MULTICULTURAL CURRICULUMS AND
IS THERE A RELATIONSHIP?
Stephanie G. Rossi
B.A., University of Northern Colorado, 1980
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Master of Social Science
This thesis is dedicated to my children who sacrificed their "mom-time"
and my husband who sacrificed his "companion-time" so that I could
complete my degree. It is also dedicated to the many students who have
helped me to become the teacher I am today. The dedication also includes
my mother, the English teacher, who taught me how to use the written
word to create a journey for the reader which ultimately became my
This thesis for Master of Social Science
Stephanie G. Rossi
has been approved
Rossi, Stephanie G. (Masters of Social Science)
Multicultural Curriculums and Critical Thinking: Is There A
Thesis directed by Professor Jana Everett
The primary goal of this thesis was to explore a possible relationship
between a multicultural curriculum and critical thinking in adolescents.
In exploring a relationship, the author traced the historical roots of
multicultural education and examined the contending perspectives. The
study generated three primary findings. (1) A multicultural curriculum
promotes three different types of thinking among adolescents: reactive,
reflective and critical. (2) Despite good intentions, a multicultural
curriculum presented near the end of a student's educational experience
may promote a sense of betrayal, a sense of guilt and/or a sense of loss.
(3) A multicultural approach to history promotes the emergence of
different types of responsibility among students. These findings illustrate
both the concerns and strengths discussed within the contending
perspectives. Most important, there emerged a significant awareness of the
relationship between the pedagogies utilized by the teacher and the
emergence of critical thinking within adolescents. Educators who are truly
invested in creating an environment that promotes critical thinking and
social responsibility must analyze their current methodologies and
philosophies in relationship to the goals of a critical multicultural
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I
recommend its publication.
INTRODUCTION ....................................... 1
Purpose of the Study ............................4
Research Design .................................6
Arrangement of Thesis ...........................7
1. MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION
Where did it come from? .....................8
Multicultural Education: What is it? .......14
Goals of Multicultural Education ...........22
2. CONTENDING MULTICULTURAL PERSPECTIVES .. 26
Conservative Multiculturalists .............28
Liberal and Left-Liberal Multiculturalists .33
Critical and Resistant Multiculturalists ...35
Analysis and Response ......................42
Outcomes of a Multicultural Education ......46
3. METHODOLOGY AND SOURCES OF
DATA COLLECTION ................................53
Classroom Environment ......................55
Subject Population ........................ 56
Data Collection ............................58
4. RESEARCH AND RESULTS
History, Multiculturalism, Critical Thinking:
What Are They? ..............................64
Separate Interview with two student
Results and Analysis of Curricular Units ....68
Civil War ................................68
Westward Expansion .......................71
Closing Video-Interview .....................75
Student-Consent Form (Form 1.0) .................90
Assignment Interview Forms (Form 1.2) .......... 91
BIBLIOGRAPHY ....................................... 96
"I tried to teach you the duties of freedom."
(Father Jean, teacher, Aux Revoirs Les Enfants, 1987)
As a teacher, I am in a privileged position to observe and to
participate in the process of students making meaning of what they learn.
As a history teacher, I take great interest in watching how students connect
the past to the present. Discussions often begin slowly because many
students are hesitant to have an opinion, let alone express it in front of
their peers. Once the exchanges begin, however, students are quick to take
sides, reducing the conversations to either-or propositions and expecting
nice and neat, one-dimensional conclusions. Their underdeveloped
analytical abilities make many of them unable to identify how traditional
history discourses justify the intersection of culture, power and knowledge
as inevitable, and they seldom look at that intersection and its modern day
consequences with a critical eye (Hursh 1992). By assuming racism does
not exist anymore because it was "fixed" at the end of the Civil War and
only applies to blacks, or by assuming that gender inequality no longer
exists because women work outside the home, many students are sincerely
surprised and disturbed when informed of the continuing injustices
suffered by Blacks, Native Americans, women, etc., (hooks 1994). Their
reactions range from championing social Darwinism and the benefits of
assimilation to feeling guilty and ashamed of "their" historical past. The
newest retort from some students is that of the victimized white male
who has lost job opportunities because the "unqualified" now are taking
jobs from him (hooks 1994). Other students continue to dismiss the
ugliness of America's past with a "that's the way it was and there is
nothing we can do about it now" attitude. And some students simply are
dumbfounded, their eyes and facial expressions reflecting a dissonance in
their understanding of "free" America.
Specifically this underdeveloped analytical ability was demonstrated
in a unit I taught on United States empire building. Students learned how
America, in less than 125 years, had gone from a colony wanting to be free
from England to the colonizer imposing her will upon foreign nations
such as Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico. I mentioned that President
Clinton had formally apologized for the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian
government in January 1893. "Suppose an election were held in Hawaii
tomorrow and the Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Hawaiians) voted for their
independence?" I asked. "What then would be the 'fate' of Hawaii?"
Immediately students asked, "You mean Hawaii would not be a state
anymore?" "They would not do that. Look at what they would lose,"
commented a couple of other students. "What would they lose?" I asked.
"Tourists, money," the students replied. The dollars and cents issue never
lost prominence, but other responses included exploring other options the
Kanaka Maoli might have and the possibility of rectifying past wrongs.
After a very animated discussion, the majority of students remained fixed
on what the Kanaka Maoli would lose, not what they might gain.
Disturbed by their shallow understanding, I wondered what
precisely I wanted students to learn. Could I teach them to investigate, to
question how the continued presentation of traditional Eurocentric
historical discourses inhibits their ability to critically analyze and
subsequently trace the sources of modem manifestations of racism, sexism
and imperialism? Would the presentation of a more multicultural
curriculum promote the development of critical thinking in adolescents
or would it merely generate more cultural dissonance? Addressing these
issues, Ronald Takaki (1993) Chairman of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley,
in his book A Different Mirror, challenged the traditional way of
presenting, studying and teaching American History. Calling for a more
inclusive multicultural approach, Takaki (1991) wants students to be
taught to critically examine different perspectives creating an
understanding and appreciation of the racial and cultural diversity of
America. Such a curriculum would enable students to address complex
comparative questions, such as:
*How have the experiences of racial minorities
such as Blacks and Asians been similar to and
different from one another?
*Is race the same as ethnicity?
* How have race relations been shaped by
economic developments, as well as by culture?
*What impact have these forces had on moral
values about how people should think and
behave, beliefs about human nature and society,
and images of the past as well as the future?
Knowledge is a social construction. Teaching is premised on making
choices about the production and use of that knowledge. Educators help
students use that knowledge to understand the relationship between
schooling and the larger society (Hursh 1992; hooks 1991). Hillis (1993)
concurs that it is every's educator's responsibility to teach students about
life in all its complexity and depth. Multicultural education and critical
pedagogy explores that complexity but does not require that all
communities share the same intellectual values, beliefs and norms.
Pedagogical proposals are intended to help students reconceptualize and
rethink the experience of humans in both the United States and the world.
Hursh (1992) believes multicultural education has the potential to
enhance and transform how students think about what is taught, how it is
taught and the pedagogical relationship between educator and student.
My concern about the students developing one-dimensional
cultural lenses by paying favorable attention to the historical winners and
accepting and or ignoring the silences of the marginalized, (Loewen 1995),
led to my exploring whether a relationship between a multicultural
curriculum and the development of critical thinking skills in high school
adolescents could be devised.
Purpose of the Study
The formative question that shaped the research was: How would
the incorporation of a critical multicultural perspective influence the
development of critical thinking skills in the students? Additional goals
included evaluating the cognitive ability of high school sophomores to
understand conceptually critical thinking as opposed to criticism: and
analyzing whether or not critical thinking skills would enable students to
analyze whose "knowledge" is in the curriculum and how that
"knowledge" is used to maintain power and inequality (Hursh 1992). To
accomplish this, I collected materials from my students, including essays,
tests, discussion overviews and personal interviews. Students were
chosen randomly after completing a student-information form, and the
names of the students were changed to protect their identity.
"There is no tradition or story that can speak with authority and
certainty for all of humanity" (Giroux 1991: 231). Hillis (1993) stated that a
typically Eurocentric perspective is not only narrow but misleading and
restricting. It obscures and invalidates other ways of perceiving and
viewing the world. For the multicultural teacher, the challenge is the
infusion of the many cultural traditions, stories and perspectives into the
curriculum, to make learning a powerful, inclusive experience
(Bigelow 1993; Banks 1991a). Banks (1988) believes that this provides
students the opportunity to develop skills and insights necessary to
critically question and expand their macro and microcultural perspectives.
Interpreting history for students not only squelches their budding
analytical abilities but also reinforces the message that yes, they cannot
make a well informed decision. Teachers should become "active subjects
of history rather than guardians of an unproblematic and nostalgic view of
the past" (Giroux 1995:138), engaging students in a reflective dialogue
where they question the long held "truths" of American history. Sonia
Nieto (1996) feels that this provides students the opportunity to see how
the injustices of the present can be traced to the unjust practices of the past.
Multicultural education has an intellectual purpose. Takaki (1991)
points out that multicultural education offers a more inclusive definition
of knowledge because it validates peoples of diverse cultures, and
compliments the whole of society, and incorporates the voices,
experiences, cultures and struggles of various groups within the society. It
enables students to confront the ways in which they see the world
(Ghosh 1995; Hursh 1992). Multicultural education allows them to "see"
events from the viewpoints of other groups and by sorting through all of
this information, to come out with a deeper understanding of their own
history, warts and all (Takaki 1993; Cottrol, 1991; Ravitch 1990b).
Education should be an experience where the students and the
teacher "share a common interest in liberatory struggle and democratic
social transformation" (McLaren 1991: 30). McGee-Banks (1996) points out
that transformative knowledge links knowing, action and societal reform.
Kincheloe (1993) also supports the idea of education becoming a vehicle
for cognitive growth and emancipation, not cognitive manipulation.
Teaching is sacred. It is not merely about imparting information, it is also
about sharing in the intellectual and spiritual growth of students. It is
critical for me and my students to be active participants in creating new
possibilities, celebrating diversity and welcoming new ways of thinking
(hooks 1994). Not wanting to silence my students with rhetoric but rather
engaging them in dialogue, conscientization, history and finally praxis
(Giroux 1995; Friere and Macedo 1995) is my ultimate goal.
As an exploratory study, my qualitative research model integrated
features of case study, ethnographic research and conversational analysis.
In his ethnographic studies Clifford Geertz (1973) laid the groundwork by
creating a description of a culture filled with rich descriptions, unique
characteristics and colorful details. Merriam (1988) described qualitative
research as being filled with intensive, analytical and holistic descriptions
of a single phenomenon, social happening or cultural experience. Geertz'
influence is far reaching as both Spradley (1980) and Neumann (1994)
support the analysis accomplished using the ethnographic approach. As a
holistic approach, ethnography emphasizes understanding the meaning
created by those involved, what they experience and how they interpret
their experience. It requires understanding the relationship between
participants-the situations in which they interact, and the ways in which
they communicate meaning. And finally, ethnographic studies are
dynamic, trying to capture changes over time rather than depicting or
analyzing a particular point in time (Jacob 1995).
Arrangement of Thesis
Chapter one is used to develop and explore three interrelated issues:
one, the origins of multicultural education, definitions of what constitutes
a multicultural education and the goals of such an education. Chapter two
examines the contending perspectives within the multicultural
educational discourse and utilizes two case studies to examine outcomes
of such an education. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the debate.
Chapter three addresses the methodology used in the research and chapter
four will discuss the research, its results and the conclusion.
CHAPTER 1: MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION
Where did it come from?
Chapter one consists of two sections: Section one traces the
historical development of multicultural education from the earliest
mention of a melting pot nation to the most recent historical influences;
Section two explores the many varied and current definitions of what
multicultural education exactly is. The chapter concludes with a more in-
depth analysis of two definitions: Sonia Nieto's (1996) sociopolitical
definition including the seven primary characteristics of multicultural
education and Peter McClaren's (1995) four approaches to multicultural
From the beginning the United States has been identified as the
place where all nations of men could come together and participate in the
formation of a new national character. Schwarz (1995) and Schlesinger
(1992) cite the work of Hector St. John de Crevecoeur in 1782 as being the
first to describe the idea of individuals of all nations melting into this new
national character. In 1909 Israel Zangwill coined the term"melting pot,"
reflecting a strong nationalistic sentiment and eagerness to create a
homogenized "American" culture. Toni Morrison (1992) acknowledged
that although the United States is seen as culturally diverse, the national
identity was and has always been racially defined as white. So began the
myth of the amalgamation of the American character. Pratte (1979)
identified that historically, cultural diversity was seen as a curse, a
weakness, something to be negated only after the "acceptable" cultural
practices had been skimmed off the top and shaped into an American
character. Ideologically, this fusion of ethnicities into one national
character would be used to justify social policy. Schlesinger (1991: 630)
noted that "the preservation and sanctification of old cultures and
identities was not the intent, but the creation of a new national culture
and a new national identity was." An assimilationist ideology coupled
with the massive immigration movements of the late 19th and early 20th
centuries led Elwood P. Cubberly, a leading educator of that time, to
"demand that public schools lead the way in the process of assimilation of
the children of immigrants to teach them the Anglo-Saxon conceptions of
righteousness, law and order and popular government"
(Bullivant 1981: 117). Glazer (1991) identified the school as the major
source of cultural transmission in the assimilation of individuals into the
mainstream of society.
Using the research of Kaestle (1983) and Persons (1987), Maxine
Seller (1992) cites the erroneous social science findings of social Darwinists,
who espoused Anglo-Saxon mental and moral superiority, as being used
to justify Eurocentric curriculums and assimilationist practices. Cultural
form and content would be manipulated to bring about politically
desirable ends assimilation. Philosophically, this position was supported
in the Meriam report on Native American education issued in 1928. A
complete denial of native cultures was not the goal of the report, but the
"development and advancement of a retarded race" (Berkhofer 1978: 181)
was. Jacob (1995) noted the superficial support of school curricula to reflect
Native American culture but, ultimately, the Meriam "experts" advocated
"educating" the Indians to help them assimilate into the prevailing
civilization in accordance with the western standards of health and
decency. The Meriam report reflected the culturally imperialistic and
assimilationist platform that would dominate the composition of
American public school curriculums for many years to come.
Professor Seller (1992) categorized the historical development of
multicultural education into three distinct time periods: 1) Prior to 1920,
2) 1920 -1965 and 3) 1965 present. Education in all three time periods was
constructed with the idea of the preservation of Anglo-American political
and cultural hegemony. Banks (1996: 65) noted that "hegemonic
knowledge that promotes the interests of powerful, elite groups often
obscures its value premises by masquerading as totally objective." As the
time periods shifted, so did the applications of this hegemonic ideology.
Foundationally, multiculturalists (Banks 1996; Sellers 1992) look to
the late nineteenth century works of African American scholars George
Washington Williams, W.E.B. Dubois, Charles H. Wesley and Carter G.
Woodson. Williams' work The History of the Negro Race in America
from 1619 to 1880 is recognized as the first scholarly history of African
Americans. In The Miseducation of the Negro, Woodson (1933) indicted
the effects of a white controlled education that denigrated black people.
Prior to 1920, W.E.B. Dubois and Theresa McMahon laid the groundwork
for women's and ethnic studies programs. Generally, there was negligible
impact on public school curricula, although northern European
immigrant groups "qualified" for a degree of curricular inclusion.
The years 1920 1965 were characterized by the intercultural/
intergroup education movement. Banks (1996), Jacob (1995) and Seller
(1992) identified the intercultural education movement of the 1930s, 1940s
and 1950s as influential to the later manifestations of multicultural
education. McGee-Banks (1996) explains that the purpose of the
intercultural and intergroup education movement was to improve
human relations. The intercultural education movement was designed to
give all children an opportunity to learn about the contributions of all
groups to the American "melting pot." In 1920, a Chicago history syllabus
directed teachers to teach students "that every race strain found in our
citizenship has contributed much to the agricultural, artistic, commercial,
industrial, material, moral, political and scientific advancement of
America" (Seller 1992: 17-18 citing Montalto 1982b: 142). Intercultural
education focused primarily on the racial, ethnic and religious cultural
aspects of different groups.
McGee-Banks (1996) points out that it is not clear when exactly the
intergroup education movement began, but as a term commonly used in
the 1940s, described projects and programs that were implemented after
racial riots erupted in cities throughout the United States. Inter group
education stressed prejudice reduction and introduced a focus on the issue
of social class; intercultural education did not.
In practice the intercultural movement only allowed for the least
threatening contributions and the ones that were most useful to the
Anglo-Saxon mainstream. Intercultural educators were assimilationists
who were more invested in creating national unity than in preserving
cultural diversity. Intentionally excluding the political aspects of a people's
cultural contributions but including their adjudged "benign" components
of religion, food and language implied a selective cultural tolerance.
Components that would adversely affect the stability of the state were
disallowed. Not surprisingly, the state was allowed to exert cultural
dominance in the guise of maintaining state stability. Inoculate against the
evils of pluralism by "injecting the entire population with a harmless dose
of pluralism" (Seller 1992: 18 citing Montalto 1982a: 143). Concurring with
Seller, both Nieto (1995) and hooks (1994) identify the recurring onus of
responsibility being placed on the ethnic group. The burden of transition
lies with the ethnic group which is forced to coexist in an environment of
The social movements of the 1960s represented a serious challenge
to further cultural assimilation and the dominant conceptions of western
culture (Giroux 1995; Short 1988). In the public arena concern about the
"unmeltable ethnics" was voiced by the likes of Nathan Glazer and Daniel
Patrick Moynihan (Lovin 1992: 4). Educational movements like
multiculturalism reflected the shifting social sands as educators aimed to
make education more equal and accessible for the various groups of
people outside the social, economic and political mainstream (McCarthy
1993; Grant 1992; Short 1988).
Multicultural education grew out of the Civil Rights Movement.
Multiculturalism from its inception was sociopolitical in nature because it
challenged the representation of ethnic groups in school curriculum and
instructional materials (Jacob 1995; Sleeter & McLaren, 1995; Beisner, 1994;
Seller, 1992). James A. Banks (1992) specifically credits the African-
American scholars and educators who worked in conjunction with the
Civil Rights movement with providing much of the early leadership of
multicultural education. Nieto (1996) identifies the activism of the Civil
Rights movement as leading to a flurry of unparalleled activity in
multicultural education. In the wake of civil rights legislation, racial and
ethnic minority leaders pressured the schools to create new social history
courses designed to correct past distortions and omissions and to explore
the experiences of marginalized groups like people of color and women.
Legally, additional impetus was provided when the Supreme Court in
1974, Nichols v. Lau, required public schools to provide equal education
for non-English-speaking students (Tiedt &Tiedt 1990). While racial and
ethnic scholars continued to expose the economic and structural roots of
oppression, they also introduced what is now accepted as a familiar
justificatory strategy for multicultural education-"instilling group pride
and a sense of 'rootedness' in their youth" (Seller 1992: 20 citing Gambino
1975; Linskie 1978). Multicultural education, therefore, promoted the
healthy development of a student's self-esteem.
McCarthy (1993) contends that ideologically multicultural education
is a product of a particular time period, where there existed a historical
collaboration among the state, educators, contending racial minority and
majority groups, and policy intellectuals in the United States. Together
and apart they challenged the educational establishment and the
continued implementation of the traditional curricular discourse. By the
late '70s and early '80s, multicultural education had achieved a degree of
legitimacy. Sleeter (1989) describes multicultural education as having
evolved into a significant reform movement supporting the pluralistic
nature of United States society because it continued to confront the
various expressions of inequality. Legitimacy was further demonstrated by
the amount of criticism multicultural education generated and also by the
new textbooks, curricular mandates and broad-based multicultural goals of
Initially, most educators endorsed a racial and ethnic revision of the
curriculums, but eventually the curricular revisions grew to include the
highly politically charged issues of sexism, disability, giftedness, age, social
class, religion and sexual persuasion. Essentially, transformation of entire
curriculums became and continues to be paramount (Hillis 1993; Grant
1992; Banks 1996, 1992 & 1991a; Sleeter 1989). Hillis (1996) acknowledged
that informing students of the contributions of ethnic groups in America
has the potential to reduce prejudice, discrimination in the schools and
negative ethnic stereotypes. Educators recommended a multicultural,
cross-curricular infusion approach over the single, separate ethnic
minicourses that tended to isolate ethnic and racial perspectives from the
general fabric of history. Gerald Graff recognized the importance of
bringing "heretofore excluded cultures into the curriculum because unless
they are put in dialogue with traditional courses, students will continue to
struggle with a disconnected curriculum, and suspicion and resentment
will continue to increase" (Graff 1992: 13). Widespread support for schools
becoming multiethnic in staffing and for curriculums and teaching
methodologies to significantly reflect all cultural contributions continues
to this day. (Grant 1992; Seller 1992; Banks 1991a; Sleeter 1991; Tiedt &
Multicultural Education: What Is It?
Nieto (1996), Bullivant (1981) and others believe that confining
multicultural education to one definition is impossible because just as
there is no one model American, there is no single definition that
completely encapsulates all of the goals, approaches and beliefs of
multicultural education. Educators should not infer that the diversity
within the definitions is synonymous with a deficiency. Conceptually,
reaching uniformity is difficult because multicultural education includes
an extensive range of definitions, goals and applications (Jacob 1995; Rose
1992; Sleeter 1991). Banks stated that, surprisingly, a "high level of
consensus exists among multicultural education theorists and specialists
regarding the goals, purposes and reasons for multicultural education.
There is, however, less agreement among them about its exact boundaries,
dimensions and specifics" (Banks 1996: 30).
Definitional parameters must be established but must not be so
restrictive as to eliminate the dynamic perspectives that can emerge nor
too ambiguous as to create a bland, politically neutral panacea (Bullivant
1981). The Tiedts (1990) and Aragon (1994) all believe that the diverse
definitions of multicultural education implies to many educators that
multicultural education is an ill-defined, shallow educational fad. Nieto
states that the point of multicultural education is to encourage teachers to
think about the "interplay of societal and school structures and contexts
and how they influence learning" (Nieto 1996: 307) and not to merely
present a definitive understanding of multicultural education.
Fear induced by current political and cultural climates also
influences the curricular decisions made by a teacher. Many educators
believe that teaching should be politically neutral. That is impossible.
Peterson (1994) maintains that curricular decisions about what to teach
and what not to teach are inherently political. Nieto (1995) too believes
that teachers distance themselves from controversial topics and the
political implications of multicultural education and that this makes
many educators wary of examining the cultural biases and uncertain
"truths" that exist in their classrooms. Bullivant (1981) and Nieto (1996)
recognize that to confront the negative and missing aspects of history can
be messy and dangerous, and subsequently is often avoided. But, if the
challenges are done in a direct and honest way, the results can be positive.
There is also a deep-seated fear in many educators that any attempt to alter
the western canons of education, any "de-centering of the Western
civilizations, of the white male canon is paramount to cultural genocide"
(hooks 1994: 32 ). Without the security of a uniform curriculum with its
single approach to a subject, many teachers feel a loss of control and an
overwhelming sense of unpreparedness as they ask, "How do I effectively
deal with all of this difference?"
Many educators are devising definitions to lessen the education
community's anxieties. Among them, Pamela and Iris Tiedt believe the
key to the definition lies in the root word "culture" because each one of us
is born into a "culture" that connotes a "complex integrated system of
beliefs and behaviors that may be both rational and nonrational" (Tiedts
1990: 3). Maxine Seller defines multicultural education as one that
"focuses on the language and culture of American groups other than
mainstream Anglo-Saxon Protestant males" (Seller 1992: 11). Walter Enloe
and Ken Simon (1993) suggest that educators substitute intercultural for
multicultural because it creates a possibility for understanding and
respecting other cultures.
As one of the pioneers of multicultural education James Banks
(1996) defines multicultural education as being a discipline that should
create equal educational opportunities for all. Within this definition exists
five interrelated dimensions of multicultural education: "1. content
integration, 2. the knowledge construction process, 3. prejudice reduction,
4. an equity pedagogy and creating 5. an empowering school culture and
social structure" (Banks 1996: 336). Content integration is the creation of
curricula infused with diverse voices; the knowledge construction process
recognizes that knowledge is socially constructed; prejudice reduction
refers to a process helping "students to develop more positive attitudes
toward different racial and ethnic groups" (Banks 1994b: 16); equity
pedagogy within classroom instruction would "adapt to the unique talents
and needs of a diverse population" (Hillis 1996: 288) and an empowering
school culture and social structure are schools that reflect the pluralistic
nature of society by promoting equality for the diverse groups of students.
Professor Nieto (1996) has developed a sociopolitical definition. She
identifies multicultural education as one that represents the pluralistic
aspects of a society and rejects all forms of discrimination. A multicultural
education should permeate all educational components i.e. curriculum
and instructional strategies. Furthermore Nieto believes "that
multicultural education uses critical pedagogy as its underlying
philosophy" (Nieto 1996: 307 308) and thus promotes knowledge,
reflection and action (praxis) (Friere 1970). Therefore multicultural
education results in social change and utilizes the democratic principle of
social justice. Neito's definition contains seven primary characteristics that
are multidimensional in scope and application:
1. Multicultural education is antiracist education.
2. Multicultural education is basic education.
3. Multicultural education is important for all students.
4. Multicultural education is pervasive.
5. Multicultural education is education for social justice.
6. Multicultural education is a process.
7. Multicultural education is critical pedagogy.
(Nieto 1996: 308)
Acknowledging the current back-to-basics pressure, Nieto
articulates the need to see multicultural education as basic education.
Expanding the definition of what constitutes a basic education is critical
because today's back-to-basics agenda is premised on a return to a
Eurocentric, paternalistic domination of curriculum that relegates
multicultural perspectives and contributions to afterthoughts.
A multicultural education program should not be seen as a special,
separate program or period during the school day. This treatment of
multicultural education initially creates a perception and ultimately an
understanding that it is merely an appendage to the main body of
curricular materials, akin to minority groups being categorized as
secondary citizens to the majority. Nieto (1996) Graff (1992) and Banks
(1991a) believe a true multicultural approach is pervasive and it should
permeate every aspect of the school climate. They support implementing a
broadly conceptualized, integrative multicultural curriculum that
challenges "the ossified 'canon' in schools" (Nieto 1996: 311).
Nieto concurs that multicultural education is about all people and
therefore can benefit aU people regardless of their ethnicity, language,
religion, gender, race or class. She believes that students from the
dominant culture may in fact benefit more from a multicultural education
than students of color for "they are often the most miseducated about
diversity in their society" (Nieto 1996: 313). Recently a student in my
classroom pronounced that "Everyone believes in God, the Virgin Mary
and Jesus, right?" Her religious assumption was the norm and others'
beliefs were deviations. Many European-heritage American youth see
themselves as culture-less while simultaneously seeing their way of living
as the only way. They learn to think of themselves and their group as the
norm and all others as deviations. Brian Jacob (1995) observed that even
monolingual African-American students saw themselves as lacking a
valuable cultural asset because they, unlike the bilingual Latino students,
lacked their own language. The African-American students believed that
the "Hispanic culture" had not been distorted because they had their
language. A Black student within Jacobs' study concluded that he,
meaning the Blacks, had nothing to believe in because the cultural
distortion had caused Blacks to lose their language.
Influenced by the liberatory pedagogical theories of Paulo Friere,
Nieto (1996) believes that all good education exhibits a connectedness
among theory, reflection and action, what Friere (1970) defines as "praxis."
Within a multicultural context this means encouraging students to learn
how to think in more inclusive terms, questioning what they learn and
exploring possible real-life applications of their learning. Students are
often denied the opportunity to engage in learning that is related to the
lives they lead in their communities. Multicultural education invites
students to put their learning into action for social justice within their
community. Professors Giroux (1995) and McClaren (1995) believe that
students need to understand that democracy is busy, it is not a seamless,
smooth or conflict-free political and cultural state of affairs. School
becomes a site of apprenticeship in democracy where students practice day-
to-day democracy. Nieto (1996: 316) sees social studies teachers as those
who are supposed to prepare students for "active membership in a
democracy." This was the basis of Deweyan philosophy and continues to
be cited as a major educational goal.
Henry Giroux (1995) suggests that the discourse on democracy has
been trivialized, reduced to the point of becoming simply a stance of
uncritical patriotism. Nieto (1996), Jacob (1995) and hooks (1994) believe
that experiences of personal injustice are very real to students of color.
Allowing them an opportunity to discuss their experiences in relation to
democratic principles, historical injustices and historical theories creates a
real, connected moment, a praxis for all of the students. This too is
challenged by the back-to-basics movement as wasted time because it is
time taken from the traditional, uncritical, patriotic curriculum. I recall a
conversation with a colleague who recently began teaching at a back-to-
basics school. He was advised to never discuss students' social problems or
experiences in class because "our students don't have those kinds of
problems and besides, if they do, it is not the classroom teacher's job to
address them." On the contrary, both Nieto (1996) and hooks (1994) feel
that the classroom should be one of the places where conversations
regarding issues of social and personal justice can and should occur.
Peter McLaren (1995) established a "tentative theoretical grid that
can help discern the multiple ways in which difference is both constructed
and engaged" (McLaren 1995: 35). The various multicultural education
positions can be arrayed along a continuum from the conservative or
corporate multiculturalism to liberal multiculturalism, then to left-liberal
multiculturalism and finally critical and resistant multiculturalism. The
conservative position blames the unsuccessful minorities for having
"culturally deprived backgrounds that lack strong family-oriented values"
McLaren (1995: 36). The conservatives only pay lip service to the cognitive
equality of all races and equate difference with deficiency. Conservatives
like Diane Ravitch, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Ed Hirsch use the term
"diversity" to cloak the ideology of assimilation. They fail to interrogate
the construction of knowledge and to question the interests that this
knowledge serves. As the self-appointed cultural gatekeepers,
conservativists reduce ethnic groups to "add-ons" to the dominant
culture. Before the ethnic group can gain entrance, they must neutralize
their own uniqueness and adopt the essentially Euro-American
patriarchal perspectives, cultural norms and values.
According to McLaren the liberal multiculturalists acknowledge the
existence of a "natural" equality among whites and people of color.
Adaptations in the existing cultural, social and economic barriers need to
be made in order to achieve a more relative equality. McLaren identifies
the danger in this position as one that often collapses into a we (Anglo-
Americans)-are-the-world ethnocentrism that oppressively universalizes
the specifics of any given culture.
While left-liberal multiculturalists acknowledge cultural
differences, McLaren (1995) argues that their emphasis on equality of races
smothers those important cultural differences that are responsible for the
emergence of particular behaviors, values, social practices and cognitive
styles. McLaren feels this approach essentializes cultural differences and
ignores the historical and cultural "situatedness" of difference. Difference,
while not synonymous with deficient, is treated as an 'essence' that exists
independently of history, culture and power.
Critical and resistance multiculturalism goes further. Promoting the
development of projects of social transformation, it focuses on
understanding and "transforming the social, cultural and institutional
relations in which meanings" (McLaren 1995: 42) and inequities have
been, and continue to be, generated. There is no accommodation to the
larger social order via co-optation. Critical and resistant multiculturalists
confront and challenge the language used to construct meaning and the
consequences of those meanings on the larger social order. Identities based
on sameness have been constructed for people of color, outside of their
cultural language, within a larger assimilationist agenda. Karamcheti and
Lemert (1991) argue that a critical multiculturalist views the
representations of race, class and gender as part of larger social struggles
and recognizes that representation itself is a deeply colonizing activity.
Part of the process of confronting racism, ethnocentrism and other forms
of oppression involves examining the unstated norms of the institutional
practices we have traditionally relied on.
McLaren identifies the resistant multiculturalists as those who
refuse to see culture as non-conflictual, harmonious and consensual.
Diversity in and of itself is not the goal but rather diversity being affirmed
within a politics of cultural criticism and a commitment to social justice is.
Difference is a product of history, culture, ideology and power, and
acknowledging this creates a space for understanding difference rather
than assimilating or annihilating it. Differences occur between and among
groups and must be understood in terms of the cultural site and cultural
specificity of their production. Critical multiculturalists interrogate the
construction of difference and identity in relation to the existing structures
of power. Resistant multiculturalism challenges the erroneous, and long
held assumption that North American society fundamentally constitutes
social relations of uninterrupted accord.
McLaren (1995), Nieto (1996) and others believe that multicultural
perspectives cannot simply be an addendum to the dominant discourse.
The curriculum must move beyond the typical multicultural educational
programs that only scratch the surface with culinary diversity fairs, dress-
up days, field trips, a lecture full of historical and geographical facts and an
art class attempting to recreate art and artifacts. The continued emphasis
on the mastery of low-level facts through presentations laden with a
Eurocentric, male-dominated perspective trivializes the experiences of
people of color, Third and Fourth World cultures and women using the
language of the oppressor to create meaning. It is important to recognize
the efforts of educators, but the superficial accommodation and
oversimplification of these diverse cultures perpetuates inferior and
The introduction of multicultural perspectives often results in a
cultural dissonance, leaving students feeling betrayed. Perplexed, they
often do not know what to do with this new image of "free America."
Jacob (1995) and Graff (1992) agree that cultural dissonance will be
generated. But one of the roles of a multicultural education is to
ameliorate the dissonance. By incorporating conflicting multicultural
perspectives into a historical dialogue, teachers can reduce conflicts impact
and recognize any dissonance as a positive element, a step in the process of
Goals of Multicultural Education
The goals of multicultural education are diverse but a common aim
is making multicultural education an empowering and transformative
experience (Branch, Goodwin and Gualtieri 1993; Hillis; Banks 1996, 1991a;
Sleeter 1991; Haberman and Post 1990; Giroux 1985). "Multiple voices are
heard and subsequently legitimized in a transformative curriculum"
(Banks 1991a: 131). Viewing the human experience from the perspective of
a varied range of cultural, ethnic and social-class groups allows students
the opportunity to construct a more holistic and comprehensive
understanding of the past, the present and the future. Hillis (1993) believes
that as educators, exploring our students, understanding of society, we can
create an understanding shaped by the student's race, gender and class one
of the goals of a multicultural education. Banks (1996) too believes that a
transformative curriculum would not only help students acquire
knowledge from diverse perspectives but it would also help them develop
caring attitudes and feelings.
Critical multiculturalists and liberals agree that one goal of a
multicultural education is to empower students, promoting critical
thinking about issues from other perspectives (Loewen 1995; Branch,
Goodwin and Gualtieri 1993; Banks 1991a & 1991b). Wrestling with the
realities, conflicts and power struggles within a pluralistic and democratic
society, students have a unique opportunity to investigate the dominant
cultural ideologies and their relationship to power. By engaging students
in the day-to-day messiness and conflicts of democracy, teachers allow
students to think for themselves and thus create a more powerful learning
experience (Bower 1994; Nieto 1994; Banks 1991a; Friere 1968). Hillis
believes that this process will enable students to "penetrate the intellectual
and moral roots of racism and weaken them" (Hillis 1993: 54).
Giving students an incomplete picture of reality results in some of
them believing they are superior because they have been the makers of
history, while others believe themselves inferior because their people
have done nothing of significance (Loewen 1995; Nieto 1994; O'Neill 1987).
Textbooks teach the Columbus story largely from a monocultural view
that encourages students and teachers to identify and passively sanction
white western exploitation, rather than study it. Loewen (1995) identifies
that when limited attention is paid to the undemocratic, exclusionary side
of America's collective heritage, students lose a valuable opportunity to
analyze the historical antecedents to current forms of oppression. If
textbooks allowed for controversy, they could become the testing ground
for students to demonstrate which claims rest on strong, irrefutable
evidence and which do not. Thus, students would use their own analytical
skills, formulating their own conclusions in the same way that researchers
use evidence to derive knowledge about the distant past.
Another goal of multicultural education is to teach students to
tolerate cultural differences. Marcus, Sullivan, Theiss-Morse and Wood
(1995) believe that to understand how to confront intolerance, we must
understand how people react when faced with groups and ideas they find
threatening. Rahima Wade (1993) suggests that tolerance in and of itself is
an incomplete goal because it may mean an invitation to participate in the
way things are already done, not necessarily changing anything. Wade
advocates moving beyond tolerance because it implies an accommodating
up-to-a-point attitude. Richard Pratte believes, "We are honestly tolerant
when we allow something to occur that we sincerely regard as wrong, and
we could prevent it, but we allow it because a higher order principle
overrides our disapproval" (Pratte as cited in Wade 1993: 8). Nieto (1996)
endorsed the idea that differences are no longer just tolerated, or even
respected but are embraced. Going beyond tolerance means much more
than just embracing and celebrating diversity. Wade (1993) noted that it
requires a willingness to analyze my living in community with you as a
means toward supporting those behaviors which create more justice and
solidarity among us all. After Proposition 187 passed in California,
educator Connie Davidson tested this idea of moving beyond tolerance in
her history and ethnic studies classes. When a white student boldly stated
that all the immigrants should go back to where they came from,
Davidson, an African-American, did not silence the boy but instead
challenged him to support his views. Many students were disturbed by his
intolerance but Davidson believes in bringing "students face-to-face with
tough issues of intolerance, which can be a very painful process" (Bullard
1997: 4). Multicultural education must move beyond tolerance. Letting go
of me having to be right and you having to be wrong, I can begin to see
you for who you are, creating an opportunity for true connectedness, a
live-and-enable-others-to-thrive attitude which lends dignity to the
recognition of our common human condition.
Constructing their own interpretations of social reality, students are
able to challenge dominant hegemonic relationships in society and take
action to create a more democratic society. Students receiving a
multicultural curriculum will have to wrestle with the realities, conflicts,
tensions and power struggles within a pluralistic and democratic society.
The transformation of a Eurocentric curriculum into one of balanced
ethnic and cultural perspectives will facilitate dialogue and enable teachers
and students to critically if uncomfortably examine political, social and
economic issues related to living in American society.
CHAPTER TWO: CONTENDING MULTICULTURAL
Chapter two includes a description and analyses of the contending
perspectives on multicultural education. Peter McLaren's (1995)
multicultural continuum is used to illustrate these perspectives from the
conservative position of Arthur Schlesinger to the critical position of
Henry Giroux and all of those in between. It is unfair to pigeonhole these
various scholars because movement between the various perspectives is
indicated. It is often assumed that a multicultural education breaks from
the traditional assimilationist agenda thus representing a positive process
where students can learn the value in preserving their cultural identity.
This assumption while not totally unfounded, is not entirely accurate.
McLaren's continuum will help demonstrate this. Any new pedagogical
approach has advocates and opponents. But the multicultural discourse is
somewhat different in that there are distinctive types of support lent to
multicultural curriculums. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the
As a society we have always been diverse, mobile and ever-
changing. Historically, assimilation was the chosen response to diversity.
Certainly conflict is not new to education. In fact conflict has surrounded
the development of public education since Horace Mann and his
colleagues began fashioning the modern school system in the 1830s
(Miller 1996; Schlesinger 1992). Americans continue to argue about what
constitutes the proper moral and religious content of schooling. A recent
demonstration of this conflict was aptly portrayed when an article in The
Denver Post. January 24, 1997 quoted Colorado State Senator Charles Duke
as being "tired of great Americans being characterized as 'white racist
males.'" Senator Duke subsequently introduced legislation that would
have required American history teachers to present great Americans only
in a 'favorable light.' (Johnston: la and 11a).
Arguments arise between supporters and traditionalists. Supporters
believe a multicultural education leads to a deeper understanding of the
students' world where they can shed the idea that the world consists of an
"us versus them" dichotomy. Traditionalists rely on the us versus them
dichotomy as the norms by which the "others" are frequently categorized
using gender, race and ethnicity as representations which create majority-
minority separations and and/or identifications. Hillis (1993) believes the
dichotomized approach is very open to prejudicial interpretations that
encourage or perpetuate prejudicial behavior and feels that multicultural
models can help to reduce the we-they and us-them conceptualizations
pervasive among students. For many educators (Banks 1993),
multiculturalizing their curriculum becomes part of a natural evolution
of understanding, and they quietly change their curriculum because it is
the right thing to do. If it were only as simple as the process stated above!
Instead, implementation of such a curriculum is where the bitter debate
begins as the educational establishment attempts to address the question of
how these different cultural realities should be incorporated. Ravitch
(1990a & 1990b) and others (Schlesinger 1991; Hirsch 1987) contend that
these ongoing passionate debates over what constitutes patriotism, what
social justice is and what a proper curriculum is are at the core of the
entire multicultural curriculum dilemma.
Harmful misconceptions about multicultural education lead to
increased racial and ethnic tensions which can trivialize the exceptional
achievements found in curriculum development, theory and research
within the field. Nieto (1995) acknowledged that within the political
spectrum, multicultural education garners criticism from both the right
and the left. The right claims that multicultural education has strayed too
far from the traditionalist position and the left claims that it has not gone
far enough. Indeed, both may point out some of the pitfalls and
inadequacies of multicultural education.
The curricular battle rages outside already implemented
multicultural education programs whose purpose continues to be debated
across the United States. Dinesh D'Souza (1995: 343) identifies the debate
surrounding multicultural education as not being over "whether to study
other cultures but over how (emphasis added) to study the West and other
cultures." Many educators recognize the need to multiculturalize a
curriculum but they still cling tightly to the already established
educational norms and structures. Conservatives use as a defining
principle, the traditional pedagogical practices of transmitting bodies of
knowledge from one generation to the next focusing primarily on the
transfer of basic skills from the instructor to the student. Leistyna and
Woodrum (1996) and Hillis (1993) believe that the resistance to the
implementation of a multicultural curriculum is appealing to the general
public when those who urge resistance include such powerful and
influential voices as Arthur Schlesinger, Ed Hirsch and William Bennett.
Conservatives like Allan Bloom (1987) believe that the lowering of
academic standards via programs like affirmative action and inclusional
nontraditional curriculum, has weakened the integrity of public
schooling. Bloom argues that multiculturalism undermines the very
foundation of what it means to be a citizen of the United States and that a
return to the traditional Western civilization curriculum will prevent
further damage. Echoing the sentiment of Bloom, William Kerrigan
declared that "black and Hispanic students must be taught the language of
the British and American intelligentsia, since integration will never
succeed on any other terms" (Kerrigan 1993: 166 167). Maintenance of the
traditional curriculum is paramount and change should only come about
in response to advances in knowledge and intellectual skills. Bloom and
others (Schlesinger 1991) charge that liberal educators attempting to create
a more inclusive curriculum have become "pathologically sensitive to
complaints of ethnocentrism" (Kerrigan 1993: 167) and are truly only being
Conservatives believe that schools should serve as a font of neutral
scholarship and biased radical educators are compromising the integrity
and moral purpose of education. Conservatives reject the notion that
teaching is a political and cultural practice that encourages critical debate
and radical disagreement. The conservative position continues to elevate
and praise the traditional emphasis on European Western philosophies
that base their conceptualizations of truth on dichotomies that create an
Criticism from the conservatives includes the work of Diane
Ravitch (1990a) and others who often view multiculturalism as a
movement that supports separatism, a balkanization of the centrist
consensus. Linden (1993) professed that studying anyone's culture other
than your own is paramount to committing identity suicide.
Conservatives tend to emphasize the processing of received knowledge,
rather than transforming it in the interest of social growth or change.
Multiculturalists who charge that curriculums are Eurocentric,
Anglocentric and male-dominated are viewed as assaulting Europeans.
Staunch conservatives like Donald Thomas (1981: 589) assert that
"pluralism in schools destroys the sense of common traditions, values,
purposes and obligations. Pluralism diverts the school attention from
their basic purpose-to educate for civic, economic and personal
effectiveness." Pluralism in schools, Thomas notes "intends to create
moral anarchy. It lends support to no-fault morality which claims that all
values are of equal worth and that the ends justify the means." Hirsch
(1988) advocates all students mastering a common core of knowledge in
order to be culturally literate; multiculturalism diverts attention away
from learning this core knowledge. "Multicultural education should not
be the primary goal of education even though it promotes tolerance and
provided an informed perspective . The acculturative responsibility of
schools is primary and fundamental" (Hirsch 1988: 18). Furthermore,
Hirsch charges such an approach does more damage in the long run to the
underclass who are supposed to be the primary benefactors of a
multicultural education. Not teaching the traditional core cultural
curriculum prevents the underclass from learning to communicate
effectively and subsequently they are unable to rise economically.
Conservative critic Dinesh D'Souza claims that multiculturalists
practice a "relativist ideology that shapes the predispositions of the
advocates of multiculturalism" (D'Souza 1995: 351). Using the Aztecs as an
example, D'Souza claims that students are exposed to only the positive
elements of Aztec society, e.g. celebrations, customs and beliefs while the
Aztec practice of human sacrifice is suppressed or minimized. Specifically,
D'Souza charges that supporters of multicultural curriculum charge
Columbus with genocide because they need an explanation for "why small
groups of Europeans were able to defeat overwhelming numbers of
Indians. . seize their lands and capsize their mighty empires" (D'Souza
Schlesinger (1991) views attempts to multiculturalize a curriculum
as an attempt to be politically correct. Claiming that any promotion of the
idea that America could possibly have derived its language and political
purposes from anywhere other than Great Britain, Schlesinger believes, is
to falsify history and mislead students. It is important for students to
understand where these democratic ideals come from "Europe is the
unique source of these ideals" Schlesinger (1991: 633).
The lines of distinction between the conservative position and the
liberal one are somewhat blurred when Schlesinger and others convey
the desire to make an allowance for "debate, alternative interpretations
and multiple perspectives are all essential to the education enterprise." In
fact Giroux (1992) refers to Glazer and Schlesinger as having liberal
approaches to multicultural education; that is they promote an
assimilationist agenda. If that is what is meant by multicultural education,
then Schlesinger claims he is all for it. Calling for a diversification of the
"syllabus in order to meet the needs of a more diversified society,"
Schlesinger agrees there is a necessity "to provide for a global education in
an increasingly interdependent world because students need to be better
acquainted with all histories" (Schlesinger 1991: 630). Schlesinger believes
that "schools and colleges have a responsibility to teach history for its own
sake-as part of the intellectual equipment of civilized persons-and not to
degrade history by allowing its contents to be dictated by pressure groups"
(Schlesinger 1992: 136 -137). Furthermore, Schlesinger believes that simply
because the past may offend "one or another minority; that is no reason
for rewriting history" (Schlesinger 1992: 136 -137).
Support for curricular diversification, for developing an awareness
and sensitivity to ethnic differences can also be found among other
conservatives (Thomas 1981; Short 1988; Ravitch 1990; Glazer 1991). Glazer
(1991: 20) supports "fighting the errors, distortions, untruths and
imbalances" within history curriculums. He advocates the development
of curriculums that give proper recognition to the role of American
Indians, Blacks, Asians and European immigrant and ethnic groups in
American history. Diane Ravitch (1990b: 340) supports a new warts-and-all
look at history that demands an "unflinching examination of racism and
Conservative Thomas Short (1988) also defends multiculturalism
because it is needed to combat racism, correct curricular injustices and
provide educational benefits to all students who would be exposed to
diverse perspectives. Tracing the politicization of education to the '60s,
Short asserts that the curricular changes of that decade reflected an
increasing enrollment of black students who in the name of racial justice,
demanded such changes. Short contends, however, that today, because of
the political agenda and political intent of multiculturalism, genuine
diversity will never be achieved and multiculturalism in its current form
is merely a "sham that fronts for a politically motivated attack on liberal
democracy" (Short 1988: 6-7). Short is not suggesting that the curriculum
be fixed for all time in unchangeable splendor, but he purports that the
radical politicization of curriculums have thwarted any legitimate
attempts to correct historical bias and historical distortion.
Liberal and Left-Liberal Multiculturalists
At this juncture in McLaren's continuum the boundaries become
less distinct and there is movement among the liberal, left-liberal and
critical multicultural perspectives. An overlapping of goals, philosophies
and critiques is apparent and a new form of self-fashioning and
subjectivity emerges out of more progressive conceptions of freedom and
Liberal and left-liberal multiculturalists strongly advocate
presenting a multiplicity of perspectives so that students may experience
what life is like from other cultural perspectives. McLaren identifies the
liberal educators as those who attempt to universalize the specifics of any
given culture and the left-liberals as those who emphasize the equality of
races. He does, however, make the distinction that the liberal, left-liberal
and critical forms of multiculturalism break from the conservative
position because they "envisage a different 'practice of the self'" (McLaren
Liberal multiculturalists like Branch, Goodwin and Gualtieri (1993)
suggest developing educational strategies that draw a distinction between
diversity and pluralism. A pluralistic ideology denotes a degree of
assimilation and it allows for difference where one group of people can
live separately from the mainstream and maintain their collective
customs, values and ways of life while simultaneously coexisting with
another group who choose the mainstream cultures and assimilate totally.
Diversity does not. It emphasizes the differences and promotes a
dichotomized composition of issues (gender, race, ethnicity) that often
translates into superior-inferior, majority-minority dialogues, whereas
pluralism advocates unity coexisting with diversity. Educationally,
Branch, Goodwin and Gualtieri suggest that a chain reaction of
possibilities occurs when pluralism is curricularly incorporated: skills and
knowledge are taught which enable students to develop an awareness that
promotes acceptance and understanding, and students are shown how
culture makes people just different, not better or worse.
Multicultural justifications include the need to acknowledge the
changing demographics and to the often heard building the self-esteem of
students of color defense. These justifications are often touted in varying
degrees, by both the liberal, left-liberal and critical multiculturalists.
Research shows that a multicultural education has the potential to help
decrease some of the negative beliefs that exist about ethnic and racial
groups (Katz and Zalk 1978; Lichter and Johnson 1969, as cited in Hillis).
James Banks (1991b) indicates that the projected demographics state that by
the year 2020 America's ethnic composition will consist of 46% students of
color. This would require students and teachers to have a more
sophisticated, broad based cross-cultural competency (Branch, Goodwin
and Gualtieri 1993; Banks 1993; Banks 1991b; Haberman and Post 1990).
The changing demographics help formulate a major goal of multicultural
education: helping students to acquire the knowledge, attitudes and skills
necessary to participate in the reformation of the world's social, political
and economic systems (Banks 1991a; Sleeter 1989). As a society if we
continue to denounce diversity as a weakness rather than legitimizing it
as a strength, we do nothing to promote an understanding of those
different realities that are constructed within historical, racial and
gendered specificity, and therefore we will all suffer.
In closing, as liberal multiculturalists the Tiedts' (1990), believe the
purpose of a multicultural education is to foster the development of a
cultural awareness where each student should be able to identify his/her
personal culture and the development of a more positive self-image. As
liberal multiculturalists, Tiedt and Tiedt (1990) want educators to rethink
the melting-pot theory because it is inappropriate. Diversity was once seen
as a weakness but is now recognized as a strength, and individuals can be
proud of their ethnicity.
Critical and Resistant Multiculturalists
Brazilian educator Paolo Friere's ground breaking work on critical
pedagogy is foundational to the later works of critical multiculturalists.
Friere (1968) critically examined not only the educational philosophies,
practices and methodologies but also the societal structures in which these
philosophies were constructed. He concluded that there was no such thing
as a neutral education process and called for the development of a
transformative educational curriculum where education became the
practice of freedom as opposed to the practice of domination. Friere
challenged educators to examine the unstated norms of the institutional
practices they had traditionally relied on.
Giroux maintained that a critical multicultural education teaches
students to "challenge those with political and cultural power as well as
honoring the critical traditions within the dominant culture"
(Giroux 1995:137). He suggested that as part of the critical process students
must confront the racism, ethnocentrism and other forms of oppression
that exist within the dominant society. Giroux, in response to the
conservative critique that multicultural education is too politicized,
believes it necessary to differentiate the political education from the
Using the work of Peter Euben (1994), Giroux illustrated the
difference. A political education advocates:
teaching students how to think in ways that
cultivate the capacity for judgment essential
for the exercise of power and responsibility by
a democratic citizenry. ... A political, as distinct,
from a politicized education, would encourage
students to become better citizens to challenge
those with political and cultural traditions
within the dominant culture that make such a
critique possible and intelligible
(Euben as cited in Giroux 1995:138).
A politicized education is a classroom practice in
which the issue of what is taught, by whom and
under what conditions are determined by a doctri-
naire political agenda that refuses to examine its
own values, beliefs and ideological construction
Banks believes that as we enter a new century "the challenge
multicultural education faces is one of determining how to transform its
political liabilities into academic and scholarly strengths"
(Banks 1995: 40-41). As one of the major architects of multicultural
education, critical multiculturalist, James Banks (1993) attempts to
transform those political liabilities by debunking the misconceptions that
are perpetuated by the conservatives who are resistant to the political
manifestations of a multicultural education. Banks identifies the three
most common and powerful misconceptions and effectively invalidates
the flawed reasoning used by those opposed to multicultural education
programs. The first misconception: multicultural education is intended
for the others. Banks identifies this one as being the most "pernicious and
damaging to the movement" (Banks 1993: 23), because it perpetuates the
idea that multicultural education is an entitlement/curriculum program;
a program designed to provide special recognition to the victimized and
disenfranchised groups. Conservatives such as Arthur Schlesinger and
Diane Ravitch keep the "other-education" premise alive by making
multicultural education synonymous with Afrocentric education
programs. Subsequently, educators who teach in predominantly white
schools and districts see no need to multiculturalize their curriculums.
Banks responds to these charge and emphasizes that the
movement is designed to restructure
educational institutions so that all students,
including middle-class white males, will acquire
the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to
function effectively in a culturally and
ethnically diverse world (Banks 1993: 24).
The second misconception is so often heard that Banks states many
people assume it to be self-evident: multicultural education is in
opposition to Western civilization and Western traditions. Critics fail to
acknowledge that the roots of multicultural education can be traced to the
Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, a Western demonstration asking that
the democratic ideals of freedom, justice and equality be a reality for all. It
is complete with Western writers like Rudolfo Anaya, Maya Angelou and
Toni Morrison who have been influenced by the highly touted Western
ideals of freedom and equality. The truth must be told about the West. The
realities of racism and sexism must be taught to students, and the West's
debt to people of color and women must be acknowledged within the
curriculums (Banks 1993).
Additional application of Western ideals includes the emphasis
multicultural education places on the development of reflective action by
the citizens. Democracy requires the participation of its citizenry to ensure
that it is a government of the people, based on the equality of rights,
opportunity and treatment. As a major component of multicultural
education, reflective action "links knowledge, values, empowerment and
action"(Banks 1993: 24), promoting the democratic ideal of citizen-
participation being necessary to improve society. Banks illuminates the
thoroughly Western influences to all that multicultural programs
embody, making one wonder about the racist undertones of those who
protest too much.
In the wake of this misconception, conservatives such as Dinesh
D'Souza (1995) claim that multicultural curriculum replace the classic
studies of Western civilization in the nation's educational systems with
substandard non-classical works. Banks cites the post-secondary research of
Gerald Graff (1992) who used the secondary research of Arthur Applebee
as a response to D'Souza's assumption. Their research corroborated the
long-held belief that European and American male authors such as
Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain, Steinbeck and Hemingway still dominate
the curriculum within secondary and post-secondary education. In fact,
both Graff and Applebee discovered that books authored by people of color
were usually assigned as optional rather than required reading.
While Banks (1993) identifies the third misconception as the one
that claims a multicultural education will divide the nation. I have
chosen to call the final misconception the-sky-is-falling rationale because
fear is tactically used to obscure the strengths of a multicultural education.
Using the balkanization of Europe as a backdrop, conservatives base this
misconception on a questionable assumption that the United States, as a
nation, is in fact united. As any and every election proves, claiming to be
one nation politically is a stretch. Sociologically this nation continues to be
deeply divided along lines of religion, race, gender and class. If this nation
were as united as the critics claim, a multicultural education would not
represent a threat but a compliment to the unification. A multicultural
curriculum would revisit the idea of what it means to be "one nation
under God," generating a conversation where the diverse groups discuss
what it has meant to choose freely to unite and what it has meant to be
forced to unite.
Critical multiculturalists assail both the left and left-liberal
multiculturalists because they do not go far enough to expose and
eradicate the institutionalized racism embedded in the structures of our
society. While well intentioned, liberal and left-liberal multiculturalists
avoid controversial issues and provide incomplete educational treatment
(food fairs, dress-up days,etc) to multicultural issues. McLaren admonishes
those educators who do not go far enough to examine the larger social
constructs. He firmly believes that "multiculturalism without a
transformative political agenda is just another form of accommodation to
the larger social order" (McLaren 1995: 42).
Conceptually the conservative, liberal and left-liberal multicultural
educational models avoid any in-depth political analysis of the societal
structures that have created the current pedagogy. When efforts are made
to multiculturalize a curriculum, the results often become what Ward
Churchill labeled "white studies," the programs where people of color and
their ethnic exoticness become addendums to the main body of the
curriculum (Nieto 1995; 196; as cited in Churchill 1982). The safe and
incomplete approaches are specifically targeted by the critical, resistant
multiculturalists who believe it is essential to confront the more serious
issues of diversity within schools and society. Adversarial lines are drawn
when teachers who recognize the necessity for struggle and debate in the
classroom are pitted against those who advocate the transmission of
orthodox world views.
Teachers, Giroux argues, need to be more cognizant of how "the
values that sustain traditional curricular practices are reproduced in the
histories, institutional practices and narratives that shape education and
pedagogical practice" (Giroux 1995:136). Toni Morrison (1987) said it best
when she addressed the relationship between knowledge and power.
"Canon building is empire building. Canon defense is national defense.
Canon debate is the class of cultures and all of the interests are vested"
(Morrison 1987: 8).
Nieto (1995) believes that an oversimplistic reliance on a
multiplicity of perspectives causes students to suffer from a severe case of
cultural relativism. Students end up believing that all perspectives are
equally valid, no matter how outrageous they might be. By sanctioning all
viewpoints, e.g. Nazi point of view/Holocaust, as being of equal validity,
students would develop a severe case of relativism and be unable to
distinguish and further pursue the moral and ethical implications and
questions of such viewpoints. Critical multiculturalists call for a critical
multiplicity of perspectives so students are able to develop an ethical and
well-rounded position of understanding.
Nieto also believes that a "multicultural education without an
explicit focus on racism and other systems for exploitation is like a movie
set made of cardboard; while it may appear authentic, it will take little to
knock it down and reveal it as a sham" (Nieto 1995: 195). As a critical
multiculturalist, Giroux (1983) believes that the entire curriculum must be
transformed because when the dominant voice is merely supplemented
with isolated alternative views, curriculum fails to fully encompass the
diverse voices that are an essential part of transformative schooling in a
democratic, pluralistic society. The critical multiculturalist criticizes this
"addendum agenda" because it becomes one more way that the traditional
educational supporters control the direction and outcomes of curriculum.
Henry Giroux (1983) also critiques the conservative multicultural
position with a comprehensive response to the accusations levied against
critical multiculturalists. It has become customary for conservatives to
repudiate as political those critical inquiries questioning the relationship
between institutional interests and power and what counts as "literature,
history and knowledge" in the curriculum. Giroux counters that the
development of curriculum is inherently political because canons are
historically produced to protect, benefit and serve the interests of the
institutional power. What counts as knowledge, culture, history and
speech can only be understood by interrogating the conditions of exclusion
and inclusion in the production and distribution of what is commonly
assumed to be legitimate knowledge in the classroom. Giroux (1995)
argues that conservatives summarily dismiss the charge that they too are
pedagogically indoctrinating students in traditional mores, customs and
values. However, indoctrination is evident in any form of pedagogy that
takes as its goal the progressive transformation of either the classroom, e.g.
integration, or society, e.g. assimilation.
Leistyna and Woodrum (1996) and Giroux claim that conservatives
nostalgically yearn for the days when "knowledge was neutral and
pedagogy was a transparent vehicle of truth" (Giroux 1995:134).
Curriculum advocated pedagogical practices free of controversy and the
clash of opinions. The conservative pedagogical model abstracts education
from the challenges of developing a critically conscious, socially
responsible and politically active student body.
Analysis and Response
History written by the victors alone presents a lopsided view of
events. A deficient understanding emerges when such scholars as
Schlesinger and Short, speaking as the victors, refuse to examine the
"light" in which ethnic minorities are cast. Mr. Schlesinger (1991) fails to
accept that people of color want to have their historical perspectives
included, not to degrade the historical experience but to make the picture
much more accurate (Loewen 1995). Including the perspectives of
indigenous peoples in the story of Columbus does not mean one is
diminishing Columbus' journey but rather that one is looking at the
composition of the entire account. To call "revisionist" any other
historical interpretation whose facts have been squelched is reprehensible
and amounts to propagandized history. Indeed, historical inclusionism
brings the perspectives of all peoples into a historical discourse, allowing
students to experience a holistic exposition. Ghosh (1995) responds to the
conservative position and contends that making a curriculum
multicultural is an integrative process not meant to replace or exclude a
EuroAmerican cultural perspective, but rather to validate and learn about
other forms of knowledge.
As a conservative, Schlesinger (1991) supports a more inclusionary
curriculum. But further examination of Schlesinger's position is required.
Realizing that multiculturalism will not disappear, Schlesinger, as the
doyen of the conservatives, now champions multiculturalism in order to
be in the position to control the directions and outcomes of the debate.
Schlesinger recognizes the effects of assimilation by acknowledging the
failures of the United States "to live up to its own ideals" and then
dismisses their effects by claiming the United States "is still the most
successful large multiethnic nation because it has emphasized
assimilation over ethnic separatism" (Schlesinger 1991: 631). Schlesinger's
justificatory spin on the assimilationist practices America used to forge a
new national culture and identity are challenged by any multicultural
interpretation of the effects of assimilation. His failure to identify the
historical coercion used in the creation of this new national culture and
his failure to acknowledge the relationship of power in the establishment
of this new cultural identity illuminates his true philosophical position.
Ravitch, Short and Schlesinger aptly demonstrate the conservative
position. They selectively apply their analysis to others but not
themselves, remaining unwilling to critically examine their own role in
maintaining the very historical biases and distortions they wish to discard.
Grinde and Johansen point out that the often "shrill pitch of opposition to
other cultural assertions, e. g. the Iroquois contributions to the
development of democracy in colonial America, indicates that the debate
follows intellectual fault lines tracing relationships to truth and power"
(Grinde and Johansen 1994: 28). Instead, as the educational gatekeepers,
Ravitch, Short and others fail to acknowledge that knowledge is not
neutral and static but rather it is dynamic, changing and constructed
within a social context (Banks 1992). They choose instead to become
advocates of superficial curricular changes and denigrate those curricular
changes that challenge their interpretations of history.
Hirsch's (1987) assertion that all citizens of the United States need to
master a common core of shared knowledge is commendable. But like his
colleagues, Hirsch fails to ask critical questions when constructing this core
knowledge. Questions like What constitutes core knowledge? Who will
participate in the formulation of that core knowledge? Whose interests
will this knowledge serve? Who is foregrounded and who remains in the
shadows? remain unanswered. Apparently, ethnic groups must audition
to become a member of the "historical club" by submitting a historical
perspective for approval and then risk its only being recognized as a
supplement to the existing body of work.
Glazer also acknowledges the necessity for curricular diversification.
But his spurious support unravels as he begins to intimate blame for the
multicultural curriculums. He implies that because blacks have a "pattern
of poor academic performance" (Glazer 1991: 19) the multicultural
movement has remained cogent and would lose steam if not for this.
Multicultural curriculums are not being requested by the new immigrants,
who like him, are "content with the education provided to the previous
waves of European immigrants and who paid not a whit of attention to
their ethnic culture" (Glazer 1991: 19) but rather by those groups who have
suffered "cruel, centuries-long ill treatment," and who, by and large, were
not immigrants to begin with. He remains true to his conservative plank
when he claims that recent trends like multiculturalism in education
challenge the "unquestioning, simple, and direct American patriotism"
The reference made by Linden (1983) to identity suicide is
interestingly used only when the "American cultural model" is being
challenged. It is not identity suicide when marginalized cultures do not
study their own culture; it is political correctness. Democratic principle
allows for the debate. The threat appears when the debaters want to move
from principle to action and then it is pejoratively labeled "identity
suicide" or "political correctness."
Ravitch (1990b) and other conservatives, recognizing that their
power and prestige are being threatened, level their severest attacks on the
most controversial aspects of multiculturalism, the particularists who are
developing ethnocentric curriculums, e.g. Afrocentrism. Alarms over the
loss of American culture are heard because particularism will lead to a
dangerous cultural predestination where children will believe that they
must have a culturally appropriate field to strive in.
Nieto (1995) is critical of the liberal multiculturalists. As proponents
of a pluralistic multicultural approach, liberal multiculturalists
apparently want to "skip the step of facing racism and inequality and jump
ahead to a mythical common culture before acknowledging and affirming
individual cultures" (Nieto 1995: 196). Ravitch too identifies herself as a
pluralist supportive of "broadening and transmitting the common
culture we all share" (Ravitch 1990a: 18). However, Ravitch's "common
culture" pluralism is conceptually assimilationist, and she audaciously
asks ethnic groups and other marginalized peoples to acknowledge a
common humanity after experiencing a common inhumanity. Nieto
claims that Afrocentric curriculums are charged with promoting an "us-
versus-them" mentality that perpetuates racism and maintains the
victim/victimizer discourse. Noticeably, Ravitch does not identify the
traditional curriculum developers as particularists in their attempts to
canonize Eurocentric and Anglocentric points of view or that any cultural
predestination was going on when ethnic groups were funneled into
"culturally appropriate" fields. Ravitch rightly points out that
particularism can be carried to an extreme; however, her selective
application of particularism and her failure to recognize traditional
educational curriculums as being extreme particularism undermine the
sincerity of her argument.
The message from conservatives is clear: the traditional education
worked for me and it will work for you until I deem otherwise. The final
criticism from the conservatives, while not as prominent in the literature,
identifies what I believe is at the core of all the fault-finding efforts
directed toward multicultural education programs. The liberal philosophy
of meritocracy and individualism insists on recognizing individual
differences rather than group membership (Nieto 1995). Liberal democracy
places a high value on individual worth and self-interest. Marcus,
Sullivan, Theiss-Morse, Wood (1995) and Nieto (1995) point out that the
autonomous, self-enacting individual is at the center of the United States
value pantheon and the propensity of multicultural education programs
to focus on groups rather than individuals threatens the tenets of this
liberal democracy by specifically pinpointing the idea that success in
American society many times has more to do with privilege based on race,
class and gender than on how hard the individual works.
Outcomes of A Multicultural Education
Just as the contending multicultural perspectives differ, so do the
expected outcomes of a such an education. The differences often lie in how
multicultural issues are addressed in context. Is the analysis an
in-depth look at the political, social and cultural constructs or does it
represent a superficial one at best? There was considerable literature about
the historical development of multicultural education as well as from
advocates who prescribe certain educational reforms (Banks 1996; Hillis
1993; Grant 1992; Tiedts 1990) but very little that explored the actual
students' outcomes in a multicultural curriculum. Jacob (1995) noted that
there are numerous empirical studies exploring issues related to
multicultural education such as self-esteem and intergroup relations but
"relatively little research has focused on the implementation of specific
multicultural education programs in actual school settings"
(Jacob 1995: 340). In fact, the majority of case studies have been done by
countries such as England, Canada and Australia, whose implementation
of multicultural programs has preceded that of the United States.
Jacob's (1995) case study analyzed the effects of an already
implemented multicultural curriculum at Heritage, a public "inner-city"
high school. Demographically, the student body was less than 15 percent
Caucasian, the other 85 percent representing a mix of ethnicities. As part of
a larger reform effort in the district, the multicultural education program
was created in September 1990 by a group of bilingual teachers who were
concerned about their students feeling isolated at Heritage. This program
could be identified as a critical approach to multicultural education. It used
sociopolitical issues within a cultural context to provide students and staff
an opportunity to explore and analyze difference.
Jacob's study examined how a multicultural education altered the
learning environment of students and how it influenced student
relations, attitudes and behaviors. He described his work as a "macro-or
social-organizational study" (Jacob 1995: 340). Using multicultural
initiatives that were classroom based rather than school-wide curricular
reforms, Jacob's study focused on the understanding, critical thinking and
acceptance of difference. Primary focus of the initiatives was ethnicity,
gender, race and to a lesser extent, language. His case study generated three
1. Creating and engaging in a close-knit learning
environment using activities that recognized and
celebrate cultural diversity can increase motiva-
tion and effort and school identification among
2. Despite good intentions to lessen divisions among
groups, multicultural education may provide
terrain for inter group conflict, particularly among
different minority groups.
3. The ways in which culture is discussed and
understood can have a significant impact on
student relations, attitudes and behaviors (Jacob 1995: 364).
In addition to Jacob's (1995) primary outcomes, several other
interesting findings emerged. The learning environment of Heritage's
multicultural program was multi-layered, and Jacob discovered that while
"on one level the program fostered a close-knit communal atmosphere
that improved intergroup relations." (p. 348), on another level there
existed "a complex web of relationships, experiences and conflicts" (p. 348)
that sometimes led to intergroup tension.
Demonstrating the level one aspect, a group of bilingual Latino
students explained how homeroom and extracurricular activities had
improved their relations with Black students-"they know who we are and
you know who they are" "They see you in trouble or something, they
might... try to help you..." (p. 351). Activities within the program
afforded students the opportunity to engage in informal dialogues, and
they claimed these "were the most beneficial part of the program" (p. 352).
Interestingly, when asked to describe the impact of the multicultural
program, teachers used terms such as "confidence," "voice," and "self-
esteem," and students used terms such as "comfort," "security," and
Despite the generally good relations, there were still visible
interethnic conflicts. Power struggles developed over questions like
Whose music should be played at school dances? and Which group had a
"true" culture because they had their own language? No easy answers for
the students' questions were forthcoming. Being in a multicultural
program was difficult for students because when two groups came closely
together each was forced to think about their own self and how they see
things. "You don't realize how different you are until you are among
people who are different than you are" (Jacobs 1995: 362). However, the
students responded to the conflict and formed racially balanced student
committees where they explored their differences.
A second study conducted by Nieto (1996) investigated the
implications of diversity for teaching, learning and understanding in a
multicultural society. Her research formulated around the often asked
question from educators: "Why do some students (usually students of
color and lower class) fail no matter what teachers do, whereas other
students (usually European and middle class) succeed?" Exploring
whether or not a multicultural education was meaningful and beneficial
for students from all cultural backgrounds, Nieto investigated how
schooling was influenced by (1) racism, discrimination and expectations of
students' achievements, (2) structural educational and organizational
policies and factors, (3) cultural, ethnic, race, gender and other differences.
Her results were used to create a rationale for a multicultural education.
Using student interviews, Nieto explored the relationships among home,
school, community experiences and their influences on school
achievement. Ron, a 19-year-old African American, discussed his
experiences in a Black African history class:
It was basically about Black people, but it showed
you all people instead of just Black people. It showed
us Latinos. It showed us Caucasians. It showed us
the Jews and everything how we all played a part
in what society in any country is like today....
I just felt like the realest person on earth. ..
I was just comfortable (Nieto 1996: 270).
Nieto's interview with sophomore Marisol Martinez, a first
generation daughter of Puerto Rican parents, revealed another opinion
regarding multicultural curriculums:
I don't think [having a class in Puerto Rican history]
is important. . .I'm proud of myself and my culture,
but I think I know what I should know about the
culture already, so I wouldn't take the course .. .
No, 'cause [teachers] would have to know about
Black and White and Irish [too] ... I think they
should treat us all the same. (Nieto 1995: 157)
It is dangerous and naive for educators to assume that multicultural
education programs are the panacea for racial and ethnic tensions within
society. Both studies demonstrated that. In fact, both studies demonstrated
the outcomes conservatives and liberals expect. Ethnic separatism and
ethnic-centric curriculums, what Ravitch (1991, 1990a & 1990b) referred to
as particularism, are what conservatives expect and fear. Liberals expect
students to develop an understanding of difference.
Conservative educators such as Ravitch and Schlesinger tend to see
themselves as conduits between the prevailing knowledge and the
student. They champion students learning to think critically and even
encourage them to look at conflicting historical interpretations, the
outcome of this discussion being a well-informed student and a balanced
presentation. All educators are supportive of this end, but how students
achieve their conclusion and what constitutes admissible knowledge is
where the agreement breaks down. Conservatives want to be in control of
the construction and dissemination of knowledge. They want students to
understand that yes, American history does have its warts but ultimately
we "learned to live together in peace and even achieved a sense of
common nationhood" (Ravitch 1990a: 18).
Liberal and critical educators such as Sleeter and Giroux see
themselves as innovators who deconstruct and expand the prevailing
knowledge with, not for, their students. Delpit (1992) believes that
educators have a responsibility to develop an awareness of their personal
values because this will enable educators to see the possible narrowness of
their perspectives and they to broaden both their own and their students'
understandings. Hillis (1993) also supports this premise and acknowledge
that for many educators the challenge of transforming the curriculum
requires them to confront and examine their own value systems, their
own underlying biases that were shaped in the socialization process they
endured. This requires a conversion of their own perceptions prior to
their being able to transform the world of their students. Karamcheti and
Lemert (1991) feel that multiculturalizing a curriculum is a process where
educators are willing to question themselves, the sources of their
knowledge and the authority of their teaching. The questioning results in
a new mind set where teachers begin altering their techniques and
recognizing that they "act not as authorities licensed to represent others"
because "representation itself is deeply colonizing, an imperialist activity"
(p. 18) but rather as participants in the discourse listening to others speak
Gay (1990) noted that a truly multicultural curriculum proposes that
educators change the entire process of its construction: its content,
underlying assumptions and strategies. As educators, we need to articulate
a moral vision making us accountable for how our pedagogical practices
contribute to the social consciousness, hopes and dreams of our students.
We need not create a curriculum and teaching approach intended to fit
everyone, but we must become aware of the contributions of other voices
within our respective fields. Critical multiculturalist Peter McLaren put it
best when he said a multicultural curriculum "enables students to do
more than simply adapt to the social order but rather to be able to
transform the social order in the interests of social justice" (McLaren (1988:
3) as cited in Hursh 1992: 32).
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY AND SOURCES OF DATA COLLECTION
As stated in the introduction, using the exploratory study as my
qualitative research model allowed for the integration of case study
methodology, ethnographic research and conversational analysis. I wore
many hats as the action-researcher (Corey 1953), the participant-observer
(Kelly 1993) and the teacher. The action research model allowed me to try
out new ideas as a means of increasing knowledge, improving the
curriculum arid increasing learning (Kemmis, McTaggart 1982). Selecting
my classroom as a field site meant I could immerse myself in the
classroom, observing how my students constructed a meaning system
within the educational structure and how they conceptualized and
operationalized the research question (Neuman 1994). My students were
my co-researchers. Diedre Kelly (1993) addressed the strengths and
weaknesses of involving students as participatory researchers. Students
can be co-researchers; "they can be involved in identifying a research
problem, collecting evidence, analyzing and interpreting findings and
formulating action plans based on the findings" (Kelly 1993: 11).
Being a strong advocate of students formulating their own
opinions, I rarely share mine and instead encourage them to develop their
own. Early on, students are informed that all opinions are welcomed as
long as we follow classroom protocol e.g. listening respectfully and
honoring multiple viewpoints. Students are well aware of the fact that I
will often play the devil's advocate, inviting them to participate in
critically analyzing how various conclusions, including their own, are
formed. A valuable by-product of this pedagogy is that is promotes the
development of trust and the idea of a "safe" classroom where students
freely volunteer their opinions and evaluations because it is part of an
academic exercise, not a judgmental evaluation. Controversial topics like
abortion, gay rights and racism truly test this philosophical platform as
students engage in sometimes heated exchanges that require me, the
facilitator, to maintain distance while simultaneously diffusing and
encouraging an overcharged atmosphere.
Anticipating an intense scrutiny of the research methods, charges of
over-involvement, conflict of interest and the loss of researcher
perspective, I developed a detailed and extensive description of the
compiled data. One of the criticisms leveled at this research approach and
methodology is that the lines of subjectivity and objectivity are blurred. It
is assumed that the teacher/researcher is indoctrinating student activists
and prejudicing them against the values of the status quo in order to
support research results, thus affecting the ecological validity of the study.
It was impossible to completely eliminate my effect and my bias as the
researcher. Because of this, it was critical to not only pay attention to every
word I chose in conveying an idea, concept or understanding but also to
rigorously guard against my imposing my views on the students (Kelly
1993) Fundamental ethical concerns of social research required the
development and issuance of a research-specific, informed consent form
that identified the purpose of the research and the intended use of the
results (See form 1.0). Anonymity and confidentiality were honored.
Effective teaching of any kind is student-centered rather than
teacher-dominated. Teaching involves a complex interweaving of
perspectives and values (Maher 1987b) and students' perspectives
represent a wealth of information, a power source, albeit an often ignored
and invalidated one. Within my classroom I tap into that power source
and establish trusting social relations with my students. As a proponent of
student involvement in the development of classroom activities and
procedures, I invite students to become active co-creators rather than
remaining passive observers (Friere 1968). Prior to delving into any
history curriculum, the students and I together create a classroom
environment that is mutually respectful. Students often comment that
they are rarely asked their opinions elsewhere and thus they conclude that
their contributions and opinions are not worth much.
From day one I begin to unravel that misconception by inviting
students to participate in creating a safe classroom because "in a democracy
all sides of an issue deserve a hearing" (Gaskall 1988, quoted in
Kelly 1993: 54). Together we create our own classroom constitution.
Initially students are surprised, but they quickly adjust and the
"constitutional convention" becomes very animated. Without the
"traditional teacher" responses of telling students what to do and how to
behave, a new sense of responsibility develops within the student.
Students are more willing to self-evaluate and self-correct within this
environment because they have participated in constructing it.
It is "important for students to have a sense of power, to feel that
their existing interests are being built upon or stretched and then acted
upon" (Kelly 1993: 11). After all, how can we expect children to get
involved in making their world better if we continually trivialize their
observations and contributions. Having a hand in creating the system
empowers the student as he/she confronts the knowledge and reshapes it
to include his/her own experiences too.
Wheat Ridge High School is located in a suburb of Denver,
Colorado, in Jefferson County. In the fall of 1996, Wheat Ridge celebrated
its centennial. The school has strong community ties and parental
involvement. Ethnically the student population is 88% Caucasian, 7%
Hispanic, 1% Black, 2% Asian or Pacific Islander and .5% American Indian
or Alaskan. Academically, Wheat Ridge had a graduation rate of 86% in
1994 1995, with 77% of those students going on to college (Wheat Ridge
Senior High North Central Report 1997).
Dave Hendrickson, Principal at Wheat Ridge Senior High,
granted permission for research to be conducted at the school. Two steps
were used in the process to select students for the research. The first was
the completion of the Student Information Sheet (SIS). (See form 1.1.)
Every year students within my classes are asked to complete these
identification forms. 33 sentence stems on the SIS include topics such as
favorite musician, food and movie. Step two was the actual selection of
the student-participants. In order to avoid any initial bias or handwriting
recognition, the SIS forms were read immediately prior to my receiving
any assignment from the student. Identification of the student and parent
was concealed and only sentence stems 6-33 were read through. A second
read-through was conducted with particular attention to
specific responses or non-responses to sentence stems 20 33. Those
sentence stems were as follows:
20. I like_______ about America.
21. I would like to improve______about America.
22. Culture is _________.
23. Culture is not _______.
24. Multiculturalism is _________.
25. Multiculturalism is not _________.
26. History is____________.
27. History is not_______________.
28. History should include ____________.
29. History should not include ___________.
30. Critical thinking is ________.
31. Critical thinking is not __________.
32. Teenage culture is __________.
33. Teenage culture is not ____________.
Attention was directed to the student-responses on numbers 20 33
to see what opinions, ideas and conclusions had or had not already been
formulated. Based upon their responses or non-responses to those
sentence stems on the SIS, 33 high school sophomores 18 female and 15
male were selected from four separate sections of American History
classes. These 33 students were formally invited to be participants in the
research. Ethnically the group broke down into 91% white, 6% Hispanic,
3% other. The grade point average of the students was not a criterion for
The topic of the research was introduced to the students and it was
explained to them that the research would include interviews, evaluation
of assignments, and requests for their work. It was made extremely clear
that none of the research had anything to do with their grade in the class
and that all information would be confidential. Some of the students
indicated they wanted extra credit for participating; however, none was
given. Of the original 33 students selected, two were scheduled into other
classes at the semester, three students dropped out of school and two
students chose not to participate because both were leaving for Australia at
the semester. Thus, 26 students remained in the research throughout its
This study used four sources of data: 1. As the participant-observer, I
took random notes hourly, daily and/or weekly dependent on discussions,
written assignments and/or responses of particular students. 2.
Assignment-interview forms (See form 1.2) with individual student
responses were solicited upon the completion of different curricular units.
3. A variety of student written materials, including assignment interview
forms tests, weekly assignments, etc. was collected, and 4. Interviews were
conducted on two separate occasions: one a separate interview with two of
the student-researchers and two a culminating group interview was
conducted with all students who participated in the research.
The initial collection of data began with personal observations
which constituted an average weekly three to four hour observation of
student comments and reactions (either written or verbal) to the
American History curriculum. Essentially these data amounted to field
notes containing student responses within the historical context that
intentionally excluded any personal interpretation. The field notes could
fall into two categories-routine and unanticipated (Neuman 1994).
Routine data were gathered in the form of assignment-interview forms;
and unanticipated data consisted of student remarks, both oral and written
that, although not solicited, had addressed some aspect of the research.
At the conclusion of any day in which data were collected, I wrote
narrative accounts of the events of the day. Students were also asked to
come in and elaborate on the meaning of their comments in the
discussion, and whenever possible, these interviews took place as close to
the actual discussion as possible. This information gathering is not
something that is peculiar to only the research because as an educator, I
have sought out student input throughout my career. Before each
interview, I obtained permission to interview the student, explained the
research project and assured the student that the interview was
The ongoing form of data collection consisted of student-completed
assignment interview forms (See form 1.2). Upon the completion of
different curricular units, e.g. Westward Expansion, students were asked to
complete subject-specific questionnaires. I distributed these assignment
interview forms to every participant in the research; however, not every
form was returned. While the assignment interview form followed a
teacher question-student answer format, the interests, insights and
responses of the respondents often directed additional information
gathering and further elaboration.
The fourth data source included the collection of a variety of
student generated information, e.g. tests, daily and weekly assignments,
etc. This information was randomly gathered based upon student
responses to various questions. An example of this would be the weekly
Save Disks that students complete. The Save Disk is a daily question or
task that students answer at the beginning of the period. This device is
used primarily to check for understanding or to create an anticipatory set
prior to the daily classroom activity.
The final source of information involved a closing group interview
with all of the students who had participated in the formal research. The
interview was designed to have students explore and elaborate on the
educational journey they had undertaken since the beginning of the year.
Within the interview, students explored a number of interrelated issues:
1. What did the multicultural perspectives do to their understanding of
American society today? 2. Had their understanding of American History
changed and if so how? 3. What recommendations would they make for
all history curriculums? 4. How could they participate in making their
society a better place for all? and 5. What did it now mean to be a critical
thinker as opposed to someone who simply criticizes an idea or system?
The researcher began with an assumption about the existence of a
possible relationship between multicultural curriculums and the
development of critical thinking in adolescents. The data were organized
around curricular units, e.g. Reconstruction, using an inductive
methodology referred to as grounded theory. Grounded theory allows the
insights, relationships and theories to emerge out of the data itself
(Neuman 1994). Rather than approaching the analysis with preconceived
themes, the researcher systematically arranges the collected data to
generate initial concepts and explore initial understandings. The
advantage of grounded theory is that it allows the researcher to identify
critical ideas, themes and relationships that may not have been addressed
by previous theory or research. Indeed, this methodology enables the
author to follow the students' lead and allow for student-initiated
understandings, definitions and conclusions.
Stage one of analysis consisted of open coding used in both the
personal observations and the assignment interview forms. Open coding
allowed the researcher to organize the raw data into conceptual categories,
creating themes or concepts which could be used to analyze the data
(Neuman 1994). Each assignment-interview form was read a specific
number of times (depending upon the number of questions asked on the
form) line by line to generate initial categories. A second stage of coding
occurred once the initial categories had been established. Each assignment-
interview form was reviewed a second time to identify consistent themes
and relationships. The third and final coding then compared the
occurrence of the general and common themes across all data sources.
CHAPTER FOUR: RESEARCH AND RESULTS
At Wheat Ridge High School, the sophomore American History
curriculum is a survey course. Using the book The United States: A
History of the Republic (1981), the course begins with a study of pre-
Columbian peoples and concludes with a summation of the United States
and its diverse population as of 1981. The text divides American history
into eras, e.g. Creating a Republic, Expansion, etc. The textbook does not
include a multiculturalized treatment of American history but does
periodically interject the struggles and conflicts that peoples of color,
ethnic groups and women have had to endure. Chapter 16, "A Land of
Idealism (1820 I860)," for example, contains separate units discussing
women's rights, battles against slavery and attempts at social reform.
The pedagogical strategies utilized can be described as interactive,
participatory and critical/inquiry. Inquiry teaching promotes the
development of "students as active learners and problem solvers rather
than as passive receptacles of information" (Maher 1987b: 186). The
relationships within the classroom are multi-faceted and consist of a
combination student-to-student, teacher-to-student and student-to-teacher
dynamics. Within this classroom the idea of a learning partnership
existing between student and teacher is emphasized throughout the year.
From the minute students walk into the classroom, attempts are made to
dismantle their long-held assumptions about a history class (boring and
irrelevant) and about teachers being the ultimate source of information.
Educator Bill Bigelow identified the importance of including students.
"When we fail to engage students in thinking critically about their own
schooling, the hidden message is: Don't analyze the institutions that shape
your lives; don't ask who benefits, who suffers and how it got to be this
way; just shut up and do as you are told" (Bigelow 1994:117).
Serious and ongoing invitations are extended to the students,
asking them to become consultants with the educator in evaluating what
they learn and the purpose of learning it. In an attempt to promote critical
thinking in the classroom, I consistently ask students to unpack their
thinking process, to deconstruct historical assumptions, facts, events, etc.
One interesting exchange illustrates the process the students and I often
undertake. A video was recently shown documenting the experiences of
Irish immigrants to America. A historian claimed that "the Irish were the
first poor in America." Students were asked to take that assumption apart.
"What is wrong with that statement?" I asked. Students responded that
the Irish were not the first poor because the blacks and other immigrants
were poor prior to arrival of the Irish. "Anyone else?" I asked. One student
commented that "the Native Americans were poor." "Were they?" I
asked. Another student responded that "they were poor in our eyes but
they were not poor in their eyes because we used our standards to evaluate
their society." While this represents a very superficial attempt at
knowledge-deconstruction, the point is that students are repeatedly drawn
into this process in an attempt to analyze historical conclusions, identify
cultural privilege and teach critical thinking.
Because this case study illustrated several interesting thinking
phenomena occurring in the student-learning process, it became necessary
to identify and define the three modes of thinking discussed in the
research. The author identified the thinking modalities as reactive,
reflective and critical. Reactive thinking consisted of the students' initial
reaction to multiculturalizing the curriculum. Reflective thinking
indicated the students' further reflections on the implications of these
additional multicultural perspectives added to their understanding of
American history. Critical thinking occurred when the student actually
began to deconstruct the information and knowledge that has come to
represent the American historical story. Research results were collected
within three different curricular units and from classroom discussions.
History. Multiculturalism and Critical Thinking: What Are They??
The student-information forms were used in order to establish an
initial understanding of how the student-researchers define, comprehend
and conceptualize history, multiculturalism and critical thinking. Eighty-
eight percent of the student-researchers responded that history had
something to do with the past, and other responses included "events that
change history," "culture, a key to the future" and "all right most of the
time." While 63% of the student-researchers acknowledged that
multiculturalism had something to do with "many cultures," far more
diverse responses were offered, such as "people coming together to make
one," "acceptance," "interesting," "a great way to get to know different
people," and what the researcher saw as a student's attempt to identify a
multicultural place "similar to California." While not representing a
majority, there was, however, a common response when students
conceptualized critical thinking as being "thinking hard." Additional
responses included "thinking deep to come up with great thoughts,"
"evaluating everything," "thinking with an open mind," "decisions that
really matter" and "good for democracy." A lack of response did not
eliminate a student from the research.
An additional attempt was made by the researcher to understand
how students distinguish critical thinking skills from mere criticizing.
Overwhelmingly, 70% of the students identified criticizing as being
negative, destructive and of little value. Three young ladies specifically
identified criticism as being too easy, and Jane remarked that criticizing
others "didn't force you to look below the surface." Critical thinking on
the other hand was deemed valuable because it encouraged more open-
minded thinking, better writing, offered a solution and had real world
applications that can be positive.
Separate Interview with two student-researchers
As a class we had just finished studying the Revolutionary War,
and a question was posed to the students as to whether or not we (the
United States) were now a nation? I listed the characteristics of nation-
common language, religion, customs, etc. A very interesting discussion
ensued with the students questioning the "one nation under God" phrase
within the Pledge of Allegiance. Based upon their responses in the class
discussion, Nathan and Jane were asked if they would mind being
interviewed about their responses? They both came in after school that
day and we had a conversation.
Author: Nathan what did the conversation in class today
generate for you?
Nathan: A lot of mixed feelings about our country, that it is
Author: What do you mean by different?
Nathan: We have a lot of different cultures, beliefs. People
coming from different countries.
Author: When I say "different" . How do you understand
Nathan: When someone says someone is different they
immediately assume it is for the worst because they aren't
Author: So, when Jane says one nation under God, what does
that mean to you?
Nathan: That the government would like us to believe that
we are all the same . .
Nathan went on to describe the United States as not being perfect
because there was racism and discrimination toward other religions and
beliefs. While he did believe that many problems were related to racism,
he was not hopeless and recommended that schools can make a difference.
Specifically he suggested that no more "nationality questions" be asked of
students because "we're all supposed to be equal." In class, Jane was the
student who initially asked, "Why do we say we are one nation under
God?" I explained to the students that the phrase had only been added to
the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950s. After school, Jane and I discussed her
reaction to "one nation under God."
Author: Jane, where did that question about one nation
under God come form?
Jane: We (the class) were talking about what nations are,
characteristics and all...
And I thought of how different we are and that we aren't a
nation and then the Pledge of Allegiance came to mind.
Author: Why does the pledge say one nation under God?
Jane: We are all similar. Actually we are all the same.
Author: What does that imply-we are all the same?
Jane: We dress the same, same culture, we are all the same,
everyone is the same.
Author: So what do we as a society do with the concept of
Jane: Difference is thrown out of the picture basically . and
we show that difference is wrong . because we're
prejudiced ... I guess we don't accept change.
Jane and Nathan demonstrated a cognitive dissonance about what
they had learned and what they were now learning. They were
confronting the incongruency but were unaware of it within their own
statements. Jane and Nathan demonstrated the reactive thinking; and as
questions were posed by the author, both students began to reflect on
various societal conceptions of difference and sameness. Educationally, a
"transformative educational goal" (Banks 1988: 15) presented itself:
helping students develop skills and insights necessary to critically question
some of their underdeveloped assumptions and teach them to expand
their macro- and microcultural perspectives.
Developmentally, most adolescents dwell in the world of concrete
thought. As operational thinkers, at the sophomore level they are
beginning to think in the abstract and are no longer "cognitively bound to
the world as they know it" (Ramsey 1992: 251). Often, they idealistically
attempt to solve hypothetical problems and begin to consider a world
outside their own. Within this transition a recognition of injustice begins
to take shape and a commitment to righting wrongs germinates. For the
educator this becomes a critical juncture representing an opportunity to
provide students with cognitive tools such as research, investigative,
hypothesis- testing and debating skills that can be introduced and nurtured
in this transition. Thus, students learn to add to their knowledge base and
begin to develop strategies for reevaluating previously underdeveloped
assumptions and for participating in social change. As students embark on
their life journeys, the need for them to know and critically analyze all
that they see and learn becomes essential.
Results and Analysis of Curricular Units:
Curricular Area: Civil War
Students prepared for the Civil War unit by reading the chapter
entitled "The Cords of the Union Broken." They were responsible for
identifying the causes of the Civil War and an actual log-splitting activity
is used to illustrate the splitting of the nation. This year students also
participated in a classroom debate over the recent controversy of flying the
Confederate flag over the South Carolina statehouse. Following the
discussion, assignment-interview forms were distributed asking student-
researchers to evaluate the South Carolina incident. Of the 26
questionnaires distributed, 17 were returned and one student did not
remember the class discussion.
The first question asked students to articulate their opinion
regarding the flying of the Confederate flag over the South Carolina
statehouse. Categorically, many students believed displaying the
Confederate flag was wrong; the differences lie in why the students
thought flying the flag was wrong. Seven students said the statehouse was
a state building that represented the thoughts and feelings of all South
Carolina and flying the flag ignored that. They went on to explain that
only state flags should be flown over the statehouse and that the
Confederate flag could be flown at a private residence. Four students
believed it gave consent to slavery and thus was not right anywhere. One
student believed that "all racist symbols, Confederate flag, Nazi symbols"
should be banned from government buildings. Three students, however,
did not see it as being wrong but rather an issue of legal rights where
South Carolina voters or if necessary the Supreme Court should decide if
the flag should be flown.
Even after students acknowledged that the flag represented slavery
and was offensive, they struggled with the idea of criticizing someone else
for his beliefs. One student, Ed, explaining that he "believes in total and
complete equality," was unable to see the incongruency of his own
thinking when he proclaimed that "the only people I do not think of as
equals are racists." He felt that the Confederate flag represented racism and
it "certainly should not be flown over the South Carolina statehouse." A
most interesting response came from Bob who remarked that he "hated it
(the flag flying) but it was insignificant because he won't pledge allegiance
to any flag." Furthermore, in the second question where students were
asked to explain their reaction, Bob claimed that "nobody thinks twice
when they see the United States flag but it represents the same thing as the
Confederate flag-racism, tyranny, greed and bigotry. They're both stars and
stripes of corruption. I'm looking forward to the day that we burn all
flags." Bob went on to explain that when one "looks back into history,
United States in the past, in the present and what they're going to do in
the future, they (the United States) don't learn from their mistakes. They
will continue making them and kill all of us in the process and all the
clone automatons can die fighting for their useless piece of cloth."
Throughout the research, Bob consistently demonstrated all three modes
of thought. In the first question his initial reaction was hate; and he
subsequently integrated both reflective thought-the United States' inability
to learn from its mistakes, and critical thought-when he identified the
United States flag as representing the same things as the Confederate flag-
racism, tyranny, greed and bigotry.
Curricular Area: Reconstruction
After studying the Civil War, students delved into the
Reconstruction period by analyzing different plans to rebuild the South.
Within their textbook, students read a chapter entitled "A Difficult
Reunion," and are required to analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of
the three proposed plans of reconstruction. Students attempt to put the log
back together just as it was prior to being split but are unable to do so. They
decide to duct tape the log because it reflected the scar that the Civil War
left on the nation. The unit concluded with a viewing of the movie The
Autobiography of Miss Tane Pittman. Following the video, student-
researchers were asked to compare and contrast the perspectives presented
in the textbook and the video. Of the 26 questionnaires distributed, 21 were
When asked to identify the perspective of the movie, students'
answers obviously and consistently acknowledged the female, Black, slave
and freed-slave experience. Regarding the textbook responses, students'
reactive thoughts included some very cynical observations. Students
identified the white perspective as being "the winning side, written by
those who were discriminating," or as coming from "historians who got
their information from newspapers or educated people back then who
were mostly white, male and maybe rich," and "from people who really
didn't know what the slaves were going through." Two very interesting
responses came from Josh, who remarked that the textbook made it sound
"like the slaves didn't have any problems after the Civil War," and Katie,
who thought that the "textbook made it seem like the whites were the
victims of some issues."
When asked to identify what they saw as multicultural, both in the
movie and in the textbook, 52% of the students in their initial thoughts,
felt that the video had more of a multicultural presentation than the
textbook, but their reflective thoughts revealed different explanations as to
what constitutes a multicultural perspective. One student identified the
multicultural perspective as existing in the video because it told "the Black
person's view while including a white-male who wants to know and hear
about Miss Jane's perspective." Steve commented that the video and the
book were multicultural because the video has "scenes where everyone
(black and white) was playing baseball and similar scenes" and the book
was multicultural because "at least two or more ethnic groups got together
and did things that reflect each other's culture."
Consistently, Bob was unwilling to accept anything at face value
presented to him. His critique of the textbook demonstrated a profound
understanding of Reconstruction because he concluded that despite the
North's efforts to establish equal rights for blacks "their efforts didn't really
make that much of a difference because the South just made laws to go
against the freedom of slaves and if laws weren't enough, they used
Curricular Area: Westward Expansion
Students begin this unit by reading a chapter entitled "The Western
Frontier," which discusses the expansion West by looking at the effects of
expansion on indigenous nations and the development of the American
pioneer spirit. As part of the unit, students are asked to read and analyze
actual treaties that the United States entered into with indigenous nations.
The unit also includes inviting an indigenous guest speaker to discuss the
results of the treaties. The unit concluded with a viewing of the Ken
Burns' videos: The West and A Speck of the Future. Following the videos,
assignment interview forms were given to students who evaluated the
videos. Of the 26 questionnaires distributed, 21 were returned.
Question one asked students to identify what they knew about
westward expansion and the Gold Rush prior to seeing the videos.
Students had a general understanding of people going West for gold and
six students commented that they were aware of how hard the journey
was. There was very little understanding of the impact the Gold Rush had
on indigenous peoples nor of the Chinese immigrant experience in
building the railroad. In fact, Angela a Hispanic young woman,
commented that "it seems everything we've ever been taught was
After viewing the video, students were asked to respond separately
to the treatment of indigenous peoples, Mexicans who had been living in
California and Chinese immigrants. The videos countered the typical
historical claims that Indian raids were common, explaining that there
was much trading going on between peoples. In fact, the videos claimed
that in most instances men died as a result of their own folly. The students
are not unfamiliar with the persecution and oppression indigenous
peoples have endured in the settling of America, but many students still
expressed shock at the treatment (slavery, prostitution, murder and
genocide) of the indigenous peoples of California. Their reactive thoughts
included comments from Ellen, who observed that the indigenous people
"were killed by the bunches like the Holocaust and their land was
wrongfully taken away and people made them out to be more savage and
violent that they really were." Scott was surprised that "people killed the
buffalo, which were the indigenous peoples' food, for sport and to get rid
of the natives" and Ed had a very powerful response-"horrid massacres
and the lies."
The students were largely unaware of the Spanish presence in
California prior to the Gold Rush, and the videos explained the missions
and the large land holdings of the Mexican people. In response to the
treatment of Mexicans, 11 students commented that the Mexican people
were rim off their lands and left with nothing. Julie commented that the
Mexican people were "deported back to Mexico and treated like
immigrants when the whites were the immigrants." Bob observed that the
Mexican people "gave the '49ers a labor force to exploit and those that
weren't exploited were turned into illegal aliens."
The remarks regarding the treatment of the Chinese are quite
lengthy, revealing how little students actually knew about Chinese
immigrants. Steve, a Japanese-American student, commented that the
Chinese were "blamed for the bad luck and (the miners) wanted to get rid
of them, just exterminate them." Six students discussed the inhumane
treatment minorities received, and Bob specifically stated that "they (the
minorities) were subhuman, standing in the way of progress and "our"
right to unlimited wealth." Four students pointed out that the legislative
attempts to require Chinese to pay a large fee and a 50% tax on their claims
amounted to legalized discrimination.
The final question asked students to discuss what happened to their
understanding of American history when a multicultural perspective is
added. While questions one through five reveal much more reactive
thought, this last question illustrated the reflective thought of students'
responses. A variety of reactions ranged from shame, disgust, sadness and
confusion to a newfound appreciation for having an overall better
understanding of history. Nathan remarked that it made him feel "like
patriotism is a farce and made him feel the opposite of it." Katie was very
fatalistic "there has never been and never will be total peace between
people." Shelly now wonders "what all is being said and what isn't" when
she is listening to information given within a classroom setting, and
Susan now understands "why many of them (other cultures of people)
don't like Americans."
Maryann had a newfound appreciation because she considered the
multicultural additions to the curriculum as responsible for making her
smarter and that she was even "lucky to be given all sides of American
history." Others concurred with Maryann in that their understanding of
history had broadened and the multicultural perspective allowed them to
understand some of the hate in society today and even conclude that "if all
versions of history were taught then maybe there wouldn't be so much
discrimination and prejudice."
Cognitively, many students experienced a dissonance and wondered
"what else they told us that was not true, if the idols that we have grown
up to respect and look up to enjoyed murdering Indian women and
children?" Bob concluded his observations with a powerful statement
about learning anything:
"The understanding of (history) varies from
person to person. You don't know what to
believe when a multicultural perspective is
added. It gives you the idea that it might not
be true. History has evolved to the point
where I can't honestly believe it. We're so far
into in. I think government, construction,
civil history is meaningless propaganda."
I was not sure what Bob meant by his use of "construction;" but I
was again appreciative of his critical observations. Disturbed by the
overwhelming sense of hopelessness in all that Bob critiqued, I attempted
to reconfigure the reality he had presented. Instead of chiding him for his
cynicism, I challenged him to use it as fuel to make the world a better
place. "We need students like you, to wake us up!" I said. He smiled at me
that day, and shortly thereafter, he began sharing his poetry with me. We
continue to have a dialogue about his perceptions, though largely in a
The interview was conducted during the school day. Curricularly
the students had just completed a unit on America's empire building
where we had focused on the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy
in 1893. The session began with me asking a question about what the
multicultural presentations within the history class had done to their
understanding of American history and their understanding of American
society today. Student reactions to this became the basis for directing
further inquiry (Maher 1987b). In all, twelve questions were asked and out
of the 26 student-researchers, 19 showed up for the interview. Throughout
the interview the dominant theme that emerged was responsibility, both
in a passive sense (thinking) and in an active sense (actions).
All of the student-researchers in one way or another commented
that the multicultural curriculum had "broadened their horizons on
everything." Many of the students could identify a relationship between
the information learned in class and the conditions in society today.
Angela commented that "a lot of things that happened then affect our
society today." Jane also identified a relationship between the hatred and
racism within America's history as still having effects today. While some
students concurred that "there will always be some form of stereotyping
and some form of racism," others felt that getting "both sides of the story"
was beneficial in "breaking down the stereotypes." Using his grandparents
in South Carolina as examples of racists who think "the blacks should
never have been freed," and his mom who is "very anti-racist," Ed felt
that a multicultural curriculum and time helps to "filter out the racism."
When asked what this newfound multicultural information
required from them as they went out into the world, many commented
about the passive responsibilities of an "open-mind," and "a willingness
to listen and learn from others." Maryann was the only student who
identified more with the active form of responsibility as being "the hardest
thing about it. .it does require a lot of responsibility from yourself and
others around you. You have to take action when you hear something in
the halls or in a classroom, you have to say I don't appreciate that."
Their sense of student responsibility had also changed because
many of them commented that no longer would they simply accept what
was told to them in a classroom setting. Shelly commented that she would
now wonder "if there was more to the story than what you are being told
by the teacher." The students were quick to point out, however, that how
they reacted would greatly depend on the teacher. Even though Anne now
believed that "in order for us to know what we want to know, we must
challenge you (the teacher) and ourselves," she also pointed out that "in
our society we are taught that it is wrong to question the teachers."
Conceptually, the idea that the teacher is the central authority, has
been ingrained in popular education since the beginning. This
acknowledgment by the students is significant because the belief that "the
teacher is always the authority" paralyzes their willingness to share their
opinion (Gore 1993). I attempt to alter the teacher-student power dynamic
toward a more democratic, emancipatory form. My students stated they
had been encouraged to formulate their own opinions and had been given
opportunities to do so because "their opinion mattered." There are
difficulties, however, in achieving this relationship. Friere described
students who had been conditioned by the traditional, authoritarian
teacher. When confronted with the premise that "we in this class are
different, we have the right to think and to ask questions and to criticize"
(Shor and Friere 1987: 93, as cited in Gore 1993: 105), the students believe
sometimes that they are in a position of equality with the teacher and
therefore are on equal academic ground. Within this dynamic, the teacher
must tread carefully so as to encourage the students' newfound academic
curiosity and freedom, and to also emphasize the sense of academic and
democratic responsibility this new freedom requires.
Demonstrating the more active form of responsibility, Dan stated
that not only do students need to "find out another side," but they need to
"go out and find something else out... go digging on our own." Josh
developed critical questions he would now use to "read between the
lines." "Who wrote it? and What is their perspective?" would now
become part of his student routine.
The final questions discussed two items: 1. the difference between
critical thinking and criticizing and 2. their responsibilities as students to
their society. Again students indicated some passive responsibility in their
thought-processes. Carrie concluded that critical thinkers were more
"open-minded . thinks of all sides." Angela discussed a student who
"goes beyond what they really need to know... they want to know more,
to know why, know the other sides." Jane said that critical thinkers "really
look beyond the surface to form a better conclusion."
Attempting to see how they would apply their critical thinking
skills, I asked, "How can you now go into society and make it a better
place?" Immediately, one student said, "We can correct the wrongs. We
can learn from the past" and she then began discussing Hawaii. Many
students seemed to be more uncomfortable about the illegal overthrow
and the coercion used to "take away their (native-Hawaiians) right to vote
at the bayonet on a gun" then they had been with other historical
injustices. I concluded that it seemed more "recent" to them and because
the students could identify with the form of government in Hawaii, they
appeared to give the story more legitimacy than they had to native nations
of the Americas. After a discussion of possible remedies to the situation in
Hawaii, Angela said, "Let them decide what they want, we're still deciding
for them. It doesn't matter what they know or don't know, they should
have the opportunity to find out what they want."
The interview process is an interesting one because while we enter
it to discover information about a particular subject, we emerge from the
experience with a newfound awareness about ourselves. As we talked and
as Fine (1994) discovered in her research, I found myself ever conscious
about how I participate in constructing the student who sits before me. A
glance, a facial expression, a comment on an assignment can reinforce
both positive and negative images that become ongoing in the students'
own narrative. A reccurring theme across all data sources was a sense of
betrayal by the teachers they had trusted, and a sense of disillusionment.
Frustrated and confused, many of them did not know what to believe
anymore, leading them to ask me, "Why didn't they (teachers) tell us the
truth?" I often turn the question around and ask them why they think
their teachers did not tell you the "truth?" The responses range from "they
didn't know this information" to "they weren't allowed to teach us this."
As an educator, I find that this conversation is the most encouraging
because they are beginning to critically question and investigate the
construction of their knowledge and the constructors of that knowledge.
The goal of knowledge construction becomes the creation of a "tapestry,
not an umbrella, in which given perspectives and experiences are seen as
equally valid, partial and subject to elucidation by comparison with each
other" (Maher 1987b: 187).
Adolescence represents the greatest disturbance to one's self-concept
(Crain, Bracken 1994). Cognitively, adolescents are moving out of
operational thought and into abstract thought (Ramsey 1992). The positive
outgrowth of the multicultural curriculum is a critical investigation that
is more possible with high school sophomores than it is with elementary
and middle school students. This journey is frightening and when
previously held "truths" are challenged, the student often resorts to the
polarized explanation. Either the teachers were telling us the truth or they
weren't. As they begin to maneuver through these multicultural
perspectives, their maturing thought processes enable them to analyze and
understand their cognitive dissonance. In their search for understanding,
they discover the elusiveness and situatedness of truth. They also discover
that to struggle with new perspectives is not akin to being lied to but to an
expansion of their knowledge. "Knowledge must be seen as
multidimensional and multifaceted: the same set of facts, were they
available, would not yield the same conclusions for all"
(Maher 1987b: 188). Most American history textbooks justify the "best"
solution in the name of long-term "progress." Progress, like most
universal concepts, is only applicable to the advancement of specific
groups. Critical thinking requires the student to dissect those universal
assumptions, to examine the relationships among people and their
situatedness historically. Much more is required of the student because
critical thinking does not constrain the students to decide on a "best"
solution (Maher 1987b) but rather challenges their interpretation of reality
where they then interrogate "the injustices and inequalities of the status
quo by asking the question 'Why are things the way they are?"'
(Stumpf-Jongsma 1991: 518).
At times my history course challenges my students in ways that are
deeply unsettling and uncomfortable. Students sometimes comment "that
their brain hurts" or that I have "tweaked our thinking" because of the
discussions we have had. This is not an easy place for students and
teachers to be and that must be honored. But as we critically investigate
and comprehend our world, warts and all, it becomes our joint
responsibility to ferret out an understanding, a truth. It becomes my
additional responsibility to guide the students through their confusion. I
am conscious of the power I have as a teacher and the awesome
responsibility. Commitment to engaged critical "pedagogy carries with it
the willingness to be responsible, not to pretend that I do not have the
power to change the direction of my students' lives" (hooks 1994: 206). The
development of a more inclusive, engaged perspective, peppered with a
healthy dose of cynicism, requires a critical inquiry for both participants.
The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between a
multicultural curriculum and critical thinking in adolescents. The study
generated three primary findings. (1) A multicultural curriculum
promotes three different types of thinking among adolescents. (2) Despite
good intentions, a multicultural curriculum presented near the end of a
student's educational experience may promote a sense of betrayal, a sense
of guilt, and/or a sense of loss (3) A multicultural approach to history
promotes the emergence of different types of responsibility among
students. This final section will discuss various practical applications and
Because of the emphasis on an interactive classroom and the depth
of understanding which my students undertake, the creation, integration
and presentation of a transformative multicultural curriculum did take
additional time and requires additional research to be completed by the
teacher. Critics would argue that valuable time was taken from the
presentation of a traditional American History curriculum. I would argue
that the traditional curriculum must be transformed.
Given its limited scope, this study did not assess the long-term
impact of a multicultural curriculum, whether the multicultural
curriculum will have any substantial effect on long-term students'
academic achievement or societal success. The endeavors students were
willing to participate in can have a positive, although perhaps limited,
impact on their behaviors and on their attitudes. The success of this
experience relied entirely on the interest and dedication of the students
and the teacher (Jacob 1995).
1. A multicultural curriculum promotes three types of thinking.
More than any other aspect of the research, this one focused on the
processes students undergo to develop an understanding of what they are
learning. The objectives of a multicultural curriculum are both affective
and cognitive-affective being the reactive, emotional state of the students'
thinking and cognitive being the reflective, knowing state. Cognitively,
critical thinking represents the higher order thinking, the analysis,
problem-solving, evaluative thinking.
Classrooms are typically "flat" affectively because educators are
often uncomfortable with heated emotional exchanges. A student's knee-
jerk response to a historical injustice can quickly polarize a classroom
discussion and "encourage rigidity and dogma rather than growth"
(Watts, Trickett, Birman 1994: 463). Cognitively, the traditional classroom
emphasizes the transfer of "knowledge" to the child. An inquiry/critical
classroom would promote the student moving through all three of these
thinking domains and arriving at a sense of action and responsibility.
Students would learn to value the active process of exploration and
discovery in their thinking.
Reflective thought "links knowledge, values, empowerment and
action" (Banks 1993: 24). Reflective thinking provides an opportunity for
the students to recast and reframe their reactive (emotional) and cognitive
(intellectual) understanding of the curriculum (Kelly, Azelton, Burzette,
Mock 1994). A critical classroom where students are reflecting and
dissecting their thoughts places far more demands on the participants
because of the concerted efforts to understand each other's perspectives. It
is not surprising that there is a lack of reflective dialogue in American
schools. Educator Bob Peterson used John Goodlad's research to (1994)
point out that "less than 1% of instructional time in high school is
devoted to discussion that requires some kind of response involving
reasoning or an opinion from students" (Peterson 1994: 30).
A related pedagogy is reflective teaching. Gore (1993) drawing on the
works of Ken Zeichner and van Manen, created a definition for reflective
Reflective teaching refers to teaching which attends,
mindfully, to the social and political context of schooling, as
well as to technical and practical aspects, and which also
assesses classroom actions on the basis of students abilities to
contribute toward greater equity and social justice and more
humane conditions in society. (Gore 1993: 149)
Gore also identifies specific student activities, e.g. journal-keeping,
autobiographies, ethnographic studies, case methods and collaborative
learning, that aid in actualizing this form of reflective teaching. A critical
multicultural education would compliment this teaching style because it
emphasizes the development of reflective thought and action in the
students (Nieto 1995).
My research demonstrated that most students are generally not yet
prepared to think critically. They have the innate abilities to do so, but
those abilities need to be cultivated. Swarts (1992) identified skills that
students must develop to think critically:
skills of inquiry; making connections between ideas
and insights; of searching for underlying causes, reasons
and principles; of analyzing and regulating their own
thoughts and reasoning to make reasonable and appropriate
conclusions; skills of reading, writing, speaking and
listening critically. (Swarts 1992: 5)
Pedagogically, critical thinking opens up the possibility of students
being able to monitor their own thinking, understand the construction of
their thinking and recognize the merit of multiple viewpoints. No longer
are the students merely parroting what the teacher wants but they are
actively pursuing knowledge.
One of the concerns Nieto (1995) expressed was the oversimplistic
reliance on a multiplicity of perspectives in a non-critical approach to
multiculturalism. If my students merely stopped with their initial
reactions, they might succumb to the trap of cultural relativism to explain
injustice. However, because the thinking does not end there and students
are encouraged to reflect and explain their thinking when the trap of
cultural relativism does appear, we, actively engage our thinking to
analyze, compare, observe, recall and visualize reactions (Tiedts 1990).
Thus, students who can use multiple perspectives and multiple-
dimensional thought processes can redefine a historical experience and
can be expected to have an increased ability to define differences within
each situation as a potential resource rather than as a potential deficit
(Kelly, Azelton, Burzette, Mock 1994).
2. Despite good intentions, a multicultural curriculum presented
only at the end of a student's educational experience may promote a
sense of betrayal, a sense of guilt, and/or a sense of loss.
At times, it was difficult for students to recognize the complexities
and incongruencies of their thought processes. While a sense of betrayal,
guilt and loss did not occur in all students, many of them had strong
emotional reactions to the injustices uncovered using a multicultural
presentation. One of the reasons educators avoid a multicultural
treatment of an American history curriculum is because they do not know
how to move their students through the emotional reactions described
above. Fear of Nathan's feeling that patriotism is a farce or Dave's
wondering "How many other people were destroyed to get where we are
today?" causes many teachers to adopt the conservative model of a
multicultural curriculum that deals with the superficial (dress, food) and
benign (non-political) aspects of culture. Choosing to dwell on only this
aspect of a student's learning discounts his/her ability to integrate the
painful episodes of American history.
Because I believe it is important for students to move beyond those
initial reactions, I utilize a number of strategies. First, is relate the
historical happening to a common experience that they can all recognize.
For example, after the completion of the Civil War unit, my students
oftentimes see the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution as
only words on a page. "Why say it if you don't mean it?" is their standard
response. My explanation includes bringing in three seeds and planting
them to illustrate the commitment necessary to change people's
perceptions. I bring in soil, fertilizer and water to illustrate that these three
revolutionary concepts: abolition of slavery, equal protection under the
law and the right of suffrage required constant vigilance as those seeds do
if they are to stay alive. By using a common experience, I can show them
how to turn words into action and behavior.
Second, we discuss cultural perceptions of time. Westerners concept
of time-linear and instantaneous also inhibits a students ability to grasp
the long-term commitment required of those who confront social justice
issues. Thus, part of the teaching involves familiarizing students with
other cultures' concepts of time-spiral, multigenerational and ongoing, so
that they can see that although an issue may not be resolved in their
lifetime, they are not released from doing something.
As the teacher I cannot just root out a harmful complex of ideas
and leave a void behind; I have to give my students something that is as
meaningful as what they've lost. The second strategy requires that I help
students recognize that there have always been white people who have
fought against racism and social injustice. White students can proudly
identify with people such as, William Lloyd Garrison and John Brown
who joined in the tradition of fighting for social justice (Lee 1994). It is in
their interest to open their minds and find out how things really were and
really are. Otherwise, they will constantly have an incomplete and largely
negative picture of the human experience. The final point is that if we do
not make it clear that some people benefit from racism, from their
privileged position, then we are being dishonest with our students. We
have to talk about how students can use their privilege to change the
order of things so that more people will benefit. Yet, more than talking is
required here. As educators we must provide our students with
opportunities to participate and apply this surge of activism. If a student's
sense of self was founded on being superior to people of color, then he/she
may be temporarily paralyzed by his/her guilt. "But if their sense of self is
founded on working with all peoples to change things, then there is no
need to feel guilt or shame" (Lee 1994: 22).
(3) A multicultural approach to history promotes the emergence of
different types of responsibility among students.
Multicultural education is a type of transformative knowledge.
"Transformative knowledge challenges institutionalized mainstream
knowledge and makes explicit its value premises and its connection to
action to improve society" (Banks 1996: 1) Students should be taught how
to create, defend and apply their own positions, interests, ideologies and
assumptions. As the student develops an awareness of his/her own
positions, interests, ideologies and assumption their sense of responsibility
to themselves, their friends and the society at large changes. Maryann
acknowledged the weight of this responsibility as being the hardest part
because now "You have to say I don't appreciate that."
Students also indicated a sense of responsibility to how they learn,
from Josh developing a series of questions he will ask, to Dan's
willingness to go out "digging on our own." Unfortunately, the research
results do not indicate the likelihood of transference of student
responsibility to societal responsibilities. But this inability to project into
the future does not absolve my duty to present the transference
opportunities. Instilling a sense of activism and collective responsibility is
one of the most difficult aspects of teaching social justice (Miller 1994), but
grounding this new sense of responsibility to real-life examples of
injustice in their own world might (Peterson 1994b; Gordon and Holmes
As a result of the research I realized that students were not the only
ones whose perceptions had been altered. My style of teaching has changed
because of three important factors I recognized: (1) students rarely have the
opportunity to critically think; (2) essentially, students are not taught how
to critically think and (3) I must constantly Provide, Push and Probe. First,
I must continue to provide a safe and trusting environment, second I
must gently push the student to identify and own his/her position; either
in a written or oral format and then probe for understanding.
Constructing a classroom that enables students to experience increased
understanding of various cultural, social and personal histories is
ongoing. As I attempt to improve my teaching and build what I call a
"social-justice classroom," I find it necessary to draw less on the traditional
methodologies and concentrate more on creating a critical pedagogy. An
effective multicultural curriculum will be interdisciplinary, comparative,
conceptual, transformative, broadly conceptualized and focused on
decision making and social action
(Banks 1991). Educator Bob Peterson (1994b) outlines five goals he believes
are significant to the creation and survival of a critical/social justice
* A curriculum grounded in the lives of the students.
* A questioning /problem-posing approach.
* An emphasis on critiquing bias and attitudes.
* The teaching of activities for social justice.
(Peterson 1994b: 30).
Teachers should foster and channel this surge of student-awareness
into positive directions, encouraging students to become active
participants in changing their world. After all, John Dewey initiated the
idea that one of the key purposes of the public school system is to foster
participation in civic life. However encouraging students to be socially
active is a difficult dilemma because to some the teachers are
"indoctrinating their students and promoting a pied-piper syndrome"
(Peterson 1994c: 40) and to others the students are being encouraged to take
an unpatriotic stance against America. But not taking a stance regarding
problems in society amounts instead to taking a stance of indifference that
only helps to perpetuate injustice.
Teaching students to think critically and not automatically accept
the world at face value will help them narrow the gap between the ideals
and realities of the world in which they live. Without this guidance,
students often succumb to hopelessness because they believe they are
powerless to create social change and that there is no place for them to
participate. Diversity can have many meanings and difference can become
a resource students use to appreciate that diversity is not a source of shame
or something that needs to be changed so that "we are all the same."
The cultural diversity found within our society demands an
educated response. A critical multicultural pedagogy is such a response. It
is not the ideas, even if unpopular, that are dangerous to students. What is
dangerous is any attempt that denies the students the opportunity to
confront those ideas with a critical mind. "An education built on accepting
the hard truths about our society can break through not-learning, and lead
students and teachers together, not to a solution of problems, but to direct
intelligent engagement in the struggles that might lead to solutions"
(Kohl 1994: 134). Engaging the student in a dialogue has the potential to
affect change within our society. A critical multicultural education will
not simply train students to become "clone automatons" but will prepare
and inspire them to change society, to understand that one of the duties of
freedom is to create a just and humane world for all.
Student Consent Form for Research being conducted by Stephanie Rossi, American History
Teacher at Wheat Ridge Senior High.
Research Topic: Multiculturalism and Critical Thinking in Adolescents: Is There A
________________, has my permission to participate in the research to be
conducted by Stephanie Rossi at Wheat Ridge High School. The expected duration of the
research is one semester, with student participation concluding at the end of the semester.
Student participation is completely voluntary and choosing not to participate will not be
penalized in any way.The research will consist of taped interviews, field-interviews, the
use of assignments completed by the student in class and notes taken by Ms. Rossi. All
research results will be kept completely confidential and pseudonyms will be used to
protect students' identity. Upon completion of every assignment, permission must be
obtained by Ms. Rossi to use any information contained within the assignment. If a student
becomes uncomfortable with the idea of their answers being used in the research they can
request that this information not be used. If at any time the parent or the student wish to
withdraw from the research, they may do so by informing Stephanie Rossi of their decision
either in writing or by verbally contacting Ms. Rossi.
The purpose of this research is to explore a possible relationship between
multicultural education curriculums and critical thinking in adolescents; to see if a
relationship exists between the two concepts. The goals of this research are two-fold. One
goal is to evaluate the cognitive ability of high school sophomores to understand critical
thinking skills as opposed to criticizing skills and the second goal is to analyze whether or
not the inclusion of multicultural perspectives into an American History curriculum will
promote their critical thinking skills.
If you have any questions during the research or after the research has been
completed, please contact Stephanie Rossi at Wheat Ridge High School at 982-7748. If you
would like a copy of the consent form please check the box below and a copy will be
provided. Any questions a parent might have concerning the rights of the subjects in the
research may be directed to:
The Office of Sponsored Programs
720 CU-Denver Building
Denver, Co 80217-3364
Telephone Number. 556-2770
Please sign below and return the form to Stephanie Rossi. Thank you for your time.
Yes, please give me a copy of the informed consent form_____________
(TEACHER SIGNATURE and DATE) (PARENT SIGNATURE and DATE)
(STUDENT SIGNATURE and DATE) (ADMINISTRATOR SIGNATURE and DATE)
Form 1.1 Student Information Sheet
1. Name:_____________________ (first and last for you and parents)
2. Parent(s) Names: Mom: ______________Dad: ________________
3. Home phone:__________________4. Age: __________
5. Work Phone: (m)__________________ (d) -------------------
6. What I like most about myself____________________________
7. What I would change about myself_________________________
8. The best thing I have ever done is_______________________
9. My favorite hobby /activity is___________________________
10. My favorite subject is _________________________________
11. My favorite musician is ________________________________
12. My favorite food is ____________________________________
13. My favorite movie is____________________________________
14. Countries I have visited are____________________________
15. I have_______family members.
16. My favorite vacation spot is______________._____________
17. My favorite book is ____________________________________
18. My ancestors came from _________________________________
19. If the presidential election was held tomorrow I would vote for.
20. I like__________about America.
21.1 would like to improve______________about America.
22. Culture is _____________________
23. Culture is not .________________
24. Multiculturalism is ______________________
25. Multiculturalism is not ._____________________
26. History is _______________________________
27. History is not ___________________________
28. History should include _____________________________
29. History should not include _________________________
30. Critical thinking is_____________________________
31. Critical thinking is not____________________________
32. Teenage culture is____________________________
33. Teenage culture is not______________________________.
ASSIGNMENT INTERVIEW FORM
CURRICULAR AREA: ____________________________
As this is an exploratory study, the questions will be different and
specifically generated from each curricular area. Questions will explore
how the student has made meaning from what they have learned and
why it is meaningful. There will be between three and five questions per
1. What have you learned about the indigenous peoples that lived
in North America prior to the arrival of the Europeans?
2. Before and after questions: What did you know before and has
that perception changed?
1. What did you know about westward expansion and the gold rush prior
to seeing the video "The Speck of the Future?"
2. Now that you have seen the video, has it changed what you knew, what
you understood about westward expansion and the gold rush in some
3. Discuss what you learned about westward expansion and the native
4. Discuss what the gold rush did to the Mexican people already living in
5. Discuss the attitudes of the miners and the California legislature toward
the Mexicans, the Chinese and the native peoples?
6. Discuss what happens to your understanding of American history when
a multicultural perspective is added.
ASSIGNMENT INTERVIEW FORM
CURRICULAR AREA: American History
ASSIGNMENT: Civil War. Students responding to reading and discussion of
Denver Post article on the flying of the Confederate flag in South Carolina.
DATE: December 9,1996
As this is an exploratory study, the questions will be different and
specifically generated from each curricular area. Questions will explore
how the student has made meaning from what they have learned and
why it is meaningful. There will be between three and five questions per
1. What have you learned about the indigenous peoples that lived
in North America prior to the arrival of the Europeans?
2. Before and after questions: What did you know before and has
that perception changed?
1. What was your opinion about the Confederate flag being flown over the
South Carolina statehouse?
2. Explain your reaction to question #1.
3. Explain how you arrived at your conclusion. Explain the thought
process you went through to arrive at your conclusion.
ASSIGNMENT INTERVIEW FORM
CURRICULAR AREA: American History
ASSIGNMENT: Reconstruction: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
DATE: January 4,1997
As this is an exploratory study, the questions will be different and
specifically generated from each curricular area. Questions will explore
how the student has made meaning from what they have learned and
why it is meaningful. There will be between three and five questions per
1. What have you learned about the indigenous peoples that lived
in North America prior to the arrival of the Europeans?
2. Before and after questions: What did you know before and has
that perception changed?
1. What perspective(s) are presented in this video?
2. What perspective(s) are presented in the textbook?
3. How are the perspectives different?
4. Identify what you believe is multicultural about the video, the textbook?
5. Overall impression of the video.
6. Overall impression of the Chapter 19 presentation of Reconstruction.