As classrooms from primary school to the university level are more culturally diverse than decades ago, the need to infuse multicultural content into the curriculum becomes increasingly evident. The New York Times published an interactive article on diversity in America from 1880 to 2006 that reveal a 61% percent chance of two students selected at random would be members of a different ethnic group. (Diversity in the Classroom, New York Times) But it must be understood that there is more to diversity than ethnicity. Many students are on varied levels of learning and comprehension, some are gifted, some require special needs, and on the average most also have varied levels of intelligence with different learning styles, backgrounds, and culture.
Teachers have the opportunity to model an attitude that values diversity to their students. Learning can incorporate the class as a whole to solve problems or open discussions on class content, as a team, making use of the many skills and ways to approach a problem, reveal history, apply philosophy, and think outside of a traditional box. To change the dynamics of the class, a teacher can integrate multicultural content into the curriculum by utilizing four approaches and merging it specifically to the targeted students: gifted students, special need students, and adult learners. (Banks and Banks, 2000) (Bloom, 1956)
The lowest levels of both models (knowledge and contributions) involve fact-based questions, statements, and activities that do not promote higher level thinking or substantive multicultural experiences. At the highest levels of both models (evaluation and social action), students think critically about, and take action on, multicultural topics, concepts, material, and events. The following outline suggests the blending of both models.
CONTRIBUTIONS APPROACH – LEVEL 1
The Contributions Approach is the most extensively used approach to incorporate multiculturalism in schools. The focus of this approach is on heroes, holidays, and discrete elements. (Banks, 2000) The traditional ethnocentric curriculum remains unchanged in its basic structure and goals. Students learn and discuss different cultural traditions, literature, music, dance, historical figures, and known personalities without their meaning and significance to minority groups.
Knowledge: Students are taught facts about cultural artifacts, events, groups, significant figures, and other cultural elements. For example, Students demonstrate a knowledge in the facts about the civil war, dates of the war, the confederate flag, slavery, and historical figures names, profession, and other basic information.
Comprehension: Students show an understanding of information about cultural artifacts, groups, and other cultural elements. For example: Students will make an outline of the five events leading to the Civil War, the dates and names of the significant battles, who won the war and when it ended.
Application: Students are asked to and can apply information learned on cultural artifacts, events, and other cultural elements. For example: Students will create a model of the battle of Gettysburg.
Analysis: Students are taught to compare and contrast information about cultural artifacts, groups, and other cultural elements. For example: Students will examine how stereotypes about minority groups created prejudice and disproportionate salary and living conditions for people living in the North and the South.
Synthesis: Students are required to and can create a new product from the information on cultural artifacts, groups, and other cultural elements. For example: Students can write a story about the contribution of African Americans to the agricultural industry.
Evaluation: Students are taught to evaluate facts and information based on cultural artifacts, groups, and other cultural elements. For example: Students will critique the work of a Civil War era writer or musician.
THE ADDITIVE APPROACH - LEVEL 2
This approach adds content, concepts, themes, and perspectives of minority groups to the lesson plans without changing the structure. A teacher may add a book, special topic, or another academic activity to the curriculum that focuses on diverse groups and topics. Students may not have the knowledge base to fully understand multicultural information without this additional integration. One example is that minority students do not currently learn very much of their own history while the rest of the students learn little of the history and contributions of other racial and cultural groups in America.
Knowledge: Students are taught and know concepts and themes about cultural groups. For example: List three factors that contribute to prejudiced beliefs during the Civil War.
Comprehension: Students will learn and understand cultural concepts and themes. For example: Students