The Debate Over Multicultural Education in AmericaAmerica has long been called “The Melting Pot” due to the factthat it is made up of a varied mix of races, cultures, and ethnicities.As moreand more immigrants come to America searching for a better life, thepopulation naturally becomes more diverse.This has, in turn, spun a greatdebate over multiculturalism.Some of the issues under fire are who isbenefiting from the education, and how to present the material in a way so asto offend the least amount of people.
There are many variations on thesethemes as will be discussed later in this paper.In the 1930’s several educators called for programs of cultural diversitythat encouraged ethnic and minority students to study their respectiveheritages.This is not a simple feat due to the fact that there is much diversitywithin individual cultures.
A look at a 1990 census shows that the Americanpopulation has changed more noticeably in the last ten years than in any othertime in the twentieth century, with one out of every four Americansidentifying themselves as black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, orAmerican Indian (Gould 198).The number of foreign born residents alsoreached an all time high of twenty million, easily passing the 1980 record offourteen million.Most people, from educators to philosophers, agree that animportant first step in successfully joining multiple cultures is to develop anunderstanding of each others background. However, the similarities stopthere. One problem is in defining the term “multiculturalism”.When it islooked at simply as meaningthe existence of a culturally integrated society,many people have no problems.
However, when you go beyond that and tryto suggest a different way of arriving at that culturally integrated society,Everyone seems to have a different opinion on what will work.Sinceeducation is at the root of the problem, it might be appropriate to use anexample in that context.Although the debate at Stanford University ran muchdeeper than I can hope to touch in this paper, the root of the problem was asfollows: In 1980, Stanford University came up with a program – later knownas the “Stanford-style multicultural curriculum” which aimed to familiarizestudents with traditions, philosophy, literature, and history of the West.
Theprogram consisted of 15 required books by writers such as Plato, Aristotle,Homer, Aquinas, Marx, and Freud.By 1987, a group called the RainbowCoalition argued the fact that the books were all written by DWEM’s or DeadWhite European Males.They felt that this type of teaching denied studentsthe knowledge of contributions by people of color, women, and otheroppressed groups.In 1987, the faculty voted 39 to 4 to change thecurriculum and do away with the fifteen book requirement and the term”Western” for the study of at least one non-European culture and properattention to be given to the issues of race and gender(Gould 199).
Thisdebate was very important because its publicity provided the grounds for theargument that America is a pluralistic society and to study only one peoplewould not accurately portray what really makes up this country.Proponents of multicultural education argue that it offers students abalanced appreciation and critique of other cultures as well as our own(Stotsky 64).While it is common sense that one could not have a trueunderstanding of a subject by only possessing knowledge of one side of it,this brings up the fact that there would never be enough time in our currentschool year to equally cover the contributions of each individual nationality. This leaves teachers with two options.The first would be to lengthen theschool year, which is highly unlikely because of the political aspects of thesituation.The other choice is to modify the curriculum to only include whatthe instructor (or school) feels are the most important contributions, whichagain leaves them open to criticism from groups that feel they are not beingequally treated.A national standard is out of the question because of the factthat different parts of the country contain certain concentrations ofnationalities.An example of this is the high concentration of Cubans inFlorida or Latinos in the west.Nonetheless, teachers are at the top of theagenda when it comes to multiculturalism.They can do the most for childrenduring the early years of learning, when kids are most impressionable.Byengaging students in activities that follow the lines of their multiculturalcurriculum, they can open up young minds while making learning fun.in onefirst grade classroom, an inventive teacher used the minority students to heradvantage