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Multicultural Education Essay
America has long been called "The Melting Pot" due to the fact that
it is made up of a varied mix of races, cultures,
and ethnicity’s. As more and more immigrants come to America searching for a
better life, the population naturally
becomes more diverse. This has, in turn, spun a great debate over
multiculturalism. Some of the issues at stake are: who
is benefiting from education, and how to present material in a way so not to
offend a large number of people.
In the 1930’s several educators called for programs of cultural diversity
that encouraged ethnic and minority
students to study their own heritages.
This is not a simple feat due to the
fact that there is a lot of diversity within individual
cultures. A look at a 1990 census shows that the American population has
changed noticeably in the last ten years, with
one out of every four Americans identifying themselves as black, Hispanic,
Asian, Pacific Islander, or American Indian
(Gould 198). The number of foreign born residents also reached an all time
high of twenty million, easily passing the 1980
record of fourteen million. Most people, from educators to philosophers,
agree that an important first step in successfully
joining multiple cultures is to develop an understanding of each others
In 1980, Stanford University came up with a program – later known as the
"Stanford-style multicultural curriculum"
which aimed to familiarize students with traditions, philosophy, literature,
and history of the West. The program consisted
of 15 required books by writers such as Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Aquinas,
Marx, and Freud.
By 1987, a group called the
Rainbow Coalition argued the fact that the books were all written by DWEM’s
(Dead White European Males). They felt
that this type of teaching denied students the knowledge of contributions by
people of color, women and other oppressed
groups. In 1987, the faculty voted 39 to 4 to change the curriculum and do
away with the fifteen book requirement and the
term ;Western; for the study of at least one non-European culture
and proper attention to be given to the issues of race and
gender (Gould 199). This debate was very important because its publicity
provided the grounds for the argument that
America is a racist society and to study only one culture would not
accurately portray what really makes up this country.
Defenders of multicultural education argue that it offers students a balanced
appreciation and critique of other
cultures as well as our own (Stotsky 64). While it is common sense that one
could not have a true understanding of a
subject by only possessing knowledge of one side of it, this brings up the
fact that there would never be enough time in the
current school year to equally cover the contributions of each individual
This leaves teachers with two options.
The first would be to lengthen the school year, which is highly unlikely
because of the political aspects of the situation. The
other choice is to modify the curriculum to only include what the instructor
(or school) feels are the most important
contributions, which again leaves them open to criticism from groups that
feel they are not being equally treated. A national
standard is out of the question because of the fact that different parts of
the country contain certain concentrations of
nationalities. An example of this is the high concentration of Cubans in
Florida or Latinos in the west. Neverless, teachers
are at the top of the agenda when it comes to multiculturalism.
They can do
the most for children during the early years of
learning, when kids are most impressionable. By engaging students in
activities that follow the lines of their multicultural
curriculum, they can open up young minds while making learning fun (Pyszkowski
Students are not the only ones who can benefit from this type of learning.
Teachers certainly will pick up on
educational aspects from other countries. If, for instance, a teacher has a
minority student from a different country in their
classroom every year, the teacher can develop a well rounded teaching style
that would in turn benefit all of the class.
Teachers can also keep on top of things by regularly attending workshops and
getting parents involved so they can
reinforce what is being taught in the classroom at the child’s home.
While generally opposed to the idea, Francis Ryan points out that
"Multicultural education programs indeed may be
helpful for all students in developing perspective-taking skills and an
appreciation for how ethnic and minority traditions
have evolved and changed as each came into contact with other groups"
(Ryan 137). It would certainly give people .