ERIC Identifier: ED370936
Publication Date: 1994-06-00
Author: Abdal-Haqq, Ismat
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Teaching and Teacher Education Washington DC.
Culturally Responsive Curriculum. ERIC Digest.
Discourse about culturally responsive or culturally relevant curriculum (CRC)
takes place within the context of debate about a larger issue, the validity and
shape of a multicultural approach to public school education. A widely held view
of multicultural or culturally pluralistic curricula sees them as strategies for
improving academic performance and enhancing self-esteem among students whose
racial, ethnic, or language heritage differs from that of the Anglo-European
population (McCarthy, 1994; Association for the Advancement of Health Education,
1994). A corollary to this perspective is the belief that an inclusive
curriculum can help promote intergroup harmony and reduce conflict between
ethnic groups (Heller & Hawkins, 1994). In the minds of many educators,
however, CRC benefits all students (Series Looks, 1993). Goal three of the
original National Education Goals has as one of its objectives increasing the
level of knowledge of all students about the country's diverse cultural heritage
Critics frequently claim that multicultural education is essentially divisive
and that school curricula should be organized around the nation's common culture
(Ravitch, 1991-1992). Proponents argue that the goal of a pluralistic curriculum
is to present the truth, which does not necessitate ignoring commonalities
(Hilliard, 1991-1992). Some proponents suggest that the most common approaches
to multicultural education do not go far enough if they focus on inclusion and
do not incorporate a critical examination of the Anglo-European ideology that
undergirds traditional public school education (McCarthy, 1994).
Curriculum that is culturally responsive capitalizes on students' cultural
backgrounds rather than attempting to override or negate them. This Digest
presents some characteristics of culturally responsive curriculum resources,
outlines guidelines for assessing instructional materials for cultural bias or
insensitivity, and provides a list of selected resources available to classroom
teachers and other educators.
CHARACTERISTICS OF EFFECTIVE CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE
*CRC is integrated and interdisciplinary (Scherer, 1991-1992;
Chisholm, Laquer, Hale, Sheorey, & McConville, Jr., 1991; Spears, Oliver,
& Maes, 1990). It does not rely on one-time activities, "add-on" units or
"sprinkling" the traditional curriculum with a few minority individuals
(Hilliard, 1991-1992; Series Looks, 1993).
*CRC is authentic, child-centered, and connected to the child's real life. It
employs materials from the child's culture and history to illustrate principles
and concepts (Martinez & Ortiz de Montellano, 1988; Chisholm et al., 1991;
Dickerson, 1993; Chion-Kenney, 1994).
*CRC develops critical thinking skills (Series Looks, 1993; Hilliard,
*CRC often incorporates strategies that utilize cooperative learning and
whole language instruction, include self-esteem building, and recognize multiple
intelligences and diverse learning styles (Association for the Advancement of
Health Education, 1994; Series Looks, 1993).
*CRC is supported by appropriate staff development and preservice preparation
(Coballes-Vega, 1992; Spears et al., 1990).
*CRC is a part of a coordinated, building-wide strategy. Successful
implementation of CRC requires a receptive school climate and recognition that
the hidden curriculum in any school can be a powerful ally or a powerful enemy
(Dickerson, 1993; Sleeter, 1992).
ASSESSING CURRICULUM MATERIALS FOR CULTURAL
Several checklists for evaluating instructional materials can be
found in the literature on CRC. Gollnick and Chinn (1991) identify six forms of
subtle and blatant bias that teachers should look for in textbooks and other
instructional materials: invisibility, stereotyping, selectivity and imbalance,
unreality, fragmentation and isolation, and language bias. The 10-item checklist
provided by Chion-Kenney (1994), which covers many of the same points as the
Gollnick and Chinn list, focuses on biases against Native Americans found in
Typical inappropriate treatment of African Americans, Native Americans, Asian
Americans, and Hispanic Americans includes the "side-bar" approach, the
"superhero" syndrome, and the "one size fits all" view. Side-bar treatment
occurs frequently in textbooks, where presentation of ethnic experiences is
limited to a few isolated events, frequently relegated to a box or side-bar, set
apart from the rest of the text. Another frequent misrepresentation of certain
ethnic groups occurs when only exceptional individuals, the superheros of
history from among that race or cultural group, are acknowledged. Instructional
materials frequently reflect cultural bias through one size fits all
generalization, by implying that there is a single Hispanic, African, Asian, and
Native culture. This view fails to recognize that considerable cultural
diversity exists within each of these groups and that even within a cultural
subgroup, culture changes over time (Escamilla, 1993).
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Interracial Books for Children Bulletin is published periodically by the
Council on Interracial Books for Children. In addition to extensive reviews of
children's books, this bulletin also includes articles and essays on
multicultural issues. The Council also publishes guidelines on evaluating books
and other materials for racist content. Contact: The Council on Interracial
Books for Children, 1841 Broadway, New York, NY 10023.
Multicultural Messenger, a newsletter published 10 times a year by the
International Multicultural Education Association, contains news updates related
to multicultural education, reviews of books and other instructional materials,
and articles by educators on their experiences in culturally diverse schools.
Contact: The Peoples Publishing Group, Box 70, Rochelle Park, NJ 07662; (201)
Teaching Tolerance is a semiannual periodical distributed free to teachers
and other educators. The magazine's goal is to provide a vehicle for sharing
ideas and resources for teaching tolerance and understanding among various
groups. Contact: Teaching Tolerance, 400 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, AL
American University. Mid-Atlantic
Equity Center. (1992). Introducing African American role models into mathematics
and science lesson plans: Grades K-6. Washington, DC: Author. ED 350 369
ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education. (1993). Culturally
responsive practice in grades K-12. ERIC recent resources. Washington, DC:
Author. SP 035 292
Jaquith, P. (Ed.). (1991). Issues in Southeast Asian refugee education.
Odawara, Japan: Language Institute of Japan. ED 350 878.
Rethinking Schools. (1991). Rethinking Columbus. Milwaukee, WI: Author. ED
References identified with an EJ or ED number have been abstracted and are in
the ERIC database. References followed by an SP number were being processed at
the time of publication. Journal articles (EJ) should be available at most
research libraries; most documents (ED) are available in microfiche collections
at more than 700 locations. Documents can also be ordered through the ERIC
Document Reproduction Service: (800) 443-ERIC.
Association for the Advancement of Health Education. (1994). Cultural
awareness and sensitivity: Guidelines for health educators. Reston, VA: Author.
Chion-Kenney, L. (1994). Weaving real-life images and experiences into Native
education. Comment. R&D Preview, 9(1), 4-5.
Chisholm, A., Laquer, B., Hale, D., Sheorey, R., & McConville, Jr., A.
(1991). Making education relevant for contemporary Indian youth: A handbook for
cultural curriculum developers focusing on American Indian tribes and Canadian
first nations. Norman, OK: Oklahoma University, American Indian Institute. ED
Coballes-Vega, C. (1992). Considerations in teaching culturally diverse
children. ERIC digest 90-2. Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher
Education. ED 341 648
Dickerson, S. (1993). The blind men (and women) and the elephant. A case for
a comprehensive multicultural education program at the Cambridge Rindge and
Latin School. In T. A. Perry & J. W. Fraser (Eds.), Freedom's plow. Teaching
in the multicultural classroom (pp. 65-89). New York: Routledge.
Escamilla, K. (1993). Integrating Mexican-American history and culture into
the social studies classroom. In L. E. Gronlund (Ed.), Striving for excellence:
The National Education Goals. Vol. II. (pp. 53-54). Washington, DC: Educational
Resources Information Center.
Gollnick, D., & Chinn, P. C. (1991). Multicultural education for
exceptional children. ERIC digest no. E498. Reston, VA: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Handicapped and Gifted Children. ED 333 620
Gronlund, L. E. (Ed.). (1993). Striving for excellence: The National
Education Goals. Vol. II. Washington, DC: Educational Resources Information
Heller, C., & Hawkins, J. (1994). Teaching tolerance: Notes from the
front line. Teachers College Record, 95, 337-368.
Hilliard, A. (1991-1992). Why we must pluralize the curriculum. Educational
Leadership, 49(4), 12-16. EJ 437 548
McCarthy, C. (1994). Multicultural discourses and curriculum reform: A
critical perspective. Educational Theory, 44(1), 81-118.
Martinez, D. I., & Ortiz de Montellano, B. R. (1988). Improving the
science and mathematics achievement of Mexican American students through
culturally relevant science. ERIC digest. Las Cruces, NM: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Rural Education and Small Schools. ED 296 819
Ravitch, D. (1991-1992). A culture in common. Educational Leadership, 49(4),
8-11. EJ 437 547
Scherer, M. (1991-1992). School snapshot: Focus on African-American culture.
Educational Leadership, 49(4), 17-19. EJ 437 550
Series looks at intercultural harmony. (1993, November-December). Northwest
Report, p.1, 4.
Sleeter, C. E. (1992). Restructuring schools for multicultural education.
Journal of Teacher Education, 43, 141-148.
Spears, J. D., Oliver, J. P., & Maes, S. C. (1990). Accommodating change
and diversity: Multicultural practices in rural schools. A report of the Ford
Western Taskforce. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University, Rural Clearinghouse
for Lifelong Education and Development. ED 328 392