Ask Reading Kingdom: Are we doing enough to integrate multicultural lesson plans, literature, and holidays into the classroom to represent our increasingly diverse student bodies?
It’s not possible to answer this
question without raising an issue that was not touched upon in the question:
specifically, the downplaying that has gone on for decades in the teaching of history,
social studies, geography and related subjects. For multi-culturalism to have
any meaning, our students need to know the key institutions in our society, the
forces that built the nation, the way challenges have been met, etc. Only with
this background, do they have the knowledge to understand how other cultures
are functioning. As far back as 1985, Diane Ravitch a historian of education wrote:
If knowledge of the past is in fact relevant to our ability to
understand the present and to exercise freedom of mind – as totalitarian
societies, both real and fictional, acknowledge by stringently controlling what
may be studied or published -then there is cause for concern about many
Americans’ sense of history. The threat to our knowledge of the past comes,
however, not from government censorship but from indifference and ignorance.
The erosion of historical understanding seems especially pronounced among the
generation under 35, those schooled during the period of sharp declines in
basic skills. While achievement in reading and mathematics is regularly tested
by national and state educational agencies, the condition of historical
knowledge is far more difficult to measure and the attempt is seldom made.
that time, matters have only gotten worse. About 25
years ago, most public high-school youths studied one year of world history and
one of American history, but today, most study only one year of ours. In
contrast, the state schools of many other Western nations require the subject
to be studied almost every year. In France, for example, all students, not just
the college-bound, follow a carefully sequenced program of history, civics and
geography every year from the seventh grade through the 12th grade. It’s no secret that for years Social Studies (along with
the arts, science and physical education) have been given short shrift in many
public schools around the country as academic emphasis has been placed on math
and English Language Arts, the subjects for which there are high-stakes
Until this state of affairs is corrected and until we have teachers well-trained in the teaching of these areas, any discussion about multi-cultural lesson plans involve words that are essentially meaningless in terms of having any connection to reality.
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