Multicultural Art Education in an Art Teacher Certification Program Writing and Dialogue for Cultural Understanding:
Millman, Joyce, Art Education
"Why do they always tell you what not to do? Why don't they tell you what to do?" a student in an art education course for certification complained. The course is required for undergraduate students and post-baccalaureates, and introduces multicultural education and topics related to teaching, including educational philosophy, school law, and the history of education. Because students' questions surfaced during a discussion about issues related to diversity in the classroom, it became clear that I needed to make changes in my class assignments and activities, especially relating to multicultural education.
I seek to expand conversations about the significance of multicultural education for art education. Stuhr, PetrovichMwaniki, and Wasson (1992) affirm that multicultural art education is "culturally responsive and represents the sociocultural and ethnic diversity existing in the classroom, the community and the nation," is "community centered," and utilizes the "students' sociocultural values and beliefs" (p. 16). While President Obama's election may indicate that the political system in the United States is becoming more diverse, many schools remain segregated. As our population becomes more diverse, it is important for teachers to deepen their understanding of diverse cultures to promote equal opportunities in their classrooms. Andrus (2001) states, "issues of diversity and multiculturalism continue to be at the forefront of educational and social concerns;" however, multicultural education may not be sufficiently addressed in preservice teacher education (p. 14). According to Bastos (2006), "Cultural understanding is essential to contemporary art education practice; however, there is much confusion about the various lenses through which we should consider the intersection between culture and education" (p. 1). In this article I describe the methods I use with my certification students to approach multicultural education. I agree with Chalmers (1996) that "a multicultural approach is for everyone. All students should be prepared to live in an increasingly pluralistic society" (p. 5).
As a former middle school art teacher in a Philadelphia public school for 37 years, I gradually incorporated many multicultural themes into my practice. My definition of multicultural education has grown to encompass many diverse artistic traditions as well as multiple teaching approaches to multicultural education, including teaching for social justice and respecting students' voices. Examples I share are derived from my own middle school art education practice associated with the Philadelphia Writing Project, a National Writing Project site committed to improving literacy in Philadelphia public schools and in courses and teacher workshops. Some observations and decisions come from my own experience writing a journal 1 kept to record and reflect on this class. The examples in this article allow students to construct their own ideas, without telling students "what not to do," nor what to do. These examples are in agreement with the Petrovich-Mwaniki (1997) definition of an effective, multicultural art education that must "guide students in their own quest for an equitable solution to socio-cultural barriers" (para. 28) and "is a process that is on-going and ever-changing, dynamic and adaptive, much like culture itself" (para. 2).
Based on my past 4 years as a teacher educator, I describe the elements of the course I created as a result of my desire to increase students' understanding of a teacher's role in creating equal opportunities for all students in diverse settings. The 16 students in the class of prospective art teachers were all white and female, most from suburban backgrounds. Since they lacked experience in diverse urban settings, I wanted my students to benefit from opportunities to discuss, write about, and reflect on multicultural education. I hoped this experience would help these students to examine issues, to make their own conclusions and prepare them to be better teachers. …