ERIC Identifier: ED322274
Publication Date: 1990-04-00
Author: Mitchell, Vernay
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education New York NY.
Curriculum and Instruction To Reduce Racial Conflict.
ERIC/CUE Digest No. 64.
The potential for racial conflict always exists in our multicultural
society, and periodically there are widespread and serious racial incidents.
Although various social institutions have attempted to respond to racial
prejudice, effective interventions have not been devised to eliminate outbreaks
of racial conflict totally or to obliterate the causes of racism. Public
support for overt racism such as segregation and claims of racial inferiority
have declined, but more subtle forms have emerged. Retrenchment in areas
such as affirmative action and government programs to help decrease the
economic and social power differentials among the races could be a cause
(Kinder, 1986; Survey Research Center, 1986).
Educational institutions have always attempted to redress racial conflict
and its underlying themes of bias, prejudice, and injustice. Measures have
included efforts to change the structural aspects of schools and school
districts with plans such as busing or redrawing district lines. As these
reforms became controversial, other areas of the education system were
targeted for change. Many school systems sought to hire more members of
minority groups. Another area of effort has been use of curriculum to develop
a climate for racial equality. Three such approaches to curriculum, discussed
below, are multicultural education, anti-racist education, and conflict
resolution. Although some effective programs use only one of these approaches,
the most comprehensive programs include components of all three.
Since the 1930s attempts have been made to develop curricula to change
negative racial attitudes and encourage appreciation for people of all
races. Later efforts stressed the psychological aspects of prejudice reduction
and advocated an assimilation model of incorporating racial minorities
into the mainstream (Benedict & Ellis, 1942; Lynch, 1987; Olneck, 1990).
Later approaches and policies attempted to raise the self-esteem of minorities
and to improve their access to good schooling (Grant, 1988).
In the 1980s a more global focus evolved in educational thinking. There
were attempts to replace tensions in schools with respect and acceptance
through multicultural education, and educating for peace and justice. Curriculum
manuals from organizations like the Institute for Peace and Justice (McGinnis,
1984) focus on the unique qualities and the mutual interdependence of minority
and majority groups within a society, and of various communities within
the world system.
As concern about various types of biases increased, guidelines and checklists
(see, for example, Banks, 1984; Ferguson, 1987; and Cotera, n.d.) came
into use for selecting and evaluating curricula and materials. All 50 states
have devised selection criteria for screening materials already in use
and for selecting new curricula.
An approach stressing the appreciation of differences has been used
by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of B'nai B'rith in its curriculum materials,
a module of 20 activities for elementary school students, The Wonderful
World of Difference. In response to an increasing community wide need,
ADL's program was expanded to A World of Difference, a comprehensive campaign
against prejudice. It includes curriculum materials and public relations
strategies organized by schools, the media, and community groups to celebrate
the differences among people and to further the cause of human rights.
Another example is Project REACH, developed in Reston, VA. This intervention
consists of materials and dramatic activities aimed at schools with few
minority students. It has been successful in creating positive awareness
of minorities by teaching human awareness skills, (Lynch, 1987).
While curriculum related to culture has been stressed in the past decade,
some researchers and practitioners (Brandt, 1986; Milner, 1983; Moultry,
1988) have suggested that education labelled "multicultural" evades the
explicit issue of racism by diverting attention to milder topics like differences
in cultural heritage and social values. Thus the more relevant, although
uncomfortable, topics are avoided by instruction which advocates the relativistic
viewpoint that all cultural practices in their native environment are acceptable
merely because someone, somewhere believes in them (Olneck, 1990).
Some empirical studies demonstrate the lack of efficacy of multicultural
programs and the fact that some school districts without minority group
students do not promote the discussion of racial or ethnic differences.
Moultry (1988) reports on a multicultural program that failed to produce
empathy in student teachers toward issues of institutional racism. The
assumption of such programs is usually that teaching students about differences
is sufficient to change their beliefs and behavior. Yet after having experienced
the program, these college students, soon to become teachers, lacked confidence
that education could change the way people think and act relative to pluralism.
The program requirements were changed so that in addition to courses on
cultural differences the students must participate in field experiences
that put them in contact with different cultural groups.
ANTI-RACIST EDUCATION AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION
To truly address racism, instruction must enable teachers and students
to analyze the inequities in power and economic status that determine race
relations. And the rising tide of racial conflict in spite of multicultural
programs suggests this more direct approach is needed. In some arenas the
need is being met by a concentration on anti-racist education and conflict
resolution. These curricula emphasize social causes of racism over cultural
ones, and consider justice the key societal objective (Brandt, 1986).
Cole (1990) offers a manual for use as a learning tool in courses, or
for personal reflection about racism. The manual presents situations of
racism and other biases in line drawings with captions that challenge readers
to acknowledge, explore, and try to overcome personal prejudices.
Agencies such as School Mediation Associates of Cambridge, MA, and the
International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution in New York
City, work with schools and community groups to plan, set goals, and mediate
in the context of resolving conflicts that arise because of race, ethnicity,
class, and gender issues within institutions. Follow-up training and support
are provided as the school or organization forms a permanent mediation
team (Governor's Task Force, 1988).
The encouragement of critical thinking about social issues such as racism
is the goal of the Creative Arts Team headquartered at New York University.
This organization sends teams of actors to schools and other institutions
to engage audiences in participatory performances on topics such as racism
and conflict resolution.
Programs such as these are changing education to promote more awareness
and understanding of racism and human relations. They create learning environments
that provide the opportunity for students and teachers to examine broad
social perspectives in light of our multiracial society, and they sensitize
students and teachers about the dangers of extremism (Governor's Task Force,
1988; Survey Research Center, 1986).
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR POLICY AND PRACTICE
The institutionalization of practices and procedures to combat racism
requires written policy statements that are well publicized and executed
throughout schools and districts. These policies are strengthened when
they are aligned with multicultural, anti-racist, and conflict resolution
curriculum and instruction. Among the recommendations for evaluating and
reforming curricula and school policy to combat racism that appear on most
experts' lists are these:
Issue policy statements concerning race, ethnicity, religion, and gender
that cover broad school district philosophy, as well as hiring practices
and the handling of bias motivated incidents.
Maintain racial and cultural diversity among members of the administration,
faculty, and staff.
Provide services for victims of bias motivated violence.
Report and monitor trends in racial attitudes.
Establish committees on human relations that include students, faculty,
CURRICULUM AND TEACHING
Use the arts to encourage critical thinking about social issues.
Check textbooks and other resources for bias.
Reflect the cultural diversity of the school in teaching strategies.
Affirm racial and cultural differences with regular and special activities,
not only during a special time such as Black History Month and the Chinese
New Year, but throughout the school year.
While the elimination of racism and racial conflict in our society will
require more than simply a revision of educational policies and practices,
providing students with a sound foundation for opposing bias when they
are faced with it in other spheres of their lives is an important contribution.
Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. (1986). The Wonderful World
of Difference: A Human Relations Program. New York: Author.
Banks, J. (1984). Teaching strategies for ethnic studies. Boston: Allyn
and Bacon. (ED 177 275)
Benedict, R., & Ellis, M. (1942). Race and cultural relations: America's
answer to the myth of a master race. Menash, WI: Banta Publishing.
Brandt, G.L. (1986). The realization of anti-racist teaching. London:
Falmer Press. (ED 193 952)
Cole, J. (1990). Filtering people: Understanding and confronting our
prejudices. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers.
Cotera, M.P. (n.d.). Checklists for counteracting race and sex bias
in educational materials. Newton, MA: EDC/WEEA Publishing Center. (ED 221
Ferguson, H. (1987). Manual for multicultural education. Yarmouth, ME:
Governor's Task Force on Bias-Related Violence. (1988). Final Report.
Albany: State of New York.
Grant, C.A., (1988). The persistent significance of race in schooling.
The Elementary School Journal, 88 (5), 561-569.
Kinder, D.R. (1986). The continuing American dilemma: White resistance
to racial change 40 years after Myrdal. Journal of Social Issues, 42 (2),
Lynch, J. (1987). Prejudice reduction and the schools. New York: Nichols.
McGinnis, J. (1984). Educating for peace and justice: Global dimensions.
St. Louis: Institute for Peace and Justice.
Milner, D. (1983). Children and race. London: Sage Publications.
Moultry, M. (1988, April). Multicultural education among seniors in
the College of Education at Ohio State University. Paper presented at the
Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans,
LA. (ED 296 634)
Olneck, M.R. (1990) The recurring dream: Symbolism and ideology in intercultural
and multicultural education. American Journal of Education, 98 (2), 147-174.
Survey Research Center. (1986). Changes in ethnic, religious and race-related
attitudes in Maryland-Survey II: Report to the governor's task force on
violence and extremism. College Park: University of Maryland.
Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith
823 United Nations Plaza
New York, New York 10017
Creative Arts Team
NYU, 715 Broadway, 5th floor
New York, New York 10003
The Institute for Peace and Justice
4144 Lindell Blvd. #400
St. Louis, Missouri 63108
International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution
Box 53, Teachers College, Columbia University
New York, New York 10027
Langston Hughes Intermediate School
11301 Ridge Heights Road
Reston, Virginia 22091
School Mediation Associates
702 Green Street #8
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139