In 1996, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company produced a series of reports " to bring the opinions of teachers, students and parents to the attention of educators, policymakers and the American public." The fourth report in the series, the Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teacher 1996: Students Voice Their Opinions on Learning About Multiculturalism,."..assessed students' opinions and interests in learning about multicultural topics." Lou Harris and Associates conducted the nationwide survey. Public school students in grades 7-12 were asked about (1) the availability of multicultural courses, (2) their interest in taking multicultural courses, and (3) the effectiveness of lessons being taught.
The results of the findings were as follows:
Sixty one percent."..of students say their schools offer classes on multiculturalism" (defined in the survey question as."..the history and culture of people who came to the U.S. from different parts of the world, such as Asia, India, Africa or South America."). Survey results indicate that (1) these courses are more prevalent in middle schools than in high schools. (2) rural (68%) and suburban (62%) schools are more likely to offer these classes than urban (57%) schools are. (3) African-American students (52%) have less access to multicultural courses than white (63%) or Hispanic (61%) students do (Hopkins 5).
Students are divided in their opinions on whether their school is placing the right amount of emphasis on multiculturalism. The survey results show that more students (45%) thought their schools place the right amount, not too little or too much, emphasis on multicultural lessons. Many dissatisfied students thought more emphasis was needed. African-American students (34%) were more likely than White (26%) or Hispanic (34%) students responded their schools placed too little emphasis on multiculturalism.
Most students (71%) responded they were either very interested or somewhat interested "in learning more about holidays and other special events that people in different parts of the world celebrate." Also, more females (78%) than males (63%) surveyed are at least somewhat interested in learning more about cultural events. Hispanic students (38%) and African-American students (32%) are more likely to be interested than White students (23%). (Hopkins 1)
More students (44%) say their teachers do an average job (26%) or a below average (18%) job. An earlier 1996 Metropolitan Life study (...Violence, Social Tension, and Equality Among Teens) found that students are more likely to say students of diverse backgrounds get along well when they also report that their teachers do a good job of teaching tolerance. Although this question raised more positive results, 31% of students responded that they did not know. More students (51%) feel that their schools do a satisfactory job in the area of helping immigrant students learn to speak or improve their English.
Students are equally divided on whether or not the teachers in their schools mirror the social and ethnic makeup of the students," states the report. About one third of students did not know. African-American students were more likely to say that teachers do not mirror the ethnic makeup of the students they teach (Hopkins 1).
The Metropolitan Insurance Company found the message encouraging. They found students are interested in learning more about other people and other cultures. The result of greater emphasis in multicultural education could be greater tolerance among students, fewer negative attitudes, and fewer prejudices and perhaps better social relations between students from different cultural backgrounds (Hopkins 1).
The implications of multicultural education outlined above show there is a need for multicultural education in today's schools. The United States has a growing diversity in its population that demands attention. When inner cities and whole communities are made up of a group of ethnically unified families, or even if they are made up of groups of families from different ethnic backgrounds, the demands upon the school system are to adapt to these students' backgrounds and treat them as the respectful and diverse people they are.
The United States has become a complex ethnic mosaic through the entrance to the country of laborers from countries where there is abject poverty, seeking economic benefits, or from wars in South America, seeking and finding asylum. The RAND Report brings attention to the growing diversity and its calls to the United States to adapt and change school curriculum, paradigms and trends to incorporate these future citizens. To survive as one nation, the educational demands of this growing majority need to be met.
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Burnett, Gary. (1994) Varieties of multicultural education: an introduction. ERIC Digest 98. Jun 1994. ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education New York NY.
Clark, William a. And Morrison, Peter a. (2003). Mirroring the mosaic: redistricting in a context of cultural pluralism. New York: RAND Corporation publication.
Coballes-Vega, Carmen. (1992). Considerations in teaching culturally diverse children. ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education, Washington D.C.
Hopkins, Gary (ed.). (1996). The Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teacher 1996: Students Voice Their Opinions on Learning About Multiculturalism. MetLife, the American Teacher Survey, Education World. http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/curr041.shtml.
Inclusive Teaching. (2007). Center for Instructional Development and Research.…