What is multicultural education?
Multicultural education is creating a classroom setting where the needs of different cultures are acknowledged and met.
How do teachers integrate multicultural education?
This involves teaching cultural awareness to students and addressing their own mix of cultures. In doing so the teacher addresses the country's fundamental beginnings and its evolution into a multicultural nation.
How does it apply to language acquisition?
Multicultural education applies to language acquisition because culture is a learned aspect of our lives that is used as the very basis of how we carry out our lives and how we communicate, and socialize. Also it is important for teachers of a multicultural classroom to understand language acquisition because every student has different learning needs based around their culture.
Social and Cultural Needs of English Language Learners
In order for all students to thrive in a multicultural classroom the teacher needs to ensure that the ELL's social and cultural needs are met. This may be done with a bit of research into the social and cultural norms of the students. After the teacher understands a little about the students social and cultural backgrounds the teacher may incorporate them into her lessons. The key is to include multiple cultural aspects into lessons and not just that of the unmarked culture. It is important for the student to make a connection with the theme they are learning and if they do not understand it then they will not retain it. Just like the ELL's needs learning materials based around their own social and cultural experiences they also need to learn new ones, but on their own level. This is not to be confused with a learning deficit, but explained in a way that they may understand. If it is a concept outside of their norm explain why it is that way in the other culture.
Change in Cultural Identities
When people move to another country, and even to another location, they will experience the influences of different cultures. These influences may begin to change their own cultural identity in many ways. Some people gladly accept the new culture and become bicultural, exerting different qualities of both cultures at different times. They may also assimilate completely into the culture, this is where they exchange their cultural ways for that of the new culture almost completely. For others they may only pick up a few qualities of the new culture like dressing differently, or eating a few new foods. This is called acculturation. Everyone has their own comfort level of what they're willing to accept of the new culture that surrounds them. Others may feel forced upon the culture or struggle with their identity change. Identity change may be easier for those born into the area of the culture or grow up around it from a young age, rather than young adults to the elderly. As far as students who are facing a new identity change it is the teacher's job to support them through their journey. In order to support a student through their identity change a teacher needs to speak with the parents/guardians of the student to evaluate the student's cultural identity and the expectations in the home. The teacher then works with school faculty and the student's family to make sure everyone has a mutual level of respect for both cultures. It is also important for all parties to not separate the cultures from one social scene to the other. For example some families believe that their children will learn the "american ways" at school but then when they come home they are expected to leave it at the door. This is a misconception and if parents are strict about it this may led to confusion in the child's identity and cause them to shut down. The best way to support a student's cultural identity change is to make them feel positive about it and banish negative opinions but they must respect the parents desires.
Prejudice and Discrimination in the Classroom
When teachers understand the marked and unmarked cultures, stereotypes, ethnocentrism, and cultural relativism they can better assess any discriminatory or prejudice situations that may arise against language minority students.
Marked and unmarked languages and cultures are terms used to describe the social statuses of different languages and cultures in a country. Marked cultures are that of lower social or economic status within the country, unmarked cultures are the predominant, ideal culture for that country. For example in the USA the unmarked language is considered to be English and the unmarked culture is that of white, middle-class, english speakers. How these terms are described marked and unmarked have an underlying connotation or prejudice itself. If the student does not have a "marked culture" they are usually the one who are being discriminated against. This is why it is important for the teacher to know who is considered "marked" and prevent and prejudice or discrimination. They must also make sure that their lessons are not solely focused around "unmarked" cultural values. There has to be a big emphasis by the teacher that marked languages are not inferior to the unmarked language. This may be done by asking the student about their language and to speak it in front of the class to make them feel special, as well as making the students realize that just because they speak another language doesn't mean they are not smart (Ovando 203).
Stereotypes are opinions, and images about a certain culture. They tend to be simple in concept and are used to judge a person individually based on cultural groups stereotypes. For example the idea that all hispanics like soccer is a stereotype. Stereotyping comes from overgeneralizing actions or likes of a few to be true for all of that ethnic group. To fight prejudice and discrimination through stereotypes teachers need to make their classes aware of what are considered to be cultural traits and simply the child's unique qualities (Ovando 207).
Ethnocentrism is when one believe that their ethnic group is superior to others. This is where prejudice is stemmed from the most. It can be displayed in many forms and from teachers and peers. This happens more often in multicultural societies where one group thinks their ethnic group is superior to others. There is a thin line between ethnic pride and prejudice/discrimination teachers must learn how to control this balance in the education setting. This may done through culture awareness. Many people think the way they do about other cultures or ethnic groups because of what they were taught from family members or people whom they identify with. The only way to fight the negative ethnocentrism is to teach students the positives and beauty of other cultures and have them compare and contrast other cultures to their own.
Cultural Realativsm is our ammunition against prejudice and disrcmination. It is teaching people to look at other cultures through goggles. In other words, (look at it objectively) to look at the culture through the eyes of it's people and not interpreting it based off their own culture. Previously I stated that teachers should have them compare and contrast their cultures and cultural relativism contradicts that. Cultural relativism is a harder concept for children to understand and attempt. It involves trying to explain why cultures do things the way they do in a matter of context.
Carlos J. Ovando and Mary Carol Combs have listed two helpful guidelines for teachers implementing multicultural education into their classroom in the their book Bilingual and ESL Classrooms: Teaching in Multicultural Contexts. Below are the guidelines for teaching.
Characteristics of Multicultural Education (pg 201)
1."Multicultural education is antiracist. It does not gloss over the presence of racism in society but addresses it.
2.Multicultural education is basic. It is an integral component of education along with other core subjects.
3.Multicultural education is vital for both majority and minority students.
4.Multicultural education is pervasive in the entire schooling process. It is not a separate subject.
5.Multicultural education is education for social justice. It connects knowledge and understanding with social action.
6.Multicultural education is a process. It is ongoing and dynamic and involves relationships between people as much as it does content.
7.Multicultural education is critical pedagogy. Teachers and students in a multicultural learning environment do not view knowledge as being neutral or apolitical (Nieto, 1996)."
Five Dimensions of Multicultural Education (pg. 202)
2.The knowledge construction process.
4.An equity pedagogy.
5.An empowering school culture and social structure (Banks & Banks, 1995, pp. 4–5).