Addressing Cultural Diversity in the Classroom

Teaching in a Diverse Society

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” (Declaration of Independence). Our country was founded on the idea that every citizen would have equal rights to freedom, religion, and happiness. I wish that every citizen actually believed the words spoken by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately that is not the world we live in. Racism and inequality based on stereotypes and biases have been intertwined into American society since it began in the 1600’s. Policies such as Affirmative Action and the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1977 are necessary to ensure equality for those with a history of being discriminated against. Being a multicultural educator means always thinking how I can provide a diverse lesson plan that honors many cultures.

Diversity is becoming a fundamental word that describes our evolving education system. Used as an adjective diversity describes a student’s heritage, family life, and overall learning experience. The number of students in our school system that come from ethnic backgrounds is growing rapidly. I think eventually white Americans will become the minority in our country. This is neither good nor bad just a rational prediction. “The four largest racial and ethnic minorities African American, Hispanic, Asians/Pacific Islanders, and American Indians accounted for twenty-five percent of the population in 1992. By 2050, these minorities may account for forty-seven percent of the U.S. population” (O’Hare, 1992). That tells me that teachers need to be educated in diversity now. If I start teaching in 2007 I will be seventy-three in 2050 having only retired eight years prior. I will encounter a growing number of diverse students during my tenure. Personally I want to be equipped with methods for communicating with their families in a productive manner to ensure a favorable outcome for the student. There is a growing trend toward alternative lifestyles. The nuclear family is becoming a thing of the past. Families are often headed by a single parent as the divorce rate in our country is fifty percent which is common knowledge. There are also children whose households are headed by extended relatives, same sex parents, siblings, and adoptive parents of a different heritage. Each child will have unique experiences which affect their appreciation for education. The bottom line is all students of all heritage types and family compositions are entitled to a teacher who tries to connect with their family. “Schools must take the lead in providing opportunities for collaborative partnerships to be developed and sustained through: providing a positive environment, supporting the efforts of families and educators, and increasing the understanding of diversity” (Christenson, 2001, pg. 206-207).
The total learning experience for a student should provide not only equality for all but diversity in the lessons taught. We should explore different cultures and lifestyles all over the world. With technology the borders are shrinking in all countries. Children who enter the work force in the future as adults will encounter people from all over the world. As students are exposed to an array of cultures through literature and hands on experiences they will learn to become more versatile and ultimately well rounded workers.

Every individual regardless of race, color, or creed should be honored and celebrated as a fellow human being. I am not trying to over simplify all of the complicated issues that prevent so many people from “treating others as they wish to be treated” I am just stating what I wish could happen. Since that is only in a perfect world as an educator I will continue to ask what should I be doing to protect the rights of my students, how can I make them feel special, and when can I educate my class about the interesting cultures with in it. I am aware that the physical location of a school whether it is in a rural or urban setting will also change how information is presented. I will use constructivist approaches mixed with behaviorist modifications to draw out what my students know and build upon that knowledge. I have learned a lot about myself as a cultural being and that helps me to recognize my strengths and weaknesses therefore I can consider them during my planning. I look forward to the challenge and am eager to begin sharing ideas of multicultural, constructivist learning with the public.

References

Christenson, S., & Sheridan, S. (2001). Schools and families: creating essential connections for learning. New York: The Guilford Press.
O’Hare, W. (1992, dec ). America’s minorities- the demographics of diversity. Population Bulletin, 47. Retrieved Apr 10, 2006, from http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/Home.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=RecordDetails&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED358179&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=eric_accno&objectId=0900000b8014384d