Multiculturalism in Urban Schools: A Puerto Rican Perspective
Antonio Nadal and Milga Morales-Nadal
The celebration of the American bicentennial in Philadelphia and elsewhere throughout the country in 1976 provided a watershed for the debate surrounding the nation's treatment of its marginalized racial and ethnic communities. The debate surrounding the "Encounter" or the so-called Discovery of America some sixteen years later is no less controversial. However, the difference is that the bicentennial counterdemonstrations were from marginalized U.S. schools. Schoolchildren were unaware of the significance of the slogan "a bicentennial without colonies," referring to the oppressed and indigenous minorities both in the United States and in Puerto Rico. In 1992, however, teachers and students wrestled with Christopher Columbus's status as hero or villain. In New York City, public school teachers are being confronted by parents suggesting that "Ten Little Indians" is an inappropriate, if not racist, song and should not be the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving Day play. On the other hand, some parents are also demonstrating against any references to gays and lesbians in New York City's "Children of the Rainbow" multicultural curriculum.1 While differences in perceptions abound regarding these issues, the fact is that multiculturalism is itself an issue and at issue today in U.S. urban public schools.
In this chapter we seek to provide a context for this development from our position as Puerto Rican educators working with teachers in urban schools and to suggest that the problems with the acceptance of multiculturalism that are surfacing are endemic to this society and should not prevent those of us interested in pursuing ways of assuring the inclusion of all children in our schools from doing so. To assure that this happens, it should be noted that we must be critical and evaluative of the concept while developing acceptance and respect into our schools. We attempt to address the concept as it relates to the Puerto Rican community and the strategies for its implementation.