A. Williamson1, L. Jones2

1Angelo State University (UNITED STATES)
2Consultant (UNITED STATES)
The concept of multiculturalism itself has evolved. There was first the notion that only culturally and linguistically diverse people need multicultural education. Then came the human relations idea that everyone’s uniqueness and feelings should be acknowledged. Next, the ethnic studies movement advocated the study of excluded minority groups and world literatures. There are now the proponents who attempt to combine all three of these perspectives to enhance self esteem, enable positive interaction, and socially raise global awareness. Among scholars in the field, the goals behind education that is multicultural and socially reconstructionist are to improve academic outcomes, promote equity among gender, ethnicity and exceptionality, and affect change in the society beyond school (Attinasi, n.d.).

While these are only concepts about multiculturalism, the movement of multiculturalism affects school leaders, parents, community members, and society as a whole (Attinasi, n.d.). Understanding that communication styles, attitudes towards conflict, different approaches to task completion, decision making styles, attitudes toward disclosure, and approaches to knowing are all influenced by one’s culture results in a greater understanding of students and in their learning needs. In addition, this knowledge provides a foundation for what can be taught about culture within the classroom. A multicultural education teaches not only about race and ethnicity, but also about cultures enveloping classes, genders, religions, and geographic location, for example. Tolerance, acceptance, and respect are at the heart of this teaching and should prepare students for critical thinking, understanding of diversity, and productivity in society.

School populations are consistently becoming more diverse, yet multicultural education is not emphasized in schools, and tolerance is not a sufficient focus. This presentation will emphasize the importance of implementing multicultural education in schools, and the responsibility of districts and schools to utilize multicultural education as a tool for transforming and improving school culture.