Enhancing Multicultural Sensitivity through Teaching Multiculturally in Recreation

By Holland, Jearold | Parks & Recreation, May 1997 | Go to article overview

Enhancing Multicultural Sensitivity through Teaching Multiculturally in Recreation


Holland, Jearold, Parks & Recreation


Recent articles in Parks & Recreation have addressed multicultural and diversity issues in the leisure service profession. These articles are positive because as the recreation field continues to function within a more diverse society, race and ethnicity will become increasingly important in every aspect of the profession. More than ever recreation professionals will be expected to work with, and have significant knowledge and understanding of, individuals from many cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds.

This article addresses the utilization of teaching from a multicultural perspective as a method of enhancing multicultural sensitivity and awareness. The article discusses the inclusion of multicultural teaching in the university recreation curriculum and the delivery of leisure services. The concepts of multiculturalism and multicultural education are presented and attention is given to how multicultural education can be incorporated into the recreation and leisure curriculum. Comments on the status and values of multicultural education, in addition to criticisms and salient curricular patterns in colleges and universities are addressed. The infusion of multicultural education in the core recreation and leisure curriculum are discussed in the final sections of the column.

Multiculturalism and Multicultural Education

Multiculturalism is a concept which implies that appropriate consideration be given to poverty, native languages, physical and emotional disabilities, and ethnic and racial cultural diversity (Hodkinson, 1988). The multicultural concept is broad (D'Souza, 1995) and includes issues such as racism, sexism and homophobia. While each of these dimensions deserves considerable individual attention, the focus of this article is on ethnic and racial multiculturalism.

In higher education, multiculturalism is often addressed through multicultural education. According to Banks (1994):

the goal of multicultural education in the broader sense is an education for freedom. First,...multicultural education should kelp students to develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills to participate in a democratic and free society. Secondly, multicultural education promotes freedom, abilities, and skills to cross ethnic and cultural boundaries to participate in other cultures and groups. We can empower the Hispanic student to have the freedom to participate in African American culture, and the Jewish student to participate in African American culture-and vice versa. Multicultural education should enable kids to reach beyond their own cultural bound aries.

In most colleges and universities, the recreation curriculum has tended to let university general education requirements fulfill multicultural education learning. While this practice may have been more acceptable in the past, future demographics will require recreation service practitioners to be introduced and integrated into profession-specific multicultural information in the core leisure service curriculum. While preparing future recreation practitioners and professionals, leisure educators will need to ensure that multicultural perspectives are included in the recreation curriculum and courses of work.

Many university professors are beginning to understand the importance of multiculturalism in the curriculum and are less convinced that western culture should be the cornerstone of the college curriculum (Magner, 1996). At the same time while appearing more liberal and admitting that they are "sensitive" to the needs of minority group members, a majority of professors admit that they do not touch on race and gender in their teaching and research (Magner, 1996).

Demographic forecasters have predicted a rapidly growing and diversified population. Teaching multiculturally requires that educators educate professionals within the context of an entirely new societal balance. The 1990 U.S. census data indicated that one fourth of the population was comprised of persons of color. …

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