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Multiculturalism in Education

Free «Multiculturalism in Education» Essay Sample


The problem of multicultural education occupies a leading place among the questions of its modernization. This issue is also related to continuous integration processes occurring in the world and the population shift caused by these practices. The tendency to increase cultural differences in the society has become a prerequisite for the emergence of the multicultural paradigm. The revival of ethnicity started in the second half of the 20th century in the USA (Kahn, 2008, p. 527). This fact is confirmed by the dynamics developing two phenomena, a new wave of immigration, and a cultural policy of identity expressed in the substitution of dominating culture with various culture types, including ethnic and cultural minorities, representatives of different genders, religions, etc. (Demerath & Mattheis, 2012, p. 2; Jupp & Espinoza-Dulato, 2017, p. 21). The education in the in the country becomes more available to people of different ethnicities, races, genders, religions, languages, and exceptionalities. Therefore, this process creates the natural conditions for the organization of the multicultural education system within the United States of America. It is vital to discuss the importance of multiculturalism in the USA, taking into consideration its peculiarities, and devise recommendations to enhance the concept of multicultural education in the USA.


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Multiculturalism as a Concept

The profound analysis of the features of multiculturalism as a sociocultural phenomenon is presented in the latest social researches. However, the study of the alternatives to multiculturalism in education is displayed insufficiently and requires the further research. The fact is that, in a global discourse, multiculturalism is associated mainly with migration problems and the practice of the cultural policy approved in the specific transcription of the multicultural approach is universally discussed (Jupp & Espinoza-Dulato, 2017, p. 21; Chin, 2013, p. 1). The term multiculturalism appeared in Canada in the 1960s as a characteristic of the state social policy in the conditions of the ethnocultural, racial, and religious diversities of the country. In 1971, the status of the official political ideology was assigned to it. It was pointing at the indirect recognition of vanity of the tough assimilatory policy (Yilmaz, 2016, p. 1). Later, multiculturalism became one of the most widespread and disputable concepts, used for the analysis of communities characterized by the cultural and ethnic diversity, such as Canada, Great Britain, the USA, Austria, and Switzerland (Kahn, 2008, p. 528).

In essence, multiculturalism is a welfare phenomenon, which reflects the national ideology of society. It covers various spheres of the public life, starting from the politics and sociology and ending with literature and art, and exists bordering with different disciplines, i.e. anthropology, sociology, political science, economy, historiography, psychology, pedagogics, literary criticism, and philosophy (Yilmaz, 2016, p. 2). Moreover, multiculturalism comprises such problems as unity, variety, the distinction of cultures, the crisis of the national, cultural, and personal identity, as well as the revision of national traditions. Moreover, it acts as the expression and justification of pluralism and diversity of cultures (Kahn, 2008, p. 528). The tolerance, worthiness, and equality as well as multiple identities are the principles underlining multiculturalism. Such concepts as pluralism, openness, decentration, cultural egalitarianism, and relativism are fundamental for understanding this  phenomenon (Yilmaz, 2016, p. 2). The emphasis is put on the increasing interest in the problem of other cultures, races, nations, and ethnoses.

The phenomenon of multiculturalism, as one of the comprehensive factors of the modern culture, is a complex cross-disciplinary principle being developed in the USA. There are many cultural models, such as the concept of A Pluralistic Universe of W. James, the Melting Pot theory of G. Altshuler, and A Salad Bowl of A. Schlesinger (Kahn, 2008, p. 529; Chin, 2013, p. 3). The development of the US multicultural models is connected with a special attitude of the American culture to the problem of regional, ethnic, and racial identification, as well as cultural contradictions between the powerful pragmatical and rational national ideology and the sociocultural reality of the country.

The ethnic and racial variety, as well as multilingualism compose one of the brightest and obvious manifestations of cultural diversity in the United States of America. This problem is transferred into the intrapersonal layer, where the otherness has the reflection in the personality and not so much in other cultures and the systems of values (Demerath & Mattheis, 2012, p. 3; Jupp & Espinoza-Dulato, 2017, p. 23). Therefore, as the anti-universalist policy of distinction, multiculturalism is not limited to the struggle of individuals for the recognition. However, this phenomenon distributes the requirement of the recognition of originality, diversity, and equality of groups of identity.

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Multiculturalism in the USA is connected with the nationality problem, i.e. not only with the identity of the nation but also its survival. Despite the presence of the Spanish and other languages in the territory of the country, the question of linguistic distinctions arises extremely seldom (Demerath & Mattheis, 2012, p. 3). Multiculturalism sets the fight against discrimination and racism as a purpose. Therefore, it is used by racial minorities as a means of inclusion into the cultural and political life of the US (Alismail, 2016, p. 142; Kahn, 2008, p. 529; Jupp & Espinoza-Dulato, 2017, p. 26).

Thus, this phenomenon brings more benefits than harm as allows the society to enter to the higher level of development. Being the social concept, it is aimed at the provision of the stability of interethnic relations, the realization of ethnic diversity in the world, and the formation of a tolerant attitude to other races, as well as ethnic groups (Chin, 2013, p. 3). Despite the fact that the multicultarilism policy had some negative connotations, there is no better strategy of the multicultural diversity known today.

Multiculturalism in the US Education

The formation of the multicultural education in the USA has started since the 2nd half of the 20th century in the following conditions. There were such issues as the fierce opposition to traditional pedagogical concepts of monoculture, assimilation, ethnocentrism, the need for the cultural and educational integration of immigrants, the movements for the civil rights, the search for a compromise between the subcultures, the developments of the integration ideology of civil multinational society, and the needs for education as the source of a social stability, and economic prosperity (Kahn, 2008, p. 529; Chin, 2013, p. 5). Despite the universal tendencies, the central role in the evolution of multicultural processes is played by the USA. The race conflict is the biggest social burden brought by the United States of America into the 21st century. The educational reform is one of the main bases to approbe this phenomenon in the country. According to American educators, a school had to become a basis for the creation of new generation people deprived of racial and cultural complexes (Kahn, 2008, p. 529). Since the beginning of immigration waves, the educational space was perceived as the ground for the assimilation of new inhabitants (Jupp & Espinoza-Dulato, 2017, p. 26). The importance of education was also defined by the extent of the given sphere’s influence on other areas of public life.

Gradually, the idea of individualism had given its way to the search for the group identity. The educational equality and the establishment of relations among the participants of the educational process at all levels became the conceptual idea of the multicultural education. It meant when each school student, irrespectively of the ethnic origin, intellectual and physical features, language, political distinctions or religious accessory, could have the necessary opportunities for the intellectual, social or psychological development (Demerath & Mattheis, 2012, p. 11; Alismail, 2016, p. 143). The supporters of the multicultural education has also recognized that the cultural diversity enriches the nation, as people who do not know the other traditions and customs are not capable of learning their own ones.

The issue associated with the nature and functioning of social inequality is the cornerstone of all speculations on multiculturalism. The relevance of this research, undoubtedly, concerns some unresolved contradictions between the dominating idea of education as an individual progress or socialization and the statement that its social effect consists of the reproduction or maintenance of the examples of social inequality (Chin, 2013, p. 7; Yao, Buchanan, Chang, Powell-Brown, & Pecina, 2009, p. 7). According to Kahn (2008), the rooting of inequality and social stratification are opposed to socialization and implementation of curriculum. In this sense, the researches of the conflict direction of the education sociology founded by K. Marx and M. Weber are valuable. Their concept presupposes that a school is the establishment formed in the unequal community both in the social and racial status (Kahn, 2008, p. 530). Thus, the cultural distinctions partially caused by the economic inequality play an essential role in the reproduction of the capitalist society’s characteristics.

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The genesis of the multicultural education in the USA is connected with the presence of certain sociocultural subjects, consisting of two racial groups, i.e. dominating and small subcultures. The descendants of the first one, white colonists, belong to the first community. The second one includes autochthons, not possessing the state and cultural autonomy (i.e.the Indians as the ethnic group living in the north of the country), the nationalities that have the state, their cultural autonomy, and independence; the ethnic minorities formed throughout the modern times and the beginning of the 20th century (i.e. the Afro-Americans and Latin-Americans), and the new immigration wave of the second half of the 20th – the beginning of the 21st centuries (i.e. the natives of Europe and Asia) (Demerath & Mattheis, 2012, p. 12). The levels of security of cultural and educational rights of subcultures differ. The difficulties are experienced by autochthons and the new immigrant communities. The multicultural education has passed three main stages of its evolutionary development of  educational institutions of the USA, including the addition of ethnocultural components to the curriculum, their transformation into an integral part of the curriculum and selection of contents, as well as the methods of training corresponding to the ideas of multiculturalism.


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The development of multicultural education in the USA has its peculiarities. It is initiated by low social layers due to the aspirations of immigrants to adaptation, under the influence of some movements for civil rights, and against the racial discrimination in education. The multicultural school policy is the official state strategy. The important similar features are inherent in the legal base of state education in the spirit of multiculturalism (Alismail, 2016, p. 140; Yao et al., 2009, p. 7). They include the orientation at the problem of educational equalities, the support of various ethnic groups and their cultures, and the struggle against different manifestations of racism and discrimination. The state policy provides an increase in the social level of different ethnic communities as a way of achieving the equality of educational opportunities (Yilmaz, 2016, p. 3). The other important conditions of such a policy include the refusal of learning only in the language of the ethnocultural majority and the comprehensive system of boarding schools for small autochthons. The US state government has issued the set of acts providing the observance of multicultural education in all educational institutions.

The scientific ideas and concepts of such learning formulated in the US pedagogics are grounded on certain philosophical, psychological, pedagogical, and anthropological bases. Such ones include the philosophy of postmodernism, social reconstructivism, and pragmatic pedagogics, the ideas of equality in education, the democratization of society, and education, as well as the transformation of education into the center of respect to other cultures (Demerath & Mattheis, 2012, p. 13). The concepts of cross-cultural education have become the genesis of the multicultural education ideas in the USA. These principles represent the peculiar intermediate link between the pedagogical ideas of assimilation and multicultural learning (Kahn, 2008, p. 532). On the one hand, the supporters of this phenomenon do not exclude the dialogue of cultures. On the other hand, they warn against a little though essential interpenetration of the values of various subcultures while learning (Chin, 2013, p. 12). The ideologists of the cross-cultural education have departed from the restrictions of the monoculture and formulated the prospect to the coexistence of subcultures. However, this model does not assume an active dialogue of cultures in education.

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In the USA, the several basic beliefs of the culturally pluralistic orientation compose a cornerstone of the multicultural learning. They are demographic, perspective, holistic, political, and ideological (Yao et al., 2009, p. 10). In the first case, the idea of developing the cultural diversity is especially distinguished. In the second case, the ideal type of the multinational community created by the means of learning is modeled. The demographic multiculturalism proceeds from the recognition of the social importance for various ethnic subcultures coexisting in the community and accounting of their differences. The demographic processes in the form of migration compose a leading factor of ethnocultural changes. The political and ideological multiculturalism includes the pedagogical aspects of the problem of multinational identity (Jupp & Espinoza-Dulato, 2017, p. 28). Moreover, the requirements to create comfortable conditions for the accommodation of immigrants and provide the ethnocultural unity of immigrant communities have been formulated. Apart from that, the achievement of the political and cultural equality is supposed to be achieved by the means of social educational programs that support ethnocultural minorities.

There are the general beliefs of education and training in the concepts of multicultural education in the USA. The principles unite the expectations of the interethnic and cross-cultural dialogue. They include the proclamation of the democratic decision with forming the problems of cultural, linguistic, social, and economic diversity. Moreover, they encourage education and training of free development of subcultures as a part of the uniform nation and strive for the need of developing the cultures of ethnic minorities. Additionally, there is the organization of education on the basis of the social justice ideas, education of critical thinking, and equal opportunities of all ethnocultural layers (Yao et al., 2009, p. 11). The specifics of delivering the multicultural learning to the students of different ethnicities, religions, races, genders, and languages in the USA is reflected in the number of the pedagogical multiculturalism models.

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The conceptual and categorial apparatus of multicultural education in the country is not unified and remains considerably diversified. The definitions of its basic categories and concepts are based on various cultural, social, political, economic, psychological, ethnic, gender, racial, religious, and other characteristics (Alismail, 2016, p. 139; Jupp & Espinoza-Dulato, 2017, p. 32). Some determinations limit the understanding of multicultural education to the activity of educational institution. The others mean the corresponding directions of reforming the school learning system. Respectively, there is none universal model of multicultural education. Each educational establishment tries to develop its own template for learning.

The modern concept of multicultural education in the USA presupposes its application at all levels, forms, and stages of educational activities. The intrinsic components of the educational process, such as the educational environment, goals, curricula, and programs, the content of disciplines, training methods, and the process of knowledge assessment are the priorities of multicultural programs implemented within educational establishments of the country (Demerath & Mattheis, 2012, p. 13). Its modernization presupposes the creation of the favorable pedagogical and psychological climate, intellectual and moral learning of the multicultural personality, the development of the critical thinking and encouragement of acts and decisions within the humanity and cross-cultural dialogue, and the initiation of socially active civil actions. Moreover, the key signs of introducing the multicultural education in the US institutions include the attempts to overcome the racial, ethnic, gender, and religious discrimination of students, the aspirations to the individualization of the educational process, and the learning of culturally competent people (Jupp & Espinoza-Dulato, 2017, p. 34).

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Apart from that, the widespread way of multicultural education includes the bilingual study considered as a necessary instrument in reaching the educational equality by the representatives of all subcultures. The bilingual programs are designed to develop self-respect, raise the self-assessment, and form a feeling of ethnic self-identification (Kahn, 2008, p. 533). There are different types of bilingual programs, such as transitional, developing, bilateral, supporting, and immersion methods. The Heritage Language Programs aiming at familiarizing with the culture and language of the historical homeland compose a special form of bilingual learning (Yilmaz, 2016, p. 11). Therefore, the multicultural education in the USA is rather popular due to the national diversity. It requires the constant support and improvement of its value for the nation.


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