Multicultural Education

Multicultural Education

Multicultural educational strategies were developed to assist teachers trying to solve the diverse problems imposed on their classrooms by rapidly changing demographic.

Today, teachers in most urban areas face students from a variety of social classes and cultural and language groups. Often, European American children are a minority group. In many rural areas, such as the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the central valleys of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Georgia, and Mississippi, and the Appalachian region, the majority of students do not share the middle-class, European American culture common to most college-educated teachers. Teachers find large numbers of English as a Second Langague students in their classes from Iowa to Virginia, and from Utah to Nevada.

Multicultural educators seek to substantially reform schools to give these diverse students an equal chance in school, in the job market, and in contributing to building healthy communities. Banks (2008), one of the leaders in the field of multicultural education, describes these dimensions of multicultural education; 1) content integration, (2) the knowledge construction process, (3) prejudice reduction, (4) an equity pedagogy, and (5) an empowering school culture and social structure.

Joe L. Kincheloe and Shirley R. Steinberg, Peter McLaren, Henry Giroux, Antonia Darder, Ernest Morrell, Sonia Nieto, Rochelle Brock, Nelson Rodriguez, Leila Villaverde and many other scholars of critical pedagogy have offered an emancipatory perspective on multicultural education that becomes more and more relevant as we move to the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Kincheloe and Steinberg in Changing Multiculturalism (1997) described the confusion about the use of the term, multiculturalism and multicultural education. In an effort to clarify the conversation about the topic, Kincheloe and Steinberg developed a taxonomy of the diverse ways the term was used. Many scholars believe that these scholars' discursive analysis remains an excellent starting point for the study of multicultural education.

The following is a synopsis of Kincheloe and Steinberg's taxonomy of multiculturalism and multicultural education. It has helped numerous educators around the world clarify the meanings attached to the term, multiculturalism. Caution: Kincheloe and Steinberg warn their readers that they are overtly advocating a critical multicultural position and that readers should take this into account as they consider their taxonomy.

Kincheloe and Steinberg's Discourse of Multicultural Education

I. Conservative Multiculturalism assumes that:1. Unsuccessful minorities from culturally deprived backgrounds—undermined by a lack of family values.2. Common culture—WASP norms as invisible barometer for quality form the basis of the curriculum. These norms should be transferred to the next generation.3. Content of curriculum is decided by dominant cultural norms. I.Q. and achievement tests used unproblematically used to measure student acquisition of content and student cognitive ability.4. Non-white ethnic groups are studied in conservative multiculturalism as add-ons to the dominant culture, outsiders expected to melt into the Great Pot.5. The existing social order is just.6. Whiteness is not included as an ethnicity—it becomes an invisible barometer of normality.7. Education is a form of ethnicity striping for economic success.

II. Liberal Multiculturalism assumes that:1. Multicultural education should be based on a notion of “sameness”—we are all the same.2. Racial inequality exists because of a lack of opportunity for minority groups.3. Abstract individualism is central to Western social organization. In this context it is believed that all humans can succeed if given a chance.4. In abstract individualism we are free agents responsible for our own success or failure. Such a position, Kincheloe and Steinberg maintain, often fails to account for hidden forms of racism and norms devised around dominant cultural traits. 5. Everyone enters the competitive race of life from the same starting line.6. Celebrations of Black or Latino history month are positive ways of honoring ethnic groups. Criticalists, the authors maintain, believe that liberal multiculturalism in this context often tokenizes ethnicity with such add-ons.7. Whiteness still viewed as “non-ethnic” norm.8. Studies of racism, sexism, class-bias, homophobia, and colonial oppression viewed as “divisive.”9. Subjugated knowledge might be studied as a quaint manifestation of diversity—not profound alternative insights that provide everyone new and consciousness changing perspectives on the world.

III. Pluralist Multiculturalism assumes that:1. This discourse often has served as the mainstream articulation of multicultural education over the last 20 years.2. Pluralist multicultural education shares numerous features with liberal multicultural—it focus more on difference than liberal multiculturalism.3. Like liberal multiculturalism often serves as a form of regulation and decontextualization that fails to problematize whiteness and the Eurocentric norm.4. Diversity is intrinsically valuable to the dominant culture in a globalizing world with its free market economy.5. Curriculum involves learning about Others, their knowledge, values, beliefs, and patterns of behavior.6. Social unfairness does exist and education should address prejudices and stereotypes. 7. Education should build pride in minority groups’ heritage. It often studies members of such groups who have attained success (implies that anyone can make it).8. Psychological affirmation is the equivalent of socio-political empowerment.9. Like liberal multiculturalism often ignores issues of socio-economic class.10. Non-whites are gaining upward mobility and empowerment in ways not matched in reality.11. Race and ethnicity are viewed as private matters that hold little connection to the complex structures of patriarchy, class elitism and economic colonialism, and white supremacy.12. The coverage of harsh realities of race, class, gender, and sexual oppression does not have to be “upsetting.” Thus, the horrors of such realities often become a form of cultural tourism instead of a rigorous analysis of human suffering.

IV. Left-essentialist multiculturalism assumes that:1. (A caveat: racism, class oppression, sexism, and homophobia are all forms of right-wing essentialism and have a far more pervasive impact on society than left-essentialist multiculturalism)2. Cultural differences are central to multiculturalism.3. Races, ethnic groups, genders, and sexual orientations possess a specific set of characteristics that make them what they are.4. These essential traits are romanticized, even exoticized in a process that positions difference in a distant past of social/cultural authenticity. This removes various groups from history, culture, and power relations and returns them to a primeval past.5. One’s ethnicity or gender, their politics of identity guarantees that their pronouncements will be “politically correct.” Such a position undermines our attempt to analyze the ambiguous ways that historical forces shape our lives and our education.6. That the “good guys” are now the “bad guys” and vice-versa. The curricula that come from this assumption simply invert traditional stereotypes and truth claims. Thus, a multicultural education is created that constructs a seamless history that in its moralistic reductionism fails to understand the subtlety of racism and other forms of oppression.7. Subjugated knowledge is important in this context, but it is often romanticized as a pure manifestation of natural truth. In this way it can be passed along as a new authoritarian canon.8. (Second caveat: Kincheloe and Steinberg in their critique of left-essentialist multiculturalism in no way imply a rejection of the dire need for African American/Latino/indigenous studies or African American/Latino/indigenous based curricula. Because of the erasure of such knowledge in mainstream curriculum, such scholarship and such curriculum development is necessary. Such ethnic knowledges as well as gender, class, and sexual knowledges need to be studied as both separate and integrated phenomena—separate from white, male, middle/upper class, and heterosexual experience and inseparable from them at the same time—e.g., both/and.

V. Critical multiculturalism assumes that:1. Representations of race, class, gender, and sexuality are grounded on larger complex social struggles.2. A multicultural curriculum is part of a larger effort to transform the social, cultural, and institutional structures that generate these representations and perpetuate oppression.3. Race, class, gender, sexual differences exist in the context of power and privilege.4. Unlike liberal, pluralist, and conservative positions, justice in Western societies already exists and only needs to be distributed more equitably. 5. Community is not built simply on consensus but on, as Paulo Freire put it, unity in diversity. In a multiethnic society that respects but does not essentialize differences, great gains can be realized in the cultivation of critical thinking and ethical reasoning. 6. A homogeneous community grounded on consensus may be unable to criticize the injustice and exclusionary practices that undermine it.7. Reform of cultural pathology often comes from the recognition of difference, from the interaction with individuals who do not suffer from the same injustices.8. Multicultural education is based on solidarity in difference: grants social groups enough respect to listen to their perspectives and use them to consider existing social values; realizes lives of individuals in different groups are interconnected to the point that everyone is accountable to everyone else. 9. It is essential to make commitment to the legitimation of multiple traditions of knowledge.10. Students come to see their own points of view as one of many socially and historically constructed ways of seeing.11. Difference in solidarity expands their social imagination, their vision of what could be.12. Notions of whiteness and the effects of “being white” should be critically examined—multicultural curriculum in this context explores the social construction of whiteness as an ethnicity. In this move the curriculum is dramatically changed, it investigates both self and other.13. White male experience must be problematized as the norm, the invisible standard by which other cultures are measured.14. Subjugated knowledge becomes a living body of knowledge open to different interpretations. It is not simply passed along as the new canon, but is viewed in relation to the old canon.


* Banks, James. An Introduction to Multicultural Education. 4th. edition. 2008,Pearson, Allyn/Bacon.
* Campbell, Duane. Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to Multicultural Education. 3rd. edition. 2004. Pearson, Merrill.
* Kincheloe, Joe and Shirley Steinberg. Changing Multiculturalism. 1997, London: Open University Press.
* Steinberg, Shirley. Multi/Intercultural Conversations. 2001, NY: Peter Lang.
* Kincheloe, Joe, Steinberg, Shirley, Rodriguez, Nelson, and Chennault, Ronald. White Reign: Deploying Whiteness in America. 1998. NY: St. Martin's.
* Rodriguez, Nelson and Leila Villaverde. Dismantling White Privilege, 2000. NY: Peter Lang.
* Gresson, Aaron. America’s Atonement: Racial Pain, Recovery Rhetoric, and the Pedagogy of Healing, 2004. NY: Peter Lang.
* Dei, George J. Sefa. Racists Beware: Uncovering Racial Politics in the Post Modern Society, 2008. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

External links

* [ A Critical Examination of Anti-Racist Education]

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