Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

National Association of African American Studies and Affiliates: How the Organization Redefines the Dialogue about Multicultural Education

Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

National Association of African American Studies and Affiliates: How the Organization Redefines the Dialogue about Multicultural Education

Article excerpt

As the National Association of African American Studies and Affiliates celebrates its 20th anniversary, I cannot help but think how the organization has provided a platform and a vehicle for others to engage in dialogues about such issues as race, culture, and religious diversity. Historically, the organization set out to serve as a venue for scholars to present and to acquire information and support for research related to marginalized ethnic, racial, and cultural groups. Currently, the organization offers so much more to its members and to conference participants.

Perhaps, when the founders came up with the idea to begin this organization, no one could have fathomed that its existence would change the way some scholars would talk about or even present information on such contentious topics. Moreover, the genesis of the organization occurred during a time when the landscape of public schools and businesses were slowly becoming more diverse in language, ethnicity, and religion. This idea is underscored by the assertions of James Banks (2009), a noted researcher in multicultural education, who states that "as racial, ethnic, and language diversity remains significant and deepens in the United States and around the world, nation-states are faced with the challenge of implementing public and educational policies that will balance unity and diversity" (Banks, 2009, p. xix). Thus, there was a need for such an organization in the early 90s. More importantly, in 2011, there is still a need for the organization as it continues to promote global ideas and a societal connection through national and international forums.

Academic Scholars' Program

I begin working with the organization in 1999 as an Area Coordinator and presenting at the annual conferences that were held Houston. In 2001, as a member of the Academic Scholars' Program, I traveled to Tainan, Taiwan to teach multicultural education for 3 weeks in the summer. I taught at Tainan Women's College of Arts and Technology. All of the students were female. It was the most rewarding teaching experience I can ever recall in my 22 years as an educator. Participating in the Academic Scholars' Program offered me a unique opportunity to immerse myself in culture that I knew very little about. Such an experience impacted not only me personally, but my teaching as well. Teaching in a foreign country, in a sense, forced me to reconcile my beliefs about intercultural communication. Authors Ting-Toomey and Chung (2005) define intercultural communication as "the symbolic exchange process whereby individuals from two (or more) different cultural communities negotiate shared meanings in an interactive situation" (p. 39). In addition to enhancing my intercultural communication beliefs, teaching abroad also taught me to think more globally in regards to how I teach my courses. The impact of my teaching experiences in Taiwan are offered below.

Teaching in Taiwan: Lessons I learned

As an African American female, associate professor, teaching multicultural education at a mid-size liberal arts university in Southeast Texas, understanding the intercultural communication process and its connection to teaching in a foreign country took on a whole new meaning. The effects of culture on human communication (Lustig & Koester, 2010) can be very powerful. However, a certainty is that we are all globally connected. While I taught the theory about communication styles and interaction with diverse cultural groups, leaving my familiar environment and being placed in a culture where I was the outsider, relying on the theories I taught about intercultural communication was not an option. In Taiwan, I needed to understand where the Taiwanese students were in regards to their knowledge about multicultural education. I could not use our language barrier as a cultural border that would prevent us from effectively communicating and interacting with one another. A cultural border, as defined by Gollnick and Chinn (2009), is "a boundary based on cultural differences that may limit an individual's understanding of persons from a different cultural background" (p. …

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