Multiculturalism In The Classroom

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What to look for and how to talk to your child about it

Two prominent views dominate the hotly debated subject of multiculturalism. One rapidly emerging view is that the defining factor for each American is his or her ethnicity. Racial origin becomes paramount in understanding who an individual is and how he or she should live. Schools emphasizing this view highlight and celebrate preservation of past ethnic and cultural distinctions (generally at the expense of teaching students about the wider American culture). 

On the other hand, there are those educators who see ethnicity as an enriching ingredient within the uniqueness of American culture, not separate from it. These educators see the American experience as formed by immigrants who cast off significant ties to their old cultures and contribute to the formation of a national identity with a common core of shared ideals. These teachers emphasize commonality of values based on Western civilization, rather than division of values based on cultural ancestry. 

What to look for in your student's class that should cause concern: 

Watch carefully to see if students are taught what it means to be an American and to appreciate our heritage. 

Does the school seem to teach more about Americans' differences than it teaches about their similarities? 

Does it seem that the teacher teaches about other countries of the world without teaching about the uniqueness and value of America? 

Is Western civilization taught only as exploitative (for example: Columbus plundered and brought disease, Europe colonized Africa and Asia, Spain terrorized South American native cultures, etc.)? 

How to talk to your child if you are concerned about multiculturalism at school: 

Talk to your student about the beliefs that can bind Americans together, such as our form of government, free enterprise, capitalism, compassion, justice, etc. 

Discuss issues of race and cultural diversity in American culture. During family devotions, incorporate lessons on racial equality and respect. These could include the fact that God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34) and that in His eyes there is neither "Jew nor Greek, slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female" (Gal. 3:28). 

© Eric Buehrer