Multicultural education

My wife is studying for her master’s in education at a prominent university whose name I won’t give in order so that my wife won’t fail her class (!). One of her required classes is about multiculturalism. The text for the class is “Human Diversity in Education”, by Kenneth Cushner, Averil McClelland and Philip Safford. The text promotes attention to “diversity” in education, because “the more congruent the school experience is with the other experiences of the child, the better the child’s chance of success”. Here is the authors’ description of what we would think of as a traditional approach to education, from page 40 of the sixth edition of the text:

“The assimilationist view, sometimes called a monocultural perspective, shares an image or model of American culture. In this view there is a core ‘American’ culture composed of common knowledge, habits, values and attitudes. For people who think of American culture this way, these common characteristics might include the following: ‘real’ Americans are mostly white, middle-class adults (or are trying to be); they are heterosexual, married, go to church (mostly Protestant but sometimes Catholic). They live in single-family houses (which they own, or are trying to); they work hard, eat well, stand on ‘their own two feet’; they expect their children to behave themselves; they wash themselves a good deal, and generally try to smell ‘good’; they are patriotic and honor the flag; they are often charitable and, in return, expect only that those receiving their charity will try to ‘shape up’; and they are not very interested in ‘highfalutin’ ideas found in books written by overly educated people; instead they believe in ‘good, old-fashioned common sense.'”

The authors go on to say that those who hold this “narrow” monocultural perspective believe that those who don’t fit this mold are “dangerous” to the maintenance of America as it is supposed to be; that children with disabilities and those who are intellectually or otherwise gifted are “viewed in some sense as ‘others'”; and that anyone who doesn’t share their views is not a ‘real’ American.

The book goes downhill from there…