Multicultural education incorporates first-person discussions, textbook readings, questionnaires and audio presentations to make people across a myriad of cultures aware of contributions made by ethnic, racial and social groups different from their own. The overall purpose of multicultural education is to equip individuals to better interact, communicate and engage with one another in private and public settings.
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Benefit of Lowering Fear
As multicultural education teaches students--children or adults--about specific contributions made by people of other races and diverse cultures, the fear of offending a person of an ethnicity different from the student's own diminishes. Through personal interactions, role playing and experience sharing, individuals learn of personal and group similarities that can help to bridge communication gaps. This knowledge can also help lower the defences of a person who fears he might the object of offensive conversation or behaviour solely because of his ethnicity.
Benefit of Diminished Ignorance
Multicultural education lowers ignorance by offering fact-based training and insightful dialogue. The training looks at culturally appropriate language, the role of language in society and the negative framework of often-used words, gestures and behaviour. Through open discussions, highly skilled and professionally trained educators can gently address long-held beliefs about people of diverse ethnicities. By incorporating first-person narratives into the curriculum, they can shed light on old, unproven beliefs that for some people have long been accepted as fact.
Risk of Instilled Separation
Students from ethnic groups that are not being discussed might feel separated from the discussions. If the class is not properly managed, some students may also feel as if the culture that they identify with is a villain; this can cause students to become defensive or tune out of the training altogether. Ensuring that each culture is equally represented is critical to multicultural education's overall and long-term success.
Risk of Student Resistance
A teacher's culture can also impact the level of student resistance to multicultural education. There might be a tendency for some students to become silent, combative or vocal to the point of dominating classroom discussions. Students who share the same ethnicity as the teacher might expect the teacher to react in certain ways to their expressed concerns or shared experiences. On the other hand, teachers whose ethnicity differs from the majority of the students might be viewed as less of an expert on the topic and as having only book knowledge in relation to multicultural issues.
Impact of Teacher Understanding
Agencies such as the National Council for the Accreditation for Teacher Education (NCATE) and some state departments of education require teachers to complete multicultural education prior to obtaining their teacher certification. In an abstract study conducted and written by Patricia and Alvin Larke of Texas A&M University and reported in the Research in Higher Education Journal, researchers interviewed six teachers of multicultural education, five of whom were African American, and discovered that each teacher's gender and ethnicity had an impact on his or her training style and instructional authority, including evaluating student progress and assigning course grades. Two women teachers who participated in the study reported that their mothering experiences caused them to be more nurturing toward students. Another female multicultural education instructor felt that she was perceived as being an "angry Black female" while she taught the course. She also noted how white males challenged her authority during the training. To provide balanced training, it is important that educators be properly taught to handle their own beliefs surrounding people of diverse ethnicities. Teachers must also be properly trained on how to react to combative responses they receive from students.
In order for multicultural education to be effective, all cultures, ethnic, racial and social groups must be included in the discussion. Administrative and managerial support from academic and business leaders is necessary to the success of local, state, regional and national programs. Curricula used for the educational programs must be concise, well defined and engaging. Multicultural education programs should create a spirit of inclusion (particularly in groups that have a history of being discriminated against, and between groups that have a history of antagonism), as well as address and diminish stereotypes, bigotry and racism.
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