ELEMENT STATEMENT: The teacher education curriculum addresses the histories and contributions of various ethnocultural groups.
THE BIG PICTURE: Preservice students often have a limited understanding of the histories and contributions of women and minorities in the United States. Take, for example, the preservice student who is under the impression that with emancipation from slavery, African Americans enjoyed all the rights and access to opportunity guaranteed by the Constitution. This same student also may believe that black people as a group have not achieved as much as white people because blacks don't work as hard. Such a conclusion, grounded in a faulty assumption related to U.S. history, may seem reasonable to this student.
Incomplete or erroneous understanding of the histories of the various cultural groups in this country portend potentially grave consequences for education. The prejudiced beliefs of the teacher education student described above may influence his or her classroom interactions with African American learners. It is highly unlikely that this prospective teacher holds high expectations for all students--a crucial characteristic of successful teachers of diverse groups of students (Zeichner, 1993).
It is not surprising that preservice students may possess misconceptions related to history. In all probability, they have been the recipients of traditional history curricula, in which the contributions of women and the contributions of minorities have been treated as interesting, but nonessential, sidebars. Deprived of context, these references seem merely token, and thus unimportant.
To break the cycle of ignorance, preservice students need to learn of the contributions, within the context of history, of the major cultural groups in the United States. This knowledge provides the groundwork for their understanding of the attitudes that learners may bring to academic achievement (Ogbu, 1983). In addition, this knowledge will prove useful as preservice students learn to incorporate relevant cultural content into all the subjects they are preparing to teach.
IMPLICATIONS FOR ACTION: Whenever possible during their general education coursework, preservice students should be encouraged to take courses that feature the histories and contributions of various cultural groups. Cultural content also can be incorporated into teacher education coursework. In exploring the uses of cooperative learning, for example, preservice students might use the Numbered Heads Together structure (Kagan, 1989-90) to learn factual information related to the histories of various groups. They might use the Jigsaw structure (Kagan, 1989-90) to investigate a variety of cultural perspectives on particular events and movements in history.
In exploring the uses of concept mapping, preservice students might read such articles as "Indochinese Refugee Families and Academic Achievement" (Caplan, Choy, & Whitmore, 1992) and work in groups to develop concept maps depicting the interrelationships within many Asian American cultures that result in high academic achievement. During the discussions following these activities, students could focus upon cooperative learning and concept mapping as instructional methods, as well as content related to various cultures within history.
Whenever possible, speakers might be invited to the teacher education classroom to address contributions of their cultural groups and to converse with preservice students about cultural issues pertinent to education. Preservice students also could read examples of multicultural children's literature for additional sources of contextualized cultural content (Harris, 1997; Cullinan & Galda, 1993; Tomlinson and Lynch-Brown, 1996). Guidelines for choosing effective multicultural books for children can be found in What Is an Authentic Multicultural Book? (Just Us Books, 1995).
Prospective teachers should be prepared to incorporate relevant cultural content into all the subjects they will teach. Banks (1993a) describes four approaches for integrating multicultural content into the curriculum: the contributions approach, the additive approach, the transformation approach, and the social action approach. Of these four, the transformation and social action approaches are the most effective in promoting authentic integration of multicultural content.
The teacher education curriculum itself should model the transformation and social action approaches. Within such a pedagogical context, preservice students might analyze existing curriculum materials and textbooks, classify them according to level, and brainstorm ways of rendering them more inclusive. They might also use the transformation and social action approaches to develop instructional units for their future classrooms.
In order to fill in gaps in their knowledge of cultural content, preservice students might conduct research into subjects they are preparing to teach and find information on the contributions of women and the contributions of minorities. Of particular utility to the prospective teacher of history are timelines provided by Banks (1991b) for 12 different cultural groups in the United States: American Indians, native Hawaiians, African Americans, European ethnic groups, Jewish Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Filipino Americans, and Indochinese Americans.
OBSTACLES TO ACTION: For teaching, many educators and preservice students rely heavily on textbooks that ignore or inadequately portray the contributions of women and various ethnic groups. Banks (1993a) notes that such textbooks typically present information from the mainstream white-male perspective instead of emphasizing the cultures and experiences of women and minorities. He adds that textbooks often limit multicultural content to specific sections of the text instead of integrating such content throughout all units. To avoid fragmented teaching of diversity, educators may have to use other resources to integrate multicultural perspectives into subject lessons.
DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW: A plethora of protests has been raised against the revision of curriculum to include the voices of women and people of color. Critics argue that such revision minimizes the importance of contributions of white males and, furthermore, waters down the curriculum. Proponents of multicultural education counter that inclusive approaches provide balance to curricula long skewed toward the contributions of European and European American males. With balance, comes a fuller, more accurate picture.
Although the inclusion of ethnic and female contributions and perspectives is relatively straightforward in the humanities, it seems less obvious in math and science. These subjects, argue many math and science teachers, are objective and therefore are "culture neutral." Multicultural educators reply that objectivity is itself a culture-specific value. In addition, traditional curricula have long neglected female and ethnic contributions to math and science.
Marlys Henke's Cultural Relevance Model
Additional Reading for Element 5