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What is Multicultural Literacy?
Approaching the subject of multicultural literacy for the first time a student might think it has to do with getting minorities to become literate -- to be able to read and write in English or in their native language. That would be wrong, albeit it is a good goal in terms of bringing all students up to speed in communication skills. What is important to remember about multicultural literacy is that by the year 2020, an estimated fifty percent of the student population in American public schools will belong "…to an economic, ethnic, racial, religious, and/or social class minority" (Stevens, et al., 2011, p. 32). Teachers and counselors must be fully knowledgeable vis-a-vis the culturally relevant issues that are present when the classroom is diverse, as it clearly is becoming today and will continue to be in the near future as well.
What Stevens is getting at in his peer-reviewed article is that teachers need to become educated in terms of how they relate to the emerging multicultural classroom. It is clear from a teacher's perspective that even in schools in the heart of minority communities there are not always a sufficient numbers of minority teachers. The diversity of students today in America's public schools calls for teachers to show intelligence, knowledge, patience and the ability to address critical multicultural literacy issues and practices in the classroom.
Teaching the Holocaust, for example, can bring a multicultural classroom of high school students together emotionally and intellectually, possibly more effectively than any other subject available in a social studies and history context. Empathy cuts across all cultural and ethnic lines in America, and by teaching the Holocaust with care -- and by using historically accurate material for the presentation -- the alert, well-trained teacher in a multicultural environment will go well beyond the basic issues of a good education. He or she will be embracing cultural realism.
A good teacher trained in multicultural literacy shares traditional literature and zeros in on traditional tales, autobiographies, biographies, historical non-fiction as well as historical fiction, along with poetry, contemporary fiction -- all of these shared assignments reflect the various cultures present in the classroom.
Diego Rivera -- One of the Great Artists of the Twentieth Century
Diego Rivera is considered one of the most "noteworthy artists in the twentieth century," according to Authors and Artists for Young Adults in the Gale Biography database (Gale, p. 1). Rivera was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, on December 8, 1886 and he died in Mexico City on November 24, 1957.
Rivera's ancestors hailed from a number of cultures, so it can be said that this brilliant artist was a product of a multicultural lineage. His relatives provided him with a mixture of "Mexican, Spanish, Indian, African and Italian blood," the Gale article explains. Moreover, there are sources that suggest Rivera also had some Jewish, Portuguese and Russian ancestors as well.
When River, a twin, was born -- he was the first twin to be born to a mother (Maria del Pilar) who almost died giving birth to her sons -- he was fortunate to be brought into a family of teachers. Both of his parents were school teachers. His father, Don Diego Rivera, had a background in industrial chemistry (he actually prospected for silver at one time), he was a local government official, and he had edited a liberal newspaper (El Democrata) prior to meeting Maria. In fact Don Diego met Maria when he was hired as a teacher in a school that had been founded by Maria's mother. Sadly, Diego's twin brother Carlos died before he was two years old, and Maria was so emotionally distraught at her son's death that she "…slept in the local cemetery for a time" (Gale, p. 2).
When Diego was six he began school in Mexico City. As an adolescent, he lied about his age to be able to attend evening art classes. In time he studied art in Spain, he traveled Europe, he lived in Paris, and he travels and learning to him to Italy where he learned fresco style painting. Diego's work is noted for his extensive "allegorical portraits of Mexican history, the colonization of the hemisphere, and the…[continue]
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