Additional Discussion

Level 1. The Contributions Approach

The Level 1 approach highlights cultural heroes, holidays, and discrete cultural elements. For example, the language arts teacher can focus on specific cultural holidays and heroes. Students could read stories or myths and then retell, report, and reflect on these heroes' contributions to community, national, and global culture. As part of the social studies curriculums, students could study biographies of specific cultural heroes. They could investigate the traditions and historical contexts of various cultural holidays. On a secondary level, language arts students could analyze specific cultural literary styles and dialects (e.g., the haiku genre of poetry). Secondary social studies students could analyze specific cultural practices and their consequences for those individuals' social and economic lives.

Level 2. The Additive Approach

At Level 2, the classroom time spent on multicultural investigations is greatly expanded with literal “add on” units dealing in depth with content, concepts, themes, and perspectives. On Level 1, Native American heroes' mythology might only have been represented by a single story detailing Native Americancontributions to mythology. On Level 2, however, the teacher would set aside a block of time to study several myths. On Level 1, students would have the option of reading biographies that documented the contributions of various Latino subgroup members to global culture; but as part of Level 2, the teacher would add a unit of class study devoted to the contributions of the Latinos to global culture—without changing the curriculum. In an additive approach to the integration of ethnic content, units of study are added on to the existing curriculum without transforming the methodologies and structure of that curriculum.

Level 3. The Transformation Approach

Level 3 of Banks' metaphoric stepladder involves altering the structure of the set curriculum to enable students to view concepts, issues, events, and themes from diverse ethnic and cultural perspectives. How is this approach different from the contribution and additive approaches to multicultural education? In the Native American mythology example, rather than looking at isolated myths or adding a unit of study on Native American myths, teachers and students using a Level 3 approach would develop a new unit of comparative mythology study analyzing common themes, as well as unique cultural tales. This unit would be developed, piloted, and shaped by student responses. In the social studies content area, teachers would not be limited to examining one specific Puerto Rican festival, for example, or spending a period or two studying Puerto Rican holidays and festivals. Rather, on Level 3, teachers and students would restructure the curriculum with a new unit or module focusing on Puerto Rican holidays and festivals, including those of the native Puerto Ricans themselves, New Yorkers of Puerto Rican extraction, Cubans, Caucasian Americans, Black Americans, Spaniards, and other cultural groups.
The key distinctions between Banks' Levels 1 and 2, and Level 3 is that, on the transformational level, the teacher literally “pulls out,” “redesigns,” and “creates anew” the existing curriculum. Picture the concrete representations of the existing curriculum structure—lesson plans, handouts, texts, visuals—being tossed into a wastepaper basket or (if kept) realigned, refocused, and submerged into a new array of texts, handouts, and approaches. The original structure, unit, or module of activities has been restructured or transformed so that students are engaged in exploring the content through multiple perspectives of diverse ethnic and cultural groups.

Level 4. Social Action Approach

Banks' Level 4 approach enhances student engagement in exploring multiple perspectives by having them make decisions on issues and take actions to solve them. The key focus words for this approach aresocial and action. In activities at this level, students and teachers reach out to families, colleagues, and community members. They work collaboratively on projects that can range from a desktop-publishedParent and Child Book of Cultural Heroes, letters of protest to a local newspaper about the biased coverage of a particular cultural group, community-financed and -coordinated multilingual greeting cards, and student lobbying for a special needs legislative bill.
Banks does not expect teachers to immediately integrate ethnic content on Levels 3 and 4, although these approaches are the desirable ones that can best facilitate “education for freedom” and make the multicultural education process “an inclusive and cementing one.” Rather, by using the various approaches and stepladder gradations, teachers can assess their own growth, as well as the multicultural education programs in their classrooms.

Common Misconceptions About Multicultural Education

Finally, it is important to consider Banks' comments on many of the mistakenly controversial, combative aspects of multiculturalism ascribed to this educational process by parents, the general public, administrators, and teaching colleagues not sufficiently grounded in academically accepted multicultural education theories. Banks' theories address many of the objections to the integration of multiethnic understandings across the curriculum and should be used by teachers to back up their practices in the face of potential misconceptions.
Among the commonly misunderstood perceptions of multiculturalism Banks explicates are:
  • Misconception 1.Multicultural education is education for and about minorities and persons of color. It is not relevant to Caucasian teachers and students. Further, multicultural education should by its nature be taught by persons of color.
    Banks has responded to this widely held, inaccurate assessment of multicultural education by noting:We talk about kids who are at risk, but . . . we are all at risk if we don't create a society that is united.
    Banks (1992, p. 23)
    Multicultural education is for all children, not just for African Americans or Hispanics or Native Americans, but for all students.
    Banks (quoted in Lockwood 1992, p. 3)

    As Banks explicitly states: “Another misconception is that teachers who are not minorities cannot teach multicultural education” (1992, p. 23). The author of this book and the body of initial curriculums, practices, projects, and workshops it grew out of, is a Caucasian Jewish female from Brooklyn. Enough said.
    Banks also notes that “multicultural education deals with all Americans, all of their struggles, hopes and dreams, including white America” (1992, p. 21).
  • Misconception 2.Like countless other buzzwords and dated educational “fashions of the times,” multicultural education is another “add on” to an already overburdened, unrealistic teaching load of standards and goals.
    Banks responds that multicultural education is “not an add on. We teach the same areas, we may reconceptualize them, but it's not something added on. Remember the Add on Approach is only step 2 in a ladder of 4 approaches” (1992, p. 22).
  • Misconception 3.Multicultural education should be limited to those inner cities with increasingly diverse populations.
    Banks reminds us of the broader mission of multicultural education. He conceives of it asa reform movement designed to bring about educational equity for all students . . . to create a school environment that is equitable and just. Multiculturalism ultimately is a way of thinking: It's recognizing other perspectives, but it's more than recognition. It's caring, and taking action to make our society more just and humane.” (1992, p. 21)

Sonia Nieto—Cultural Equity

Sonia Nieto, who is Program Director of the Cultural Diversity and Curriculum Reform Program, School of Education, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, echoes much of Banks' theories of multicultural education as an inclusive, questioning process for cultural equity.
She identifies seven basic characteristics of multicultural education. They are formulated as “endings” to the affirmative statement—
Multicultural education is
  • . . . antiracist education
  • . . . basic education
  • . . . important for all students
  • . . . pervasive
  • . . . education for social justice
  • . . . a process
  • . . . critical pedagogy
(1992, p. 208).
Whereas Banks' emphasis in furthering multicultural education is in staff development and curriculum integration, Nieto's key work Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education(1992) explores how personal, social, political, and educational factors have interacted to affect the success of multiethnic students. She details the educational impact of discrimination, racism, school policies, social/economic class, ethnicity, teacher preparation, teacher expectations, and language.
Teachers of language arts and social studies, in particular, can absorb considerable insights into the key role of language as a tool for multicultural education. Nieto notes: “Language is particularly important in multicultural education for it describes and defines people of many groups.” She suggests two key questions teachers should frame as they establish their own ongoing class dialogues with multiethnic students. They are: What ethnic/cultural classification (e.g., Latino, Cuban, Jewish American, Black, Afro-American, etc.) do the individuals in question want to be called? What is the most precise term? (1992).
The centerpiece of Nieto's theory is the primacy of
language choices . . . to affirm diversity . . . . Language can capture only imperfectly the nuances of who we are as people. But language, like multicultural education itself, is a process that is in constant flux. We therefore need to pay close attention to the connotations and innuendoes of its daily use (1992, p. 101).

* * *

This chapter began as a partial response to teachers' needs to be grounded in the underlying theories, approaches, and ideologies of the multicultural education process. Many volumes can and have been written exploring the rationale, principles, and broad implementation of multicultural education theories. The purpose of this book, however, is to provide teachers with a metaphoric highlighter—and concrete strategies—that will enhance the multicultural components of current language arts, social studies, and arts curriculums—as well as integrated curriculums. As you infuse multicultural understandings into your classroom, I hope you will continue to read theories by key researchers to inform your practice and to provide support in face of potential controversies that can rise out of public misconceptions about multicultural education. Figure 1.1 provides several tenets of multicultural education published by the National Education Policy Network of the National School Boards Association (Mack 1992); and Figure 1.2 provides definitions of multicultural education culled from interviews with James Banks. The tenets and definitions in these figures can be used to inform parent, teacher, and community groups about the process of evolving a multicultural classroom. These definitions can also assist in the encouragement of community feedback and evaluation, which is an essential part of the assessment of student work.

Figure 1.1. Tenets of Multicultural Education

Carl Mack, Jr., superintendent of the Del Rosa Heights School District in Sacramento, California, emphasizes six tenets of multicultural education. First:
[Multicultural education] must improve the educational performance of every student.
Carl Mack, Jr.,
Updating School Board Policies (1992, p. 1)
Mack quotes Corey Cook (The Davis Enterprise, May 5, 1992) for the other five tenets of multicultural education:
  • Multicultural education should offer a diversified curriculum that presents the views and perspectives of many peoples.
  • It should be based on the assumption that there is no single correct interpretation of history.
  • Curriculum achieves relevance by stressing comparative analysis through different cultural viewpoints.
  • [Multicultural education] must hold at its core the principle of eradicating racial/cultural/religious stereotypes.
  • Multicultural education presents a balance between understanding cultural similarities and differences and encouraging individuals to maintain and broaden their own cultures and cultural perspectives.
Coney Cooke (quoted in Mack 1992, p. 1)

Figure 1.2. James Banks on Multicultural Education

From an interview by Anne Turnbaugh Lockwood in Focus in Change, published by the National Center for Effective Schools Research & Development (Banks, quoted in Lockwood 1992):
The primary goal of multicultural education is an education for freedom. . . . Multicultural education should help students to develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills to participate in a democratic and free society. . . . Multicultural education promotes the freedom, abilities and skills to cross ethnic and cultural boundaries to participation in other cultures and groups (p. 23).
Multicultural education is for all children, not just for African Americans or Hispanics or Native Americans, but for all students (p. 23).
In the multicultural classroom, students hear multiple voices and multiple perspectives. They hear the voice of different ethnic and cultural groups (p. 23).
The aims of multicultural education should always be the same, regardless of the setting. However, the strategy points and methods may have to be contextualized (p. 26).
Multicultural education is primarily a way of thinking. It's a way of asking questions, a way of conceptualizing. I would start with self-development, with new knowledge, with helping teachers ask questions about the materials they have (p. 27).
A multicultural curriculum can be taught with almost any materials if the teachers have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to . . . transform their thinking and consequently the school curriculum (p. 27).
Multicultural education is an inclusive and cementing movement. . . . It attempts to bring various groups that have been on the margins of society to the center of society (p. 27).
From an interview in Teaching Tolerance, a magazine distributed without charge by the Southern Law Poverty Center, Montgomery, Alabama (Banks 1992):
Multicultural education is not about dividing a united nation, but about uniting a deeply divided nation (p. 21).
Multiculturalism ultimately is a way of thinking. It's thinking about concepts from different people's vantage points. It's recognizing other perspectives. . . . It's caring, and taking action to make our society more just and humane (p. 22).
Multicultural education is a reform movement designed to bring about educational equity for all students, including those from different races, ethnic groups, social classes, exceptionality, and sexual orientations (p. 21).

Go to this link and read Kincheloe and Steinberg's theories of ME.