Multicultural education is a relatively new and evolving field in American education. Although the major theorists in this field differ slightly in their approaches, there is a general consensus that multicultural education attempts to revise the mainstream curriculum to include diverse perspectives and education in the United States and posits that schools must be constantly reexamined to see that they are properly serving all students. This is particularly true of those populations that have been historically underserved.
As a relatively new and distinct area in educational scholarship, multicultural education can have a variety of meanings even to educators in schools. This entry will give the reader a broad overview of the field of multicultural education and outline its major dimensions.
Long before the term multicultural education was coined in the lexicon of American education, there were individuals such as George Washington Williams, W. E. B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, and George Sanchez, who realized and publicized the lack of equity in American education. These historians/ philosophers advocated that the United States needed to provide high-quality education for all of its youth, particularly its poor children and children of color. They also realized that the content of education was significantly different depending on society’s views for the future of these children. These historians/ philosophers realized that the education received by poor children and children of color in their generations did not allow them to examine their position in American society nor give them the academic tools to analyze equity issues in education or society at large.
Could Williams, Du Bois, Woodson, and Sanchez be regarded as early multicultural educators? Perhaps this is not true in the most literal sense, because multicultural education had not yet been defined as a distinct academic field. However, their ideas of an equitable and democratic education provided much of the intellectual foundation for a movement in U.S. education that would follow decades later.
All of these authors realized that the education available to most African American and/or Latino students of their day was not commensurate with the knowledge and critical thinking skills provided to most mainstream students. A question that they pondered was, Why? Public education, like any other aspect of public policy that has a cost attached to it, is directed by elected public officials according to the values they hold and the extent to which they see all students as worthy of high levels of education. The decision to provide a high-quality education is affected by officials’ views of race and ethnicity as well as the role they saw for students of different racial/ethnic backgrounds in American society.
For the latter part of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century, most African American and Latino students who were provided with a public education (some were not) received one that envisioned them as blue-collar or domestic workers in American society. W. E. B. Du Bois called for the top “talented tenth” of African Americans to be responsible for the socioeconomic movement of the race. However, opportunities for African Americans of the day to get elite educations like Du Bois’s own Harvard Ph.D. were rare indeed. Carter G. Woodson’s insightful questioning of public education is seen when he questioned the curriculum in the 1930s. Woodson argued that when African Americans were taught with a curriculum that portrayed them in inferior positions in society, they would find those places and stay in them.
When Woodson observed this in 1933, he knew the immense power of an educational system that viewed African Americans as second-class citizens, rationalized that view, and educated them to accept the prevailing social hierarchy of the time. In questioning that prevailing orthodoxy and asking that education value all of this nation’s students, Woodson was acting in a similar role as that played by multicultural educators today.
In the 1940s and 1950s, other African American scholars, such as Allison Davis, followed Woodson and critiqued many of the prevailing views of the nature of intelligence testing and its implications about the abilities of African American students. After devoting a career to studying culture-fair intelligence and achievement tests, Davis observed that racial and ethnic differences in standardized tests were due to the tests themselves. Davis realized that lower average scores posted by African American students were not a result of innate differences, but of differences that arise from discrepancies in experience.
Another scholar whose early work influenced multicultural education was George I. Sanchez. Professor Sanchez, a native New Mexican, devoted his career to removing educational obstacles for Mexican Americans. In 1932, Sanchez published an article attacking the notion that Mexican American children were inherently intellectually inferior to native English-speaking American children. Sanchez argued that environmental and linguistic factors were associated with the IQ scores of Mexican American children. This was not widely recognized at the time.
Sanchez continued his distinguished career researching African American education and headed a Rosenwald Fund project at Louisiana’s Grambling University to equip teachers with the tools to incorporate the traditions and experiences of the local community in the education of rural African American students. Thus, Sanchez married the fields of Mexican American, African American, bilingual, and rural education.
Another group of progressive educators in the 1940s and 1950s concerned with equity issues were those involved in intercultural and intergroup education. Scholars such as Rachel Davis Du Bois, John Granrud, and Hilda Taba were key figures among intercultural and intergroup educators and promoted programs that linked schooling to the community. Intercultural educators focused more on immigrant cultures and the need to have immigrant children comfortable with their cultures of origin. Intergroup education sprung from race riots that occurred during World War II in Detroit, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Beaumont, Texas. The goal of this movement was to increase tolerance in the nation, and intergroup educators enacted prejudice reduction programs in many schools. Although intercultural and intergroup education did not directly convert to multicultural education a few years later, these movements show other concerted efforts to bring about greater equity and social justice in American education.
A goal shared by many of the early scholars was to establish accurate information about ethnic groups and incorporate it into the school curriculum. In doing so, they hoped that this would help to dispel many of the myths and stereotypes that abounded about ethnic minority groups. Although these early scholars may not have exactly envisioned the contemporary field of multicultural education, their ideas of equity and social justice are core concepts of multicultural education today.
In the 1960s, the civil rights movement created some changes in American public education. Many civil rights activists and educators noted that the histories and contributions of American minority groups were largely absent from the mainstream curriculum. In many schools, these pressures resulted in courses focusing on one ethnic group (such as African American history or Hispanic literature) being added to the curriculum. However, these monoethnic or monocultural courses were almost always regarded as electives to provide an opportunity for students of a particular background to learn about themselves.
The incorporation of multicultural content into courses taken by all students did not begin in a significant way for another decade or two. True multicultural curricular change does not prevent specialized monoethnic or monocultural courses. However, multicultural curricular integration looks closely at the cultural, racial, ethnic, and gender perspectives presented to all students in the required core curriculum. This form of curricular change, although more far-reaching than monocultural courses, is more difficult to achieve because it requires an entire faculty to be prepared to deliver it instead of just a few specialists. It also affects all students, which means that more parents could potentially question curricular changes.
Dimensions Of Multicultural Education
The major dimensions of multicultural education have been defined by James A. Banks, one of the leading contemporary scholars in multicultural education. He provides the following:
- Curriculum transformation
- The knowledge construction process
- Equity pedagogy
- Prejudice reduction
- Reforming school culture
Most topics relating to multicultural education may be subsumed under one of these categories.
Curriculum Content Integration
A school superintendent once observed that “it is easier to move a graveyard than it is to change the school curriculum.” Many people are understandably vigilant of changes in the public school curriculum because there have been numerous attempts in American education to use the public school curriculum to influence young minds with hidden, and not-so-hidden, agendas. Meaningful integration of multicultural content into the school curriculum is a difficult task. The first problem is that many teachers lack academic backgrounds with a solid multicultural knowledge base. Thus, many high school English teachers have strong grasps of the writing of Hemingway, Faulkner, and Poe, but often lack a similar knowledge base regarding African, Asian, or Hispanic American authors.
Although this situation is improving, there is always the natural tendency for teachers to gravitate toward topics they know best. In elementary schools, Hispanic content is emphasized in late October and November, women’s content is the focus in March, and African American content is examined in February. This is in keeping with the designated months for teaching each of these subjects. The “one month in a school year” emphasis is an effort to highlight the content, but it also suggests that women and African and Hispanic Americans are not well integrated within the mainstream curriculum. A key concept in multicultural curricular change is whether change is occurring at the core or at the periphery of knowledge. Are central concepts in a subject being examined through various cultural, ethnic, and gender perspectives, or is the multicultural material confined to boxed inserts in textbooks? How is multicultural information related to the mainstream narrative?
Using the example of African American troops fighting for the Union in the Civil War, peripheral inclusion is given when teachers or texts mention that President Lincoln approved their use for combat in 1863. Lincoln had originally taken the opposite view. Teaching this event as a core concept in the Civil War would explain to students that White reserves for the Union Army were nearly exhausted when President Lincoln changed his mind. This infusion of African American troops bolstered the Union Army to the extent that the preservation of the Union was greatly advanced by Black men in blue. Most teaching about the Civil War does not emphasize the significance of this event.
Many schools include multicultural content in peripheral or cultural additive ways. Occasional heroes and holidays are mentioned in ways that are totally disconnected from the curriculum and certainly from evaluation. A multicultural curriculum guarantees that multiple perspectives will be included in how students see knowledge. This curriculum discourages binary thinking and encourages critical thinking skills. However, multicultural content is rarely found on standardized tests in schools today. Emphasis on standardized tests tends to marginalize any curricular content that is not on the standardized test. Material not covered by standardized tests may be viewed as superfluous, or perhaps worthy, but many schools may spend little time on multicultural content because it is not perceived as helping the school’s position when standardized test scores are compared across the school district or state. Thus, evaluative trends that tend to emphasize skills instead of knowledge create an academic climate where multicultural literacy is devalued. This could be changed if multicultural literacy became an integral part of basic literacy expected and evaluated in all students.
In all societies, the public school curriculum is a sample of the universe of knowledge in each subject. Because it is impossible to teach all students all literature, mathematics, history, or science, it is very important to examine the decision-making process in every society. What determines the information, concepts, and perspectives taught to all students in the public school curriculum, and what facts, concepts, and perspectives are omitted and remain in libraries only to be discovered by the truly curious? This process is clearly guided by societal values. Often, societies minimize or omit from the public school curriculum knowledge that is not complimentary to a positive societal image.
It is understandable that people of any nation do not like to see themselves portrayed in a negative light, but omission from the curriculum of uncomplimentary topics can generate feelings of distrust among students if or when they learn about these matters later in life. A common reaction is, “If my schools and teachers kept this information from me, how can I completely trust what I was taught?” Another reaction from students could be, “If my teachers didn’t teach me this, was it that they didn’t know, or they knew but kept it away from us on purpose?” Neither reaction by students toward schools and teachers is particularly flattering. The net result of these forces is that the stories of all American ethnic and cultural groups are not included in the narratives shared with all students.
This lack in information about some Americans, while information abounds in the curriculum about others, creates many misconceptions. Information voids are often filled with rumor, innuendo, and misinformation. To bring home this point, ask some people how much they learned about Hispanic Americans from the K–12 school curriculum. If they respond with Spanish explorers or early colonizers, remind them that these individuals were Spaniards, not Hispanic Americans. Four hundred years of the history of Hispanic Americans in the United States is hardly mentioned in the core curriculum. This is true in spite of the fact that Hispanic Americans are the largest minority group in the United States today. Their “story” is largely absent from what U.S. students learn.
In the United States, the process of analyzing which knowledge is worthy of being included in the school curriculum is a complex one. This process takes place largely in the political arena. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation injected the national government into the curricular process. Prior to NCLB, curriculum, testing, and accountability were largely state and local school board affairs. Since the law was passed, adequate yearly progress (AYP) has become the major goal of schools, and those areas of the curriculum that are measured in AYP (largely verbal and quantitative skills) receive a major share of time, resources, and attention.
All states set curricular standards for high school graduation that may be enhanced by local school boards. The resulting public school curriculum generally may be found in a state’s curricular standards for subjects in K–12 education. National publishers, who create the textbooks and materials for nearly all U.S. students, take this information to create textbooks and other materials for the various markets for K–12 public and private education. John Goodlad, an eminent researcher in education, found that textbooks provide about 90 percent of the curricular content in the average U.S. classroom.
There is little doubt that the values in a society are largely responsible for determining curriculum. As those values change, the curriculum may change to include topics that earlier values may not have supported. The converse may also happen. Values may change and cause a society to delete from the curriculum what was previously taught. One example of the latter might be “Americanism versus Communism” classes, which were common in the Cold War era.
American values in the twenty-first century are more receptive to having students achieve multicultural literacy about the United States than the values that were prevalent in the 1950s to support this concept. When educators take on the challenge to present viable multicultural concepts and information throughout the curriculum, they are automatically giving voice to many perspectives that previously were found only outside of formal schooling. Understanding how racial/ethnic groups have fared, how women have tried to gain an equal footing in this society, gives voice to struggle and perseverance. This suggests to students how recent some rights are; how difficult it has been to achieve them; and that citizens need to be vigilant and knowledgeable, but not complacent.
A common critique among those who oppose multicultural topics in the curriculum is that this change is injecting a political element into what students learn. This view assumes that the existing curriculum was adopted without any political considerations. This is very rarely the case because the decision of what to include or exclude in the curriculum could be interpreted as a political act. The position of most multicultural educators regarding knowledge construction and curricular change is that the curriculum should move toward greater inclusion, and the stories of all groups of Americans need to be known by the rest of the nation so they may be perceived as part of the “unum” and not simply the “pluribus.”
This dimension of multicultural education speaks to what educators do in schools and the degree to which these activities provide maximum opportunities for students to learn. Research in education has shown that the quality of the teacher is a significant variable in how much students learn. Therefore, which students have access to the highest-quality teachers is of great importance. Some school districts today are paying high-quality teachers bonuses to teach in low-income schools. However, the general pattern is that teacher turnover in low-income schools is much higher than in schools in more affluent communities. Although there are thousands of high-quality teachers in this nation who have chosen to remain in low-income schools to help the neediest students, the distribution of high-quality teachers in this nation’s schools favors middle and higher-income students. This is doubly ironic when one considers that children who start life with considerably less are expected to catch up to those who are more advantaged and to do so with less access to high-quality teachers.
In addition to the overall distribution of high-quality teachers, equity pedagogy also addresses what takes place in the classroom. Wait time, or the time that elapses between a teacher asking a question and recognizing a student for an answer, has been estimated at around one second. In this one second, the average English-language learner in the class is still processing the question, rather than thinking of an answer. Numerous studies on classroom discourse patterns indicate that teachers (most of whom are female) tend to favor male students over female students in recognizing them to speak in class as well as in giving high-quality feedback. Other studies have shown that teachers prefer middle and upper middle-class students over lower-class students. This shouldn’t be entirely surprising, because most teachers come from middle-class backgrounds and are more familiar with middle-class culture.
When courts have had to get involved in the provision of equity pedagogy and equitable learning opportunities for students, they have almost always intervened on behalf of poor or minority students or students with disabilities. Students in these categories were not able to get appropriate redress through the political process that governs schools, so they resorted to the courts. Cases such as Brown v. Board of Education, Lau v. Nichols, Swann v. CharlotteMecklenburg, and Larry P. v. Riles illustrate this point.
Rarely, if ever, have parents of middle and upper middle-class majority students had to resort to the courts to see that their children had access to equitable education in this nation’s public schools.
It is important that teacher preparation, as well as teacher in-service activities, focus on elements of classroom practice where the reality falls short of the ideal. Teachers who are engaging in classroom practices that do not fully reach their students, typically do so unintentionally. Teaching is very demanding, and teachers develop habits that may go unexamined without careful reflection and continuing dialogue with students.
Practices such as girls receiving less feedback and fewer chances to speak in front of the class, inner-city students being rebuffed when they ask questions in class that are seen as “too direct,” are but some of the many examples of how a student’s background may affect the instruction and attention he or she receives from teachers. Multicultural education suggests that issues such as these, which are well documented by research, should be presented in teacher preparation and addressed in the daily operation of schools.
Understanding this dimension of multicultural education is critical in order to improve school climates. As mentioned earlier, during World War II, the intergroup education movement was begun to improve race and intergroup relations through public schools. One of the reasons for the demise of this movement was that it was seen as only for schools with “racial problems.” Today, school administrators still may be reluctant to actually test the waters of their schools’ racial and ethnic climate. It is not unusual for a principal to begin the first school wide meeting with parents by welcoming them and saying, “At this school, we treat all of our students equally.” Yet how many schools have actual data to support this assertion? In how many cases is the principal’s statement an assertion of what he or she wishes to be the case?
All learning environments have an “affective filter” that students must address in order to learn. This affective filter may have two students in the same classroom with widely different notions of how comfortable they are. Likewise, students may experience a variety of academic climates as they change classes or environments during the school day. The fact that a school may have a multicultural student population does not mean that school is integrated. It may simply be desegregated. A frequent pattern in U.S. high schools is seeing students sitting together for lunch in the cafeteria in ethnically/racially homogeneous groups. Research into this pattern suggests that minority students are using this time to create a homogeneous and comfortable space where they can relax in an accepting atmosphere in order to face the rest of the school day.
Because educators know that a comfortable school and classroom climate is critical for optimal learning, why don’t more schools make an effort to measure this and include these data in school accountability reports? It is not surprising that these data are rarely gathered in a systematic manner. Once these data are gathered, educational leaders must commit to addressing any problem areas found or face the criticism that the survey was an exercise in futility. If there isn’t a serious commitment to address these issues, the safest path to take is not to document any potential problem areas and to underscore a commitment to diversity by citing numbers that document diversity in the student body, faculty, and staff.
There are serious consequences to ignoring the affective dimension of schooling. One of the most obvious is that many students react to feeling devalued in schools by resolving not to learn from those who are in charge. Even though it can be argued that students are only hurting themselves by refusing to learn from those who they feel do not value them, the desire for human dignity often trumps the need for knowledge. When students direct racial, ethnic, gender, or religious epithets to other students, those being slandered expect teachers or other school professionals to protect them. This often happens, but at times it does not. Students who know that a teacher heard the insult, but did nothing, generally assume that the teacher is in accord with the comment. Even when the teacher disagrees with the remark, but does nothing, students often conclude that they are not important enough for the teacher to intercede. It is not surprising that students in this situation would not be eager to learn from such teachers.
In extreme cases, lack of attention to classroom and school climate can have drastic consequences. A few years ago, a Haitian honor student in a Miami, Florida, high school was “passing” as an African American. Shortly before his high school graduation, a fellow student publicized that the Haitian honor student was indeed Haitian and not African American. Unable to deal with the revelation, the honor student committed suicide.
At the end of twelve years of public or private schools, students have been tested and graded in a manner that largely determines their academic futures. Grade-point averages are calculated, standardized test scores are collected, and students present their academic profiles to colleges, universities, or other institutions of postsecondary education. Implicit in this profile, although never explicitly stated, is that students all learned in a school that had highly qualified teachers, an advanced curriculum available, and a safe environment, and all students were treated with equal dignity. There are usually no allowances for students who felt like guests in their respective schools, while others felt like owners because the school culture was synonymous with their own. Equal academic performance is expected after twelve years from students who faced hostile school climates, as well as from those who felt quite comfortable during their school years.
In short, multicultural education asserts that careful attention to school and classroom climate is not an irrelevant frill. It is an integral part of providing an equitable education for all students and should be regarded as such in teacher preparation as well as in the daily running of this nation’s schools.
Reforming School Culture
The term school reform can have multiple meanings. To some, it is a euphemism for more external testing and constraints on teachers in the name of raising educational standards. To others, including most multicultural educators, it means raising academic performance for all students, presenting a holistic curriculum that includes multicultural and global perspectives, as well as examining schools for equity. The concepts of quality and equity in education are complementary, not antagonistic.
Reforms that measure product, but ignore equity in processes, are frequently flawed. Some states have reported improvement in student scores in the state’s high-stakes test but neglected to point out that the state’s high school dropout rate was increasing. Thus, perceived gains reported by the test may simply be the results of a better prepared, but smaller, group of test takers. This is an example of a supposed educational gain that lacks equity.
At the level of individual schools, many use school advisory committees (composed of administrators, teachers, and parents) to make decisions involving school resources, events, and policies that were previously made solely by the principal. This is a step toward more democratic decision making, but not a guarantee that all constituencies of a school will be heard. Teacher representatives could be selected by their colleagues or appointed by the principal. Parents on these committees may come mostly from business and professional backgrounds. Rarely would one find parents of English-language learners as members of such important school committees.
Multicultural education advocates that the voices of all school constituents be represented in meaningful ways. Clearly, when multiple voices are heard, there is a potential for conflict to be resolved that isn’t present when a school is run by a single autocratic voice that guarantees consensus. When schools are run by consensus, the question is, “Whose consensus?” More democratic decision making may always be criticized by pointing out that it is slower and more tedious than making autocratic decisions. But in the end, decisions in which the entire school community has participated through a transparent process have much more legitimacy and lasting value. Genuine school reform must take into account not only outcomes, but also equity in reaching those outcomes.
Another dilemma for educators who want school reform with equity is how to respond to situations where current school practices are not serving the best interests of students. Just because a practice is required by a district or state does not mean that the practice is sound, supported by research, or in the best interests of students. Many states require English language learners to take the high-stakes test if they have been in U.S. schools for one year. They may be allowed accommodations such as a bilingual dictionary. However, no research supports the contention that academic English can be learned in only one year, or that a bilingual dictionary appropriately compensates for this disadvantage, yet these students are still required to sit for the test. What does an educator say to a parent of an English-language learner who has to cope with a daughter or son who comes home crying after hours of frustration created by an invalid test given in order to satisfy a bureaucratic imperative?
Do educators who question the validity of this test risk being viewed as disloyal to the institutions that employ them? Should educators admit to parents that even average performance on the test is highly unlikely after only one year of learning English? Meaningful school reform must allow professional opinions that differ from current practices to be taken seriously. When critiques are offered, they should be regarded as honest efforts to improve school practices, rather than discounted as being outside the boundaries of the current political climate for educational decision making.
Genuine school reform must involve an honest dialogue about all issues, including material and intellectual resources. In most school districts in the United States, teachers with temporary or emergency credentials are concentrated in schools that serve predominantly low-income youth. Because a quality teacher is the single most important variable that society controls that affects student learning, how well does this pattern bode for students who are the most underprepared having the least access to high-quality teachers? How do school district or state policies support or combat this pattern? This situation is exacerbated during periods where demand for teachers exceeds supply. Issues involving the distribution of material and intellectual resources in public schools must be at the core of the dialogue if true multicultural school reform is to take place.
Like other relatively new fields, multicultural education has become legitimized and accepted in American education over an extended period of time. The field is not without its critics, and some educators still have incomplete or erroneous notions of the goals of multicultural education.
A number of misconceptions about multicultural education abound in schools. When asked how she was implementing multicultural education, one teacher replied, “Last week I taught a unit on Mexico and Central America.” This interpretation suggests that anything cultural is multicultural education. Indeed, this teacher may have taught a fine unit. However, she was engaging in global education. If she had taught a unit on Salvadorean, Guatemalan, and/or Mexican Americans, she would have been engaging in multicultural education because this is domestic content to a U.S. student. It is clear, however, that good teachers should engage in both global and multicultural education so that students may see the relationships between the two areas.
Another common misconception about multicultural education is that it is opposed to the Western canon of knowledge. Teaching about the United States accurately requires multicultural educators to be competent in, as well as teach about, the traditions, accomplishments, and history of European Americans. When this segment of the population represents about three quarters of the population of the United States and has been the major force in its history, ignoring or minimizing its influence would be nothing short of providing a fraudulent education. For example, multicultural education does not propose to replace Benjamin Franklin in the curriculum with Frederick Douglass. Rather, it proposes that U.S. students of all backgrounds should be knowledgeable about both historical figures. Multicultural education does not oppose literacy in the Western canon of knowledge, it suggests that all students need “Western literacy plus.”
Just as American students learn about the role of Ellis Island in processing European immigrants, they should know that there is an Angel Island in San Francisco Harbor that did the same for Asian immigrants. Students learn that the United States was populated in an east-to-west fashion. This is accurate when describing the European immigrant migration across this nation. However, this concept does not explain Asian immigrants’ migration, which was west to east, nor Hispanic immigration, which was mostly south to north. When multicultural educators suggest that concepts be explored from the perspectives of all participants in an event, a common critique is that this exploration is “anti-West,” and that these perspectives are “balkanizing.”
Multicultural educators counter this critique by admitting that new concepts may be slightly disorienting at first, when contrasted with students’ prior knowledge. However, when taught in the appropriate context, students benefit from having multiple perspectives rather than a single one. In short, multicultural education is not a subtractive model of education; it advocates that more knowledge is better than less knowledge. It also rejects the perspective that simple discussion of cultural and ethnic groups is inherently divisive. On the contrary, ignoring different cultural, racial, and ethnic group perspectives, when they are germane to a topic, could be regarded as a form of academic censorship through omission.
Any time students are taught anything that was not taught to their parents’ generation, the potential for controversy exists. However, if strict generational precedent were followed by all schools, the school curriculum could never change. Another critique leveled at multicultural education is that it doesn’t help students receive better scores on state or national standardized tests. Because nearly all standardized tests focus almost strictly on verbal and quantitative skills, this critique essentially says that building these skills is the sole purpose of education. Although these skills are important, it is also critical that U.S. students understand the diversity in their nation and the world.
Many areas need to be addressed if multicultural education is to become more fully realized in U.S. schools. Institutionalization of multicultural education has been uneven at best. Only a few universities offer degrees or areas of concentration within degrees in this field. Most of the seminal scholars in multicultural education (Banks, Gay, Sleeter, Nieto, McGee Banks, Grant) are persons who earned degrees in other areas of education and developed expertise in multicultural education by devoting their careers to research and writing in this area.
Certain changes, like preparing multiculturally literate teachers, require considerable time to revamp the teacher education curriculum and to place those teachers in schools. A policy change, like the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education diversity standard, has caused many teacher preparation programs to review their curricula to see if they were properly preparing teachers to work with diverse learners. Ensuring that teachers have a strong multicultural background in their subject areas is a topic that will take considerably more time. However, without a strong multicultural content background, curricular changes are likely to be superficial and confined to pedagogy. Teachers need to be able to apply multicultural perspectives to core concepts in various subjects before students can realize the power of commanding a topic through a multicultural lens.
In addition, advocates of multicultural education need to realize the fears and concerns of the opponents of multicultural education. When teachers present multicultural perspectives, many concepts that were previously ignored take on the legitimacy of curriculum. This new curriculum, although more inclusive, provides information, raises questions, and presents equity issues that were previously ignored. Such a curriculum has been criticized by opponents of multicultural education as possibly being polemic, so it is critical that multicultural education uses excellent scholarship when it raises new topics in the curriculum. To do less is to open efforts to broaden the curriculum to the critique that multicultural education subscribes to less rigorous academic standards.
Finally, multicultural education must be viewed as an effort that aims to improve the education of all students. As this is more widely understood, those who receive a truly multicultural education will be far better prepared to understand their diverse society and world as well as become full participants in democracy.
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