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Tips for Parents:  Multicultural Education | PDF

Español/Spanish: Consejos para padres - La educación multicultural

Out of Many, One

Some people fear that the study of ethnic diversity will threaten our national unity.  The real danger, however, may be the lack of understanding among the various ethnic groups in our society. This Tips for Parents will help you better understand Multicultural Education and how to better teach your children about it.

As the ethnic make-up of the nation becomes more complex, problems related to cultural identity will likely continue to grow.  A multicultural curriculum seeks to ease these problems by helping students recognize and appreciate how various cultural groups—including their own—contribute to our rich and unique heritage.

A Balanced Curriculum

Another important aim of multicultural education is to present a more balanced view of the world.  Supporters of multicultural education encourage schools to discuss history and society from more than one perspective and to explore both the positive and negative aspects of our society’s multicultural development.

The driving force behind multicultural education is numbers.  As people of color make up a larger and larger percentage of the population, educators need to acknowledge and respond to their diversity.  Women are also demanding that the curriculum include feminist views and give more emphasis to their role in history.

The Larger Experience

Multiculturism is not about separatism.  Within our diverse cultural groups there are a multitude of values and experiences, some similar, some different.  When the various cultural groups interact, their interaction may produce a new cultural experience.  These experiences can become one of our country’s greatest strengths—providing us with greater knowledge, skills, and values.

Unfortunately, many school curricula do not acknowledge their diversity.  Often, children of African-American, American Indian, or Hispanic descent experience alienation—resulting in lack of confidence and direction.

Traditional curriculum tend to omit the invaluable contributions and sacrifices made by these groups.  The emphasis on the accomplishments of white males to the exclusion  of women and people of color not only misrepresents history, it is unfair to students.

Textbooks

To implement a successful multicultural curriculum, students must have appropriate instructional material.  Reflecting the diversity and complexity of our history is a difficult task facing textbook publishers.  Without revising curriculum materials, multicultural education cannot effectively proceed.

Multicultural Books

As parents you can expose your children to literature that deals with cultural diversity.  This is part of a list of must-have multicultural books compiled by the Cooperative Children's Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison:

Preschool:

  • What a Wonderful World by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele, illustrated by Ashley Bryan. Atheneum, 1995.(Multi-ethnic)
  • One Afternoon by Yumi Heo. Orchard, 1994. (Asian Pacific American)
  • Grandmother's Nursery Rhymes/Las Nanas de Abuelita by Nelly Palacio Jaramillo, illustrated by Elivia. Holt, 1994. (Latino)

Ages 5-7

  • Drumbeat... Heartbeat: A Celebration of the Powwow by Susan Braine. Lerner, 1995. (American Indian)
  • Halmoni and the Picnic by Sook Nyul Choi, illustrated by Karen M. Dugan. Houghton Mifflin, 1993. (Asian Pacific American)
  • Hairs/Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros, illustrated by Terry Ybáñez. Knopf, 1994. (Latino)
  • Honey, I Love, and Other Poems by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Harper, 1978. (African American)

Ages 7-9

  • My Name Is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada. Atheneum, 1993. (Latino)
  • From the Bellybutton of the Moon, and Other Summer Poems/Del Ombligo de la Luna, y Otros Poemas de Verano by Francisco X. Alarcon, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez. Children's Book Press, 1998. (Latino)
  • Golden Tales: Myths, Legends and Folktales from Latin America by Lulu Delacre. Scholastic, 1996. (Latino)

Ages 9-12

  • Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges. Scholastic, 1999. (African American)
  • American Indian Animal Stories by Joseph Bruchac. Fulcrum, 1992. (American Indian)
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. Delacorte, 1999. (African American)
  • The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. Hyperion, 1999. (American Indian)
  • The Journey: Japanese Americans, Racism and Renewal by Sheila Hamanaka. Orchard, 1990. (Asian Pacific American)

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