The ever-changing demographic of the United States and the student population within our public school system demands that we give increasing attention to multicultural education. “According to a U.S. Census Bureau report (Colby et al., 2015), [WU1] the U.S. population is expected to become majority-minority by 2044, with the minority population projected to rise to 56% of the total in 2060, compared to only 38% in 2014” (Janakiraman et al., 2019, p. 300). Further, “The United States Census, for example, projects that 50% of the population will consist of culturally, linguistically, racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse groups by 2050” (Ramirez et al., 2016, p. 2) which speaks to the need for our schools to evaluate its current practices to ensure we are the best meeting the needs of the students in front of us.[WU2]
The United States has been referred to as a “melting pot” or a multinational nation in the past. This metaphor was chosen to represent the country’s long history of attracting immigrants from many nations. These immigrants discovered the United States to be the most convenient destination for finding a job and a better, safer living. One of the primary factors that have contributed to the United States’ diversity and multiculturalism is immigration. Schools around the nation accept children from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds every year as a result of immigration. These children need a public education system that caters to their specific demands while also facilitating their learning, to combat various forms of prejudice and discrimination in schools and communities, this system needs a comprehensive school reform. This reform should focus on the school curriculum, instructional practices, and relationships between teachers, students, and their families. In comparison to their colleagues in the dominant culture, students pursuing education in the United States have a variety of traits. Physically and psychologically abilities, ethnicity, ethnic and racial origins, socioeconomic levels, languages, beliefs, and sexual orientations are all examples of these qualities. As a result, it is necessary to create a diverse educational system. (Green et al., 2015, p. 401) recognized that multicultural education includes pupils of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, including Blacks and Whites, as well as students of other nations who have migrated to the United States to get a great education. This acknowledgment implies that we not only should consider students’ characteristics but also tailor the curriculum to match their requirements. As a result, for various pupils to have an equal chance to succeed academically, a multicultural system of education needs effective attention.[WU3]
The US has been a multiracial society. As a consequence, students from a wide range of backgrounds enroll in the US educational system. In 2018, 50.7 million children attended the public education system, representing a wide range of backgrounds, languages, viewpoints, and cultures in the classroom, according to the Department Of education. Because culture and education are intertwined, it is critical that people of all cultures value education, as well as that the educational system value all cultures. Multicultural education may be promoted via a variety of educational approaches (Green et al., 2015, p. 401). They can create learning settings that are beneficial to a wide range of students. Teachers may include differentiated instruction into every aspect of their teaching, from the assignments they assigned to the classes they teach, even though instruction typically depends on the contents of a certain curriculum. Teachers in the United States should be open to inquire about multicultural education and how they can successfully integrate it into their classrooms. both their own and their peers’ cultures Teachers can build a welcoming classroom that appreciates all students by integrating culturally responsive pedagogy into curriculum and teaching method.
The civil rights act of 1964 and the 1970s gave birth to intercultural competence. It arose from ethnic groups’ desire that their languages be included in school, college, and university curriculum (Wei, 2017). Multicultural education has significant historical origins in the Indigenous minority studies movement that evolved in the 19th century and early 20th centuries, despite being a product of the 1960s ethnic studies movement. The earliest ethnic studies movement’s principal purpose was to correct the inaccurate representations of African Americans’ existence, history, and accomplishments that were prominent in the mainstream study. These academics were dedicated to the advancement of African Americans on an interpersonal, academic, and long-term level. They thought that for African Americans to achieve collective identity and emancipation, they needed to cultivate positive self-images. They also felt that objective historical study, which had the potential to influence mainstream academic knowledge, could successfully confront stereotypes and unfavorable ideas about African Americans (Wei, 2017). The organization was instrumental in the creation and distribution of African-American historical research. Woodson founded Negro History in addition to publishing academic works and overseeing the organization’s publications.
When the international studies movement was revitalized in the 1960s, Black Americans and other oppressed ethnic groups refused to relinquish their ethnic heritage and history in the face of assimilationist demands. They demanded that their tales and lives be incorporated into school, college, and university curricula (Wei, 2017). Multicultural educators attempted to shift the Eurocentric viewpoint and include different views into the curriculum by questioning prevailing paradigms and ideas taught in schools and institutions.
By the late 1980s, multicultural theorists had realized that ethnic studies alone would not be enough to bring about educational changes that would address the academic requirements of children of color. As a result, they moved their attention from just including ethnic material in classrooms to making significant structural changes (Wei, 2017). [WU7] Multicultural educators shifted their attention from ethnic groups of color to other categories such as socioeconomic class, language, and gender during this period. The major social categories of multicultural education–race, class, gender, and culture–are interconnected, despite their conceptual differences. Multicultural theorists are interested in the interactions of various social elements in identity development, as well as the implications of numerous and contextual identities for teaching and learning.
The role of U.S. education has been closely connected to the goals and aspirations of those leading the country. One purpose of our schools has been to help students from diverse backgrounds learn to assimilate, or more closely match, those within the Eurocentric dominant society. This can be traced back to some of the earliest tax-funded schools in New England which were used to Americanize the children of Native Americans and European immigrants to help them to become American citizens (Wei, 2017). A letter written in 1919 by President Theodore Roosevelt to the American Defense Society included the following call to assimilation: “We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, and American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house; and we have room for but one sole loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people” (Wei, 2017). President Roosevelt’s words capture the sentiment behind assimilation which impacted the perceived purpose of our public schools and continues to have a lasting influence to this day.
The concept of assimilation, also known as the melting pot theory, has been reflected in our schools through the curriculum and assessments which were determined by those White Protestants in the ruling class who had the goal of instilling White middle-class values in all students (Wei, 2017). In the southwestern United States during the 1900s through the 1950s, the public schools were used to impart the American way of life to the children of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. This included teaching the children to speak English and to forgo aspects of their culture that would prevent them from being identified as Americans (Saathoff, 2017). Students that did not go along with the assimilation imposed by the schools often struggled and were labeled as being “at-risk” and were ultimately marginalized and failed by the school system (Wei, 2017).
Even though equality is a fundamental tenet of the U. S., the mindset of integration has rationalized discrimination and generated long-term imbalance in our public schools. Some students have been given advantages over others because of their culture, vocabulary, gender, race, or other characteristics (Kim, 2011). Multicultural education was created specifically for children from culturally and ethnically varied backgrounds at first. Multicultural education has evolved to include human relations theory, gender studies, and the examination of historically marginalized groups, and it is now applicable to all learners. As our schools’ multicultural curriculum evolves, it now aims to create a welcoming environment, foster global citizenship, and foster a sense of respect for diverse cultures (Green et al., 2015).[WU8] [WU9]
Democratic principles of equality are at the foundation of multicultural education. There are multiple dimensions to this form of education that extend far beyond decreasing prejudice or delivering pertinent content (Janakiraman et al., 2019). Multicultural education can be viewed as a vehicle of social reform that can transform the concept of education within our U.S. public schools from assimilation to recognizing the strengths and value in diversity. At its core, it emphasizes the idea that “all students should have equal opportunities to learn, regardless of the racial, ethnic, social-class, or gender group to which they belong” (Kim, 2011, p. 391). This is a clear counterbalance to the assimilation philosophy which has served as the guiding principle of our schools through the majority of our nation’s history.
While many use the terms diversity and multiculturalism interchangeably, they hold two distinctly separate meanings. Race, class, and gender are examples of differences between groups that are captured by the term diversity. Consideration of both the privilege and power held by diverse groups is noted within the concept of multiculturalism (Soto et al., 2021). There are many layers within each person’s concept of self. The idea of ethnic identity includes the experiences, affect, and knowledge that is attributed to social groups within our society (Soto et al., 2021). The identity of individuals within diverse groups is further impacted by personal experience and context within families, communities, and society at large which further highlights the complexity of multiculturalism.
If we fail to recognize cultural differences within our schools, discord is likely to increase. Students must learn about those who differ from themselves in authentic ways if we are to diminish or remove conflicts from within our schools. When schools operate through a lens of color or culture blindness, they are not addressing or valuing the diversity which exists both within the school and the community (Ford, 2013). Ignoring these differences or viewing everyone as if they are homogeneous is not moving towards an environment where students feel valued or recognized for who they are. Additionally, we will miss an important opportunity to help our students to acknowledge differences with understanding and to give consideration to multiple perspectives.
One key tenet of multicultural education is the close examination of commonly held stereotypes. Consideration is given to the very essence of how these stereotypes have been formed and students examine their own beliefs, challenging any bias they may have as they increase their understanding of cultural differences (Green et al., 2015). This information is provided through instruction as well as the classroom discussions and activities which are embedded into the curriculum to provoke higher levels of expanded thinking. Multicultural education is designed to move students beyond the stereotypes presented by society, providing the potential for true transformation within individuals to move beyond blindly accepting surface-level stereotypes and any resulting bias.
For these classroom conversations to take place, the teachers themselves must first examine their own biases and any stereotypes they may hold. Meaningful, open dialogue between teachers in an honest way, including the sharing of any reservations or fears that they may have about being prepared to delve into multicultural education with their students, is an important precursor to breaking through any constraints from more traditionally held educational practices. This level of preparation and thought is necessary for teachers to be prepared to provide multicultural education in a responsible, meaningful, and respectful way that may otherwise be possible without their reflection and philosophical exploration with colleagues before any introduction to their students (De et al., 2014).
Theoretical frameworks underpin sociology. The social construction, conflict theory, and social exchange theories are the three basic umbrella theories.
Systems theory is the view that community is steady and orderly, and that to achieve equilibrium, as Emile Durkheim asserts, there must be a common belief system that also depends on assimilation (Niegocki et al., 2012). Furthermore, since meritocracy feeds society, destitute people are not contributing enough to society. Furthermore, structural functionalists point out that institutions have a purpose, and in this instance, education’s purpose is to impart knowledge via the teacher. Sociologists like Parsons and Heidegger created ideologies that ignore disparities caused by structural oppression in structural functionalism. The bourgeoisie, or capitalists, preserve power and resources, resulting in a battle of wills among them and the lumpenproletariat, or working class, according to Karl Marx’s writings. We acknowledge capitalism’s role in educational opportunities and uneven distribution of resources in conflict theory, and ideas arise that are extremely critical of racism, class discrimination, and sexism in society, especially sociology. We also meet C. Wright Milling, who is responsible for the development of the social context, which is crucial in understanding the importance of ethnic studies. Furthermore, sociologists that research education depend extensively on Paulo Freire’s work, particularly Philosophy of the Oppressed (Niegocki et al., 2012) and how discussions of oppressors and oppressed mirror the power processes that conflict theorists investigate. Symbolic interactionism is a micro-level theory, and it is the third theory. This focuses on smaller-scale interactions, although ethnic studies must be introduced. It investigates how words and experiences are used to form reality. Because of our socialization and how it affects our dependence on authority, this is also tied to Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
The definition of social justice includes equality in the allocation of resources, advocacy, and empowering all members of society (Niegocki et al., 2012). Further, Iris Marion Young’s theory includes not only the egalitarian distribution and access to wealth but ensuring that power within institutions is also shared to include equal voice and the elimination of power imbalance (Niegocki et al., 2012). If, as a society, we want to advance social justice then we must reconsider the traditional narratives of history to promote a clear understanding of how racism and social injustice have been interconnected. We must move beyond recognition of the inequity and take action to interfere with these long-held systemic vehicles of inequality (Stanton, 2015). Providing multicultural education within our public schools is one way in which we can begin to fracture conventional systems of oppression to move the cause of social justice forward[WU10] .
When “people possess negative thoughts and feelings toward minorities, then this emotion will produce discriminatory behaviors toward them (Del Barco et al., 2007)” (Janakiraman et al., 2019, p. 300)[WU11] . The long-held assimilationist compass driving our schools serves only to strengthen the inequities and potential for discrimination within our society including limiting the opportunities of some students over others throughout their school experience. The continuation of our schools presenting history through the lens of those who have held power does a great disservice by discounting the experiences of diverse groups and promoting an acceptance of one view. Multicultural education serves to openly address inequity both past and present and to call out stereotypes, bias, and the dynamics of power which have been swept under the rug through more traditional educational approaches.
The disruption of systemic inequities or barriers to equal education for all has not taken place automatically through the increasingly diverse population within our communities or schools (Ramirez et al., 2016). Within the schools themselves, there continues to be a large divide between the number of diverse teachers available to meet the needs of the increasing number of diverse students. This reality, the inability of many students to directly identify with many of their teachers, calls for increasing research and professional development for both existing and pre-service teachers to be better prepared to effectively teach students from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds as well as underrepresented minority groups (Taylor et al., 2015). Additionally, we must seek ways to both encourage and support our diverse students into the consideration of teaching and other school-related professions such as social workers, counselors, and psychologists as a potential career path.
Expanding numbers of educators are recognizing the need for foundational change to upend the entrenched assimilation theory and the lasting impact that it continues to have in our schools. These educators are calling for our public education system to infuse multicultural education throughout our school system (Wei, 2017). Beyond providing relevant and accessible instructional content for all students, multicultural education seeks to prepare students for building and living in a diverse, democratic, and just society (Ramirez et al., 2016). This type of education challenges traditional constructs which have continued to serve as barriers to equal opportunities and as safeguards for a more privileged few to maintain the majority of power within societal institutions.
At its center, multicultural education is transformative. It removes discriminatory curriculum and color-blindness from educational policies and practices within the U.S. public school system. The foundation of multicultural education lies within the social justice framework and it seeks to provide all students with the same possibility of reaching their full potential through equitable educational access which helps all students to develop the social knowledge and skills needed to become responsible global citizens (Ford, 2013). Proponents of social justice, both inside and outside of education, recognize the value and the potential that multicultural education has for our society as a powerful avenue to move us towards a more inclusive and harmonious way of life.[WU12]
De La Mare (2014) highlights the roots of the social science curriculum traditionally taught within U.S. public schools. It is based on original scientific inquiry which asserted that European cultures were more developed and sophisticated than other cultures. This positionality of Eurocentric culture being the ultimate goal, with other cultures being viewed in a deficit manner, was reflected in the development of curriculum and pedagogy which is still used in many schools. This lingering curricular influence is subversive to current multicultural education efforts. Initial steps taken to counter this prevailing Eurocentric curriculum was to have a separate, stand-alone class in multicultural education to share other perspectives. This structure, however, perpetuated the relegation of diverse groups to be more of an afterthought which continued to send the wrong message. The multicultural education component wasn’t central to core instruction but a separate add-on used to appease the increasing cries for its inclusion within our schools (Ford, 2013).
To be effective, multicultural education must permeate the curriculum used throughout our schools. If taught separately, it removes the connection between White history and the experiences of those individuals from diverse backgrounds (Ford, 2013). Students must experience authentic and complex educational opportunities to help them understand the lives and experiences of people who come from a different cultural and racial background than their own. It is also important that teachers provide students with instruction that allows them to learn about themselves in meaningful ways (Ford, 2013). One prevailing myth is that students should be taught through a “majority” and “minority” lens which supports the continuation of a deficit model. With the help of multicultural education, all students can experience diversity with respect for the contributions of all, acceptance for others, and development of an inclusionary mindset (Green & Edwards-Underwood, 2015).
What should a multicultural curriculum look like? If the lessons and activities focus on surface-level differences such as traditional clothing, food, or customs of various cultures then it may continue to develop the very stereotypes and biases it seeks to address (Ford, 2013). Any multicultural lesson must be taught within context to help students authentically understand the lived experiences of others to include both narratives and counter-narratives. This moves beyond isolated exposure to diverse groups which is less impactful and possibly even harmful (Stanton, 2015). This level of examination and consideration of historical events from multiple perspectives and the inclusion of discussion around the dynamics of power is much more effective than learning about diverse groups in isolation. All curricular materials should be carefully evaluated to determine if they provide a limited consideration of historical events.
Along with this review of instructional materials which should be conducted by administrators and teachers, students should be given the skills to think critically about history and the information presented (Ford, 2013). This will prepare students to question and carefully consider stories and information that they encounter outside of the classroom through a multicultural lens. The curricular content integration within our schools should include data, examples, and observations from diverse cultural groups which also highlights theories and concepts of multiculturalism (Janakiraman et al., 2019). Additional changes beyond the curriculum need to occur to include an examination of the culture within each institution (Janakiraman et al., 2019). If multicultural lessons are integrated within the curriculum but students observe discriminatory practices and culture within the school environment, there will be a juxtaposition between what they are learning and what they are observing. This mixed messaging will be absorbed by many students, some of whom will choose to dismiss their lessons for observational reality.
Five key dimensions to effective multicultural education. These dimensions include; content integration, construction of knowledge, reduction of prejudice, a pedagogy of equity, and the empowerment of the community and school structures (Janakiraman et al., 2019). [WU13] When careful consideration is given to all five dimensions and they are kept at the forefront of meaningful conversations as well as decision-making related to curriculum and instruction, schools can successfully provide a meaningful multicultural education for all students. Our educational institutions must continue to review and evaluate the messages provided through all of the instructional materials used, both “hidden” and direct messages provided, through the words and content covered within the curriculum. The materials used should prioritize the incorporation of multiple perspectives for both students and teachers to consistently highlight the value of diversity (Stanton, 2015).
Implications of Multicultural Education- Equity
Traditionally, when a student struggles in school, the education system at large assumes that it is the child who is failing to succeed and may not be capable of learning at high levels. Educators have often taken this viewpoint when a student fails to thrive in a one-size-fits-all environment (Taylor et al., 2015). Consequently, there are many bright, eager-to-learn students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who have received the message that they are not capable of being successful in school. This impact is lingering and life-altering, impacting the opportunities that they will have in front of them as well as diminishing their self-esteem and confidence to know that they are capable of more. When our U.S. public school system fails to adapt to the students in front of us, we are the ones that are failing. It is our charge to ensure that all students are recognized for their strengths and the many funds of knowledge that they bring into our schools. Our schools must leverage those resources to provide a rigorous and accessible education for all.
For our schools to provide an equitable education for all students, we must implement multicultural education consistently and at the highest levels before we will start to see a meaningful impact both in schools and within our society. When schools proclaim to provide a multicultural education through giving information about cultural backgrounds, languages, or traditions only they continue to miss the mark. When the foundational element of assimilation within our schools, which promulgates White dominance, is left unchallenged then students will only learn about other cultures at the surface level and the possibility for meaningful change is overlooked (Wei, 2017). For true equity to be achieved, our school system must dedicate the time and resources necessary to the full implementation of multicultural education within all of our classrooms.
The message received by students if we fail to address the continuing elements of assimilation within our curriculum and school culture is that the Anglo culture is the standard against which other cultures are to be measured (Wei, 2017). Until the remnants of assimilation are eradicated from our school system, the White culture will continue to be presented as the ideal, with other cultures being presented as less valued deviants from the more acceptable norm (Wei, 2017). “Remaining blind to or in denial of taken-for-granted White norms denies the potential of policies and practices of multiculturalism to function as a genuinely democratic equalizer” (Wei, 2017, p. 88) and will continue to result in a surface level implementation. School leaders and educators themselves must continue to work together to bring deep and meaningful change into our school system through a commitment to providing a truly multicultural education with continuous review and adjustments as needed.
The teachers within our public schools have a decisive role in providing an equitable education to all of their students. When school systems are slow to make curricular or systemic changes, it is individual teachers who can weave layers of multicultural education into their instruction (Janakiraman et al., 2019). Many believe that the Americanization of students is something from our past without realizing that these programs still exist today even though they have transformed in appearance over time (Saathoff, 2017). Embedded within our schools is a failure to recognize students’ cultural, linguistic, and racial diversity as an asset to be considered in the planning and delivery of instructional opportunities. The continuation of this deficit view limits many students’ possibility for academic success (Saathoff, 2017).
Education continues to be the frontline for bringing about social justice and equal opportunities for all of our students. Multicultural education continues to be “the best hope for the fulfillment of all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, social class, gender, ability, and language” (Wei, 2017, p. 89). As society continues to become increasingly globalized, our students must be able to successfully interact with others from diverse backgrounds (Kim, 2011). Our teacher education programs must prioritize the development of teachers with cultural competence who are prepared to effectively implement and lead multicultural education within our schools. All teachers should be dedicated to recognizing, celebrating, and placing a high value on the differences and similarities between diverse cultures (Taylor et al., 2015). Our schools hold the potential to address the injustice and inequity within our society. This transformation will not happen on its own. When multicultural education becomes the foundation of our schools, we will begin to see new hope and increasing civility as our students lead the way to a brighter more equitable future.
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Wei, L. (2017). Who and what should we educate our students to be? an inquiry into the curriculum of multiculturalism in Education. Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education, 13(2). https://doi.org/10.31390/taboo.13.2.10
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[WU3]Definition of multicultural in USA and those who are involved in multicultural
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[WU10]Added some theories that makes the part more effective such as the conflict theory and Symbolic interactionism theory which is used to explain more about sociological perspective in the role of multicultural education in USA. Removed Grammarly issues and made citation to be properly kept
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