The definition of multiculturalism in the Webster's Dictionary is: "of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture" (1984). There are many reasons why multiculturalism should be integrated into the curriculum of America's schools. Multicultural education is an idea that seeks to develop the same opportunities for all students; it is not geared solely for the benefit of those from different racial, ethnic, and social-class groups, but it is also designed to help the middle to upper class white Americans (Banks, n.d.). The goal of multicultural education is to restructure schools, so that all students will achieve the knowledge, proper outlook, and abilities required to function in a diverse nation and world (Banks, 1993). It is important for multicultural education to permeate the curriculum in all grades and aspects of the educational system. A problem with multicultural education is that people tend to simplify. It is a complex and multidimensional concept (Banks, 1993). James A. Banks, a professor and Director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington, uses the following five dimensions to describe the field's major components: 1) content integration, 2) the knowledge construction process, 3) prejudice reduction, 4) an equity pedagogy, and 5) an empowering school culture and social structure (Banks, 1993). Content integration deals with teachers and how they use information from different cultures to explain key concepts and theories for a certain subject (Banks, 1993). This aspect of multicultural education is mostly taught in schools today, and for this reason teachers in the subjects of biology, physics, and mathematics think that multicultural education is irrelevant to them (Banks, 1993). Teachers from these subjects do not regard multicultural education as important to them because this aspect is being taught alone when in reality all aspects of multicultural education should be taken into consideration. Knowledge construction involves the process in which social, behavioral, and natural scientists create knowledge in their subjects. James Banks believes that, "A multicultural focus on knowledge construction includes discussion of the ways in which the implicit cultural assumptions, frames of reference, perspectives, and biases within a discipline influence the construction of knowledge" (1993). The prejudice reduction aspect of multicultural education deals with how students view others and it helps develop a more positive racial and ethnic attitude (Banks, 1993). Equity pedagogy exists when teachers use techniques and teaching methods that facilitate students from diverse racial, ethnic, and social groups (Banks, 1993). Empowering school culture and social structure means that the culture and organization of the schools have to change, so students from diverse racial, ethnic, and social-class groups will all have a sense of equality and a sense of empowerment (Anderson, MacPhee, & Govan, 2000). As you can see, there is a lot more to multicultural education than just teaching students how to be tolerant towards different cultures. The curriculum of today's schools has negative consequences for all; it affects students that identify with the curriculum, and it also affects students from non-dominant groups (Gorski, 2000b). Today's mainstream curriculum is Eurocentric and male-centric; it does not teach the experiences, voices, contributions, and views of non-dominant individuals. This affects students from non-dominant groups because it undermines their beliefs and perspectives, and it may separate students who are already having trouble adapting to a different culture (Gorski, 2000b). According to Gorski, this curriculum is harmful for students who identify with the curriculum because it,
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References: Anderson, S. K., MacPhee, D., & Govan D. (2000). Infusion of multicultural issues in curricula: A student perspective. Innovative Higher Education, 25(1) 37-42.
Astin, A. W. (1993). How are students affected? Change, (25)2.
Banks, J. A. (n.d.). Multicultural education: Goals and dimensions. University of Washington. Retrieved June 15, 2006, from http://depts.washington.edu/centerme/view.htm
Gorski, P. C. (2000a). Curriculum reform. EdChange Multicultural Pavilion. Retrieved June 6, 2006, from http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/curriculum/steps.html
Hyman, C. (2003, May 06). Awareness of racial stereotypes happens at an early age, has consequences. Berkely University of California. Retrieved June 15, 2006, from http://www.berkely.edu/news/media/release/2003/05/06_aware. shtml
Stewart, W. J. (2001). Infusing multiculturalism into the curriculum through broad themes. Education, 98(3), 334.
Webb, M. (2000). Multicultural education in elementary and secondary schools. ERIC Clearinghouse of Urban Education New York, NY. Retrieved June 15, 2006, from
Webster, M. (1984). Webster 's ninth new collegiate dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.
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