The face of American education is perhaps underlying a major facelift. The differences in cultural background and heritage are being traversed. Borders are supposedly being crossed. Educational theories and classroom practices are taking up new forms in order to conform and meet the educational needs of the global societies. Educators and teachers are being expected to share views and recognized values from different cultures, races, societies and ethnic groups. They are expected to move outside the system and custom of the dominant society. They should incorporate beliefs other than those they are accustomed with.
The changes being undertaken could be traced back from the 1960s, in the wake of civil rights movement. As a medium to correct the long standing policy of assimilating the minority groups into the dominant American culture, several actions were taken. In recent years it had captured great interest from the public most notably during a meeting conducted on 1989 by the New York Board of Reagents, as it attempted to establish multi-cultural curricula (Sobol, 1990). The said board of reagents is the body in charge in determining the state education policy. A call for restructuring of the curriculum of state’s public schools was made by the board, citing that a change in the entire perspective of the way “we look at ourselves as a nation” is needed (Auster, 1989). Thus, changes in curriculum are required. Concerns of everyone, or of all people for that matter are then needed to be integrated to each school’s curriculum.
Diversity in the United States is very much apparent at schools and universities. However, though school population is becomingly more diverse, most of the school teachers and educators are white and female. Record shows that 87% of the teacher population is white (J. A. B. Banks, C.A.M., 2001). This is why observers believed that inclusion of the multi-cultural education in school’s curriculum is needed. By having a white teacher and by giving them the same education as white, African Americans, Puerto Ricans or Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans are being deprived of teachings that are of high quality, the kind each and everyone deserve. They then, became victims of intellectual and cultural oppressions that have characterized and haunted the United States for centuries (J. A. B. Banks, C.A.M., 2001).
The fundamental cultural values of a society are major aspects and treasures people of that certain society possess. These cultural values which have been accumulated through years reveal some important aspects about the people and give an idea about their existence and purpose. A society could not survive with out fully understanding these fundamental cultural values. Without these values, a society can be considered weak and is in fact vulnerable. The foundation of the society’s existence is at risk. Thus, preserving and practicing these values are necessary. Questions however rise if inclusions of these cultural values to public school curriculum are needed.
It is noticeable that one of the main agenda of the proposed multi-cultural education program is to unite the diverse American population. In the pace of the fast changing world, the New York Board of Reagents had conceptualized ideas to preserve the uniqueness of each and every minority groups. In an effort to unite and erase the long tradition of American racism the board have devised a scheme. They have plotted a discipline where in the major aim is to create equal opportunities to students of different ethnic groups, cultural background and diverse racial and social class. The important goal is to help people achieve and acquire the much needed skills, confidence and knowledge to function effectively in the pluralistic society (Gay, 2000). It should help students to be armed with respect and dignity, whatever his or her background, in facing a moral community that is striving for a common good. It should give students equal rights and sense of security.
Inclusion to state public schools curriculum are viewed by some as a great way to bridge the gap among ethnic groups, different cultural societies and the dominant American culture that eventually they would function as one. It is a simple way to reflect ideas and shared minority experiences. Furthermore, people believed that it will be a good single step to eradicate racism. Students would have a chance to understand why their fellow classmates behave in certain ways and hopefully then they can set aside the differences, and act accordingly. Members of the minority groups can then assert and share their feelings by explaining lessons which are somehow foreign to the to the dominant class. By doing these, the minority class can developed self esteem.
The program does not only relates and draws contents, concepts, and special theories from interdisciplinary fields such as history, ethnic studies and philosophical sciences; it challenges, reinforces and interprets concepts from the established theories. It was designed to supposedly increase the educational equity among students. It was proposed to provide a competitive and racism free environment for students (J. A. B. Banks, C.A.M., 2001). It was formed to integrate various viewpoints and a new perspective to a curriculum, which then will be culture based
Unfortunately, the inclusion of cultural materials however extensive and wide range is not fully enough to counteract the racism problem at hand which is deeply rooted in American tradition. Although inclusions to the curriculum of these fundamental values appear promising, others viewed them not just as a simple insertion of values that originates from the minority clans. To some these are efforts and serious attempts to broaden the multicultural content and eventually dismantle the dominant values America has been practicing for a longer period of time. The national culture will be transformed into ethnic culture, and children would be taught that American culture is equal of that what the Puerto Ricans have, or Chinese possess.
Opposition also rises to the multi-cultural education program that is being pushed because people believe that they are misguided programs which are way too expensive to entertain. By inclusion of these fundamental cultures to curriculum, students- especially those which are the minorities, are supposed to earn self- respect and perhaps adulation. However, respect is earned by an individual through personal efforts, achievements and accomplishments. Also, when discussing conflicts between the cultures and conflicts rises, a thorough understanding is needed; otherwise it may offend the involved parties and lead to a graver problem instead of arriving at certain solutions. Thus, instead of providing the students with educational and cultural framework to develop and grow in a well nurtured society, public schools would have shown them how unfair the society is.
Affectivity of the program is also at question. In teaching students about the culture of certain cultural groups, there are doubts if the educators would be successful. It is imperative for educators to understand the needs and emotions of every student. Personal talents, abilities and skills by the students should be valued. They should serve as the teacher’s guide in devising competitive teaching strategies. Dominant groups may found the lessons boring and disturbing, sometimes even upsetting. It is then up to the teachers to conceptualize a learning strategy both convenient between the two groups. Precautions are also needed when tackling delicate and sensitive matters.
The proposed inclusion of multi-cultural based curriculum to public schools means a drastic change of curriculums and course, and maybe the state’s educational system as a whole. These changes require funding, which are maybe too expensive for such changing of system. New books are needed to be printed, which will incorporate the cultural values of the different groups. Teachers, lecturers and educators are needed to be trained properly for the proposed project to materialize and effectively achieved what it has promised it would. American political systems, allow minority groups to maintain their cultural traditions and beliefs through private organizations, sectors and religions. Expenses are paid through there own medium and they never rely for the government for funding. Public funds are not utilized.
Multi-cultural education is a program seeking to revise and reform both schooling and political and cultural context of formal schooling and studying. It was designed to have a better impact to society by reducing racial tolerance and being prone to bias by increasing cultural awareness. Several categories of programs that are designed encompass not only to restructure and reform subjects and curriculums at school but to generate and increase contacts among races. They are designed primarily to bridge the gap among races. However, instead of harmonious coexistence and peace being attained, the proposed inclusion of cultures to curriculum, poses lots of intriguing questions. The public are uncertain with their thoughts regarding the changing of curriculum. Often times, multi-cultural education has become the topic of numerous numbers of debates and disputes, resulting to a further division of the nation.
Multicultural education is intended to decrease if not totally abolish race, ethnic and gender divisions. By helping students achieve the necessary skills and by guiding them they are being prepared in facing the challenges they would soon be encountering. Students are trained to equip them with the attitudes needed in order to survive in the real word. However, before such program can be implemented, a thorough understanding of the real issue at hand must first be achieved. Factors such as demography, social class, funding, and quality of educators, students cultural backgrounds and public interest should be carefully considered and taken in to account.
Culture and traditions are important values; they should be preserved and treasured. They are heritage that reveals the beauty of a society. However, including them to public school curriculum poses many questions. The debate has been on for years, and will continue for the years to come. It may take some time before the public become accustomed to such changes. A decision for inclusion should not be rushed, but a fair and honest assessment that would serve the best interest of the students and the public should be provided.
(Anderson, 1991; Armstrong, 1991)
(J. A. Banks, 1994)
(Nieto, 1992; Phillips, 1988)
(C. E. Sleeter, 1992; C. E. Sleeter, & Grant, C. A. , 1993; Valdez, 1999)
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