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Richard Gargiulo defines culture as "the attitudes, values, belief systems, norms, and traditions shared by a particular group of people who collectively form their heritage. (2006)" This means that a group's culture is made up of a variety of factors. A learner's culture will affect the way they perceive the world around them. A student's cultural heritage will influence the way they experience, feel, consider, and behave in the classroom. A person's culture may be reflected by their dress, speech, mannerisms, diet or other factors. Culture is epitomized by the defining viewpoints and distinctiveness of a particular group (Gargiulo, 2006; Gollnick, 2009).
Multicultural education is the use of differing strategies in order to reach and educate students from different cultural backgrounds. These methods have been developed to help teachers respond better to altering demographics in the classroom. One of the key tenets of multicultural education is that all students are able to learn and given different approaches for different backgrounds, teaching will be successful. Multicultural education can be thought of as a catch all concept that incorporates the issues of ethnicity, race, language of origin, and class in order to create an effectual educational strategy where the uniqueness of each student is viewed encouragingly (Gollnick, 2009).
Multicultural education can address cultural differences and cultural bias by providing equal educational opportunities regardless of cultural heritage. The six goals of multicultural education are: cultural pluralism, educational fairness, individual relations, cross-cultural competency, incorporation of studies on ethnic groups and global issues, and social reconstruction. Multicultural education in the United States of America focuses on teaching students the skills needed in order to gain knowledge and function effectively in different cultural settings. Another way that multicultural education could address cultural difference in an educational setting is by celebrating the positive traits of each culture. An approach such as this would be useful at minimizing bias in an educational environment. Because different words, actions, and gestures mean different things to different cultures, it is important not to become overly sensitive if an action does not garner the response you were expecting. Likewise, it is important to understand how those actions may be perceived by different cultures in order to prevent offending someone (Gargiulo, 2006).
According to Robert Slavin (2006) one of the most important ways that multicultural education can address cultural differences and cultural bias in an educational setting is by educating individuals about sensitivity to other cultures. Other ways to avoid cultural bias while teaching in a culturally diverse school would be to use fairness and balance when dealing with students. Treating all students fairly will help to promote a harmonious classroom. By choosing materials that demonstrate positive qualities among a variety of ethnic groups and do not demonstrate stereo typical roles, a teacher will allow his of her students to see a fair representation of groups that may generally be under represented or stereotyped. Teachers can also reach out to students of differing heritage by including authentic supplemental materials from varied cultures. By setting out rules in the classroom that have a clear no tolerance policy towards racial discrimination or teasing or taunting of any kind, will allow the students to feel more secure of their place in the classroom. Teacher's should use cultural sensitivity when celebrating non-secular holiday's or giving assignments that relate to a non-secular event in order to avoid offending or frustrating students. Lastly, a teacher could use cooperative learning along with a multicultural education strategy in order to get students involved and allow for improved interactions between students of different cultures. Research by Robert Slavin indicates that a cooperative learning environment helps to improve relations across ethnic and racial lines (Slavin, 2006).
C. Personal Preconceptions about Cultural Differences and Cultural Bias
After a review of my graphic organizer, I feel that my preconceptions about cultural differences and cultural bias were overly simplistic. I tend to try to believe the best of people, so I am subject to miss racial prejudices and bias in other people. I would categorize myself as being hyposensitive to racism and prejudice. Because I don't feel that I embody the characteristics of a biased person, I do not initially suspect others of holding those beliefs.
As a result of this research I will put forth a more concentrated effort to be aware of cultural bias in my environment. Instead of being blind to cultural bias, I hope to open my eyes and see it for what it is, while maintaining professional integrity and being cautious of becoming hypersensitive to racism. Cultural differences are a fact of life. We are all different from one another, but we also share many of the same qualities. We are each wonderful and special in our own way, just as each culture is unique and fabulous in its own way. However, bias does exist. Some individuals as a result of training or exposure become bias, but no one is born prejudiced. As a teacher it will be my duty to treat all students equally regardless of external factors. It is a teacher's responsibility to model impartial behavior to his or her students. I intend to treat all of my students with mutual respect and dignity.
This assignment has impacted me by opening my eyes to the many different ways that a person may be treated unfairly. Additional knowledge of the many facets of culture will allow me to better understand the areas that a person may be biased towards. I still believe that all people were created with differences in order to showcase their on individual talents. I will ensure that respect for other cultures happens in my classroom by fostering an environment of congeniality and cooperation towards all students, teachers, staff, and administrators. I will avoid stereotyping by treating all students as individuals. While being blind to differences sounds good in theory, I will respect each of my students unique personalities and the effect their culture has on their learning style.