Multiculturalism . . .
Debated as well as celebrated, multiculturalism is undeniably weaving its way into today's classroom curriculum. Many educators agree that a multicultural approach to education is essential to engage children of all cultures in learning and to prepare students for the diverse and global society that will be their adult world.
"For teachers living in urban areas or the border states, multiculturalism is no longer an issue for debate or discussion. Multiculturalism is now an always exciting, sometimes challenging, everyday fact of life," writes Bonnie O. Ericson of California State University in At Home with Multicultural Adolescent Literature. Yet multicultural literature, she says, is hardly for students in those regions alone.
All students must learn how to interact with and understand people who are ethnically, racially and culturally different from themselves, concurs Geneva Gay of the University of Washington-Seattle in A Synthesis of Scholarship in Multicultural Education. As she points out, "The United States and the world are becoming increasingly more diverse, compact and interdependent."
The best way to teach multiculturalism? Incorporate it into the existing curriculum, says consultant and former professor of multicultural education Deborah Eldridge in "Diversity in Language Arts Classrooms" (The Education Digest, Vol. 62, No. 4). "The best culturally sensitive teaching I have seen was the result of focusing on the curriculum in a new way, not adding to it," she writes. For lessons on incorporating multiculturalism into the classroom, see Deborah Menkart's Multicultural Education: Strategies for Linguistically Diverse Schools and Classrooms, a guide presented by The National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.
Introducing a multicultural novel in his English class for the first time, ninth-grade teacher Rodney Smith relates his experience in "All Brown All Around" (The Progressive, Vol. 59, No. 7). Adding Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street to his classic-text curriculum opened a door for one Latina gangbanger in his English class, involving her in literature in a way she hadn't previously experienced. The student later wrote: "Sometimes I think back when we read this book and picture me as being the main character . . . It is like, here is this Latina girl writing a book that I really like. I never have gotten into a book like I do now. And that is the truth."
Need help locating multicultural books? Instructor magazine's "How to Choose the Best Multicultural Books," points to 50 books for K-8 and gives advice on how to spot literature that transcends stereotypes. The Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has compiled the list "25 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know," and the ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English and Communication offers Multicultural Literature in the Elementary Classroom. For K-12, Weber State University maintains theClearinghouse for Multicultural and Bilingual Education, which provides sources for multicultural information and materials, including books.
The Multicultural Pavilion and the Multicultural Publishing and Education Council are two other valuable resources for educators, as is the Multicultural Education Resource Guide by Cheryl Gorder (Blue Bird Publishing, 1995).
Dr. Vishwanath Bite