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There are few universities in the country that strategically try to prepare students for working and living in a global society by course transformation that are steeped in the tenants of multicultural education. Defining the multicultural responsibility along with the diversity would be the principal task of this workspace. The concepts behind this proposal of ethics of developed education system through multicultural prospects could have a better view if discussed and analyzed with proper conceptual aspects.
Multicultural education is a progressive approach for transforming education that holistically critiques and responds to discriminatory policies and practices in education. It is grounded in ideals of social justice, education equity, critical pedagogy, and a dedication to providing educational experiences in which all students reach their full potentials as learners and as socially aware and active beings, locally, nationally, and globally. Multicultural education acknowledges that schools are essential to laying the foundation for the transformation of society and the elimination of injustice. The underlying goal of multicultural education is to affect social change. The pathway toward this goal incorporates three strands of transformation:
the transformation of self;
the transformation of schools and schooling; and
the transformation of society.
1. The Transformation of Self
An educator must have a dual responsibility to engage in a critical and continual process to examine how socializations and biases inform his/her teaching and thus affect the educational experiences of students. He/she must have a responsibility to themselves to examine the lenses through which they understand the people and happenings around them. Only when they have a sense for how their own perceptions are developed in relation to their life experiences they will begin to understand the world and effectively navigate their relationships with the people around them. They also have a responsibility to their students to work toward eliminating the prejudices, examining who is (and is not) being reached by their teaching, and relearning, how their identity affects their learning experiences. To be an effective multicultural educator he/she must be in a constant process of self-examination and transformation.
2. The Transformation of Schools and Schooling
Multicultural education calls for a critical examination of all aspects of schooling. Aspects of multicultural school transformation include the following:
The experiences of students must be brought to the fore in the classroom, making learning active, interactive, relevant, and engaging.
Traditional teaching approaches and pedagogical models must be deconstructed to examine how they contribute to and support institutional systems of oppression.
Known oppressive practices like tracking (even if informal) must be exposed and critically examined.
All aspects of teaching and learning in schools must be refocused on, and rededicated to, the students themselves instead of standardized test scores and school rankings.
Emphasis should be placed on critical thinking, learning skills, and deep social awareness as well as facts and figures.
Pedagogy must provide all students with the opportunity to reach their potential as learners.
All curricula must be analyzed for accuracy and completeness.
All subjects must be presented from diverse perspectives -- this is related to accuracy and completeness.
"Inclusive curriculum" also means including the voices of the students in the classroom.
Concepts such as "the canon" and "classic literature" must be interrogated, again with the idea of accuracy and completeness, to debunk perceptions such as that the only "great literature" came from the U.S. and Great Britain.
Inclusive Educational Media and Materials
Educational materials should be inclusive of diverse voices and perspectives.
Students must be encouraged to think critically about materials and media: Whose voices are they hearing? Whose voices are they not hearing? Why did that company produce that film? What is the bias this author may bring to her or his writing?
Supportive School and Classroom Climate
Teachers must be better prepared to foster a positive classroom climate forÂ allÂ students.
Overall school cultures must be examined closely to determine how they might be cycling and supporting oppressive societal conditions.
Administrative hierarchies in schools must be examined to assess whether they produce positive teaching environments for all teachers.
Continual Evaluation and Assessment
Educators and education researchers must continue to examine the emphasis on standardized test scores and develop more just alternatives for measuring student "achievement," "ability," or "potential."
Continuing evaluation must be in place to measure the success of new and existing programs meant to provide more opportunities to groups traditionally and presently underrepresented in colleges and universities.
3. The Transformation of Society
Ultimately, the goal of multicultural education is to contribute to the transformation of society and to the application and maintenance of social justice and equity. This stands to reason, as the transformation of schools necessarily transforms a society that puts so much stock in educational attainment, degrees, and test scores. In fact, it is particularly this competitive, market-centric hegemony underlying the dominant mentality of the United States (and increasingly, with the "help" of the United States, the world) that multicultural education aims to challenge, shake, expose, and critique. This is precisely the reason that it is not enough to continue working within an ailing, oppressive, and outdated system to make changes, when the problems in education are themselves symptoms of a system that continues to be controlled by the economic elite. One does not need to study education too closely to recognize that schools consistently provide continuing privilege to the privileged and continuing struggle for the struggling with very little hope of upward mobility. "Informal" tracking, standardized testing, discrepancies in the quality of schools within and across regions, and other practices remain from the industrial-age model of schools. Only the terminology has changed -- and the practices are not quite as overt.
Educators, educational theorists, researchers, activists, and everyone else must continue to practice and apply multicultural teaching and learning principles both inside and out of the classroom. We must not allow the knowledge that the vast majority of schools are well-intentioned lead us to assume that our schools are immune to the oppression and inequity of society. We must ask the unknown questions. We must explore and deconstruct structures of power and privilege that maintain the status quo.
In a sense, multicultural education uses the transformation of self and school as a metaphor and point of departure for the transformation of society. Ultimately, social justice and equity in schools can, and should, mean social justice and equity in society. Only then will the purpose of multicultural education be fully achieved.
Despite differing conceptualizations of multicultural education, several shared ideals provide a basis for its understanding. While some focus on individual students or teachers, and others are much more "bigger" in scope, these ideals are the roots about transformation:
Every student must have an equal opportunity to achieve to his or her full potential.
Every student must be prepared to competently participate in an increasingly intercultural society.
Teachers must be prepared to effectively facilitate learning for every individual student, no matter how culturally similar or different from her- or himself.
Schools must be active participants in ending oppression of all types, first by ending oppression within their own walls, then by producing socially and critically active and aware students.
Education must become more fully student-centered and inclusive of the voices and experiences of the students.
Educators, activists, and others must take a more active role in reexamining all educational practices and how they affect the learning of all students: assessment methods, pedagogies, school psychology and counseling practices, educational materials and textbooks, and so on.
It is a problem that many pluralistic societies and immigrant and indigenous groups in these societies do not recognize until they see that the next generation has taken a different course of action from their own and that of their parents. Very few parents realize that by the time a child asks "Why be different?" or "Why can't I?" his or her identity has already been formed within the peer group's worldview and way of life. And very few educators, sociologists, and anthropologists are aware of the subtlety in the process of the "melting pot, "despite claims that it has never been the intention of the mainstream culture and even when the different immigrant and indigenous groups attempt to combat it. Pluralism or multiculturalism in the context of this paper means to value traditions and cultures other than those of the "mainstream" culture and to incorporate these traditions in the educational system by maintaining the following five principles:
1. Pluralism cannot be satisfied by situational ethics or by accepting the notion that everything is as good as everything else. It requires a consistent dialogue among all groups involved. It cannot be attained by simply adding social customs and strands to the curriculum. Nor by the teachers' attempt to create tolerance among students or avoid the discussions of specific value systems. Multiculturalism does not aim to avoid cultural conflict or dismiss charges of bias in opportunity. In the second part of the vignette above concerning the swimming class, if a dialogue had not been initiated and the liaison person had not explained to the principal and to the physical education department head why mixed swimming is against the religious and cultural principles of Islam, the result would have been different. In the course of the negotiations, for example, one of the physical education teachers suggested exempting Muslim students from swimming. The problem with that solution is that the Muslim students would feel deprived of the privilege of learning a skill that the school district considered as an important objective in the physical education curriculum. Hence the equity of instruction would have been questioned and protests or litigations could have resulted. Yet, without following up the matter beyond this temporary solution, neither the Muslim community nor the policy-makers would reach a better understanding and, hence, a true pluralistic and inclusive solutions.
2. Pluralism is the right of each individual to have an equal voice and participation in the making of social policies and equal access to meaningful learning. The practice of these rights facilitates respect and appreciation among the particular cultural groups in a pluralistic democracy. For example, the Muslim community's liaison member built her argument against exemption on the principle of the Fourteenth Amendment, that the society is responsible for providing equal access to learning in a pluralistic setting. In addition, because the right of free religious belief and practice is protected by the First Amendment, the Muslim community could have claimed that the application of the Fourteenth Amendment obscured their equal opportunity to instruction and deprived them of their First Amendment right and the right to equal voice and participation in social policy making. Instead, by applying the Islamic principle that the welfare of the group takes precedent over that of the individual, the Muslim community, by extending the principles to the welfare of the entire school community, reached an agreement with the school district for the alternative solution given that the number of Muslim children was too small to warrant a regular school session. Teacher's role in such a situation is to communicate to the rest of the students the meaning and the implications of this Islamic principle and how it can be translated in different cultural settings regardless of its particular origin. This may expose other similar principles in the students' diverse cultures and bring closeness instead of alienation to the
3. Multicultural education is the continuous struggle to seek understanding and agreement among the particular groups within the pluralistic society. The Muslim community, in the above case, accomplished the desired solution because one of its members understood the constitutional structure of the society and philosophical foundations of its educational system, and explicitly stated the Muslim community own value system and principle of modesty within these parameters. Instead of demanding revision of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Muslims asked for an equal voice and participation in devising educational and instructional strategies to
accommodate the principles embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment to their specific needs. Teachers and administrators may capitalize on this piece of action and invite other parent communities to share their related, or not so related, concerns in the same manner.
4. Critical pedagogy is the only means within a pluralistic society through which particular groups may protect themselves from being assimilated or from becoming, consciously or unconsciously, collaborators in the destruction of their own culture. Each group should be able to make its own decision to practice alternative, separate ways of life. In the above vignette, had the Muslim community not made a special effort to reinterpret the principle of modesty in the new context and to reach a consensus concerning the practice of their belief system, they would have lost in the negotiation over the physical education issue and would have been ignored as an element in the school district, and their culture would have been lost through total assimilation. Also, had the liaison member not used constructive criticism, the community might have chosen a different means of communication that might not have been as satisfactory to the school district
nor to most of the community members. This process does not mean a compromise of some parents' belief system. That is because the understanding and the preservation of the principle of modesty itself is at stake here and not the manner in which it is interpreted or applied. Thus, some of these parents may had to change their perception of how to practice this particular principle, or Islam in general, in the new context, but it does not imply changing their value system or compromising their particularity. Finally, had the Physical Education Department head and the principal not given enough time to listen and to dialogue, the Muslim community could have filed a complaint for First Amendment statues and the relationship between the school district and the community would have deteriorated. Whatever the end result might have been,
neither understanding nor incorporation of the particular culture would have been achieved.
5. Out of particular cultural traditions could come new and more comprehensive truth for all, including the "mainstream" group. A pluralistic society should struggle to obtain such truth through a continuous dialogue. The dialogue that took place between the Muslim community and the school district set a precedent for other groups to express their needs. Given the small number of Muslims to warrant funding for the special swimming sessions, Muslim families agreed to have these sessions opened to non-Muslim boys and girls who also felt uneasy about coed swimming for personal, religious, and cultural reasons, and thus helped to bring to the surface values that appear contradictory. Dialogues about different community values were organized. Finally, the Muslim community's liaison member gave a public lecture on the subject, citing court cases concerning coeducational physical education practices and the arguments presented by the different contesting religious (non-Muslims) communities and explicating how it could be maintained in relation to the First Amendment without a need for a change in the law. This public presentation and discussion also produced new awareness, particularly among the women's groups who supported the coeducation policy, about the needs of women who base their emancipation values on a different belief system and worldview. This public awareness could become a rich ground for in-class debates on issues related to values and value systems without imposing a generic value system.
Generally, teachers are able to recognize and identify children's cultural and linguistic differences. Sometime throughout their career, most teachers read diversity educational literature, purchase culturally inclusive instructional resources, attend professional development workshops, and/or take courses in their teacher credential programs. However, developing the skills needed to sustain and apply multicultural understandings in classrooms can be, at times, illusive.
While teachers can acknowledge the importance of diversity, competency in classrooms is often determined by the their ability to create conditions that enable students to learn. While theorizing of diversity ideologies in education instills hope of improving the quality of schooling for more children; many underserved students continue to face severe academic and social problems in our public schools. Therefore, it is not surprising that multiculturalists concede that the application of multicultural theory to schooling is often inconsistent and ineffective. While the commitment to address diversity issues is seemingly pervasive in the field of education, a formidable chasm among the promises of multicultural education, the intentions of teacher educators, the skills of teachers, and the realities of achievement outcomes for underrepresented children persists (Sheets, 2003). The widespread information about diversity, evident in the abundance of publications, position papers, conferences, and teacher preparation requirements does not seem to influence the achievement of underrepresented children attending public schools. Assumptions can be made that most teachers in the field act with the best intentions and much of the responsibility for improving the learning outcomes of diverse children lies with teachers. This study examines teacher conceptualization of multicultural education and describes their approaches to implementation.
Having a multicultural curriculum transformation institute can assist all stakeholders, faculty, students and the university as a whole with preparing a workforce for living and working in a global society. No longer can institutions use rhetoric in their mission regarding diversity; they must begin to strategically address the issues to enhance the ability of faculty to utilize multicultural course transformation to prepare multicultural literate students who will more than any other generation live and work in the global society.