With all the controversy surrounding multiculturalism and diversity in the United States it is only natural that there are misconceptions about multicultural education and what it means for all students. With American Latinos students being the 25 percent of the public school population nationwide, there is an evident need for a multicultural approach to education that helps Latino and other minority students thrive.
There is no doubt that American Latinos students are struggling in schools around the country. Meanwhile, the misconceptions about multicultural education as it relates to Latinos prevent the implementation of an inclusive approach by teachers who are serving populations they can’t quite understand. Unfortunately, multicultural education has not been implemented in the k-12 school system and we don’t expect it will happen anytime soon.
We know is that many educators around the United States have been trying to take a more culturally diverse approach to education in their own schools, but this efforts are often misguided by a lack of understanding and/or knowledge of the very students they serve. Many people see the idea of multicultural education as an immigration and racial issue, and while those are realities in our schools, a majority of students of color in the school system today are American born, so still the majority will benefit from this approach to education.
One of the general misconceptions about multicultural education is that it is tied to an ethnic movement and that it seeks the end of the mainstream American culture, as if it will remove one to replace it with that of a different social, cultural and/or ethnic group. The opposite is true, real and effective multicultural education is meant to be inclusive of all, and enriches all students as they exchange diverse knowledge and perspectives that will better prepare them for the global world we live in.
Among other misconceptions about multicultural education is the idea that it is a divisive approach. On the contrary, multicultural education is the ultimate unifier, it will help not only raise the next generations and train educators, but create national awareness of the multicultural nature of our country, and therefore creating more understanding for future generations. Multiculturalism can be the ultimate unifier.
There are also other misconceptions about multicultural education and American Latinos. Ideas that often let educators to believe they are making an effort in taking a multicultural approach towards Latino students, when in fact, they are not well informed and know the cultural complexities of the community in order to take the right steps to help students learn while being culturally relevant.
Multicultural education should not be an ‘add on’ to an already overburdened curriculum but must be viewed as a comprehensive approach that is integrated throughout the whole school culture. It will only receive a fair consideration through properly trained teachers who dedicate themselves towards the well-being of each and every student in their classroom.
Misconceptions About Multicultural Education And Latinos
American Latinos Share One Culture. While there is such a thing as a community culture among Latinos, characteristics and traits that we all have in common. American Latinos are in fact the most multicultural population in the United States. Depending on the background there are distinct differences between the culture of South Americans to Central Americans to those in the Caribbean. And even though we are connected by sharing the Spanish language, there are many other indigenous languages in the continent and different dialects depending on the country of origin. If you add the American experience to that, you have a very diverse cohort. To achieve a truly multicultural education it is important to take into account the different cultures within the Latino culture instead of trying to make it homogeneous and fit into one “easy” box. It will enrich the experiences of students to learn about the richness of different backgrounds within the American Latino experience, so they can have a better understanding of the whole picture.
Books In Spanish Are Authentic. Having book fairs with titles in Spanish or bilingual has become common in many schools across the country. However, having books in the language doesn’t mean they are true to the culture, or even with characters that are relevant to them. While there are many available books in Spanish, most of those are translations of English language books that don’t represent the culture. Another reality is that when teachers pick books from other cultures, they might make the mistake of choosing something stereotypical, racist or that negatively represents a particular group, which defeats the original purpose of making students feel included.
A ‘Latino Look’ You Identify Students By. The notion that you can learn a student’s background based solely on the way they look is not only stereotyping but also highly inaccurate as the American population becomes more mixed, and that includes American Latinos. Also, without taking into account multiracial individuals, Latinos’ background is already diverse with a mix of African, Indigenous and Caucasian. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about multicultural education in terms of the approach teachers decide to take in the classroom just based on the appearances of students.
All Latino Families Are Made Equal. As many people think of Latinos as an homogeneous group, in the classroom the same mistake is often made. When teachers think that all Latino families share the same values and set of believes, they run into the reality of the diversity of the American Latino experience. Not being able to acknowledge the difference among students in the same classroom who are Latino but have different backgrounds creates more division than having an open approach to multiculturalism and learning from one another both the differences and similarities of all students in the classroom, including those who might seem very similar and not be, and others that might not fit into the idea of what a Latino is but also belongs to the ethnic group.
Lack of Resources & Not Enough Teachers. While many feel that you need to be Latino and bilingual to teach Latino kids, the opposite is true. An educator that is committed to multicultural education can use the resources available (and there are plenty) to educate himself/herself around the diversity of its classroom. A good teacher is one that is committed to continuous learning and with the changing demographic the need to educate ourselves with a multicultural approach is greater, and that’s is even more important for educators who have to shape the citizens of tomorrow. There are plenty of books, websites and work plans that can help in taking a multicultural approach and to end some of the misconceptions about multicultural education many of us still have.
The goal of multicultural education should be designed for all students to combat prejudice and develop an appreciation for all cultures and providing the same kind of opportunities for all students in the school environment/the classroom. As a society, we ought to be committed to learning about other cultures and embracing the diversity that it is around us; and that, starts with our teachers and students nationwide.
Leave a Reply