Impaling the Monocultural Windshield: Multicultural Education in All Things Curricular

Article excerpt

A popular applause line among some teachers in academic circles is "I an in favor of diversity." Of course, this line sounds plausible, but being in favor of diversity does not make anyone embrace diversity just as being for music does not make one sing. Accepting, embracing, and respecting diversity is a process; the end result makes diversity an endemic part of the schools' core. To begin the process, one of the first steps is for teachers to engage in an exploration of their prejudices, values, beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypical notions they have about their students. It may be a discomforting process, but this discomfort may be a necessary factor to dismantle the negative beliefs some teachers have about diverse students.

If teachers have completed a teacher education program without exposure to multicultural education, they can begin to take strides in empowering all students via

Afro-Americans in New York Life and History

multicultural education by considering the following:

1. Exploring what institutional practices exist within the classroom and within the school (e.g. curriculum, textbooks, omission of persons from underrepresented groups) and how to dismantle it;

2. Researching and reflecting on information related to multicultural education to familiarize self with the scholarship; and

3. Deciding how to apply the i lation to subject matter. (1)

These suggestions are in order since one cannot be moved to become a multicultural teacher without first researching ways to empower multicultural students. (2) If a teacher attempted to teach multicultural education without assessing self-biases, institutional practices within schools, and knowledge about different cultures across a variety of diversities, then s/he is not providing students with their multicultural truth of their legacies in North America. One of the tenets of multicultural education is transformation; that is, teachers are transforming themselves as they transform students and curriculum (3). The transformation process is ongoing.

Connie, an eighth grade social studies teacher, understands this transformation process all too well. She aims to include multicultural education in each of her lessons and evaluates her efforts based on the three suggestions previously provided. (4)

A Snapshot of Connie's Classroom

Connie is a "no-nonsense", quick-spoken European-American woman in her forties. She has a commanding presence that is impressive. She has a calm welcoming voice. She uses humor to get her students laughing and excited about the lessons she teaches. She has an assertive demeanor that communicates to students that while she showers them with understanding, she will not stand for disruptive behavior or indolence.

Connie's first period social studies class consists of 28 students. The breakdown is 1 African-American male, 1 African-American female, 3 Asian-American males, 1 Asian-American female, 10 White males, and 12 White females. Connie's classroom is decorated with posters of people and geographical themes. For example, there are postings of Gandhi, Miles Davis, Hank Aaron, and the Sphinx.

Exploring Institutional Practices Within the Classroom

Connie finds her eighth grade social studies curriculum to focus namely on the contributions by Europeans. To make the curriculum multicultural, Connie uses the cultural background of her students to enhance her geography/social studies curriculum. In teaching about different ethnic backgrounds and cultural perspectives, Connie has some of her students from different cultural backgrounds assist in teaching lessons. Connie has no qualms about asking different students questions related to their culture and background. Connie also solicits for parents to assist her in teaching about different countries.

Reflecting on Multicultural Education Scholarship

To learn how to make the eighth grade social studies curriculum inclusive of diverse cultures, Connie first learned that culturally relevant teaching is "a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes" (5) The cultural backgrounds of the learner are the center of culturally relevant teaching; students' cultural backgrounds should serve as part of the standardized curriculum. …