Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Enabling Access: Toward Multicultural Developmental Curricula

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Enabling Access: Toward Multicultural Developmental Curricula

Article excerpt

The broad field of multicultural education is increasingly informing work within developmental education (Bruch & Higbee, 2002; Higbee, Bruch, Jehangir, Lundell, & Miksch, 2003). But as theorists such as Giroux (1997), Banks (1997), and others (Macedo & Bartolome, 1999; Sleeter, 1996) have argued, "multiculturalism" is a term without a fixed set of meanings. In fact, advocates of a multicultural approach in higher education offer at times conflicting perspectives on the ways that schools can more fully serve our increasingly diverse society. Rather than becoming embroiled in debates over which definition of multiculturalism is correct, developmental educators and the students we teach will be best served by drawing together key strengths of each of the dominant approaches (Bruch, 2002). The purpose of this article is to explain the present need for a multicultural approach to developmental education, to present a vision of multicultural developmental education that integrates the strengths of three dominant approaches to multiculturalism, and to share with readers a curricular framework and specific examples of multicultural developmental curriculum.

The Need for a Multicultural

Approach to Developmental

Education

Multicultural education can help developmental educators respond constructively to the demographic shift known as "the browning of America." The browning of America has transformed the constituency for higher education. In the year 2001-2002, 39% of public school students in the United States were persons of color (Facts in Brief, 2002). In addition, women's enrollment in higher education continues to climb such that between 1970 and 1996 women undergraduates increased from 42% to 56%. 1996 data specifies that increasing matriculation of women of color has contributed to the rise in overall degree attainment by women (Facts in Brief, 2000). Gender and race are not the only demographics that distinguish today's typical college students from those of previous generations. A report by the National Center for Educational Statistics defined the traditional college student as one who "earns a high school diploma, enrolls fulltime immediately after finishing high school, depends on parents for financial support and either does not work during the school year or works part time" (Choy, 2002, p. 25). In 1999-2000 only 27% of undergraduates met this criteria, and the remaining 73% were nontraditional college students as defined by the following criteria (Choy, 2002, p. 26).

* delays enrollment-does not enter postsecondary education in the same calendar year that he or she completed high school

* attends part time for at least part of the academic year

* is considered financially independent for the purposes of determining eligibility for financial aid

* has dependents other than a spouse (usually children but sometimes others)

* is a single parent (either not married or separated and has dependents)

* does not have a high school diploma (completed high school with a GED or other high school completion certificate)

New demographics of race, social class, ethnicity, family culture, gender, and disability have reached a critical mass throughout higher education. This is especially true in developmental classrooms where students who are in some ways marked as different are over-represented. But, although the constituencies developmental educators serve and the sociopolitical context of our work have changed dramatically, the dominant understanding of access has stagnated. As Martinez Aleman (2001) has recently argued, responding to the browning of America, "colleges and universities have engaged not in a revision of the ideal community [that their curriculum implicitly values], but in an enumerative and assimilationist approach to difference" (p. 486). For Martinez Aleman and others, an exclusively assimilationist approach to new diversity actually exacerbates the challenges that nontraditional students face. …

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