Multicultural Education Research Paper

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Multicultural education is an idea or concept, a process, and an educational reform movement that assumes America’s diversity should be reflected in the staffing, curriculum, instructional practices, policies, and values of our educational institutions (Banks & Banks, 2006; Grant & Ladson-Billings, 1997). Although the United States has always been diverse, between 1923 and 1965 restrictive policies limited immigration, particularly from countries outside of Europe. In the last three decades U.S. society has become increasingly both multicultural and multilingual. The 1990s witnessed a rapid influx of immigrants from Asia and Latin America, and a recent survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are 11 to 12 million new immigrants. More than 20% of children in the United States are either foreign-born or have a parent who was born abroad. Although more stringent security and immigration screening was instituted after 9/11, refugees from conflict-ridden countries like Somalia, Sudan, Bosnia, and Myanmar continue to enter the country in steady numbers. Instead of moving to traditional gateway cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, recent refugees are settling in midsized cities like Seattle, St. Paul, Atlanta, and Buffalo where the cost of living is more affordable.

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At the dawn of the 21st century, U.S. schools are more linguistically, culturally, religiously, ethnically, and racially diverse than ever before (Prewitt, 2002). Students of color (i.e., Black and African American, Hispanic and Latino, Asian American, and Native American) make up 43% of the national public school population. In some states, like California, and in the 20 largest urban school districts across the country, students of color constitute an overwhelming majority of the school population. Nationwide, 18.4% of school-age youth speak a language other than English at home. In some urban school districts, over 100 different languages are spoken. This demographic imperative is an important reason for developing and implementing multicultural education and making U.S. schools more responsive to the needs and perspectives of students from diverse groups and their families.

Despite the changing face of America, however, students from diverse racial, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds continue to experience unequal educational opportunities and often do not see the history, values, and cultural knowledge of their home communities represented in the school curriculum. The racial achievement gap between White students and African American and Latino students has remained stagnant. The average twelfth-grade low-income student of color reads at the same level as the average eighth-grade middle-class White student. According to the 2000 census, 88% of White students graduate from high school, but the rate for Hispanics is just 56%. There is a gender gap in many high schools as well. Girls continue to be underrepresented in advanced math, science, and technology courses, and their test scores in these subjects often fall behind boys as they progress through school.

In response to these inequities, scholars, educators, and parents have called for an education that is both multicultural and equitable, one that incorporates culturally responsive curriculum and instructional methods, equitable assessment practices, and organizational structures that promote interaction across racial and ethnic lines and facilitate academic achievement for all students (Nieto, 2003). Multiculturalists believe that “all students—regardless of their gender, social class, and their ethnic, racial, and cultural characteristics—should have an equal opportunity to learn in school” (Banks & Banks 2006, p. 3).

Historical Development

Although the genesis of multicultural education is often traced to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, recent historical studies indicate that efforts by educators, parents, and community organizations to develop culturally responsive schooling date back at least to the 1930s and 1940s. Known at the time as intercultural or intergroup education, several urban school districts enacted policies to promote racial and ethnic diversity in the wake of racial and ethnic conflicts in the years before, during, and immediately after World War II. Intercultural advocates in cities like New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Detroit produced curriculum materials on Black history and race relations, designed professional development programs that provided urban teachers a forum in which to develop and present their own intercultural curriculum projects, and instituted college courses for preservice teachers to promote cultural pluralism and improve human relations (Johnson, 2007).

In some school districts, such as New York City and Pittsburgh, intercultural education was also linked with community activism by parents and grassroots organizations to hire more teachers of color and improve racial attitudes through public education campaigns that involved radio programs, films, art exhibits, and multicultural children’s literature. Characterized as “educating for democracy,” intercultural education advocates contrasted America’s stated democratic ideals of freedom and equality of opportunity during the war years with the historical reality of ongoing prejudice and discrimination toward those racial and ethnic groups who were disenfranchised and marginalized by school systems (Johnson, 2002).

Diversity work in the schools was largely halted during the Cold War era, when intercultural courses were criticized as “subversive and un-American,” and several teacher union leaders who promoted intercultural education as well as scholars who were frequent guest speakers at intercultural workshops were subject to “red baiting” (Johnson, 2002). In the 1960s, the rise of the civil rights movement in the South, followed by the Black power movement in cities like New York, Chicago, and Oakland revived the demand for a school curriculum that accurately reflected African American history, values, and contributions.

During the late 1960s, ethnic studies programs sprang up in colleges and universities, and courses such as Black Literature and Chicano History were instituted in selected high schools across the country. Community and parent activists from Los Angeles to Brooklyn demanded more control over the content of the curriculum, more Black and Hispanic teachers and administrators, and more diverse representation and decision-making powers on local school boards.

With the passage of Title IX in the early 1970s, gender equity issues were included under the multicultural umbrella. Advocates pressed for equal funding for girls’ athletics, the formation of school district committees to analyze textbooks for gender bias, and the implementation of single-sex classrooms to increase girls’ participation and achievement in advanced math and science courses. By the late 1980s, some school districts, such as New York City, also included sexual orientation in their multiculturalism policy. The New York City Office of Multicultural Education produced two Children of the Rainbow elementary curriculum guides, which encouraged teachers to recognize and support “all kinds of families,” including same-sex unions. The inclusion of picture books like Heather and Her Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate on the teacher’s bibliography of one of the curriculum guides proved controversial, and the New York City multiculturalism policy was rescinded in 1995 after a protracted political battle (Johnson, 2003). Throughout the historical development of multicultural education, community responses to curriculum and policies designed to encourage and promote diversity have been influenced by the shifting political and social contexts of individual schools, districts, and the larger society. In recent years multiculturalists have developed and refined sophisticated models to explain how multicultural education might transform K-12 school systems.

Models and Approaches to Multicultural Education

Three of the most comprehensive and widely known models for multicultural education have been developed by theorists James A. Banks, Christine Sleeter, Carl Grant, and Sonia Nieto. Banks’ conceptual model of multicultural education (Banks & Banks, 2006) includes five interrelated dimensions. Content integration is the extent to which teachers use examples and content from a variety of cultures and groups to illustrate key concepts in their subject area or discipline. Banks acknowledges that more opportunities may exist to incorporate ethnic and cultural content in some subject areas, such as social studies, language arts, and music, rather than others, such as science and math. The knowledge construction process examines how teachers help students understand and investigate the implicit cultural assumptions, perspectives, and biases within a discipline and how the knowledge created reflects the positionality and lived reality of those who construct it. For example, students might analyze the knowledge construction process in science by studying how racism has been perpetuated by genetic theories of intelligence, Darwinism, and eugenics. Prejudice reduction describes the characteristics of student’s racial and ethnic attitudes and presents strategies that can be used to reduce prejudice and develop democratic attitudes. Equal status contact that is cooperative, sanctioned by authorities, and helps students become acquainted with each other as individuals develop positive intergroup attitudes. An equity pedagogy examines how teachers modify their teaching to facilitate the academic achievement of students from diverse racial, cultural, and social-class groups. This includes teaching styles that are consistent with a wide range of learning styles within various cultural and ethnic groups. An empowering school culture and social structure examines grouping and labeling practices, participation in extracurricular activities, disproportionality in achievement, and the interaction of the staff and students across ethnic and racial lines to create a school culture that empowers students from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural groups. Many of the school-based programs that promote diversity would fall under the content integration dimension, although curriculum materials and videotapes produced by national organizations like Teaching Tolerance (sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama) also incorporate prejudice reduction.

Grant and Sleeter’s (2003) model, which was developed through a review of the literature and observations of teachers, identifies five different approaches that address human diversity in the schools:

  1. Teaching the exceptional and culturally different aims to assimilate students of color into the cultural mainstream and existing social structure, equipping people of color with the knowledge and skills to succeed in schools and society.
  2. A human relations approach helps students of different backgrounds appreciate each other’s similarities and differences and improves intercultural relations.
  3. Single group studies focus on the experiences, contributions, and concerns of distinct cultural, ethnic, gender, and social-class groups often left out of the curriculum, such as African Americans and women.
  4. Multicultural education is a combination of the first three approaches that attempts to “change school practices to bring about greater cultural pluralism and equal opportunity in society at large” (Grant & Sleeter, 2003, p. 8).
  5. Education that is multicultural and social reconstruction-ist addresses social inequities in society “to prepare students . . . to deal constructively with social problems and to take charge of their own futures” (Grant & Sleeter, 2003, p. 8).

This last approach deals with all forms of group oppression as a whole. Classroom approaches that are social reconstructionist might emphasize democratic decision making and social action at the classroom level and the dismantling of tracking and high-stakes testing at the school level.

Nieto (2004) defines multicultural education as “a process of comprehensive school reform . . . that challenges and rejects racism and other forms of discrimination in schools and society and accepts and affirms the pluralism (ethnic, racial, linguistic, religious, economic, and gender among others) that students, their communities, and teachers reflect” (p. 346). Nieto advocates for multicultural education that permeates the curriculum, instruction, and interactions among teachers, students, and families; confronts issues of power and privilege in society; and challenges how racism and other biases are reflected in the structures, policies, and practices of schools. Her definition includes seven basic characteristics of multicultural education:

  1. It is antiracist.
  2. It provides a basic education.
  3. It is important for all students.
  4. It is pervasive.
  5. It establishes social justice in education.
  6. It is a process.
  7. It incorporates critical pedagogy.

In Nieto’s model the characteristics of multicultural education are expressed at five different levels that exhibit increasing awareness and commitment by educators. At the first level, monocultural education, racism is unacknowledged and the educational program supports the status quo. At the next level, tolerance, ethnic and women’s studies courses may be offered as isolated courses, and policies that challenge racism and discrimination are initiated. At the acceptance level, the curriculum is inclusive of the histories and perspectives of a broader range of people, and the role of schools in social change is acknowledged. At the fourth level, respect, curriculum is explicitly antiracist and honest, students take part in community activities that reflect their social concerns, and both students and teachers use critical dialogue to see and understand different perspectives. Nieto’s fifth and highest level of multicultural education incorporates the affirmation, solidarity, and critique. At this level all students learn to speak a second language, everyone takes responsibility for challenging racism and discrimination, and the curriculum and instructional techniques are based on an understanding of social justice as central to education. Although multiculturalists have developed comprehensive theoretical models, Gay (2001) notes that a gap continues to exist between the theory and practice of multicultural education in U.S. schools.

From Theory to Practice

In practice, schools often adopt a contributions or heroes and holidays approach to multicultural education that adds some cultural content but fails to challenge the underlying mainstream cultural assumptions of the curriculum or address systematic societal inequities. For instance, high school English teachers might include a novel by Toni Morrison or Amy Tan on their reading lists, or middle school teachers might add a unit on the civil rights movement to their existing social studies curriculum. Elementary school teachers often incorporate multicultural picture books in their classroom library for independent reading. Conflict resolution programs are developed in school districts to reduce prejudice and improve human relations, particularly in response to ongoing incidents of racial or ethnic conflict.

As Nieto (2003) suggests, however, “multicultural education needs to be accompanied by a deep commitment to social justice and equal access to resources. Multicultural education needs, in short, to be about much more than ethnic tidbits and cultural sensitivity” (p. 8). The challenge in the 21st century is how to bridge the gap between the theory and practice of multicultural education to address the vast inequities that continue to exist in U.S. public schools. Teachers and administrators need professional development in designing multicultural curriculum and instructional strategies that will help them respond to different learning styles, worldviews, and the funds of knowledge that diverse groups of students bring to the schools. Multiculturalists advocate the implementation of pedagogy and leadership that is “culturally relevant” or “culturally responsive” (Gay, 2000).

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

Ladson-Billings coined the term culturally relevant pedagogy in The Dreamkeepers (1994), her now classic study of eight exemplary teachers of African American students. This instructional approach arises from previous anthropological work that noted a cultural mismatch between students from culturally diverse backgrounds and their White middle-class teachers, particularly in language and verbal participation structures. As defined by Ladson-Billings (1995a; 1995b), culturally relevant pedagogy rests on three propositions: (a) students must experience academic success; (b) students must develop or maintain cultural competence; and (c) students must develop a critical consciousness through which they challenge the status quo of the social order. Building on Ladson-Billings’ study, Cooper (2003) investigated the practices of effective White teachers of African American students who had been nominated by the Black administrators and parents in their predominately African American schools. She found that they adopted many of the practices of effective African American teachers, including being “warm demanders” who held high expectations for academic achievement and becoming second mothers or “othermothers” to the children in their classroom.

In their model of culturally responsive teaching, Ville-gas and Lucas (2002) describe culturally responsive teachers as those who (a) have a sociopolitical consciousness; (b) affirm views of students from diverse backgrounds; (c) are both responsible for and capable of bringing about educational change; (d) embrace constructivist views of teaching and learning; and (e) build on students’ prior knowledge and beliefs while stretching them beyond the familiar (p. xiv). In sum, most approaches to culturally relevant or culturally responsive instruction described in the multicultural education literature use students’ culture as a vehicle for learning, and also teach students how to develop a broader sociopolitical consciousness that enables them to “critique the cultural norms, values, mores, and institutions that produce and maintain social inequities” (Ladson-Billings, 1995b, p. 162).

Although much of the research on culturally responsive practices has been applied to classroom teaching, recent efforts have attempted to apply a culturally responsive framework to school leadership. These studies have identified culturally responsive principals as those who emphasize high expectations for student academic achievement, exhibit an ethic of care or “empowerment through care,” and maintain a commitment and connection to the larger community (e.g., Johnson, 2006; Reitzig and Patterson, 1998; Scheurich, 1998). Riehl (2000) also identifies three tasks that determine whether administrators are pre-pared to respond to diversity and demonstrate multicultural leadership. Such administrators foster new definitions of diversity; promote inclusive instructional practices within schools by supporting, facilitating, or being a catalyst for change; and build connections between schools and communities.

Critiques of Multicultural Education

Multicultural education has not been without its critics on both the right and the left of the political spectrum. In the early 1990s, a barrage of critiques emerged. Multicul-turalists were attacked by conservatives in the popular media who called them too radical, while critical scholars and theorists argued that multicultural education was not radical enough. According to Sleeter (1995), these attacks corresponded to efforts to make multicultural education part of the required curriculum at the state and university level. This criticism was particularly evident in the conservative response to the development of New York State’s Curriculum of Inclusion. A state taskforce made up largely of academics recommended revisions of the social studies curriculum to acknowledge institutional racism in U.S. history, but the curriculum revision was scuttled after a public outcry in the popular media.

Conservative critics argue that multicultural education is divisive, lacks intellectual rigor, is not founded on sound theory, and does not address the real causes of under-achievement by racial and ethnic minority groups. Sleeter (1995) notes that many of the conservative’s criticisms ignore the research and theory that multicultural education builds on, particularly anthropological and sociological work on cultural dissonance and knowledge construction conducted by scholars of color and feminists and critical scholars. She concludes that conservative’s criticisms of multicultural education arise from the unease White America feels about its own future and reflects the efforts of the mainstream to pin its fears and anxieties on the threat of diversity.

Radical left critiques of multicultural education have been written mainly by critical theorists for an audience of theorists. They fault multicultural education for embracing individual mobility rather than collective advancement and structural equality. They argue that multicultural curriculum suggests psychological solutions to political problems, and they criticize the tendency of multicultural proponents to overestimate the ability of schools to influence the social and economic futures of poor students and students of color.

Radical critics have also argued that multicultural education’s focus on a commonsense definition of culture reifies the cultural characteristics, symbols, perspectives, and affiliations of individuals from particular racial and ethnic groups and fails to acknowledge multiple and hybrid identities that result when race, gender, and sexual orientation intersect. Radical critics argue that when multicultural education is framed around learning about other cultures and dispelling stereotypes, the larger issues of structural inequality are ignored. They conclude that multicultural education should develop a more explicit critique of White racism, capitalism, and patriarchy (Sleeter, 1995). In the 21st century, several multicultural theorists have responded to these criticisms, by the radical left in particular, by acknowledging the growing complexities of racial and cultural identity development and by developing a more explicit focus on critical theories that analyze how race and racism systematically structure inequalities in schools and society.

Future Trends

Racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity in the United States is projected to increase and become more complex in the foreseeable future. Hispanics are now the largest ethnic minority group in America (14.5%) and are growing at an estimate of 1.7 million people a year. The Census Bureau predicts that 25% of the U.S. population will be Hispanic by 2050. This growing Latino population is no longer concentrated in Florida and the Southwest, but distributed throughout the United States in Northeastern states like Massachusetts, Midwestern cities like Chicago and Milwaukee, and Southern states like South Carolina.

The current student population of the New York City public schools provides a glimpse of the demographic complexity that urban school districts will exhibit in the future. In New York City high schools, 10% of the students have immigrated in the last 3 years, most from Latin American and Asian countries. The overwhelming majority are students of color (85%), including Black (35%), Hispanic or Latino (36%), and Asian (14%). These general racial categories, however, fail to capture the ethnic diversity within each racial group. For instance, Black students may be African American; first- and second-generation immigrants from Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, and other Caribbean nations; or African. The Latino population includes Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Ecuadorians, and Mexican Americans (along with several other Hispanic groups). Asian students include first- and second-generation Chinese Americans who immigrated from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mainland China; Koreans; South Asians; and Vietnamese. Many students classified as White or other are also ethnically diverse, thanks to recent immigration from the former Soviet Union, Eastern European countries, and several Middle Eastern nations.

In addition, there are a growing number of mixed race students throughout the country who claim a bicultural or multicultural identity and challenge our current understanding of racial categories. The 2000 census instruction to mark one or more races created the possibility of 63 racial categories and began to reveal the recent growth of this population. For instance, in the Pacific West, 8.9% of children identify as mixed race, and in the Southwest 19.8% identify as Latino and White. In the 21st century, these changes challenge educators to rethink existing racial categories and racial identity development processes as the population of mixed race students is likely to increase.

Resegregation and Accountability Pressures

Despite the growing diversity of the school-age population, recent court decisions and policy trends will have an effect on the implementation of multicultural education in the 21st century. There has been an overwhelming trend in recent years toward school district resegregation, particularly in states in the Northeast and Midwest. In 2006, roughly three-in-ten Hispanic (29%) and Black (31%) students attended schools that were nearly all-minority. The most segregated group by race and income are Latino students. Intensely segregated schools for African Americans and Latinos have particularly negative consequences because these schools have high concentrations of poverty and are linked to unequal resources and educational outcomes (Orfield, Frankenberg, & Lee, 2003). Some legal advocates have shifted the focus away from desegregation cases at the federal level and concentrated their efforts on fiscal equity lawsuits at the state level. Their aim is to redistribute resources to poor urban schools to ensure that all students receive a “sound basic education” (Rebell, 2005).

Other equity advocates continue to press for desegregation of the schools, although the 2007 Supreme Court decision that struck down voluntary public school integration plans in Seattle, Washington, and Louisville, Kentucky, narrows the strategies that public schools can use to achieve or maintain racial diversity. The resegregation of U.S. schools is of grave concern for all students because classroom diversity and informal interaction across racial and ethnic groups can positively influence all students’ learning and civic outcomes and improve intergroup relations and mutual understanding. In the 21st century, multicultural education advocates will have to develop new strategies to ensure that the public schools retain diverse student populations and garner equal resources for all schools. Because current policy trends have reinforced the movement toward neighborhood schools, efforts may include working with community development specialists and urban planners to advocate for the development of multi-income housing to create more economically diverse city neighborhoods.

The growth of accountability mandates and standardized testing since the mid-1990s has also proven challenging to teachers and school leaders who are committed to implementing multicultural curriculum in their classrooms and schools. As Ladson-Billings (2004) notes, “the entire history of standardized testing has been one of exclusion and social ranking rather than diagnosis and school improvement” (p. 60). The passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2001 required a system of accountability from each state that received federal funding and expanded the system of high-stakes testing in school systems across the country. With pressures to perform well on state-mandated tests, poor urban school districts that serve predominately students of color have increasingly relied on prescribed and scripted curriculum materials to find a quick fix for unsatisfactory test scores. These intensified efforts to improve performance in math and reading tend to drive other subjects out of the curriculum. Time devoted to social studies, science experiments, art, theater productions, music, and physical education is reduced, and students from diverse backgrounds are exposed to inflexible curricula and teaching strategies that violate their home cultures and languages (Sleeter, 2005). The challenge for multiculturalists in the 21st century will be to make a con-vincing case for multicultural curriculum and assessment approaches that incorporate multiple perspectives, multiple frames of reference, and multiple funds of knowledge. If student assessment is to be more culturally responsive for diverse students, advocates of multicultural education must garner support from school district, state, and national education leaders and policy makers to alter the current high-stakes testing environment. This suggests, as Sleeter (1995) notes, “that the work to come is political in addition to being pedagogical” (p. 92).

New Theoretical Approaches

As multicultural education comes of age, scholars in the 21st century continue to develop new theoretical approaches to analyze inequities in schools and address America’s diversity. Some theorists advocate a primary focus on race and racism through antiracist education (Kailin, 2002) or critical race theory (Ladson-Billings, 2004). Antiracists define White racism as the crucial determinant of the life chances of children of color. The focus of antiracist education is on the relations of domination rather than on difference alone, as is common in conventional multicultural approaches (Kailin, 2002). Antiracist pedagogy aims to empower through critically analyzing existing power relations and knowledge paradigms. Antiracist approaches to teacher education have generally been more prevalent in England and Canada, while critical multiculturalists in the United States have focused on critical race theory as an oppositional approach to interpret how race has influenced America’s educational policies, practices, and systems.

Critical race theory (CRT) developed in critical legal studies in the 1980s in response to the inability of traditional civil rights legislation to uncover racial inequity and legal injustice and to help inform strategies of resistance. It was introduced to the field of education by William Tate and Gloria Ladson-Billings (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995) and has been used by a variety of scholars to analyze educational practices and policies over the last 13 years. CRT is marked by a number of defining elements. The first element is that racism is a normal, not aberrant or rare, fact of daily life in U.S. society and that the assumptions of White superiority are so ingrained in political, legal, and educational structures that they are almost unrecognizable (Delgado, 1995). As Milner (2007) notes, “Critical race theorists attempt to expose racism and injustice in all its forms and facets; explain the implicit and explicit consequences of systematic, policy-related racism; and they work to disrupt and transform policies, laws, theories, and practices through the exposure of racism” (p. 39).

Second, CRT scholars often use storytelling, narrative, autobiography, and parable as a way to expose and challenge social constructions of race and make visible the distinctive experiences of people of color. Emphasis is placed on the use of voice and naming one’s own reality to create counter narratives to the dominant mainstream narratives (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). Through this approach knowledge is reconstructed and communities of color are empowered to name their reality. Delgado (1995) points out an important distinction between the viewpoints of Whites and people of color: Whites don’t see it as their perspective, but the truth.

A third tenet of CRT is Bell’s (1980) theory of interest convergence; that is, historically, the interest of Blacks in gaining racial equality have been accommodated only when they have converged with the interests of powerful Whites. In Bell’s (1980) view, “Whites may agree in abstract that Blacks (and other people of color) are citizens and are entitled to constitutional protection, yet still believe that justice can be remedied effectively without alteringm the status of Whites” (p. 522).

Critical theories of race like antiracism and CRT acknowledge the pervasiveness of racism in society and privilege the stories and experiences of people of color who have been negatively affected by racism to illustrate how social institutions and practices reinforce White privilege. Educational theorists have applied the tenets of CRT to analyze a range of educational policies and practices, including the racial achievement gap (Taylor, 2006), the politics of education (Lopez, 2003), community organizing for school reform (Su, 2007), and literacy curriculum (Rogers & Mosley, 2006).

Other multiculturalists have developed an international focus that investigates approaches to diversity in global contexts. Recent books compare the similarities and differences between multicultural policies in the United States and Canada (e.g., Joshee & Johnson, 2007), approaches to race and racism in Britain and the United States (e. g. Ladson-Billings & Gillborn, 2004), and the intersection of multicultural education and citizenship issues (Banks, 2004). Banks’ (2004) edited volume, Diversity and Citizenship Education: Global Perspectives, pushes the boundaries of multicultural education beyond the politics of recognition in particular nation-states to a global conversation about justice and equality in a transnational arena. Chapters by scholars from Canada, Britain, South Africa, Brazil, Israel, Palestine, Russia, Japan, India, and China discuss how diversity and citizenship issues play out in particular national contexts and discuss issues such as the conflict between domestic multicultural education and cosmopolitan multiculturalism (where diversity is viewed as good for business); ethnic identity development in monocultural versus multicultural societies; and the importance of all students developing cultural, national, and global identifications. As a follow up to this volume, an international group of scholars in multicultural education developed a checklist and bibliography for teachers about how to integrate effective multicultural citizenship principles and concepts in K-12 classrooms (Banks et al., 2005). This international focus promises to expand our conceptions of multicultural education in the future as we begin to understand and incorporate a broader set of equity concerns worldwide.


In conclusion, at the dawn of the 21st century, many of the concerns debated in diverse U.S. school districts 70 years ago remain on the multicultural agenda. Critical issues in the coming century will include the need for more teachers of color; increased parent and community engagement in curriculum decisions and decision making; culturally responsive curriculum that reflects the history, values, and cultural knowledge of students from diverse backgrounds; and teacher and leadership certification programs that aim to prepare all educators to teach and lead for diversity. With a current U.S. teaching force that is 87% White and middle-class, professional development for experienced teachers and preservice teacher education programs are challenged to develop new approaches that will create a diverse and culturally sensitive teaching force. Possible strategies include career ladders to help teaching assistants from racially and culturally diverse communities obtain teacher certification, the recruitment of a more diverse pool of teacher candidates who are culturally responsive, and ongoing professional development for preservice and inservice teachers on diversity issues. This professional development must go beyond one-shot diversity workshops with little follow through and include more in-depth immersion programs that would enable White preservice teachers to work with experienced teachers of color and other community leaders on joint projects that might expose them to insider’s knowledge about race and racism and how to reduce prejudice.

The ongoing challenge remains—how to make the promise of multicultural education real by bridging the gap between theory and practice to provide an education for all students that “promotes social structural equality, affirms societal diversity, achieves academic excellence for all students, and prepares students to become active members of a democratic society” (Grant & Ladson-Billings, 1997, p. 186). Students and parents in America’s schools deserve nothing less.


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