Multi-culturism Essay

This essay has a total of 2027 words and 9 pages.


Tina Barsam
November 28, 2001
Paper 1
Eng 305/Cross

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 as she taught the rest of the class some simple Spanish words and
customs. This newly acquired vocabulary formed a common bond among the children in their
early years, an appropriate time for learning respect and understanding. Another exciting
idea is to put children in the setting of the culture they are learning about. By
surrounding children in the ideas and customs of other cultures, they can better
understand what it is like to be removed from our society altogether, if only for a day.

Having kids dress up in foreign clothing, sample foods and sing songs from abroad makes
educating easier on the teacher by making it fun for the students. A simple idea that
helps teachers is to let students speak for themselves. Ask students how they feel about
each other and why. This will help dispel stereotypes that might be created in the home.
By asking questions of each other, students can get firsthand answers about the beliefs
and customs of other cultures, along with some insight as to why people feel the way they
do, something that can never be adequately accomplished through a textbook.

Students are not the only ones who can benefit from this type of learning. Teachers
certainly will pick up on educational aspects from other countries. If, for instance, a
teacher has a minority student from a different country every year, he or she can develop
a well-rounded teaching style that would in turn, benefit all students.

Teachers can also keep on top of things by regularly attending workshops and getting
parents involved so they can reinforce what is being taught in the classroom at home.

The New York State Social Studies Review and Development Committee has come up with six
guidelines that they think teachers should emphasize in order to help break down ethnic
barriers. These steps are as follows:

First, from the very beginning, social studies should be taught from a global perspective.
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