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Culture is defined as the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education as well as the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group (Miriam-Webster). In a classroom, students are from a multitude of races, giving the vision of the average class as multiculturalism at its finest. However, in order for students to understand the concept of multiculturalism, they must learn about it. If students are to study cultures in the classroom, it will enable them to view each other as the same, although everyone may look different. Many cultures are similar, no matter what the people look like, or where they are geographically located. The education of multiculturalism "supports and extends the concepts of culture, diversity, equality, social justice, and democracy" (Gollnick & Chinn, 2009). Also in a classroom, it is easy enough for the student to learn about culture by learning about his or her family and where they came from (Cole, 2008). However, another source suggests that the term "multiculturalism education" is a term used by American society and history in order to benefit the students' awareness, tolerance as well as understanding in regards to someone else's views. This includes the achievements of minority groups (Frazier & Margai, 2010).
In order to develop a multicultural class, the teacher should maintain a high standard for his students and demonstrate these expectations for all students that are ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse. This strategy, called detracking, allows all the students to be on a level playing field. The students are then challenged with problem solving activities, therefore allowing the student to find the answer any way possible, making the student more responsible for his or her education. If the student is academically on a lower achieving track, they are generally placed on a higher track with high achieving students in order to have everyone help each other, as well as giving everyone a challenge (Cole, 2008). Cultural differences are addressed in the sense that everyone is equal, no matter their background, the student will learn the same curriculum at the same intensity as the student sitting next to them. Cultural bias is addressed in the idea that the problem solving questions will have to be written by the teacher, so as that everyone will have some sort of their culture within the problem itself, meaning that every problem will not be about Dick and Jane and how many miles they ran, instead being about Iqbal and Jamal counting feathers for their math assignment. Of course, a problem would not be nearly as elementary as it is to challenge the students; however, it is just an example.
Another strategy is to choose culturally relevant curriculum and materials that reflect on the students' cultures by seeing that people of their background have contributed to history and American culture. With this idea, there is a multitude of different texts and directions one could go with a lesson. There is also the idea that the students may ask family members as to what their culture is, presenting their findings to the class by any medium the student sees fit. This in turn may lead to a compare and contrast assignment with the cultures of the students versus the cultures of their parents (Cole, 2008). Cultural differences are addressed in the sense that everyone is assigned to interview their family in order to find out where they come from, what customs they have, why they follow that particular religion, if it is something that is considered their culture. However, this is important, as the students will bring their findings back and present them to the class, thus discovering the similarities among all the different cultures. Cultural bias is acknowledged by the idea that some things may come across as stereotypical, however are common still in the person's culture. One just has to accept it.
Culturally compatible learning environments are useful in the sense that it takes the home life typical in the area's culture and use it to the classroom's advantage. For example, if students have a large family or study group, a large mixed group would be beneficial for them to learn and help each other. However, if that is too overwhelming, a peer partner for a one-on-one study partner would be more beneficial to those students (Cole, 2008). Cultural differences are addressed in the fact that some people may have a different kind of home life, needing to learn in a special way, mimicking that of what their study habits are like. The cultural bias, however, is addressed by the students staying in their own comfort zone, remaining in groups of their own gender or ethnicity, and not getting out and intermixing with those outside of their culture.
At the start of this assignment, I had only thought that culture is based on an ethnic background. However, upon this task, I have learned that culture is not just about where someone's family came from, but also including a lifestyle or a religion, amongst other things. Not only is it ideal for a student to learn about his or herself, it also teaches the students about each other, that everyone is relatively the same and deserves the same respect as everyone else. My thoughts on culture have changed, never having realized the extent that teachers go through in order to make their students feel like they are important and not lost in the minority crowd. I plan on using this information in the classroom by having my students be aware of how everyone in their classroom brings something different to their classroom library, to the educational posters on the wall.
Cole, R. W. (2008). Educating Everybody's Children (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Frazier, J. W., & Margai, F. M. (2010). Global Academic Publishing: Multicultural Geographies: The Changing Racial/Ethnic Patterns of the United States (1st ed.). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Gollnick, D. M., & Chinn, P. C. (2009). Multicultural Education in a Pluralistic Society (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.