A major goal of learning is facilitation of basic literacy and language skills of difference students, the importance of which stems from a persistent school failure in the United States of students with Hispanic, African-American and American Indian background (Gay, 1994). Multicultural education can ease the tensions by teaching skills in a cross-cultural communication style that emphasizes interpersonal relations, perspective taking, contextual analysis and understanding differing points-of-view and frames of reference (Gay, 1994). Students must learn how their cultural condition may affect values, attitudes and beliefs, as well as preferences, expectations and behaviors (Gay, 1994).
As an experienced administrator working within the U.S. school system, I learned that within U.S. society there also still exists a strong ethnic prejudice as well as "ethnocentric values that are based and driven by cultural beliefs not based on fact; there is in fact a tendency in the U.S. To ascribe attributes and behaviors of individuals to an entire ethnic group which only serves to perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices" (Gay, 1994). The role of the educator particularly in the middle school and high school setting is to analyze the sources of prejudice behavior and confront stereotypes by supporting a culturally diverse environment, so that students have the ability to develop new and positive ethnic attitudes and beliefs that are more inclusive (Gay, 1994).
Working with immigrant students I learned that intercultural education should emphasize the "development of greater self-understanding, as well as positive self-concepts and pride in one's ethnic identity" (Gay, 1994). This will contribute to the overall personal development of students and contribute to academic, social and later career achievement for students (Gay, 1994). Students that feel good about themselves are "more likely to be open and receptive to interaction with others and to respect their cultures and identities" (Gay, 1004). If students aren't given the opportunity to learn in an environment that fosters intercultural communication they will not grow into well adapting adults.
The following conclusions about intercultural education may be drawn, confirmed by Gay (1994) and other researchers: (1) ethnicity and culture help shape an individuals identity and behavior; (2) cultural socialization and identity are ingrained early thus it is important that they are taught in a positive manner throughout the middle and high school years, (3) multicultural education is consistent with the U.S. cultural idealisms of democracy and thus important for a quality education; (4) a majority of students in the U.S. live in "ethnic and culturally homogenous "enclaves" therefore it is important that educators work to share information about people who might be culturally different from them"; (5) culture and ethnicity are "linked and interrelated," (6) cultural beliefs and systems shape human behavior as well as a students values, belief and sense of self-worth in the system of education (Gay, 1994).
Maximization of educational strategy and success requires that students learn social competence and "cultural congruity" (Gay, 1994).
Experience that led to learning:
worked to get my school certified with INS to serve non-immigrant students, frequently accepting Korean and student of Mexican-American Heritage.
learned how difficult it is for students of multicultural backgrounds to adapt to a homogenous classroom setting. Even between the Korean and Mexican-American students their were several differences evident in speech, mannerisms, colloquialisms and more.
Experience: The school I worked with had a very high ratio of special needs students:
learned that special needs students are very much the same as multicultural students, using their own forms of verbal and non-verbal communication systems to acclimate and adapt to the classroom environment. Even for special needs students as an administrator and teacher I found the same principles of a solid multicultural education were valid; students must be taught sensitivity and understanding to foster self-esteem and growth.
worked with the administrative team to sponsor immigration paperwork for a teacher from India.
learned that the teacher from India had adopted many unique teaching methods that were culturally dependent. It was very evident that the teaching system in the U.S. is more geared toward multi-culturalism due to the complex make up of classrooms.
Through teaching diverse population in the classroom, I learned that students react to different cultural systems at first with anxiety and stress. However if they are prepared with knowledge and sensitivity, they accept differences very well and learn to adopt shared communication strategies.
Gay, G. (1994). "A synthesis of scholarship in multicultural education." North Central
Regional Educational Laboratory. October 10, 2004, at http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/area/issues/educatrs/leadrship/le0gay.htm
Gorski, P. & Covert, B. (2000). "Defining multicultural education." Multicultural
Pavilion. October 11, 2004, http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/initial.html