of an educational system aimed at assimilating various minority groups into dominant American culture, a supposedly "superior" cultural model.

Since then, however, educational curricula and teaching methods have been revamped to incorporate more diversity in both technique and subject matter. Many critics worried that multicultural education was undermining America's long-standing policy of melting pot-style assimilation. Fearing that the United States would no longer continue to be a cohesive society, many argued that instead of promoting unity, multicultural education would only divide children along cultural, racial, and ethnic lines. Other critics argued the opposite point, that multicultural education was employed with an eye towards teaching the children about the "superiority" of American culture, compared to that of the rest of the world.

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This paper argues that multicultural education has had significant positive effects on the educational system in this country. It has shown success in both helping minority children learn the basics of education, and in broadening the worldview of all students in the United States. The first part of this paper thus provides an overview of multicultural education. The second part of this paper then examines various ways that multicultural education has been integrated into various parts of the school curriculum, and reflects on how these techniques have worked.

In the last section, this paper examines case studies showing successful application of multicultural education, and gives suggestions on how multicultural education can be further integrated towards a successful education for all of America's children.

Multicultural education

TOPIC: Term Paper on Value of Multicultural Education Programs Multicultural Education Assignment

Many experts have disagreed on the exact meaning and scope of multicultural education. In the United States, multicultural education is seen as a method of education that consciously strives to create a learning environment that caters to students from all socio-economic, racial, ethnic and cultural groups (Banks and Banks 1995). Multicultural education therefore touches all aspects of the educational system, from curriculum design to pedagogy to even methods of discipline.

The concept of multicultural education is generally broad, but encompasses three general areas. First, multicultural education is concerned with the content of school programs. Many multicultural programs focus on expanding the cultural content of their curricula, with the goal of increasing the students' knowledge. Practices under this aspect of multicultural education include in-class celebrations of various cultural holidays and the incorporation of readings in various relevant classes.

Another aspect of multicultural education is the emphasis on addressing the needs of students whose needs may differ from those of the dominant cultural group, meaning mostly minority students. These programs could include bilingual education, language instruction, and math and science classes geared towards minority or female populations. Other programs also conduct research into how cultural background can affect one's learning style, in an effort to design programs that meet their educational needs. These programs are thus often remedial in nature, geared towards helping a previously neglected population to catch up with its peers.

A third aspect of multicultural education includes programs designed to increase meaningful interaction between students of different cultural, socio-economic and racial backgrounds. When students interact with one another positively in a classroom setting, experts like Banks and Banks (1995) found that individual students show improved grades. Racial tensions are reduced within classrooms. More importantly, such interactions lay the foundations for learning about different cultural groups.

The uniting factor of all these programs is the attempt to make the educational experience more inclusive, and more reflective of the growing diversity of the American population. Through such aspects, proponents of multicultural education hope to create an educational system that caters to the needs of all its students.

Multiculturalism in the classroom

The success of multicultural education involves active work towards these three general goals. Curricula content is important, if only because schools are first and foremost educational institutions. However, the success of a multicultural curriculum also depends largely on the students' ability to assimilate and process the knowledge. The long-term goal of increasing positive contact between people of different backgrounds is also taken into consideration.

The successful steps towards these goals can be seen in several multicultural education programs that have been instituted around the country. One of the most important areas that multicultural education has been integrated is in the subject of reading and literacy. After all, reading comprehension is one area wherein students from marginalized populations were at a clear disadvantage. Literacy, the ability to construct meanings through writing and speaking, is a basic requirement for a young person to be fully functional in American society.

Traditionally, reading comprehension and literacy has been one area wherein minority students have lagged behind. These include programs that focus enriching curricula and maintaining high academic expectations. One of the reasons is that many traditional reading programs fail to help culturally diverse students to become successful readers.

Many educators who understand the concept of multicultural education, however, recognized that traditional programs do not meet the needs of all their students, especially those from linguistically and culturally different backgrounds. The challenge was not forcing these children to conform to the dominant reading material. Rather, how can these methods be adapted, to help students become literate while maintaining their own heritage?

Many successful programs have incorporated diverse reading material into language and literacy classes. Education experts like Nichols et al. (2000) have observed that such literature has often been outside the literary canon. However, authors such as Joyce Carol Thomas, for example, have written works that spark the interest of African-American students, while Carmen Lomas Garza's works have shown the same effect for Hispanic students. Many students who have previously been apathetic in reading classrooms have shown interest when the material is more reflective of their heritage. Similarly, students from different background show strong interest in reading about other cultural and ethnic backgrounds as well.

Another aspect that successful multicultural reading programs incorporate is a thoughtful consideration of what constitutes a multicultural reading program. In addition to diversity in terms of ethnicity, efforts are also made to address the experiences of religious minorities, such as the Amish or Jewish population, and of regional cultural groups, such as the Appalachians.

These programs are successful because they address the different crucial aspects of multicultural education. First, the reading material helps minority children to affirm their own cultural identity. Second, exposure to such material also helps all students in the classroom to develop an understanding and appreciation of different cultural experiences. Students learn such lessons not only through reading but through thoughtful writing and research-based follow-up assignments.

An added dimension of participation is achieved when students themselves are encouraged to recommend reading material that celebrates their heritage and background (Hale 2001). Dialogues with students and the community are invaluable in shaping a culturally responsive literacy program. This is also an excellent way to involve parents, families and other community members in the education of children, giving greater chance that children will benefit from the education process.

The added bonus is that teachers themselves, who may be unfamiliar with the culturally sensitive reading material, add to their own repertoire of teaching. This adds to a cycle wherein teachers have more material to engage children and parents in their classrooms.

The involvement of teachers beyond a classroom setting is vital, since a large part of what keeps many minorities from succeeding in the classrooms can be related to cultural practices. Often, children from such backgrounds who fall through the cracks are labeled as troublemakers or academic failures, when their academic difficulties are in fact related to factors such as poverty, English language difficulty and lack of family support. Thus, the successful multicultural education programs also train teachers to recognize and address these socio-economic factors that keep children from succeeding in the classroom.

To address the need to develop such "student-centered" approaches, successful multicultural education programs also target teacher preparation programs. This is particularly imperative for teachers preparing for work in urban environments, where up to 62% of students come from lower socio-economic backgrounds and where over 31% of students speak a language other than English at home (Hodgkinson 2002). Teachers who are unprepared for this environment may find it hard to connect with their student population and to create classroom experiences that both challenge and engage their students.

By helping teachers be more culturally sensitive, these training programs address all aspects of multicultural education raised earlier. Teachers themselves could design classroom lessons that are more reflective of and relevant to their populations. Activities such as grouping students from different backgrounds together for small class discussions help lay the foundations for the meaningful interaction that is vital for creating a sense of community within the classrooms. A teacher who understands these multicultural issues is also an invaluable member of the community,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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