Multicultural Education in the United States

Article excerpt

Multicultural Education in the United States, by David Washburn. Bloomsburg, PA: Inquiry International, 1996.160 pp. $19.95, cloth.

To reach students, it is critical that teachers be aware of their experiential backgrounds and that they employ materials and methods culturally relevant to the lives of their students. This book discusses the role of schools in providing solutions to issues of education and culture and in making multicultural education a major element in teacher education programs. Its five chapters highlight the decline in the practice of multicultural education in the U.S. and reinforce the need to reconceptualize it.

The book begins with an introduction that presents a conceptual framework for multicultural education. The author introduces terms and concepts, thereby setting the stage for what is to follow, and makes clear that instructional methods should be grounded in a complete understanding of the cultural diversity that is a hallmark of U.S. society. Chapter one traces the origin, development, and future prospects of multicultural education. Cultural diversity had no influence on educational thought and practice until the 1960s, when political and social pressures exerted by racial/ethnic minority groups began to transform American education and educational materials, leading to the emergence of multicultural education in the 1990s. Chapter two, "Multicultural Education: Conceptions and Descriptions," takes as its foundation Sleeter and Grant's (1988) typology of conceptual variants of multicultural education. Advocates of structural equality and cultural pluralism, Sleeter and Grant believe society can be directed toward these goals through effective education.

Chapter three, "The 1995 Multicultural Education Survey," presents tables detailing the results of a survey Washburn conducted focusing on the implementation of multicultural education programs by state in 1974 and 1995. In that study, 713 school districts were surveyed, with the aim of categorizing the practice of multicultural education in the U.S. according to the typology developed by Sleeter and Grant. The survey results elucidate the primary social, curricular, and instructional goals of public school multicultural education programs and offer a comprehensive picture of their past and present status in the country's largest school districts. Chapter four presents Washburn's views on the status of multicultural education in the United States. The 19 tables included in this chapter provide a comprehensive summary of diverse factors such as the average length of operation of multicultural education programs, grade levels involved, extent and type of community involvement, and social and school goals of multicultural education programs. …