Classrooms and Learning
According to York (2003) multicultural education is not only appropriate but necessary for children from very early age. Children see the existing differences and form their own viewpoint basing on adults’ reactions and behavior. Thus, it is essential to make young pupils understand that these differences are normal.
To develop unbiased perception, the issues of cultural diversity should be included into the curriculum. Every day children should face some of cultural diversity issues. Of course, it is important to choose the right activities so that children accepted the information as a part of their study, and not as a kind of preaching.
One of the effective ways to form normal perception of cultural differences can be class environment. Thus, it is important to create friendly environment for learners (York, 2003). It can be helpful to put on the walls some photographs of children playing (of course, the children should pertain to different ethnical groups). It is possible to have some books depicting interesting habits and customs of various cultural groups. Thus, children can read (or simply look through the pictures in) these illustrated books.
By all, means it is helpful to introduce various activities in the form of the game. For instance, it is possible to hand in colorful letter to children. The letters may be made of rubber or another material, or cut from paper. The main thing is: they should be of different colors and form such words as friendship, happiness, support, etc.
So, the teacher points out that these letters when separated do not make sense and feel bored and unhappy, but when they unite and co-operate they may create something important and significant. The teacher then makes the corresponding words. It is also possible to ask children to copy one of the pictures on the walls (where children of different cultures play). Thus, the learners get accustomed to diversity without even noticing it, they just copy what they see and they see normal and friendly environment where children play.
Reading various books on corresponding issues is also a very effective tool in multicultural education. For instance, the book “Smoky Night” (Bunting, 1994) promotes cross-cultural friendship and particularly fits for considering such educational goal as prejudice (York, 2003).
The story depicts the night when Los Angeles riots took place. A boy and his mother are watching at those horrible things from their apartment’s window. Eventually, the house of the boy and his mother is set on fire and they are forced to leave their apartment. They see many people in the street; they see Mrs. Kim who owns a shop where the mother does not buy anything because she prefers buying from their own people.
The cats of the boy and Mrs. Kim cannot be found (those two cats did not get along). However, soon a fireman comes out of the house holding the two cats together in his hands. At this moment Mrs. Kim suggests that they should make friends with the family just like the two cats did. Eventually, everyone sees that in the street people help and support each other irrespective of their ethnicity.
Thus, it is possible to read the story with children making stops at some significant points. For example, it is possible to stop at the point where the relationship between the cats and people are depicted. It is possible to encourage children to contemplate on the reasons for such relationship.
Of course, it is necessary to discuss the reasons why the cats could be together, children should discuss the end of the story and state their opinion whether friendship among different people is important and why. The teacher should point out that together people can withstand any riots, disasters or any problems at all.
Stereotypes in the Classroom
To become successful in multicultural education it is necessary to create friendly environment, develop the curriculum accordingly and devote much time to cross-cultural issues (York, 2003). Of course, it is also important to eliminate racial and other biased stereotypes which negatively influence the development of children. According to Banks and McGee Banks (2009) contemporary society has numerous stereotypes created and supported by media due to various political and social issues.
Moreover, even educators try to avoid considering such issues since they feel uncomfortable because of “their lack of experience in confronting such a potentially explosive issue, the conspiracy of silence about racism (as if not speaking about it will make it disappear)” and many other reasons or combination of such reasons (Banks and McGee Banks, 2009, p. 400).
However, it is essential to eliminate these stereotypes from the classroom. First of all, it is necessary to educate children so that they know that some stereotype is false and in reality many things are quite opposite.
For instance, one of the common stereotypes is that African Americans or Hispanic people perform poorly at school and cannot achieve good academic results. Fortunately, there are many examples which destroy such false statements, so the teacher can give some details from biographies of such famous people as Baraca Obama, Condoleezza Rice, Ralph Alvarez, etc. Of course, the teacher should point out how it is possible to achieve such great results, i.e. listen to the teacher carefully, try to fulfill all the tasks and help each other.
Another common stereotype is that it is necessary to get along with people pertaining to the same group. So, if there are children from different groups it is necessary to encourage them to co-operate with each other, make them fulfill mutual tasks. Even if the class contains children from one ethnical group it is also possible to eliminate the stereotype.
It is necessary to read books considering corresponding issues, start discussions. It is essential to encourage children to express their own opinions. By all means, the teacher should help children to come to the right conclusions that cross-cultural friendship is beneficial for everyone.
Finally, the teacher should understand that children are, to great extent, influenced by their families. Thus, it is quite natural that the teacher should arrange meetings and define some major points of multicultural education.
Of course, there is no need to persuade the parents to change their personal points of view, but it is essential to explain that contemporary life requires elimination of racial and other stereotypes from children’s life since when the children grow up they can only benefit from positive perception of cultural and ethnical diversity.
Thus, it is necessary to point out that one of the major concerns of the teacher in terms of multicultural education is elimination of racial stereotypes since they contribute greatly to the development of racial and ethnical intolerance.
Teachers should use every possibility to remove these stereotypes from the class telling children stories of success, starting various discussions and meeting with children’s parents. Of course, it may seem quite difficult but it is essential to start the process now. Moreover, it is necessary to encourage people to start the discussion of such issues so that appropriate materials for teaching children can be worked out.
Banks, J.A. & McGee Banks, C.A. (2009). Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
Bunting, E. & Diaz, D. (1994). Smoky Night. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company.
York, S. (2003). Roots and Wings, Affirming Culture in Early Childhood Programs. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.