November 28, 2001
Multicultural Education in America
America has long been called "The Melting Pot" because it is made up of a varied mix of races, cultures, and ethnicities. As more and more immigrants come to America searching for a better life, the population naturally becomes more diverse. This has, in turn, spun a great debate over multiculturalism. Some of the issues under fire are who is benefiting from the education, and how to present the material in a way so as to offend the least amount of people. There are many variations on these themes as will be discussed later in this paper. In John Spayde's article, "Learning in the Key of Life," he talks about how Education is important, but life experiences are important to learn from as well. He says that the rich have such an advantage when it comes to education because they have more opportunities for higher education than the poor do. Also, school teaches them more than just terminology and formulas; it teaches one humanities which could not be learned out in the streets. For example, learning about other cultures and their traditions could be learned from one's peers, but would be accurately more defined in a classroom. "There are as many ways to become an educated American as there are Americans." (Spayde 63). Education provides such insight and knowledge about our society and cultures. Crime would be much higher, racism would be much stronger and our economy would be so low if it wasn't for education. It's important for our country to be able to provide opportunities for everyone to get an education. In the 1930's several educators called for programs of cultural diversity that encouraged ethnic and minority students to study their respective heritages. This is not a simple feat for any culture. Most people, from educators to philosophers, agree that an important first step in successfully joining multiple cultures is to develop an understanding of each other's background. However, the similarities stop there. One problem is in defining the term "multiculturalism". When it is looked at simply as meaning the existence of a culturally integrated society, many people have no problems. However, when one goes beyond that and tries to suggest a different way of arriving at that culturally integrated society, everyone seems to have a different opinion on what will work. Proponents of multicultural education argue that it offers students a balanced appreciation and critique of other cultures as well as our own. While it is common sense that one could not have a true understanding of a subject by only possessing knowledge of one side, this brings up the fact that there would never be enough time in our current school year to equally cover the contributions of each individual nationality. This leaves teachers with two options. The first would be to lengthen the school year, which is highly unlikely because of the political aspects of the situation. The other choice is to modify the curriculum to only include what the instructor (or school) feels are the most important contributions, which again leaves them open to criticism from groups that feel they are not being equally treated. A national standard is out of the question because of the fact that different parts of the country contain certain concentrations of nationalities. An example of this is the high concentration of Cubans in Florida or Latinos in the west. Nonetheless, teachers are at the top of the agenda when it comes to multiculturalism. They can do the most for children during the early years of learning, when kids are most impressionable. By engaging students in activities that follow the lines of their multicultural curriculum, they can open up young minds while making learning fun. In one first grade classroom, an inventive teacher used the minority students to her advantage by making them her helpers...