Academic journal article Education

Looking for Multicultural Education: What Could Be Done and Why It Isn't

Academic journal article Education

Looking for Multicultural Education: What Could Be Done and Why It Isn't

Article excerpt

Urban schools often address their needs for multicultural education by holding special events and recognizing ethnic heroes. Unfortunately, they overlook the greater significance of promoting effective, ongoing pedagogical practices as advocated by experts in the field. This article presents Strategies for Multicultural Teaching, A-Z as a framework to help analyze teaching practices. It shares the stories of new teachers as they compare the ideas to their work with children of color in low socioeconomic, inner-city school environments. Finally, it proposes that principals recognize the critical roles they play in helping their faculty, staff, students, and community to attain the "real" attributes of multicultural education.


As the population of the United States grows, historically underrepresented groups have become the majority within urban centers. This increased diversity, combined with the urgent need for more classroom teachers in areas such as southern California, has caused many educators to recognize the need for greater expertise in multicultural education within public schools. Indeed, during the past decade many educational researchers have presented helpful models and suggestions for effective multicultural education (Au, 1993; Banks, 1995; Cummins, 1989; Darder, 1991; Diamond & Moore, 1995; Grant & Sleeter, 1986; Moll, 1992; Nieto, 1996; Scarcella, 1990; Shor & Freire, 1987; Sleeter & Grant, 1993). Their ideas for instruction in multicultural contexts have been aimed at educators' practices in order to enhance motivation for diverse groups of students and provide them with opportunities for school success through meaningful and memorable learning in caring school environments.

From the writings of one author to the next, many characteristics repeat. For example, "comprehensible input" reappears in many volumes. One writer may express it as attaching input to prior knowledge, or another advocates providing understandable lessons, but the meanings overlap. As a result, this author was able to synthesize a comprehensive list, Strategies for Multicultural Teaching, A-Z, that is shown in the next section. The list has been used as a helpful discussion tool in the preparation of new teachers who work in urban school districts of southern California. It indicates that good multicultural education goes beyond special activities, days, or months. Rather, it is the consistent use of day-to-day pedagogical practices that can make a difference.

In the context of this article, the Strategies list also serves as the model for "What Could Be Done." This work that began as a framework for guiding teachers' aspirations and daily decision making has also come to serve as a template for a systematic analysis of real public school practices.

In day-to-day work with novice teachers, this author began to ask "Is multicultural education taking place? Why or why not?" In talking about the situations in their public schools, dozens of inner-city teachers have given testimony to the frustrating discrepancies that do exist. The typical story is not one of Why It Is. Rather, as this article reflects, the majority of responses indicate Why It Isn't. Despite school missions and efforts to implement multicultural education, insights like those that follow could have been contributed by many teachers from many schools in many cities. However, the details in this report come from the entwined stories from three representative teachers at three sample schools in three large districts that serve students of color from families of low socioeconomic status. Data was gathered through an interview process that incorporated progressive "why" questioning that was intended to "undo" each situation and seek root causes as expressed by the interviewees. The suggestions for school change in this article have emerged from this author's sorting and linking of causes in a systematic search for patterns. …

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