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CultureÂ is a shared, learned, symbolic system of values, beliefs and attitudes that shape and influence perception and behavior -- an abstract "mental blueprint" or "mental code." Culture should be studied "indirectly" by studying behavior, customs, material culture (artifacts, tools, technology), and language. (Finn, 1999)
Multiculturalism - Definition:
Multiculturalism education is a vast field of study that mainly focuses on developing and providing equivalent opportunities in education. Each and every person that belongs to any race, social class and culture shall have these opportunities. The most essential point is to assist those students who are unable to receive an education or acquire knowledge from any source. This education should provide the attitudes and skills that are needed to be competent in a society and function appropriately. (Katz, 2009) It is also to help students to communicate, interact and negotiate effectively in order to create civilized, ethical, and moral societies. This education not only shows the concepts and theories from fields like ethnic studies or women studies, but it also implies content from these fields and discipline to teach and develop curriculum in educational settings. (Finn, 1999)
Multicultural education can help address cultural differences. This is done by allowing students to see other cultures in action. It allows students to see they are really not very different from other students in other cultures. Multicultural education can also help students understand differences of their peers they are coming in contact with, helping them in making informed and educated decisions instead of quick and irrational judgments about a culture.Â
Multicultural education can also help address cultural differences by allowing students to see core values in others. These core values can be as simple as human dignity and freedom. In addition, we might find, after looking at these values, that they may be the same from student to student. The only difference being the way that the values were taught. Nonetheless, with these core values in place we could avoid cultural bias (Siegel. 2007).Â
Multicultural education can also address cultural bias. In a multicultural classroom, students will be able to see other cultures at work by being exposed to their fellow students. This allows each student to see that their fellow classmates are from families resembling their own, giving students a sense of security.
It is also important for students to respect other races and cultures. Teaching them the social skillsÂ necessary to interact with others will certainlyÂ help students learn this respect. Cross curricular activities that incorporate diversity in the classroom can also be introduced. Teachers must respect the cultural and ethnic backgrounds of their students while encouraging the recognition of America's heritage and culture.Â (Bluestein, 2001)
Most supporters of multicultural education assume that the only way a nation can be enriched and unified is when the culture reflects the diversity of its people. It is a common belief among its supporters that those who oppose multicultural education do not have our nation's best interests at heart.
Just as the statements used to support diversity in education are strong, so are the statements used to oppose it. In early twentieth century we an increased awareness of ethnic and minority contributions to American history; this awareness has grown into the teaching of diversity and difference in the classroom. It is evident in the curriculum that the importance of various cultures that comprise our nation and emphasis is being placed on group differences and not on their similarities.Â
However, idea of multicultural education is not new to the twenty-first century, but actually came about after the civil rights movement of the 1960's. It was believed that multicultural education would helpÂ to foster understanding for minorities in America's now desegregated schools. Since the inclusion of multicultural ideals into school curricula, educational quality and the knowledge of facts and core materials have declined (Bluestein, 2001). Multicultural curricula, specifically history, tend to distort or omit facts in both American and world history. Often the negative aspects of minority cultures are omitted, while the negative practices of Euro-American culture are portrayed at length (Katz, 2009). The idea of diversity implies that a common American culture is not desired.Â
What strengths can be found in the statements opposing multicultural education? In the past, the idea of community emphasized family, neighborhood, church, school. Today emphasis is now placed on race, gender, occupation, and sexual preference, thus dividing people by their differences. The National Standards for American History, announced in Goals 2000, omitted many key references to traditional American history for the sake of diversity (Bluestein, 2001). "The decline in educational quality is due mainly to the fact that diversity based curricula touches only the surface of subject matter and reduces knowledge and facts to critical thinking skills" (Bluestein, 2001).
My Perspective about this subject:
While we have now discussed two sides of Multiculturalism in education, the fact is, social skills learned at school must also be followed in the home; not all parents will support and encourage ideas learned at school. Time and resources may prevent many additional activities that promote diversity. In order for any educator to respect other cultures and races, their own biases must be suspended.Â
While it is important that everyone recognize the fact that America is home to many races and cultures, each having value to our heritage. We, as citizens should share a common heritage and culture. Therefore, it is important that we put off the labels that threaten to further divide our nation. I would say multicultural education is theory that tends toward weakening the fabric of our nation. Education should not focus on diversity, but should instead focus on teaching about diversity, which includes: race and culture in the context of history, recognizing contributions and shortcomings of each, but also recognizing the fact that as a nation, the United States of America is uniquely a great a very unique country.
APA Style Citations
Katz, L., & Rothenberg, D. (2009). Clearinghouse on Early Education and Parenting. http://ceep.crc.uiuc.edu. Retrieved April, 09, 2010 from http://ceep.crc.uiuc.edu/pubs/katzsym/vanhook.html
Siegel, L. (2007). Nolo's IEP Guide: learning disabilities. Berkeley, CA: Nolo.
Bluestein, J. (2001). Creating Emotionally Safe Schools. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications Inc..
Finn, C., Cribb, J., Bennett, W. (1999). The Educated Child. New York, NY: The Free Press.