The Future of Multicultural Education

I could not imagine having started my Master’s program with a better course. The context and the different perspectives gained throughout this class created a reminder, in all of my times of stress, as to why I was choosing this course of study. Learning different ways to create a more equitable learning experience for students is a step in the direction toward my future priorities for creating Educational Policy.

Nieto & Bode mention briefly the importance of involving a child in planning their own education (p. 125). The idea seems so simple, and yet I have never first-handedly seen it in practice. Sometimes given the freedom of having choices can be overwhelming, but if given a few options, students may be able to create their own plan of study and enjoy their learning experience. Instead, students are exposed to rigorous schedules without options, which can lead to defiance for many students, as well as a hatred for school. I have always been an active learner; passionate about the topics I choose to learn. I think every student should get the opportunity to choose their own destiny and use their time to explore their own interests, rather than being thrown into an institution that does not praise freedom. Of course there are basic concepts that everyone should be required to learn (i.e., math, reading, writing), and yet most things beyond my basic elementary knowledge have been the result of independent research into topics of my own choosing.

Banks’ approach to multicultural education was another topic that informed me about many of the different ways teachers, schools, and administration approaches topics of diversity, particularly when looking at their curriculum. The mainstream centric views that were mentioned in Banks’ article suggests that a lot of curriculum continues to reinforce views of white superiority as well as deny children from seeing various perspectives (p. 247-48). However, rather than reiterating the current state of ignorance within curriculum diversity, Banks’ seeks to create reform within the classroom to further provide students with multicultural topics.

If reform is to be made, much of the political resistance must first be made visible to society, rather than the false knowledge many people have that racism is a thing of the past. One belief is that multicultural perspectives will “challenge the existing power structure” (Banks & Banks, p. 250). Aside from this, it is essential that current administrators forgo the assimilationist ideology that views the U.S. and Whites as having supreme historical contributions. As a student who acquired all historical knowledge from Pennsylvania public schools, I feel both cheated and ignorant as to the larger picture of our Earth’s history. I can name a fraction of the countries and recite less than 1% as to the origin of any other culture besides my own. Looking at the Levels of Integration identified by Banks and Banks (2007) allowed me to further grasp the types of multicultural education that currently exist, and which methods would be more effective to advance towards in the future.

If progress were to be made in society, a social action approach, along with the transformation approach, would be most ideal. By restructuring the way students learn and integrating multicultural information into all lessons, this notion of what is “normal” or “acceptable” can hopefully become a thing of the past. As children begin to learn about each other using interactive methodology, involving both history and social action, a deeper understanding can be achieved. Unfortunately, I do realize this idea may be far too idealistic. However, is that the realist in me or just the influence I have received from my own educational background thus far?

Multicultural education needs to go beyond celebrating a holiday one day a year that honors Martin Luther King, Jr. It needs to go beyond bringing in Spanakopita as a way of educating a child’s peers on their Greek background. Most importantly, I believe that students deserve to know that there is something and someone out there that is different from what they know. One thing I have witnessed too often is the complete inability to relate to a person based on skin color, language, culture, food, etc., all of which can be avoided by educating students on the differences that exist in this world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Banks, J.A., & Banks, C.A.M. (2007). Approaches to Multicultural Curriculum Reform. (6th Ed.) Multicultural Education (247-269). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming Diversity. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

 

Achievement, Opportunity, and Economic Disparities

 Without caring teachers, accommodating students from all backgrounds, or the willingness to address Out-of-School Factors (OSFs), disparities in educational attainment are likely to remain. It may often seem that trusting and caring relationships are meant for the home, while a professional relationship is maintained in the classroom. However, Nel Noddings, as mentioned by Nieto and Bode, discovered that caring can be an even larger attribution to a student’s academic achievement than many structural conditions within the school (2012). Students in a study conducted by Patty Bode were consistent in their belief that empathy for students was the most important characteristic for a teacher to possess (p. 257). For many students, having a teacher who shows a “kind disposition” and show interest in the students lives in and out of the classroom, can give the student a sense of belonging, and lessen the pattern of school resistance that many students fall into (Nieto & Bode, p. 256).

The cultural differences that occur in the school setting are often threatening to the student, who my experience failure as a result of different values, languages, and expectations. It may feel that creating policies and rules to accommodate all cultures is impossible, and maybe it is. Nieto and Bode discuss opposing beliefs in school versus the home and how one environment may value competition while another values cooperation. For some students, their cultures may align well throughout both environments, and their success will be evident. However, for the student who experiences the culture clash, this may lead to a compromise of their values or academic failure.

The Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), as discussed by both Dr. Fryer in his video and in Affirming Diversity, is a prime example of how a community organization is able to minimize much of the negative effects of OSFs in an effort to increase academic achievement. As Maslow’s hierarchy of needs claims, a child is likely to be insufficient in areas of academia or social skills if basic food, health, and shelter needs are unable to be met. The HCZ, according to Fryer, addresses that same theory by providing health and dental services, as well as fruits and vegetables (2011). In addition to meeting basic needs, the HCZ also seeks to improve unfavorable neighborhood characteristics in this specific urban community. The success that the HCZ has had with improving the academic performance of its students further reinforces the idea stated by Nieto and Bode that “educational reform efforts that do not take into account the social and economic conditions outside schools can only be partially successful” (p. 266). 

As for answering the question of whether these gaps occur due to opportunity, academic achievement, or economic reasons, I feel its impossible to blame sole responsilibty on one isolated area. Flores’ study focuses a lot on opportunity and the unequal offerings of classes given to White students versus minority students. Latinos and African Americas are less likely to be placed in college preparation or advanced courses (Flores, 2007). Being provided “optimal opportunities to learn mathematics free from bias” and learn “challenging material from quality teachers who will also make connections to each student’s background, culture, and needs are all aspects of what Flores states is the “opportunity to learn.”

The achievement gap is similar in that it often is the result of stereotypes. Low expectations are a constant threat to minority students, as well as low placement, all leading to the data which puts minority students in lower standardized testing score brackets (Ladson-Billings, 2006). Unfortunately, a lot of similarities coincide with economic disparities and the amount of money spent per pupil within a school district. Considering the fact that school funding is based on property taxes, it is inevitable that high poverty areas will receive less funding. This then comes full circle with the opportunity gap, as poor students are unable to have access to things such as technology, science materials, and programming to which wealthier school districts are accustomed. Through programs such as the HCZ and further research on ways to lessen the gap, it is the hope that students will begin to receive equitable opportunity. 

 

References

 

Flores, A. (2007). Examining disparities in mathematics education: Achievement gap or opportunity gap? The High School Journal, 91 (1), 29-42.

 

Fryer, R. (2011). Are High Quality Schools Enough to Close the Achievement Gap? Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgzLSMY_nxI&feature=youtu.be.

 

Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools. American Educational Research Association, 35 (7), 3-12.

 

Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming Diversity. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.