Key To Multicultural Education Essay, Research Paper
Broadening Our Children?s Horizons: The Key to Multicultural Education
John Searle addresses the ?major debate? going on at present concerning? a crisis in the teaching of the humanities.? [Searle, 106] He goes on to defend the canon of works by dead white males that has traditionally made up the curriculum of liberal arts education. I disagree with many of his arguments, and believe that multiculturalism should be taught in the university, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Openmindedness will take much more than just minimal changes in curriculum. In order for works by different races and women to be judged and studied alongside works by white men, they have to be seen as equal to works by white men. They have to be studied for their literary content, not for the statement they make about feminism or race. We don?t just need to evaluate them by the same standards, we need to change the standards. The standards set by the traditional liberal arts education have been set by white males and are inherently biased. New standards need to be set that are as openminded as we want students to be. This is a trend that needs to be started way before college. A diverse curriculum should be taught throughout a person?s education, because that is what will produce well rounded, openminded individuals that will change the tradition of oppression in society.
Searle says, ?We should not be embarrassed by the fact that a disproportionately large percentage of the major cultural achievements in our society have been made by white males.? [Searle, 118] To this, I say yes we should! We should be embarrassed that there are people who don?t see that this ?disproportionately large percentage? is not due to the overwhelming intelligence of the white male, but to centuries of oppression. Our culture hasn?t nurtured the intellectual efforts of women or minorities, their ideas and pursuits have been repressed, probably out of fear. We have a society dominated by white males, it shouldn?t be surprising that literature is too. We need to change the way our society view women and minorities. Trying to do this by changing the curriculum of college students is pointless. We need to start from the beginning, with the children.
Children need to be taught that they exist as a part of the world, rather than just as a part of America. If worldliness is encouraged at a young age, it will replace the ?us? and ?them? mentality that has become prevalent throughout all age groups. This is the final result we are truly looking for. It is not equal representation of ?them? (minorities and women) by a university dominated by ?them? (white males). We want students to think of all people in the same way, to include all human beings in the ?us? group, to judge them by the same standards free from stereotypes and generalizations. This is an idealistic vision, I know, but without ideals, where do we begin? Some say we begin by requiring college students to take a certain number of classes focusing on women and a certain number of classes about other races and cultures to supplement the core curriculum studying dead white males. These courses become tedious requirements, which students loath. They resent the classes because they seem like extra, unnecessary work that will have no significance in their future in American consumer society. Ultimately, they resent multiculturalism itself for the extra workload, and thus the ?us? and ?them? mentality is perpetuated.
An argument often made by those supporting traditional liberal arts curriculum is that the styles or translations encountered when studying works from other cultures is foreign, and therefore hard to study. In grade school we study literature mainly as way of learning about grammar, writing style, and reading comprehension. If works from other cultures (age appropriate of course) were incorporated into the grade school curriculum, children would become used to different styles of writing and wouldn?t shy away from them in their advanced education. When is this more important than now, with the growing influence of the global economy and multinational business. It is going to become more and more necessary in the job market to be able to communicate effectively with people of other racial backgrounds.
Most importantly, we must understand that openmindedness and appreciation of diversity can?t be taught by a book, or by force. They are taught by example. Children can be taught to appreciate women authors by reading them, but it will mean nothing if there aren?t any adult figures in their lives to encourage and nurture the intellectual pursuits of girls at an early age. And little boys need to see women and people from other racial backgrounds that don?t simply fall into the stereotypes, but question the stereotypes and challenge what our society has come to accept as the norm. The media does nothing to contest the stereotypes, if anything, it reinforces them. The only successful African Americans children are exposed to are sports stars and rappers, similarly most of the women in the media are barely clad musicians, models or actresses. It?s not that I find fault in these professions, but why don?t we see successful black business men or writers in the movies? And when we do, why are they portrayed as extraordinary, different from the typical African American? And where are the role models for girls that love math or science? They must find them, and we must provide them, in their homes, in their schools, in their neighborhoods. Edmundson argues that ?by embracing the works and lives of extraordinary people, you can adapt new ideals to revise those that came courtesy of your parents, your neighborhood, your clan.? This idea makes the huge assumption, that your parents, your family and your neighborhood are comprised of ordinary people, whose ideas and influence need to be overwritten by those of writers, most of which are dead white males. Shouldn?t children admire exceptional people in the world around them? Aren?t these the figures that will inspire our children, more than any literary figure? And, to these figures I issue a challenge: Show children, by example, that they exist in a world so much bigger than they could ever imagine. Show them that they can be anything, no matter who they are. Show the little white boys that women are to be respected and that other cultures offer just as much insight into their lives as our own. Lead children into college with a multicultural perspective. Don?t shelter them from all but male American influences while assuring them that once they get to college their minds will be expanded to new ideas and cultures. University education should be an extension of, not a replacement for, grade and high school education.
I think that, in general, we are on the road to a more openminded society. Children and young adults are more accepting than their parents and their grandparents, and I think if we encourage and appreciate this trend, it will continue on to their children. But, it is not the case in all families, and even if it were, family is only one of the influences in a child?s life. As they get older, they are increasingly influenced by outside factors, such as school, the media and culture. We need to encourage children and open their minds with all the tools we have available to us as a society. Children are the ones that will make up the bulk of the influential population in twenty years. Broadening their horizons is broadening the future?s horizons as well. As we change the way our society views women and minorities, as they are embraced as equals, we will start to see literary works of the same caliber, if not better than the works encompassed by the traditional canon. Then, we will be on the road to having a more diverse university education.