Multicultural education is designed to change the total educational experience so students from diverse racial and ethnic groups, exceptional students, both gender groups, and from each social-class group will experience equal educational opportunities in school. Clearly many public schools lack a clear understanding of how to create a multicultural environment that is supportive to all students. Teachers should help students to develop a delicate balance of cultural, national, and global identifications because of the rich diversity in the United States and throughout the world (Banks, 2001) While many schools have attempted to infuse a multicultural curriculum their attempts have failed miserably. Many students are feeling that their educational experience is lacking cultural relevance and meaning. Students want an education that reflects their own community values and goals. The lack of educational relevance has been linked to decreased student motivation and interest in school (Ford & Harris, 2000). Teachers blame the current obsession with standardizing curricula and measuring output as the prime culprit controlling what is taught. Many teachers are focusing on covering what is to be tested with little or no time used discussing any unrelated topics. Multicultural education appears to be in very real danger of getting shelved as the preoccupation with national and state standards and testing intensifies. Clearly there has been a de-emphasis on multicultural education because of ill-prepared teachers and an increased emphasis on the standards.
Education is facing critical issues, as our nation becomes increasingly diverse. The need to teach across cultures and to all students is more important today than ever before. We must prepare students to live in a multicultural world. The multicultural classroom experience identifies and empathizes with all cultures and groups. Teachers attempting to incorporate a multicultural curriculum must ask themselves such basic questions: “Are we promoting an appreciation of multicultural voices within the classroom?” “Are we encouraging students to question and openly discuss critical issues surrounding diversity and multiculturalism?” “Are we truly preparing students to live in a multicultural society?”(King, 2000) By answering these basic questions while preparing class activities, teachers can improve student participation and retention across cultures. When preparing for class, instructors should make sure course materials represent female authors, international cultures, people of color, and the disabled (King, 2000). Instruction should not focus on cultural generalizations; this only reinforces negative stereotypes. The environment of a multicultural classroom should be a nonthreatening learning environment where diverse students speak freely about the topic without fear of alienation from peers or teacher. This multicultural montage of questions is a tool that will place all students at an equal advantage in the learning environment. “Being able to connect with all students is vital to the academic retention of all students (King, 2000).”
In 1995, 43 gifted Black students in grades 6 through 9 were interviewed about their curricular needs and concerns in a study about underachievement among gifted, potentially gifted, and general education students (Ford & Harris, 2000). Specifically 41% of the students were tired of learning about White people in class and 87% agreed that they enjoyed school much more when they were learning about people of their own culture and race; and all students supported the idea of learning more about Black people in school. Many of the Black children felt that White people were just trying to advance other White people and leave Black people behind and ignorant. In this study many of the Black students felt like...