Archive for the ‘Diversity’ Category

EDU 6133- Diversity in America

Lesson Plan- The African American Experience Prior to the Civil War

Grade 9 EALR 5.  Social Studies Skills – The student understands and applies reasoning skills to conduct research, deliberate, form, and evaluate positions through the processes of reading, writing, and communicating.

GLE (component) 5.1 – Uses critical reasoning skills to analyze and evaluate positions.

I used evidence from a chapter in After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection by James West Davidson and Mark Hamilton Lytle to address the conditions of African Americans in America during slavery and just after the Civil War in my lesson plan.  My lesson plan includes a testimony about the conditions of slavery that is contrary to popular understanding.  This is to bring out the environmental effects and conditions that will affect a testimony’s validity and objectivity.  The discussion about this testimony and others will lead to a period of direct instruction were the conditions of slavery and its effect on human beings will be established.

EDU 6133- Presentation

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Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s book The Disuniting of America, Reflections on a Multicultural Society is a defense of the majority white perspective against the beliefs and world view of Multiculturalism.  Schlesinger argues that the United States is a body of people, being made of multiple backgrounds and cultures but consisting of one identity as Americans.  He argues that Multiculturalism is not a movement to empower the individual but rather to divide the nation into groups constantly set against each other.

Schlesinger writes at length about the history of racism in the United States.  He establishes the history behind the perception of Americans being one people out of many (“E Pluribus Unum”) constructing his argument from the perspective of the founding fathers and from writers who wrote about their hope for what America would become.  He then describes the rise of the movement for racial identity, which he argues is a weapon to divide the American culture.  His argument is that where once racial identity was second to individualism and personal freedom, now racial identity has become the focus of an individual’s identity.  He continues by pointing out that schools have been forced to take a perspective that lessens the importance of Western History in favor of multicultural perspectives.   He claims this is unfair to the western perspective because of its impact on the United States and its identity and beliefs as a nation.  Schlesinger elevates the idea of the ‘melting pot’ as the basis of the United States culture and argues that unity as Americans is the best hope for America’s future.

The book read like a heated defense of Western perceptions and values and he often didn’t attempt to reconcile his perspective to the perspective of the multicultural community.  I can’t say that I disagree with his main point, however, that Americans should be united as one people.  His perception of the dangerousness of division is insightful and brings up very good questions: how will elevating our differences affect how we work together as a community?  Shouldn’t we be working to share our commonalities instead of dividing ourselves against each other?

I found the book to be very insightful at times, with a clear strong message, but also blunt and somewhat un-reaching.   Schlesinger with this book clearly wants to bring home the principle of unity as Americans and the importance of Western culture’s influence on American History.  I felt at sections, though, that his argument is merely beating around the bush of a larger issue.  His defense of western perceptions of life and liberty can only go so far to convince the public of its rightness and necessity in our society.  What Schlesinger needs to convince his audience of is a need for a foundation of understanding that establishes the importance of principles like individual freedom, unity as a people, common purpose and perspective, and the drive to make changes as a society to better everyone.

Schlesinger, A. M. (1998) The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society.  New

York: W. W. Norton and Company.

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                Transformative Multicultural Education is a way of life as much as it is a style of teaching.  It is a perspective, a plan, a motivation, and a life style. It requires the teacher to embrace the perspectives of others in their pursuit of reaching the diverse individuals in their classroom.  In order for them to bring as many individuals into the learning community as possible, the teacher must be culturally competent and must continually pursue an understanding of different facets of different cultures.  This competency should lead to a perspective that doesn’t elevate one perspective over another in the classroom so that many voices can be heard and taken seriously.

            Teachers who practice Transformative Multicultural Education use instructional techniques like differentiated instruction where different individuals are assessed on the basis of what their level of ability is and how much they understand. This is important to a multicultural mindset because it doesn’t assume that every student comes from the same background or from the same resources.  Teachers who practice multiculturalism must make the determination about the ability level of each student so they can construct an appropriate education curriculum centered on the needs of her students.  Multicultural teachers must also differentiate the curriculum so that it addresses and explores the perspectives of non-western peoples.  American education often focuses on the experience of western peoples, but often does not explore the experience of African Americans, Native Americans, East Asians, South Americans, etc.  The voice of the minority must be heard and understood in the context of the multicultural perspective.  These multicultural perspectives must lead to the motivation in students to change the world to eradicate injustice.  The multicultural perspective seeks to give students the opportunity to see the world as it is in contrast to biased perspectives which don’t take in the experience of every individual.

 Banks, J. A., & McGee Banks, C. A. (Eds.). (2007). Multicultural Education: Issues and

Perspectives.  Seattle, WA: Wiley                                                                         

Okun, M. (2011).  EDU 6133: Diversity in America.  Lecture 7 full text

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It is important for schools to create productive learning communities where students of every kind feel welcome and included.  This is accomplished through the attitude and language of the faculty, who should agree on the kind of multicultural approach they want to pursue for the sake of the community and the school.  Acceptance of different cultures and perspectives will spread to the students who see multiculturalism lived out by their teachers and the school’s faculty.

The biggest threat to the establishment of a successful multicultural learning environment is prejudice.  Prejudice is the actions and attitude surrounding the individuals who notice the differences between people but don’t appreciate them.  It is naturally constructed at an early age where the individual comes up against differences in other human beings that they don’t understand and can’t explain.  The natural response for most human beings is to separate themselves from those differences usually by degrading the individuals who are different from them.  The resulting attitude is one where every individual is somehow less superior to the first individual, whose attitude and characteristics should be seen by everyone else as normal.   Bullying is often the result of this kind of attitude and perspective.

Prejudice, unfortunately, is something that can’t necessarily be entirely overcome in a school system.  Every individual has the potential of creating bias against other individuals.  With a natural inclination towards dealing with differences this way, often students create biases in social circles, even if prejudice is discouraged by the teacher in the classroom.  Teachers can fight against prejudice by actively pursuing multiculturalism through lessons and activities that are geared towards exploring the understanding of diverse individuals.  Teachers should work into their curriculum material addressing the perspectives of different ethnic and ideological groups, women, and individuals with disabilities.  Students given the opportunity to understand different perspectives will have a better foundation for adopting an attitude of acceptance.

Banks, J. A., & McGee Banks, C. A. (Eds.). (2007). Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives.  Seattle, WA: Wiley

Okun, M. (2011).  EDU 6133: Diversity in America.  Lecture 6 full text

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It is important for teachers to practice different forms of differentiation depending on their grade level and subject.  Differentiation is the practice of varying instruction, placement, and assessment according to the needs of the student.  The theory behind Differentiation is the perception and belief that students will achieve more if their teachers teach to reach students where they are in their learning development.  Having different expectations of different students at different levels allows students not in the majority to advance and progress in their education where non-differentiation programs will not.

For a high school history or social studies teacher, this means varying the subjects taught in class, the pace of instruction, the levels of expectations and assessments, and providing students multiple opportunities for improvement.  Teachers teaching history should try to identify early on who the under-achieving and over-achieving students are in their classroom.  The teacher must provide assistance materials to the under-achieving students so that they can stay at pace with the other students in class.  For tests, the teacher might construct a separate test with separate questions to allow students to prove development of ability and understanding to the teacher.  Open ended essay responses are also appropriate to the subject of history, for which under-achieving students might be given a different rubric for assessment.  Open ended essay questions also allow the student to convey to the teacher their personal perspective and opinions, which the teacher should encourage as much as possible.  For over-achieving students, teachers should prepare extra credit assignments where further research and understanding can be pursued.  Extra credit projects allow for over-achievers to express their understanding and ability for their teacher and peers.  Finally, students of different abilities should be mixed in groups for class activities so that students can help each other in their development and ability.  Understanding of different perspectives and abilities should be pursued in the larger educational environment of the classroom.

Banks, J. A., & McGee Banks, C. A. (Eds.). (2007). Multicultural Education: Issues and

Perspectives.  Seattle, WA: Wiley

Okun, M. (2011).  EDU 6133: Diversity in America.

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Differentiated Instruction is the instructional practice where teachers alter their lessons and teaching styles to meet the needs of their students.  The concept and conviction behind the practice is the understanding that every student is different in their interests, learning abilities, learning styles, and background, so instruction should be constructed in a way that it acknowledges and embraces that reality.  Differentiated Instruction meets the need for Multicultural Education by establishing a system that intends to reach every individual, regardless of race, background, or socio-economic status.

Carol Ann Tomlinson (1999) talks about successfully implemented Differentiated Instruction in the preface to Differentiation (1999) where she describes how successful teachers center their instruction on their student’s readiness, interest, and on their student’s learning profile.  The student learning profile is constructed by the teacher for every student, who looks specifically at the student’s gender, culture/family history, learning style and abilities, and learning preference.  How an individual thinks affects what they find important and what they retain.  All students’ perceptions are affected by the environment in which they live and the culture which surrounds them.  This often most directly affects a student’s motivations, opinions, and desires for education.  It is important that a teacher recognize this critical factor to a student’s learning in their establishment of classroom policies and lecture/activities format.  Differentiated Instruction allows the teacher to address the needs of students who aren’t of white middle class background.  By altering their instruction to engage more students, the teacher can inspire and motivate students of different backgrounds to success in school and in life.  Differentiated Instruction is a key component to successful Multicultural Education.

Okun, M. (2011).  EDU 6133: Diversity in America.  Lecture 4 full text

Tomlinson, C. A. (1999).  Foreword to Differentiation.  Portland, Maine: Sternhouse.

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                Every teacher in every classroom is accountable to political correctness.  For many years, the United States have been attempting to adopt language and perspectives that are not offensive to individuals and cultures.  Teachers as representatives of the state and as public servants are responsible to be careful about what they say because what they say reflects the bias and perspectives of the government and nation that employs them.  Teachers, therefore, must reflect an attitude and communicate a perspective that is embracing to all cultures and individuals so that they might better communicate the perspective of the nation and of the society around them.   

                The problem, however, with the pursuit of political correctness is that it can become a detriment to healthy and honest conversation in the classroom.  The intent of pursuing political correctness is the goal of respecting and supporting the beliefs of every culture and individual.  Often political correctness is seen as a list of the subjects teachers and students are not allowed to talk about.  If this is the extent of political correctness, then those who practice it are not attempting to pursue and support individuals from different understandings then themselves, but rather, finding their perspectives about those cultures taboo, they decide to ignore those cultures altogether.  In this way, teachers in classrooms are not pursuing cultural diversity, but rather sticking to the subjects they know they can talk about without offending anyone.

                A better perspective is the pursuit of being culturally sensitive.  Cultural diversity within a classroom requires open conversation about the differences between individuals, backgrounds, and cultures.  A healthy perspective for students is one that acknowledges differences between individuals, perspectives, and backgrounds in the pursuit of better understanding and respect.  Reconciliation and respect can only be brought about in the classroom setting through engaging conversation and the pursuit of cultural diversity.

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