ERIC Identifier: ED333620
Publication Date: 1991-05-00
Author: Gollnick, Donna M. - Chinn, Philip C.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children
Multicultural Education for Exceptional Children. ERIC
After remaining level through most of the 1980's, the child population
of the United States is on the rise. The number of persons under the age
of 18 will increase from 64 million in 1990 to 67 million in the year 2000.
The number of babies born in 1988--3.9 million--was the greatest since
Young people from the least well off demographic groups form a growing
segment of the child population. Black and Hispanic youth, who together
constitute about 27% of the current child population, will make up nearly
33% of the child population in the year 2010.
In 1987, over 170,000 people under the age of 20 legally immigrated
to the United States. The primary regions of origin most immigrant children
were Mexico, the Philippines, Korea, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica
(U.S. Children and Their Families, 1989).
Black Americans are the largest minority group in the United States--28.9
million in 1985, about 12% of the total population. Black Americans are
drawn from a diverse range of cultures and countries in Africa, the Caribbean,
and Central and South America. The U.S. Hispanic population (not including
the population of Puerto Rico) surpassed the 20-million mark in 1989. This
represents a 39% growth since 1980--five times that of the nation as a
whole. From 1985 to 2000, the Hispanic population is expected to grow by
46%. The term Hispanic refers to persons of all races whose cultural heritage
is tied to the use of the Spanish language and Latino culture.
In 1990, over 30% of students in public schools, some 12 million, were
from minority groups (Quality Education for Minorities Project, 1990).
In the school year 1988-1989, approximately 4.5 million children with
disabilities received special education (U.S. Department of Education,
1990). Applying the 30% minority estimate to this number yields a minimum
of 1.4 million children with disabilities who are also minority group members.
In order for these students to develop to their fullest potential, educators
will need to be skilled as both special educators and facilitators of multicultural
PURPOSE OF MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION
It is important for all students to develop a multicultural perspective
in order to enhance
* A good self-concept and self-understanding.
* Sensitivity to and understanding of others, including cultural groups
in the United States and other nations.
* The ability to perceive and understand multiple, sometimes conflicting,
cultural and national interpretations of and perspectives on events, values,
* The ability to make decisions and take effective action based on a
multicultural analysis and synthesis.
* Open minds when addressing issues.
* Understanding of the process of stereotyping, a low degree of stereotypical
thinking, and pride in self and respect for all peoples (Cortes, 1978).
Areas within the educational setting in which multicultural education
is implemented are textbooks and instructional materials, curriculum and
instruction, teacher behavior, and school climate (Gollnick & Chinn,
TEXTBOOKS AND INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS
How teachers use textbooks and other instructional materials is extremely
important in providing multicultural education. Teachers need to recognize
subtle as well as blatant forms of bias such as invisibility, stereotyping,
selectivity and imbalance, unreality, fragmentation and isolation, and
language (Sadker & Sadker, 1978).
Invisibility means that certain microcultures, including disability
groups, are underrepresented in materials. This omission implies that these
groups have less value, importance, and significance in our society.
Stereotyping assigns traditional and rigid roles or attributes to a
group. Stereotyping occurs across cultural and exceptionality groups.
Selectivity and imbalance occur when issues and situations are interpreted
from only one perspective, usually the perspective of the majority group.
With such an emphasis, minority persons and individuals with disabilities
often do not learn about the contributions of members of their cultural
groups to the development of our society. Such biases prevent all students
from realizing the complexity of historical and contemporary situations
Unreality is most likely to present itself in the portrayal of history
and contemporary life experiences. Controversial topics are glossed over,
and discussions of discrimination and prejudice are avoided. This unrealistic
coverage denies children the information needed to recognize, understand,
and perhaps conquer the problems that plague our society. Contemporary
problems faced by individuals with disabilities and those from diverse
racial and ethnic groups are often disguised or simply not included.
Fragmentation and isolation occur when publishers discuss issues, contributions,
and information about various groups in a separate section or chapter apart
from the regular text. This add-on approach suggests that the experiences
and contributions of these groups are merely an interesting diversion,
not an integral part of historical and contemporary developments.
Language bias occurs when materials blatantly omit such things as gender,
disability, or ethnic group references.
MAKING CURRICULUM MULTICULTURAL
Components of multicultural education that are included in many educational
programs are ethnic, minority, and women's studies; bilingual programs;
cultural awareness; human relations; and values clarification. Concepts
include racism, sexism, prejudice, discrimination, oppression, powerlessness,
power inequality, equality, and stereotyping.
If teaching a culturally diverse student population, educators need
to determine the microcultures that exist in the community. Schools that
are on or near Indian reservations will include students from the American
Indian tribes in the area as well as some non-Indians. Urban schools typically
include multiethnic populations and students from middle and lower socioeconomic
levels; inner-city schools are likely to have a high proportion of poor
students. Teachers in Appalachian-area schools will need to be concerned
about poor and middle-class families with fundamentalist backgrounds.
One strategy for multiculturalizing curriculum and instruction is teaching
from a multicultural perspective. This approach will probably require some
major changes in the educational program. In this approach educators will
take affirmative steps to ensure that cultural diversity and exceptionality
are reflected in the curriculum. It should facilitate the development of
attitudes and values conducive to the preservation and promotion of ethnic
and cultural diversity as a positive quality of society (Gay, 1977). It
will enhance students' self-concepts as they develop pride in their own
and other cultural heritages (Gay, 1977). Without too much effort, teachers
can locate supplementary materials, information, and visual aids about
people of other major cultures and people with disabilities. This information
should be included as part of the curriculum in every subject area, regardless
of how culturally diverse the community is.
ATTITUDES AND TEACHING STYLES
A teacher's behavior in the classroom is a key factor in helping all
students reach their potential, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, religion,
language, or exceptionality. Unknowingly, educators often transmit biased
messages to students. Most educators do not consciously or intentionally
stereotype students or discriminate against them; they usually try to treat
all students fairly and equitably. However, we have learned our attitudes
and behaviors in a society that has been ageist, racist, sexist, and ethnocentric.
Some biases have been internalized to such a degree that we do not realize
that we are biased. When teachers are able to recognize the subtle and
unintentional biases in their behavior, positive changes can be made in
the classroom (Sadker & Sadker, 1978).
Another area that teachers might investigate and change to better meet
the needs of a culturally diverse student population is that of teaching
and learning styles. Both teaching and learning styles can be categorized
as either field independent or field sensitive. Field-independent teachers
encourage independent student achievement and competition among students.
Field-sensitive teachers are more interpersonally oriented and prefer situations
that allow them to use personal, conversational techniques. Similarly,
field-sensitive students perform better in social situations such as group
work; field-independent students work well on independent projects. Often
the teacher's style differs from the learning style of the student, causing
a classroom situation that may not be conducive to helping students reach
their potential. Ramirez and Castaneda (1974) showed that teachers could
learn to organize learning environments conducive to individual students'
cognitive styles so that all students could benefit equally from teaching.
POSITIVE SCHOOL CLIMATE
A school that affirms multiculturalism will integrate the community
in its total program. Not only will the educators know and understand the
community, but the parents and community will know and participate in the
school activities. As long as members of the community feel unwelcome in
the school, they are not likely to initiate involvement. The first step
in multiculturalizing the school is development of positive and supportive
relations between the school and the community. Teachers can assist by
asking community members to participate in class activities by talking
about their jobs, hobbies, or experiences in a certain area. They can initiate
contacts with families of students. They can participate in some community
events. A sincere interest in the community, rather than indifference or
patronage, will help to bridge the gap that often exists between the school
REFERENCES AND OTHER RESOURCES
Cortes, C. E. (1978). Future will demand culturally literate citizens.
Thrust for Educational Leadership, 7(3), 20-22.
Gollnick, D. M., & Chinn, P. C. (1990). Multicultural education
in a pluralistic society (3rd ed.). St. Louis: Mosby.
Gay, G. (1977). Curriculum for multicultural education. In F. H. Klassen
& D. M. Gollnick (Eds.), Pluralism and the American teacher: Issues
and case studies (pp. 31-62). Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges
for Teacher Education.
Quality Education for Minorities Project. (1989). Education that works:
An action plan for the education of minorities. Cambridge: Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 316
Ramirez, M., & Castaneda, A. (1974). Cultural democracy, bicognitive
development and education. New York: Academic Press.
Sadker, M., & Sadker, D. (1978). The teacher educator's role. Implementing
Title IX and attaining sex equality: A workshop package for postsecondary
educators. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers. (ERIC
Document Reproduction Service No. ED 222 466).
U.S. Children and their families: current conditions and recent trends.
(1989). A report of the Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families,
U.S. House of Representatives. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.
ED 314 158).
U.S. Department of Education. (1990). Twelfth annual report to congress
on the implementation of the Education of the Handicapped Act. (ERIC Document
Reproduction Service No. ED 321 513).
Yates, J. R. (1988). Demography as it affects special education. In
A. Ortiz & B. Ramirez (Eds.), Schools and the culturally diverse exceptional
student: Promising practices and future directions (pp. 1-5). Reston, VA:
The Council for Exceptional Children.
This digest is based on Multicultural Education in a Pluralistic Society,
Third Edition, by Donna M. Gollnick and Philip C. Chinn. (Columbus, OH:
Merrill Publishing Company, 1990), 272-309.