I’ve written about this in my previous posts but I continue to see connectons between our “American ways” and our performance against other countries in the world. We continue to see it as a competition of us against them when really we would all benefit from working together and using strategies that are effective. Obviously there is not one educational or teaching strategy that would work for all students. Due to different cultures, personalities, and environmental factors there must be some adapting to the specific situation. Although this is true I think we can also look at what has worked and modify it to our needs in the classroom.
This type of approach is seen in multicultural education where students are instructed about a variety of perspectives and experiences from many diverse cultural groups. It is not an us against them mentality but simply an approach to help understand all the differences that exist in the world around us. It is important to note that multicultural education is an approach to show that people are more alike than different and we can learn from each other.
I find that this style of teaching is lacking both in the classrooms and in the minds of Americans. More than once I’ve heard people say that Americans speak ‘American’ and any other language is unacceptable. We expect anyone coming to our country to assimilate to our ways and learn our culture yet we make no effort to do the same when we visit their countries or get to know them as an individual.
Why is multicultural education and for that matter culturally responsive education not a more prominent matter in our schools? Instead of only skimming the surface of an issue or another opinion we should be striving to look outside of our own environment and align ourselves with a view we’re unfamiliar with. By doing such I truly believe we would have higher testing scores and be ranked higher in the educational systems of the world.
“When multicultural literature is used for the purpose of critical multicultural education, teachers can help students become engaged in critical discourses of ideology and social actions.”
(Bogum, Simpson, Claudia, 2010)
All students are given a reason to take pride in their ethnic heritage and backgrounds when multicultural education is ongoing. We are not saying one group is better than another or that we should all assimilate with one way of doing, thinking, or being. By creating a more accepting, caring environment in the classroom where everyone is valued we will produce future contributing members of society who are more likely to hear all sides of an argument before making a decision. We are helping to develop the critical thinking skills necessary in life and to function in a increasingly globalized world. When you are forced to examine your own beliefs and views against another’s in a safe environment you grow as a person.
As it is our educational system is failing our students. We are teaching them in many of our schools that America is the best country, that our ways are the best of all. Regardless of whether this is true or not we should be critically analyzing other countries, other cultures, and other perspectives outside of our own. When we make such claims as this we are being narrow minded and not allowing opportunities for our students to examine for themselves what best practices are or what they place their faith in. We are to explain practices in the context of which they occurred. The focus is on fostering an appreciation for diverse practices, not portraying them as all equally acceptable.
This focus on fostering an appreciation will help our students to adapt to many different situations. Instead of approaching a situation or dilemma with a need to defend views they focus on understanding and appreciation other views. This is a skill that would serve students throughout their lifetime and prove valuable.
Bogum, Y., Simpson, A., & Claudia, H. (2010). Assimilation Ideology: Critically Examining Underlying Messages in Multicultural Literature. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(2), 109-118. doi:10.1598/JAAL.54.2.3