Multicultural Education and Developmental Education: A Conversation about Principles and Connections with James A. Banks

Article excerpt

Multicultural education concerns best practices for schooling in a democratic society. This is true because multicultural education seeks to enable all citizens to contribute to the kinds of self and social transformation that make democracies thrive. But the ideas and practices generated over the last three and a half decades of multicultural research have not been uncontroversial. Change, especially changing taken-for-granted privileges and advantages built into social practices like education, is painful and complex. Thankfully for us today, great minds have been dedicated to understanding and contending with the issues and dilemmas of democratic multicultural education for many years. Despite public pressures to oversimplify the complexity or to provide anesthesia for the pain of change, multicultural theorists and educators have remained steadfast to the goal of education that equally enables all to learn and grow and participate. A central figure in this work has been James A. Banks, the first Visiting Scholar to be supported by the Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy at the University of Minnesota, General College.

What follows is a conversation about current and possible links between multicultural education and developmental education featuring Banks and three developmental education professionals from General College: Patrick Bruch, Jeanne Higbec, and Dana Britt Lundell. For those new to his work, Banks' accomplishments provide testimony to the wealth of knowledge he has to offer developmental educators: past President of both the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the National Council for the Social Studies. Banks is currently Russell F. Stark University Professor and Director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington, Seattle. His books on multicultural education include Teaching Strategies for the Social Studies (2003); Cultural Diversity and Education: Foundations, Curriculum and Teaching (2001); and Educating Citizens in a Multicultural Society (1997a). He is the editor of the Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education (Banks & Banks 2001a) and Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives (Banks & Banks, 2001b). Banks is also series editor of the "Multicultural Education Series" published by Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

Most recently Banks has consulted with General College researchers working to infuse multiculturalism into our developmental education program (Bruch, Higbee, & Lundell, 2003). One important part of this work has involved adapting to higher education the assessment tool Diversity within Unity (Banks, et al., 2001) which was designed to help K-12 educators better address diversity in particular settings. Originally disseminated at the 2001 AERA convention, Diversity within Unity is now in its third printing. Its amazing success results from its derivation of multicultural education research into 12 "essential principles" (Banks, et al., p. 3) that organize a questionnaire to help educators take a holistic approach to multiculturalism, including attention to curriculum, pedagogy, professional development, student development, institutional governance, and assessment. Because they provide a background for our discussion with Banks and hold self-evident significance for future developments within our field, the key principles are worth quoting in full:

Teacher Learning

Principle 1: Professional development programs should help teachers understand the complex characteristics of ethnic groups within U. S. society and the ways in which race, ethnicity, language, and social class interact to influence student behavior.

Student Learning

Principle 2: Schools should ensure that all students have equitable opportunities to learn and to meet high standards.

Principle 3: The curriculum should help students understand that knowledge is socially constructed and reflects researchers' personal experiences as well as the social, political, and economic contexts in which they live and work. …

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