Advantages and Disadvantages of Multicultural Education
In today’s society, there are many reasons that teachers and students and other educators need to embrace multicultural education. Education shouldn’t be complete without it especially since it teaches us valuable life skills it’s important for teachers to research cultures extremely thoroughly before teaching their students about them. It’s also good for administrators to encourage teachers to have speakers talk to the class so students can connect to someone else of that particular cultural background.
In a multicultural environment, students, teachers, and other educators learn to accept people from different backgrounds. They accept them completely and not tolerate them because many people often feel that if they are being tolerated, its’ just a slap in the face so to speak.
The students may not come from a diverse range of backgrounds, but they learn about other cultures. Teachers find creative ways to make learning about other cultures more engaging. They might write to pen pals across the globe or take a "virtual fieldtrip" in which they pretend to go to a faraway place. They can eat food, sing songs and play games from this country while learning about its history. The goal is not to simply teach them facts but also to give students a desire to connect with people from other cultures and places. (Martin (2009-2012)
While things tend to be left unsaid or untouched, especially when race and culture come in to the picture, it’s important for us all to know that there are number of advantages that come with a multicultural education, and like all forms of research, there are those who may see only disadvantages. This ideology goes back to women wanting to join the army and gays wanting to serve openly in the army. There were a number of pros for each but all many could focus on were the cons.
What is multicultural education? Basically it relates to education and instruction which is designed for the cultures of different races in the educational system. Furthermore, this approach to teaching and learning is based upon consensus building, respect and fostering cultural pluralism within racial societies. Ultimately it’s about incorporating positive racial idiosyncrasies into the classroom which can ultimately spread beyond the classroom. (Gorski)
Those learning about multicultural education will ultimately learn about diverse cultures. Furthermore, it can help the students and or learners learn about the students and people around them. (Williams) Students will be able to compare and share experiences. This can in turn help strengthen the students own beliefs and views. A different approach is that the learners will get a broader view of the world around them. Children and learners in multicultural classrooms may feel that different languages are intriguing, depending on what they may have been exposed to at home. In turn, they may eventually begin to understand and express interest in the diverse languages in the world. Students will also begin to recognize words used in English that have foreign origins. Teachers can use language diversity to teach foreign language class.
While many people feel they don’t want to be tolerated, it’s to be expected but it can be just as hurtful. With multicultural education, learners may develop a racial tolerance though with time, they become more comfortable expressing and conversing and working with one another. (Williams)
Teaching with a multicultural perspective encourages appreciation and understanding of other cultures as well as one's own. Teaching with this perspective promotes the child's sense of the uniqueness of his own culture as a positive characteristic and enables the child to accept the uniqueness of the cultures of others. (Gomez)
Eradicating racism and prejudice and building as much interaction between all diverse cultures is one of the most important advantages of multicultural education. With an integrated curriculum, administrative support, training in regards to ignorance and personal detachment, fear could essentially be reduced on both students and teachers.
The problem with multicultural education is that many feel that by celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. and Cinco de Mayo by reading the biography or eating tacos and enchiladas. , multicultural education is more than cultural awareness, but more of an initiative to encompass the under- represented groups (people of color, women, people with disabilities and perhaps gay lesbian and transgendered individuals even fall into the category). Multicultural education is an educational movement that is truly built upon the basic American values. (Garcia) These values include: freedom, justice, opportunity, and equality. The bottom line is that it’s the result of rapidly changing demographics not only in the United States, but everywhere.
Is it wrong that we want to create a safe, accepting learning environment for everyone around? Furthermore, it will allow for learners to gain insight into other global issues while at the same time, hopefully strengthening cultural consciousness and intercultural awareness. Learners will come to realize there are a number of different historical perspectives. (Garcia)
Multicultural education, however, cannot be all things to all people. Several attempts have been made to detail the various educational strategies that fall under the broad umbrella of multicultural education--to develop a "typology." A typology can provide a useful framework for thinking about multicultural education, giving educators--and others--a clearer understanding of what people mean by the term. It is intended for educators, policy makers, and others who are just beginning to consider multicultural education options. (Burnett)
Schools need to begin the reformation of the traditional curriculum, and we all know this isn’t as easy as it may seem. Most curriculums tend to focus more on North America and Europe and tend to leave off or not explore upon as much on other regions such as South America and Africa. (Garcia) Students tend to be misinformed or misguided because not all textbooks present historical content accurately or fully. One example is on Christopher Columbus. Christopher Columbus is celebrated as the American hero who discovered America. This take on history completely ignores the pre-European history of Native Americans and the devastation that colonization had on them. Some history books are being revised, but often, it's much easier to teach that "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." (Garcia)
Other notes include the lack of detail or information on genocide with exception to the Holocaust because let’s face it, we have all heard of it, but then we have individuals who don’t believe the holocaust happened and spread that knowledge to their children. But many people have yet to learn or realize what went on in Rwanda and Darfur. Also, it’s odd especially with how close we are to Latin America yet American schools typically spend little time reading Latin American literature or learning about the culture and history?
A major downside is the fact that most institutions are not prepared to implement multicultural education in their classrooms. This would require a very diverse staff that is also extremely culturally competent Educators must be aware, responsive and embracing of the diverse beliefs, perspectives and experiences. They must also be willing and ready to address issues of controversy. These issues include, but are not limited to, racism, sexism, religious intolerance, classism, ageism, etc. (Garcia)
Although there are a number of advantages to multicultural education, it’s also important to look at possible drawbacks to it. Think about instilled separation which is quite plausible seeing as how you may or may not have a specific number of ethnic groups in class and some students may feel the ethnic group they belong to is being discussed in a negative light or not discussed as much as someone else’s. This can ultimately lead learners to feel separated from the discussion which is why it’s important to ensure that each culture is represented equally. (Campbell)
In addition, a teacher’s culture can also impact student resistance. This can be a teacher who shares the same background as many of their students and these same students may not agree with their stance on the culture itself which can also cause the students to become combative. Furthermore, think about a black or white teacher in a class where the majority of the students are Hispanic and perhaps Asian. Those same students may feel that the teacher has no idea what they are talking about based on their own skin color. (Campbell)
On a note of interest, the NCATE (National Council for the Accreditation for Teacher Education) requires teachers to complete multicultural education prior to obtaining their teaching certificate. While this is extremely good, how well does it work if it works at all? In order for multicultural education to be successful, teachers need to be implementing it and the problem is; they aren’t. Furthermore, there have been accusations against teachers whom the students and some parents feel aren’t qualified to teach children based on cultural backgrounds.
There have been two cases, one where the black female teacher was accused of being your basic angry black woman with attitude, and the white female teacher who seemed to mother the other white students in her class. In order to provide effective training, educators truly need the proper education to handle their own beliefs surrounding people of diverse backgrounds. Teachers must also be properly trained on how to react to combative responses they receive from students. (Campbell)
Furthermore, whether one is teaching in a multicultural classroom, or teaching one, there is the chance of there being students from various ethnic backgrounds which in turn can be an extremely beneficial way of cross cultural learning. It’s also important to know that students from different cultures are often English language learners and may assume that teachers do not expect presenting a different set of challenges than a mono-cultural class does. (Mitchell)
There is a growing shift within the educational climate of American schools. As of now, research on cultural issues hasn’t peaked as much as they should have especially in this day and age. There is more scatter than focus in the national research agenda, but there are also indications for a more coherent program of inquiry. Altogether, there may be sufficient evidence to indicate some basic policy directions for effective education of a diverse population, implementing and moving forward with it still has its drawbacks. (Tharp)
This biggest disadvantage to teaching multicultural education would be the student’s family. Albeit this may not be entirely true, but it is entirely possible. Most students have strong ties with their families and they may come from families that would disapprove of them learning about some cultures. For example, many students have parents who don’t want them to because of their own feelings towards that particular culture. This is why classes like this need to be forced upon and perhaps get some cultures out of this sense of entitlement and superiority.
Taking a qualitative approach, to assess whether or not multicultural education would be more beneficial than harmful, an opinion poll would be the first course of action. First and foremost, bring the topic to the school board followed by introducing the proposal to the staff and students. Last but not least, allow introduce the proposal to the parents of every student through the use of opinion poll. This poll can be conducted in a number of ways such as survey, phone or through the internet.
Although the decision isn’t up to the parents, and with school approval, it’s important to understand and know the possible downside or fallout it the decision to implement such a program can have as we very well know that many parents may be against their child being exposed to some cultures and others will welcome it.
Once the polling has been completed by the parent or guardian of each and every one student, the results can be broken down and categorized into sections such as: approved, disapproved, undecided. This will help to see where the parents stand on the issue and it can also provide the school with the necessary information to move forward with implementation such as moving students into different classrooms, one where the class is accepted by parents and one where it isn’t.
Once implementation has commenced, in regards to the parents that disapproved, perhaps their minds can be changed or perhaps their thoughts and views can be changed by presenting them with some informative material or even discussing the benefits or advantages of multicultural education. If we were to just make multicultural education a part of the curriculum, we could be opening the doors for some unwanted litigation.
The research that will be conducted is quite simple and informative on so many levels and I except similar results to the ones I just mentioned in that some parents will be against it for a variety of reasons that I have yet to find positive. I would recommend multicultural education be a requirement nationwide in the school systems because our demographics vary from city to city and state to state wherein some cases and in some cities, you have the majority being either black, white, Hispanic and multicultural education isn’t being taught and the students are being informed so in some cases, it can be construed that we are sending kids off to colleges in different cities and states where they have no educational information about the many different cultures they are going to be exposed to except for the bias they may already possess.
Burnett, Gary. (1994) Varieties of Multicultural Education: An Introduction. Retrieved from http://www.ericdigests.org/1995-1/multicultural.htm
Campbell, Rhonda. Pros and Cons of Multicultural Education. Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/about_5147417_pros-cons-multicultural-education.html
Tharp, Roland G. (1994) Research Knowledge and Policy Issues in Cultural Diversity and Education. Retrieved from