Multiculturalism in School Curriculum
Copyright 2005 Adam Waxler
What is multiculturalism in school curriculum?
Personally, I disagree with the many teachers today who are
pushing the notion that in order to teach multiculturalism in
school curriculum, teachers must actually move away from the
traditional curriculum. Yes, we must move away from the
textbook, but not necessarily the curriculum.
Don't get me wrong, teachers must include all the cultures that
make up our history, but we must not do so in a way that we are
forced to pull out each culture and teach it as a separate
entity such as Black History Month or Women's History Month.
This is not multicultural education, but rather what I call
"intellectual segregation" and it is wrong. All cultures should
be taught throughout all the units in order to be a truly
multicultural education. Having separate months for different
cultures is exactly the opposite of what a true multicultural
education should be trying to achieve.
Nor do we have to move away from the traditional curriculum to a
theme based curriculum as many suggest. Different cultures and
perspectives can and should be incorporated throughout the
various units within the traditional curriculum. For example,
when teaching the Progressive Era (part of the traditional
curriculum), my students work in pairs to write and present an
interview on one person from the time period. I provide students
with information from a variety of perspectives and from a
variety of races and genders. I do the same for many of my units.
Another example is from my World War II unit. Part of the
curriculum is life on the "home front" during World War II. My
students are split into groups with each group receiving
information on a different group of Americans
(African-Americans, women, children, Mexican-Americans etc.).
Students use the information they are provided to create a five
minute newscast about their particular group and present the
newscast to the rest of the class.
Likewise, in my unit on Vietnam, students examine various
perspectives on the war from various groups of Americans from
different genders and races before they write their five
paragraph essay arguing whether they think the U.S. should be
praised or condemned for their involvement in Vietnam. The
students are allowed to form their own opinions and arguments.
My job is simply to provide them with the information and be
Honestly, I can go on and on providing example after example,
but my point is this: The traditional curriculum can be taught
in way that is truly a multicultural education, that addresses
various perspectives and allows students to draw their own
The beauty of teaching multicultural history in this manner is
that it also addresses how students learn. Arguing and judging
are at the highest level of Bloom's taxonomy and by having
students make arguments and back up those arguments, whether you
as the teacher agree with them or not, is how students will
retain information. Fortunately, this retention will also
translate into higher standardized test scores.
The bottom line is this: We can teach a variety of perspectives
and cultures on a given curriculum in a student-centered
classroom that inspires active learning and also increases
standardized test scores.