The Role of Multicultural Education in Creating Culturally Aware Citizens
Nave, Karen L.
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The United States of America has long held the notion that it is the world's melting pot. Since its inception, the United States has held a plethora of opportunity for immigrants looking to find success and happiness in this country. Many immigrants came to this country in search of the American Dream. This reputation has continued to help the United States grow into one of the most diverse countries in the world. The consequence of having a nation that allows such freedom in its citizenship is a diverse population with differing backgrounds and cultures. In the earliest stages of education, students are taught that being an American does not particularly allude to one specific ethnicity. While the term American is nationalistic and uniting, a person that is American can have any number of ethnic backgrounds. This has been true since the very early stages of the development of the United States. As more and more immigrants came to this country, a new sense of diversity was found not only from the existing African American and European population, but also Asian and Hispanic populations. As the minority population grew, society began to change. In the 1950s and 1960s the fight to allow students of color to attend the same schools as white students took center stage. Through efforts of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., the civil right movement and initiative spread across the country. This was true for the educational system. The next issue was installing a curriculum in the schools to accommodate all students. At this point, most of the curriculum was centered on a white perspective of history, literature, and other dominant subjects. The need for a multicultural education became much more prevalent to minority students who were looking for an education that reflected their place in society. However, as the country continued to grow, it became less clear the direction multiculturalism would head. The purpose of my Senior Individualized Project (SIP) is to examine the usefulness of a multicultural curriculum in a school that has a small percentage of minority students. I will argue that that having a multicultural curriculum in place is not enough and leaves students with an incomplete education. Without having a diverse environment in which to put ideas of diversity into context, students are being left unprepared to deal with racial encounters in the future, because of the inability to relate abstract concepts to everyday life. As you will see in the context of this SIP, education become restrictive in which students learn to only associate multiculturalism with textbooks and idealized concepts instead of learning the ways in which multiculturalism is present in their everyday lives. According to Glazer, "The problems of divisiveness that multiculturalism raises at the level of the curriculum, or the school, or the culture, cannot be settled within the curriculum, the school, or the larger culture" (Glazer 160). Glazer recognizes that, in order for multiculturalism to truly be effective, it has to be taught at more than just an academic level. Multiculturalism is not limited merely to curriculum taught in school, it is a concept that applies to everyday actions. The need for a multicultural education, which for the purposes of this SIP includes lessons learned outside of the classroom, is most need in communities that have Euro-American dominant populations.