An Economic Look at Multicultural Education: Two Reviews of the Intersection of Cultures

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An Economic Look at Multicultural Education: Two Reviews of The Intersection of Cultures The Intersection of Cultures: Multicultural Education in the United States and the Global Economy, 3rd Edition By Joel Spring New York: McGraw-Hill Education Press 2004, 288 pages, $43.45 paperback ISBN 0-07-256396-6

Review I

Having lived on the border of the United States and Mexico for over twenty years, the intersection of cultures (real and imagined) is something that I live on a daily basis, not something that I tend to read about in books. Spanish is the background language at the local grocery store; salsa easily outdistances ketchup as the condiment of choice at my favorite restaurant; and as I drive to work every day the United States is on the left side of the free-way and Mexico is on the right side.

Multiple cultures intersect constantly in El Paso and when I saw the title of Joel Spring's latest book, The Intersection of Cultures: Multicultural Education in the United States and the Global Economy (3rd edition), I wanted to know immediately how my experiences related to others who had studied multiculturalism in greater depth. I wasn't disappointed!

Written for a higher education market, Spring's book is a thought-provoking look at the cultural differences that shape American society. His argument is framed around classifications such as dominant American culture, dominated culture, and immigrant culture. This departure from traditional classifications such as race, gender, and sexual orientation adds greatly to a new way of viewing (and ultimately teaching) multicultural education.

Spring's book, although written for college students preparing to enter the teaching profession, goes beyond the walls of the classroom in its effort to examine multi-culturalism in a more global and far-reaching perspective. His subtitle, Multicultural Education in the United States and the Global Economy, is reflective of his unique take on multicultural education.

His inclusion of the term global economy is revealing. Spring believes that a "link exists between education and cultural change as it is related to economic mobility." Multicultural education must, therefore, develop into a way to provide all cultural groups with an equal chance to succeed in the economic system. For future educators, this perspective is unique and adds to the growing dialogue concerning diversity and multiculturalism in our nation's classrooms.

It is important to note, however, that Spring's book is not a "how-to" book but rather a "what-if" book. He avoids the tendency, unlike so many authors, to lay out step-by-step guidelines in utilizing multi-cultural education in the classroom. Spring's work does not read like the traditional text book that is too often dry and overloaded on vocabulary, definitions, and historical context. Instead, Spring leaves it up to the reader to interpret the information provided through their own paradigm. Rather than highlighting a single approach to multicultural education, Spring details multiple approaches-letting the reader decide what approach works best in his or her situation. The reader is not told what to believe, but is encouraged to develop his or her own belief system.

Similar to strategies advocated in active learning, Spring's writing encourages active reading. He provides vivid examples; asks numerous questions; and includes exercises at the end of each chapter that encourage the reader to develop his or her own personal frame of reference. Spring uses modern examples such as the September 11th tragedy and Michael Moore's documentary, Bowling for Columbine, to illustrate social, political, and cultural issues that are familiar and relevant to readers.

In many ways, Spring's style is perfect for a young generation of soon-to-be teachers. The text is written in short, coherent sections (most lasting no more than one page) that are perfect for an MTV generation that prefers information to be clear, concise, and to-the-point. …