Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

The Value of Multiculturalism in a Global Village: In the Context of Teaching Children's Literature

Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

The Value of Multiculturalism in a Global Village: In the Context of Teaching Children's Literature

Article excerpt

The tsunami, the earthquake, and the consequent nuclear meltdown in Japan have impacted the rest of the world. The "Arab Spring" democratic revolution that started in Tunisia and Egypt is spreading across the Arab world. These are just a couple of current events that reiterate the fact of how inextricably interconnected we are. Today, with lightning speed, the events and ideas are digitized, transported, and disseminated instantaneously around the world through mass media and social networks. They impact our lives. The car we buy, the gas we use, the food we eat, or the thoughts we think are influenced by these events as they unfold on the other side of the globe. Indeed, today, we live in a global village (Friedman, 2005, 2008; Merriman and Nicoletti, 2008; Samuel, 2010a; Suarez-Orozco, 2005).

Education is about our life and the world around us. It is about growth (Dewey, 1966). Education nurtures a depth of being and flourishing of human spirit (Noddings, 2003; Witte-Townsend and Hill, 2006). It helps individuals to realize their full potential and also to become productive members of their communities, contributing citizens of a nation, and responsible citizens of the world. To that end, our students have to be exposed to other cultures and the world around them. A monocultural education stunts their growth and potential. It does not prepare them for the 21st century, which is becoming increasingly interdependent. In this global village, therefore, we have to nurture and promote multicultural education.

In a democratic country, which is based on the principles of plurality and respect for others' point of view, educators have to cultivate multiculturalism as a value (Samuel, 2010b). In this context, teaching of children's literature with a multicultural perspective is an imperative; and its implications and applications are manifold.

On the ensuing pages, the authors discuss the following points: Multiculturalism and its underlying ethical principles, the value of multiculturalism and the role of children's literature, implications for classrooms, and some practical suggestions.

Multiculturalism and its underlying ethical principles

Multicultural education is a progressive approach for transforming education that holistically critiques and addresses current shortcomings, failings, and discriminatory practices in education. It is grounded in ideals of social justice, education equity, and a dedication to facilitating educational experiences in which all students reach their full potential as learners and as socially aware and active beings, locally, nationally, and globally. Multicultural education acknowledges that schools are essential to laying the foundation for the transformation of society and the elimination of oppression and injustice.

(Gorski, 2001, p. 1)

This definition of multiculturalism reflects the values we subscribe to in our democratic society. We want all children from all backgrounds to fully develop their capacities and become productive citizens.

Banks (1993) explains multicultural education in a broader sense: "Multicultural education is an idea stating that all students, regardless of the groups to which they belong, such as those related to gender, ethnicity, race, culture, social class, religion or exceptionality, should experience educational equality in the schools" (p. 25).

Johnson et al. (2005) reinforce the idea of multiculturalism and the values it is founded on. They maintain that multicultural education is founded on the values of equality, diversity, and social justice. It is an educational strategy that incorporates the teaching of students from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds in a school environment that supports diversity and equality.

All these definitions are based on the ethical principles, especially the principle of justice and care. From the sensibility of justice and care emanates respect for diversity, equality, rights and responsibility, concern for other human beings and their points of view, and other democratic values. …

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