Multicultural Education Is Education for All
Since the late 1960s, multiculturalism has been discussed in education circles worldwide. Although America is the melting pot of the world, we are not the only ones who struggle with teaching our children and citizens the value of a multicultural world. Maya Angelou (2014) said, “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and strength. We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of that tapestry are equal in value no matter their color” (p.6). Creating a multicultural education system that treats diversity as more than just a month-long celebration of a particular culture is an ongoing struggle for many educators. The value of students learning from cultures apart from their own is sometimes lost in translation, and not always appreciated as it should be. Multicultural education is vital to truly educating students in the 21st century, and it should permeate curriculum, not be a stand-alone dive into “diversity.”
First, it is interesting to look at multicultural education from the viewpoint of educators in countries other than the United States. Although it is a melting pot of cultures, America is not the only country that struggles with multiculturalism. In a study of multicultural education in Turkey, Erbaş (2019) writes, “multicultural education calls for policies that enrich cultural awareness in schools” (p. 28) In Turkey, educators face many of the same problems that educators in the United States in regards to multicultural education. In the same article, he also writes, “While tolerance is the lowest level of multicultural cultural understanding, affirmation solidarity and critique is the highest level” (p.26). Erbaş states that multicultural education isn’t just about teaching students the quirks and idiosyncrasies of various cultures, it is about teaching students that all cultures have equal and relevant input into the workings of our world.
To further the idea of multicultural education as a higher level of acceptance and understanding among students and educators, there must also be an entire shift in the way students think about the world and who is in charge of it. Sleeter (2018) writes, “multicultural education…represents a shift in who has the power to define the problems, the issues, the work, and the purpose of that work” (p. 5). History is often ethnocentric and rarely involves diversity in its most venered leaders. Sleeter suggests that in order to truly understand multiculturalism and the value of diversity, these archaic ideas must also be abandoned. He also writes, “Some of the most difficult but most necessary work in multicultural education involves helping those who are used to being in charge learn to listen to and take seriously those they have learned to dismiss” (p.15). This idea is the fundamental idea behind true multicultural education. Educators must teach students that diverse cultures are not something just to study, they are vital to interacting in a world that is becoming smaller and smaller.
The culmination of these ideas is that multicultural education is not only important to the growth of the children in our world, but it is also imperative to the survival of the global community. In “The Forgotten Land: (Im)possibilities of Multicultural Teacher Education in Rural Settings,” Liao (2018) writes, “Multicultural knowledge…is transformative, and it consists of concepts, paradigms, themes, and explanations that challenge institutionalized, mainstream knowledge, together with teachers’ mediation and interpretation of that knowledge that seeks explicit ways to improve society” (p. 358). In 2019, multicultural education is social justice, global communications, cultural sensitivities, and more. To further this idea, Dennis writes, “We can never accommodate all of the differences and diversities in the community or classroom. However, we can recognize these differences as forms of texts and use them as teaching tools” (p. 85). Instead of learning about other cultures, multicultural education is using other cultures to learn about ourselves – certainly a novel idea in most education circles.
There are, however, differing views about multicultural education. For example, in Germany, as a result of the atrocities committed during World War II, schools focus on anti-racism and inclusion more than cultural diversity (Schwarzenthal 2018, p. 4). Instead of celebrating differences, they focus on inclusion and prevention of racism. Schwarzenthal (2018) writes that cultural education “may not be perceived as positive interest by some students, but rather as foreigner objectification, a subtle type of discrimination where people of immigrant background continue to be seen as “foreign,” usually in a rather stereotypical way” (p. 10). It is understandable that in a country such as Germany where racism led to unimaginable horrors, that educators would want to push inclusion and acceptance in their students. However, by doing so, the students miss the opportunity to learn the beauty of difference. In Japan, where there has also been prominent racism and injustices, “‘Multicultural’ is understood here as respect for cultural diversity an the promotion of social justice” (Tsuneyoshi 2018, p. 50). In this case, while racism is addressed, it is used as a springboard for social justice and multicultural learning.
Another barrier multicultural education faces in the 21st century is the idea that the kind of inclusion and acceptance of all has created little room for differentiation. Childs (2017) writes, “The results of education standards and policies for ‘all’ has included biases in curriculum materials, little account for varying learning styles and languages, and no consideration of the pace at which students learn” (p.33). This, however, seems irrational. Any curriculum, no matter how inclusive can be adapted to any students. It seems as though integrating individual adaptation and differentiation directly reflects on the teacher. A good teacher should have the ability and wherewithal to diversify any unit.
In conclusion, multiculturalism needs to be standard curriculum, not something that is the focus of a month, week, or daily lesson. It should permeate the curriculum in a way that students don’t even know that there is any other way to teach. It includes social justice, cultural sensitivities, inclusion, and immersion. In the future, the goal is to not have the term “multicultural education,” it will all be simply, “education.” Multicultural education should create students who are ready and able to enter the global community and participate in the global society.
Angelou, M. (2014). Rainbow in the cloud: The wisdom and spirit of Maya Angelou. New York: Random House.
Childs, K. (2017). Integrating multiculturalism in education for the 2020 classroom. Journal for Multicultural Education,11(1), 31-36. doi:10.1108/jme-06-2016-0041
Dennis, J. (2018). The Intertextualist: Future Teachers, Past Pedagogy, and Dedifferentiation in Multicultural Education. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Education,7(1), 78-86. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
Erbaş, Y. H. (2019). A Qualitative Case Study of Multicultural Education in Turkey: Definitions of Multiculturalism and Multicultural Education. International Journal of Progressive Education,15(1), 23-43. doi:10.29329/ijpe.2019.184.2
Liao, E. R. (2018). The Forgotten Land: (Im)Possibilities of Multicultural Teacher Education in Rural Settings. The Midwest Quarterly,59(4), 353-371. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
Schwarzenthal, M., Schachner, M. K., Van De Vijver, F. J., & Juang, L. P. (2018). Equal but different: Effects of equality/inclusion and cultural pluralism on intergroup outcomes in multiethnic classrooms. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology,24(2), 260-271. doi:10.1037/cdp0000173
Sleeter, C. E. (2018). Multicultural Education Past, Present, and Future: Struggles for Dialog and Power-Sharing. International Journal of Multicultural Education,20(1), 5. doi:10.18251/ijme.v20i1.1663
Tsuneyoshi, R. (2018). The Internationalization of Japanese Education: “International” Without the “Multicultural”. Educational Studies in Japan: International Yearbook,12, 49-59. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
Sparking Curiosity in Shakespeare Using Differentiation
Shakespeare’s writing is often a topic that is worrisome and intimidating to students and teachers alike. Nonetheless, Shakespeare remains a recommended text on Common Core and state standards documents. By using differentiation and choice, teachers can create an enthusiastic and confident environment that fosters curiosity and inquiry in their students. This curiosity and inquiry are fostered through the inclusion of choice boards, literary circles, online and in-class discussions, and relevant connections. By using these techniques, students are given opportunities to interact with the text in ways that engage and challenge them. By varying formative and summative assessment products, students can individually connect to the language and themes found in Shakespeare’s works.
It is widely known that student choice is critical to engagement and investment in learning. In Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn, Mike Anderson asserts that “One of the main purposes of choice is to provide a few options for students and have them self-differentiate” (2016). Thus enters our first tool for differentiation and choice – the choice board. The key to creating an effective choice board is to include work that not only addresses different learning styles, but that also allows students at all levels to succeed. For example, our Hamlet choice board includes creating a mock video interview (kinesthetic), an interactive timeline (visual), leveled questions (read/write), and a soundtrack (auditory), among others. Students will naturally choose what most appeals to their learning style, and the standards-based rubric associated with each task will allow them to achieve mastery by moving through the levels of Bloom’s taxonomy as they create their product.
Using assigned roles in literature circles provide an additional opportunity to embed choice in the classroom and increase curiosity about the text. While keeping all students accountable and active in the collaborative learning process, they are engaged and challenged by looking at Shakespeare’s work through the different critical lenses provided by the roles. The roles selected for literature circles are designed to meet the learning goals of the teacher. and student By allowing students to choose which role they want from a variety selected by the teacher, teachers help students “connect with their strengths and interests and [give] them more autonomy, power, and control over their work, which boosts their intrinsic motivation” (Anderson 2016). Students further build confidence through the opportunity to share and question their analysis by meeting in groups with shared roles. This increases student participation and engagement during the collaborative learning process and allows students to showcase their own genius to their peers.
Differentiation and collaboration are symbiotic in the classroom. In our discussions about Shakespeare and his works, students discuss in-person and online using questions they generate themselves. Anderson poses a mathematics-based example of students attempting to solve problems. He writes, “Because the problems are all different and there are several algorithms students may choose to solve the problems, some students are completing more problems than others, and problems all reflect a variety of challenge and complexity” (2016). Anderson’s ideas apply in the context of discussion perfectly. Students all compose different questions, which all have various levels of complexity and a variety of answers. Students are not all answering the same questions in the same way, and this collaboration enables students to learn from one another as well as develop their own analytical and critical thinking skills.
Another way to differentiate Shakespeare for students in a meaningful way is through real-world connections. In “Genius Hour: Critical Inquiry and Differentiation,” this type of strategy “engages, interests, and challenges students to connect their world with the curriculum” (Simos 2011). The connections students make draws them in through subjects they are interested in outside of the classroom. In addition, students find Shakespeare relevant and become further invested in understanding the themes and connections in the text. This type of differentiation is based on knowing your students, knowing their interests, and adapting conversations, curriculum, and assignments to allow for those connections to be made.
Anderson, Mike. “The Key Benefits of Choice.” ASCD.Org, 1 Jan. 2018.
Simos, Elaine. “Genius Hour: Critical Inquiry and Differentiation.” English Leadership Quarterly. August 2015
The content of this section of my portfolio is a conference proposal for NCTE 2019. My colleague and I developed these ideas through personal and professional research.