Multicultural Education: Respecting Differences and Avoiding Bias Jennifer Brearley
Western Governors University
Culture can be characterized by how a group of people interpret the world through spirituality, social customs, dress and communication (Gargiulo 2012). According to Richard M. Garguilo, author of Special Education in Contemporary Society (2012) culture is also defined by the attitudes, values, behaviors, belief systems, and traditions shared by a particular race, social group, class, or age. As our country’s demographics change, our schools are changing (Gargiulo 2012). Cultural diversity is most noticeable in our schools (Gargiulo 2012). Schools are some of the first places tend to recognize heterogeneous cultures (Gargiulo 2012). Schools should “work together to overcome fears, misconceptions and myths” about our differences (Gollnick 2009). Thus came about the idea of a multicultural education. Gargiulo states that a multicultural education gained popularity in schools in the 1960’s (2012). Before multiculturism was accepted into schools children were expected to leave their “family and cultural backgrounds at the schoolhouse door” (Cole 2008). Multcultural education is closely linked to the growing diversity of our schools (Gargiulo 2012). Multiculturism is defined as “more than one culture” (Gargiulo 2012). Gargiulo says schools should “acknowledge basic commonalities” and “appreciate the differences” of all children, no matter their culture (2012). Educators should look at a student’s heritage as a “strength rather than a weakness” (Gargiulo 2012). The “student’s ethnic heritage” should be “valued and prized” (Gargiulo 2012). Donna M. Gollnick, author of Multicultural Education in a Pluralistic Society agrees, stating multiculturism empowers students and teachers. Gollnick goes on to state that schools should “value diversity rather than fear it” (2009). Additionally she writes that “race, ethnicity, class and gender” should be interrelated in the curriculum as this will acknowledge the diversity of our country (Gollnick 2009). According to Gargiulo the goals of a multicultural education is equal education for all children, to respect and honor diversity, to share knowledge of other cultures, the integration of ethnic groups, to confront and reconstruct beliefs, and lastly to build empowerment (2012). Gollink concurs and writes the “classroom should be models of democracy, equity and social justice” (2009). A multicultural education supports and celebrates our diversity, our histories, our experiences, our traditions and our cultures (Gollnick 2009). One way to encourage appreciating differences in the classroom is reality based learning. Robert W. Cole author of Educating Everybody’s Child” We Know What Works – And What Doesn’t, suggests that the teacher engage students in a reality based learning by valuing “the student’s community and personal experience” (Cole 2008). For instance Cole suggests that when a teacher assigns a group essay on the same topic, it is a mindless project (2008). Instead the teacher should have the students compose a “personal letter to an editor, a local politician or community activist to express a heartfelt compliment” complaint or inquiry (Cole 2008). According to Cole, data and scientific studies clearly state that teaching language arts using the student’s personal schema helps students grasp knowledge more readily and “bridges the school, home and classroom” (2008). Gollnick agrees that reality based learning validates experiences and promotes academic achievement (2009). She presents an idea from an educator that incorporates his students’ cultures into math word problems by using the students’ experiences (Gollnick 2009). This educator uses familiar locales in distance problems and rewords problems so cost problems are authentically related (Gollnick 2009). Gollnick also writes that giving students a “hand’s on...
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