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The Importance of Creating a Multicultural Classroom Environment

Updated on May 12, 2016
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All around the world, students are educated in an environment that includes a division between race, class and gender. Many of these factors may or may not affect the education of the students, factors that could potentially alter their point of views on global issues for the rest of their lives. The lack of diversity can be caused by factors like the region where the student lives, the type of school that they are attending. The student pool is not the only aspect that is lacking diversity, but also in the teacher pool and through the instructional material. There is a lack of diversity in the teaching profession which can affect a students' educational experience as well. There are so many factors that go into the topic of diversity in the classroom. Teachers, students, and the curriculum being taught to students are some of the elements that are important to creating a diversity-accepting environment.

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Teachers:

Teachers are one of the fundamental elements in the achievement of students. Students find success from their teachers, which is one of the reasons why teachers play a huge role in a students' educational experience. And not only that, but teachers can play a huge role in how students view themselves. Studies have shown that there is more enrollment of people of color compared to the usual majority enrollment of white students. But there is one fact that still needs to become known: the lack of diversity in the teaching profession. According to a report released by the National Education Association of 2014, the data presented showed the staggering numbers of low minority students pursuing a profession in the teaching field, with 68.1% of students being white while the rest consisting racial minorities (Dilworth & Coleman). The lack of individuals interested in pursuing a career in education raises a red flag. Why is that so few minorities want to become teachers; shouldn’t there be more people of color representing the teacher workforce? Paul Beare, the dean of California State University- Fresno said, "Many have simply never had minority teachers themselves, and so they don't identify with the idea" (Deruy). Beare does bring up a good point; perhaps there is a lack of connection with the field considering why few minorities have never been inclined to become teachers. The need for teachers of color is a topic that needs to remain relevant to the public eye, and especially to minorities so that children from these communities being taught, are being accurately represented in the classroom. Minority children should be able to have a teacher that they will be able to have a connection with, someone that they will be able to relate to at least at one point in their lives. The amount of minority students who have never experienced being taught by a minority, or anyone they could relate to on a cultural level, is astounding. For example, Bri Blue, a college student from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, stated why she wanted to become a teacher. She said, "I never had a teacher that looked like me. I wanted to become a teacher because I wanted to influence future generations, and have kids see that I'm here, so you can be here, too." (Beck). There are many students who go through similar experiences like Blue's where they are not surrounded by educators who they can relate to or willing to understand them; and with cases like Blue's, it emphasizes the importance of having teachers of color to inspire other minority students to pursue a career (in any field) so that they can to be important and functional members of society. Minority teachers should inspire younger minority students to become the best versions of themselves that they can be, and right now, in today's society, there are not enough teachers that are able to provide that level of relatability for their students. Non-teachers of color who have minorities in their classrooms can start becoming more knowledgeable about their background by immersing themselves into their students' cultures. Certain cultures respond differently, like how certain ethnic groups do not respond unless spoken to. By becoming immersed a different culture, teachers can begin to realize why their students behave a certain way. Teachers hold a lot of power, which is why teachers play a huge role in how students react to diversity.

Who Else Benefits?

There are several benefits to having a more diverse classroom, beyond the student and teacher pool. The amount of awareness of social issues; tolerance; more engagement between students in the classroom; stronger critical thinking skills, are some of the benefits that are gained from being in a multi-cultural environment (Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion for Students). Having a more diversified environment has benefits for all types of students: for whites and minorities. Majority students can gain more of an open-mind if they interact with people who are different from them; they can gain so much information about other cultures that they otherwise would not have known had they been surrounded by people who are just like them. Minority students can gain a sense of worth and acceptance by being in a learning environment where there are people similar to them; there is more comfort and will feel as if they are a part of a community. There are many global issues that are touched upon and can be prevented by becoming more accepting of every person from a different ethnic or religious group. For example, one of the hot topics in 2016 is Islamophobia because of all the concerns that the general public has felt through the media. People are stuck on their past views and are not willing to accept other religions, and what better way to become informed and be more accepting than in the classroom? Breaking down the stereotypes in the classroom should one the priorities that need to happen. A lot of people hold stereotypes- including minorities. Just because a certain individual is a part of a close-knit, exclusive community, does not mean that they represent the stereotypes that their group may have. No stereotype defines an individual. Plus, racism and discrimination are two of the main issues that can be tackled by willing to become tolerant of another gender, race, and religious groups. Knowledge is power, and without it, the education system is doing students a disservice by taking away their need towards accepting others. A more diverse classroom will not solve all of the global issues that have arisen since the start of humanity, but it is a step in the right direction to creating more open-minded individuals that are the future of tomorrow.

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How To Achieve Multiculturalism:

The emphasis on diversity should not only be placed in the student or teacher makeup, but it should also be placed in the instruction that students are receiving. There are certain historical issues that are not taught accurately. In our young lives, we are taught that Christopher Columbus "saved" America, but it does not tell the whole story about the amount of hardship that Native Americans had to endure caused by the European settlers when they arrived in America, such as killing millions of Natives to taking away the land that they called home. Not all groups of people are accurately represented in the curriculum that is being taught to our students. Diversity should be exposed through literature, history, and on a personal level for all students. Students should be allowed to become aware of the what the future holds for them. There are many minorities that should be more widely known and celebrated that changed the lives of people for the better. But what students are being taught today are biases. There are ways that biases are being taught to students from an early age, like women not being represented enough and having only a small excerpt in a textbook or selecting only the positive aspects of American history while ignoring the dark side of history that America had a hand in. “By ignoring prejudice, racism, discrimination, exploitation, oppression, sexism, and inter-group conflict, we deny students the information they need to recognize, understand, and perhaps someday conquer societal problems” (Seven Forms of Bias in Instructional Materials); instead of teaching only one side of history, history should be taught by both perspectives; for example, the nineteenth amendment is one of the subjects that are taught in schools, and it is one of the bright spots in American History where women were finally granted the right to vote. The entire story should be told about how difficult it was for women to be granted that right; the amount of hardship that they had to overcome to be considered equal to their male counterparts. Their struggle should not be ignored, because it is a vital part of American History. Plus, in history, Native Americans should also be heard and be able to tell their side of their story, about the pain and suffering that many of them had to deal with whenever European settlers came to America, or perhaps how Japanese people felt during the second World War. When it comes to American History, different perspectives should be involved in order to tell the whole story of a particular moment in history that created many changes to what made America what it is today. Diversity should be taught in all aspects: to the experiences that students have with one another and to the level of instruction that they are receiving from their educators.

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Children start to become aware of their surroundings, and they start to take notice of the differences that they hold by comparing themselves to their peers. Many of the views that they hold from their young lives are taken into adulthood, which is why it is important to teach students about different cultures and create a more accepting environment for different groups to become comfortable in. Even if all of the students in a classroom are white, that does not mean that they will be at a disadvantage because they can still be taught about other cultures and backgrounds through the material they are given. More literature incorporating minorities can aid to their understanding of other types of people. Let students dig through their own personal biases and start to challenge certain views and prejudices. Every individual should create their own pedagogical creed and examine their own personal backgrounds and values. Diversity is about challenging and accepting the differences that surround us. Stereotypes are not necessarily true, and challenging those prejudices and stereotypes is one of the steps to creating a better world for every individual. "One important goal of multicultural education should be to communicate that, underneath it all, people are more alike than different" (Omrod), this should be the main takeaway that individuals gain from a multicultural classroom environment: that we are all equal and are more similar than we may realize originally.

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Creating a multicultural educational environment has many benefits for everyone: for minorities and for majorities. All genders, cultures, classes, etc., should be represented in the classroom. Teaching students about the importance of accepting one another is one of the main benefits that they will receive in life because society as a whole is generally a huge melting pot of different people. Not only will students gain more critical thinking skills, but they will also become better psychologically, especially minorities who may have never felt as if they were ever accepted or understood. There is so much to gain from becoming open-minded. Many of the views that adults hold is learned at a young age. Those stereotypes and prejudices that they may hold could be tackled in the classroom by allowing them to gain knowledge and perspective of subjects on how they truly are. Students can gain more insight about different groups through all subjects. Teachers have a lot to gain as well; they hold the power over the students about the knowledge they are giving them. It is in the future educators' hands to start a movement of kindness, compassion and acceptance.

Works Cited:

Beck, Molly. "'I Never Had a Teacher That Looked like Me': Challenges Exist in Hiring a Diverse Staff." Wisconsin State Journal. N.p., 14 Dec. 2014. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.

"Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion for Students." Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion for Students. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.

DeRuy, Emily. "Student Diversity Is Up But Teachers Are Mostly White." ABC News. ABC News Network, 21 Mar. 2013. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.

Dilworth, Mary E., and Marcus J. Coleman. "Time for a Change: Diversity in Teaching Revisited, A Background Paper." National Education Association (May 2014): n. pag. Print.

Ormrod, Jeanne Ellis. "Creating A Culturally Inclusive Classroom Environment." Educational Psychology: Developing Learners. 8th ed. N.p.: Pearson, 2014. 99-100. Print.

"Seven Forms of Bias in Instructional Materials." Seven Forms of Bias in Instructional Materials. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.

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