Dr. James Banks on Multicultural Education
Question: Dr. James Banks on Multicultural Education: This was an interview of Dr. Banks executed by Ms. Michelle Tucker. How can these five dimensions of Multicultural Education assist teachers?
Claim: Multicultural education focuses on the sociological concept and phenomenon of multiculturalism, and therefore, provides a long-term solution to solving the issue of social integration of people hailing from myriad racial, ethnic, and cultural groups.
The 21st century is marked by an unprecedented need for the harmonious social integration of people from divergent backgrounds. Dr. James Banks, a leading figure in the field of multiculturalism, especially in the education sector, argues that real multiculturalism can only be realized through education reforms that emphasize the need for multicultural education (Banks & Banks, 2013). Multicultural education refers to a system of education that incorporates the histories, texts, values, beliefs, and perspectives of people from divergent cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds (Banks & Banks, 2013). According to Dr. James Banks, multicultural education has five dimensions that steer educational reform towards the implementation of practical multiculturalism. The five dimensions of multicultural education include:
- Content Integration
Content integration involves the identification and incorporation of relevant information and exemplary historical figures hailing from diverse cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds into a curriculum. Content integration transforms a curriculum to be in line with the realities of a multicultural society. Transformation of a curriculum to incorporate various aspects of multiculturalism enables students to have a wider understanding of different cultures, appreciate the uniqueness of the diverse cultures, and be tolerant of other people’s cultures (Banks & Banks, 2013). Content integration enables teachers to focus on relevant topics and issues by making them the focal points of students’ learning process. This way, students can integrate the concept they learn with the different cultures they are being introduced to. Lastly, cultural integration involves the incorporation of social action initiatives in the curriculum to ensure that students implement the multicultural concepts they learn in school. For example, a history teacher, while introducing the topic of government, should provide a detailed history of government. The teacher should take the students through the numerous types and forms of governments that have been practiced by the various human civilizations. The teacher should also inform students how the interaction between people from various cultural and racial backgrounds helped shape, transform, and spread the concept of government. Under multicultural education, the teacher should not only focus on the American concept of government to the exclusion of other global systems of government and the existing interaction between the various governments.
- Knowledge Construction
The way knowledge or information is presented and taught to students is quite essential in the learning process as it influences students’ perceptions and thoughts. Multicultural education requires proper and relevant multicultural knowledge construction, development, and delivery. Researchers and textbook authors have a special task of incorporating aspects of multiculturalism into their works of authoring and development of students’ workbooks and textbooks. The knowledge presented in the relevant students’ books should inculcate the important skill of critical thinking, especially in a multicultural context. Teachers should find different ways of enhancing the critical thinking skills of students by incorporating relevant content delivery techniques in their teaching. Moreover, teachers should consider multiple perspectives on handling topics and issues to deliver well-informed and researched content to students (Banks & Banks, 2013). Teachers should aim at imparting multiple perspectives of issues to students to widen their thinking and reasoning scope and enhance their understanding of various cultures.
Teachers can incorporate multicultural knowledge construction by sharing relevant stories with students. The stories should be approached from different perspectives to build the students’ critical thinking skills and appreciation of various cultures. For example, a teacher tackling the topic of American Independence should not only incorporate the struggle of the White Americans in the struggle for independence but should also inform students of the active role played by members of the African-American community.
- Equity Pedagogy
Equity pedagogy involves equity in the teaching process and is aimed at ensuring the success of every learner irrespective of cultural or racial background. Teachers should modify their teaching techniques to ensure that they are well diversified and aimed at the educational success of every learner. Multicultural education requires the teaching techniques to be modified to be culturally responsive to reflect the cultural identity of individual students. Culturally responsive teaching techniques involve the incorporation of both the family and community culture of students into the learning process.
Teachers, for example, should not separate students with moderate abilities into separate classes under the guise of specialized assistance. Rather, the students should be maintained in their regular classes so that they can be taught and be exposed to similar materials as their peers. This is the essence of equity pedagogy.
- Prejudice Reduction
Prejudice reduction is concerned with the elimination of prejudice that students face in the learning process. Multicultural prejudice reduction is concerned with eliminating all forms of prejudice, whether racial or ethnic, from the school set up and learning process. Teachers should focus on increasing positive attitudes towards race and ethnicity among students by teaching students to embrace their unique cultural backgrounds and be understanding of other peoples’ cultures (Banks & Banks, 2013). Moreover, teachers should focus on incorporating the use of various realistic images of ethnic and racial groups in their teaching techniques. The teaching techniques should be consistent, natural, and integrate the various cultural backgrounds of students to be taught.
For example, a teacher teaching on the topic of culture should try and eradicate any kind of prejudice that may negatively affect students during the learning process. The teacher should incorporate the use of artifacts, music, literature photographs, and teaching aids used by people from different cultural backgrounds in teaching the topic of culture. Teachers can also bring guest speakers from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds to give lectures to the students as a method of expanding their comprehension of multiculturalism. This approach is essential in expanding the students’ comprehension and tolerance of other people’s cultures and ways of life.
- An Empowering School Culture
The culture of multicultural education should not only be practiced in the classroom but should be extended into the entire school culture. The school administration should incorporate multiculturalism in every sphere of school life. The composition of the school staff should reflect multiculturalism with the hiring of people from different backgrounds (Banks 1995). The staff should also be guided by the principle of diversity and should work towards promoting inclusivity and equity for all students in the school. The teaching staff should be directed by the belief that every student has a right to education and should learn. Teachers should also empower students who are not part of the dominant culture of the school to reduce cases of prejudice and exclusivity.
Teachers should also come up with new assessment techniques that are in line with the concept of multiculturalism. For example, a teacher should measure students’ learning progress using techniques that give students more opportunities to explore and express their knowledge. Instead of using the ubiquitous standardized tests, teachers can use oral presentations and demonstrations to promote multicultural education.
My opinion is that multicultural education is the only way to inculcate social multiculturalism in a racially diverse nation as the U.S. Through a proper reformation of the syllabus to ensure that it incorporates core elements of multiculturalism the syllabus can be transformed into a tool of changing the fabric of society. Teachers also have a special role in multicultural education as they have to ensure that every student espouses the skills of critical thinking, is well exposed to various cultures and can accommodate divergent cultural and racial practices. I do believe that as a nation we have to face and tackle the issue of race head on and what a better way to do that than in the classroom where the future of society lies.
Banks, J. A., & Banks, C. A. M. G. (2013). Multicultural education: Culture, teaching, and learning. In Multicultural education: issues and perspectives (pp. 83–104). Indianapolis, IN: John Wiley & Sons.
Banks, J. (1995). Multicultural education and curriculum transformation. The Journal of Negro Education, 64(4), 390-400. doi:10.2307/2967262