Raising Cultural Awareness of Fifth-Grade Students through Multicultural Education: An Action Research Study

By Sarraj, Huda; Bene, Konabe et al. | Multicultural Education, Winter 2015 | Go to article overview

Raising Cultural Awareness of Fifth-Grade Students through Multicultural Education: An Action Research Study


Sarraj, Huda, Bene, Konabe, Li, Jiaqi, Burley, Hansel, Multicultural Education


Introduction

For decades scholars have agreed that the United States is becoming a more racially and ethnically diverse society (Amos, 2010; Gollnick & Chinn, 2009; Marbley, 2012). In particular, if only race and ethnicity are considered, the minority population (African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans) has been increasing at an average rate of 21.7% per decade, much faster than White Americans whose rate of increase is 9.1% from 2000 to 2009 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012).

It is projected that the U.S. will become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043. By 2060, people of color will consist of 57% of the total population (Bernstein, 2012). Given this trend, it is hardly surprising that this social diversification is fundamentally challenging all aspects of everyday life in the U.S.

Although numerous scholars, activists, and educators cannot wait to embrace the arrival of a true multicultural world, social phenomena like discrimination, inequality, injustice, and poverty still negatively affect the aspirations of peoples of color and of multiculturalists. Furthermore, the whole social system seems to not yet be ready for such change, particularly schools, where teachers are predominantly White and the curriculum remains Eurocentric.

As the discourses around multicultural education and awareness grow, several researchers raise concern about how to prepare teachers and students for this challenge. With this in mind, in this article we first explore various conceptualizations of multiculturalism that informed our approach to multicultural education. Then we address the specific cultural needs of students in the K-12 school setting. In this way, this study describes the procedure of developing and implementing a program for multicultural education. Specifically, this study details:

(a) The definition of multicultural education and its association with school curriculum;

(b) The theoretical framework for multicultural education;

(c) Methods used in the study; and

(d) Discussion and implications for future development of multicultural education programs.

A Continuation of Trends

According to Gay (1995), the conceptual connections between general curriculum theory and multicultural education draw from a model of education and curriculum theory first developed by George Beauchamp. The chief principle, according to Gay, is that multicultural education is consistent with social trends that have long-standing precedents in the U.S. It is also a continuation of those trends (e.g., expanding civil rights, increasing individual rights). She further characterizes multicultural education as compatible with the basic egalitarian principles of democracy and valuable in translating some of the fundamental ideas of American education into practice.

Gray (1994) asserted that the multiple definitions of multicultural education share a similar goal including providing information about diverse groups, fighting racism, and reforming society. This list is not exhaustive. In terms of definitions, Gay (1994) argues that notions of multicultural education are varied. For example, whereas some of them depend on cultural characteristics, other definitions rely on social issues that are related to oppression, the overuse of political power, and the reorganization of economic resources. Gay asserts that some have defined multicultural education by emphasizing peoples of color and major racial groups that differ from European Americans. Other definitions have targeted local schools while advocating reforms in those schools.

Separate and apart from general curriculum theory, multicultural education is rapidly becoming an established aspect of curriculum theory in its own right. A key principle of these emerging ideas about multicultural education is that educational impartiality and success for all children can only be achieved by the incorporation of cultural pluralism in education. …

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