Multicultural Education and Euro-Americans

What about white or Euro-American students? Are they part of the multicultural picture? Should multicultural education be reserved for a setting where there is a critical mass of students of color? I agree with Banks (1993), who writes:

The claim that multicultural education is only for people of color and for the disenfranchised is one of the most pernicious and damaging misconceptions with which the movement has had to cope. . . . When educators view multicultural education as the study of “others” it is marginalized and kept apart from mainstream education reform.


Students in the dominant culture must be given experiences that will allow them to participate in and to appreciate the richness of a world of great diversity. It is useful but insufficient to incorporate add-on experiences, such as celebrations of holidays, teaching ancient numeration systems, or adding the contributions of mathematicians of different cultures to the curriculum (Banks et al., 1997). Before students can participate in rich mathematical experiences, teachers must have an understanding of diverse worldviews of mathematics, know the historical sequence of mathematical developments, appreciate how cultures have influenced the knowledge base of mathematics, and come to know and understand how their students learn.

Furthermore, I believe that since all students, regardless of the apparent homogeneity of their external appearance, belong to many cultures (gender, ethnicity, exceptionality, or other categories), instruction should be based on constructivist and situational pedagogies. I agree with Damarin (2000), who states, “In the constructivist context, identical treatments are not equal treatments because they relate differently to the prior experiences of different students” (75). In other words, when planning instructional experiences, each student must be viewed as an individual with the sum total of his or her experiences taken into account. NCTM’s Principles to Action (2014), adds, “Our vision of access and equity requires being responsive to students’ backgrounds, experiences and knowledge when designing, implementing and assessing the effectiveness of a mathematics program” (60).

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