The Power of Performance in Multicultural Curricula

By Abramovitz, Sima | Multicultural Education, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

The Power of Performance in Multicultural Curricula


Abramovitz, Sima, Multicultural Education


"Screams of Tyrany, Cries of Hope," a Script and Worksop Project for High School Students

"Screams of Tyranny, Cries of Hope" is a play written for performance, to be followed by workshops that include both students and educators. It was created explicitly for use to encourage multicultural acceptance and devised as an example of transformative curricula.1

Since the ethnic and cultural revitalization movements of the 1970s, educational reformers and educational researchers with diverse and often-conflicting philosophical commitments and beliefs have set forth proposals designed to improve the schooling of ethnic minority youths and to promote educational equity(Banks,1997). Meanwhile, the student population in the United States is changing rapidly, so that by the year 2020, nearly half of the student population will be persons of color.

The crisis of racial discord inthe United States, the large numbers of immigrants who are entering the nation every year and who have done so throughout the century, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, and the changing characteristics of the student population make it imperative that schools be reformed in ways that will help all students and all teachers to reconceptualize the United States and its cultural priorities. Fundamental changes are urgently needed so that we might "all get along," in the words of Rodney King, Jr.

As educators, we have been given a wonderful opportunity to unlock an infinite number of doors and open our students' eyes to the mysteries and the treasures ofhuman diversity. The United States is a country that abounds in distinct cultures. We communicate in hundreds of different languages. We practice a variety of traditional rituals. We are of many religious faiths.

Should we ever forget this, there stands a lady by the name of"Liberty" in New York Harbor, and she has weathered many a storm; yet, she remains constant in reminding us of our differences and our willingness to accept them. She stands proud and untouched and upon her are inscribed the words of Emma Lazarus: "Give me your poor, your tired, your sick..." But, let us not forget that the Statue of Liberty is still just a statue. She is a symbol made of stone and metal. Prick her and she does not bleed Unlike Lady Liberty, we are human: We feel, we think, and we bleed. And, we alone can initiate change. Without change, his tory repeats itself. Fundamental change: in our educational systems are essential it order for us to "all get along."

Perfomance and Its Place in Transformative Curricula

My performance workshop is entitled "Screams of Tyranny, Cries of Hope." It is enacted in three phases, or workshops. I wrote it because I felt it was extremely important to address with my high school literature and theater students the issues of racism and ethnic cleansing, especially in light ofthe devastation and persecution of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Kosovo, a region in the heart of the Balkans, stands as a reminder that history can repeat itself. Mistrust, jealousy, suspicion, and hatred have enveloped this geographic region for hundreds of years. Cultural differences are so great at this point that it is difficult to imagine any sustaining resolution to their discord.

I believe that it is the job of every educator to include the teaching of current events such as instances of apartheid and racial cleansing in his or her curricula. Through education, we can make a difference. We have been given the tools with which to educate students and open their eyes to what they do not understand and may fear. Fear connotes racism. Teachers have the means to alleviate racism, but we need to invoke strong actions before we can realize this potential power of education. An added dimension in my reasons for developing a theater exercise about ethnic cleansing is that there has been a recent influx of Albanianrefugees inthe geographic region of the United States where I teach. …

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