Cultural Diversity In Schools

1929 Words8 Pages
Since early American history, schools, like society, have addressed

cultural diversity in different ways. In the colonial days, some attempts to

adjust to cultural differences were made in the New York colony, but the

dominant American culture was the norm in the general public, as well as most of

the schools. As America approached the nineteenth century, the need for a

common culture was the basis for the educational forum. Formal public school

instruction in cultural diversity was rare, and appreciation or celebration of

minority or ethnic culture essentially was nonexistent in most schools. In the

1930's, the educators were in the progressive education movement, called for

programs of cultural diversity that encouraged ethnic and minority students to

study their heritage. This movement became popular in many schools until

around 1950. Now, these days in education, the term multicultural education

never escapes a teacher's thoughts (Ryan, 26).

What does the term "multicultural education" mean to you? It means

different things to different people. For instance, to some minority

communities, it means to foster pride and self-esteem among minority students,

like the progressive movement in the 1930's. Another example would be in the

white communitites, that multicultural programs are designed to cultivate an

appreciation of various cultural, racial, and ethnic traditions. Cortes defines

multicultural education by the process by which schools help prepare young

people to live with greater understanding, cooperation, effectiveness, and

dedication to equality in a multicultural nation and inerdependent world (Cortes,


When I observed at Madison Elementary in December, I expected the school

would be multicultural in the sense of ethnic or racial backgrounds. Instead,

I was very surprised to discover that the school was predominately white

students, with only a handful of African American students in each classroom. I

did find out that the Wheeling Island area was in very low status pertaining to

income. Not only did over half of the students receive free or reduced lunch,

but the students academic skills were below the national norm. I never realized

what an effect of economic status can affect a student's academic progress. Of

course there are out lying factors, the parent involvement was at a minimum

because most families consisted of only one care taker. To make ends meet the

single parent had to spend most of his/her time working for money to buy clothes,

food, and to keep their children healthy. Madison Elementary had made great

strides to improve their efforts to better the students academic progress. The

school had instilled different programs like A-Team, Pre-K classes, Reading

Recovery, various health services, outreach to families, and many more to ensure
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