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Multicultural Education: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives. Chapter 2. Historical Perspectives on Pluralism. We have been different from the beginning. European immigrants met highly developed civilizations already here.

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historical perspectives on pluralism
Historical Perspectives on Pluralism
  • We have been different from the beginning.
    • European immigrants met highly developed civilizations already here.
    • English culture became dominant because of a slightly more tolerant attitude and their own need for religious freedom.
industrialization immigration and religious pluralism
Industrialization: Immigration and Religious Pluralism
  • The first type of difference to influence schooling was economic (social class).
    • The common school was largely a response to differences between rich and poor.
  • As the industrial revolution grew and spread, new immigrants from Europe brought Catholicism—and thus, religious difference—into a largely Protestant country. As a result, battles were waged not around race or ethnicity, but around the issue of religion.
the civil war freedmen s schools and the issue of race
The Civil War: Freedmen’s Schools and the Issue of Race
  • Race became important to schooling after the Civil War.
  • The Freedmen’s Bureau established schools for blacks in the South, a process that was characterized by the same kind of violence as had characterized the development of Catholic schools in the North.
segregation and the law
Segregation and the Law
  • Black children remained in segregated schools that were both underfunded and often open only part of the year.
  • In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites was constitutional.
the civil rights movement and the schools
The Civil Rights Movement and the Schools
  • Beginning with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum during the 1960s and 1970s, resulting in antidiscrimination laws involving not only race, but also differences in language, gender, and disability.
  • In education, the chief concerns were access to and equity in to public education.
historical perspectives on multicultural education
Historical Perspectives on Multicultural Education
  • In the history of public schooling two approaches to difference, based on two different ideologies, have been utilized:
    • Anglo-conformity, or the assimilationist model
    • Multiculturalism, or the pluralist model
anglo conformity or the assimilationist model
Anglo-Conformity, or the Assimilationist Model
  • From 1860–1920, 37 million immigrants became naturalized citizens.
  • An important task of schooling was thought to be turning these new citizens into “Americans” as quickly as possible.
  • Assimilationists believed that one’s identification with one’s ethnic group should be short-lived and temporary.



Assimilationists believed that in order for society to advance, individuals must give up their ethnic identities, languages, and ideologies in favor of the norms and values of the larger, national society.

  • The goal for assimilationists is to make it possible for everyone to be “melted” into a homogeneous whole.
the model of american culture
The “Model” of American Culture
  • “Real” Americans are:
    • Mostly white, mostly middle class (or trying to be)
    • Mostly Protestant but sometimes Catholic
    • Heterosexual
    • Work hard, eat well, stand on their own two feet, expect their children to behave themselves
    • Wash themselves a good deal and generally try to smell “good”
    • Patriotic, charitable (as long as those receiving the charity try to “shape up”)
    • Believe in “good, old fashioned, common sense” not what is written in books by educated people
the importance of schooling in producing real americans
The Importance of Schooling in Producing “Real” Americans
  • Those who do not “fit” the dominant model of “American” must be encouraged, or forced, to reflect these characteristics, because such differences make them dangerous to the maintenance of America as it is “supposed” to be.



The schools are the chosen institution to take on the task of making children who are culturally different into “American” children, that is to teach them the proper way to behave, think, and value so they will fit harmoniously into the monoculturalist’s culture.

  • Large urban school districts formed separate classes or repositories for “unrulies” and for “backward” or “dull” students because they did not “fit.” Special education emerged as a separate system within the public schools.
multiculturalism or the pluralist ideology
Multiculturalism, or the Pluralist Ideology
  • In contrast to the assimilationist ideology, a small group of philosophers and writers came forward with the notions of cultural pluralism and cultural democracy.
  • Pluralists assert that immigrant groups (and, by extension, all identity groups) are entitled to maintain their distinctions within the larger American society.
pluralist assumptions
Pluralist Assumptions
  • One’s social groups are essential to one’s sense of belonging and psychological support.
  • It is through one’s primary groups that one learns language, as well as attitudes and values.
  • These groups are so important that their interests should be promoted and recognized.
  • The schools are the chosen institution to take on this task.
  • Pluralists believe that the more congruent the school experience is with the experiences of the child, the better the child’s chance of success.
legislative and judicial landmarks
Legislative and Judicial Landmarks
  • A number of legislative and judicial landmarks have addressed issues of access and equity in terms of:
    • Issues of race
    • Issues of religion
    • Issues of language
    • Issues of gender
    • Issues of disability
    • Issues of social class
issues of race
Issues of Race
  • Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)–“separate but equal schooling” is constitutional
  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954)– “separate schooling is inherently unequal, and therefore, unconstitutional”
  • Brown v. Board of Education II (1955)– schools must desegregate with “all deliberate speed”
implementing brown v board
Implementing Brown v. Board
  • Green v. School Board of New Kent County (1968)—“freedom of choice” plans could not be used to avoid desegregation
  • Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (1971)—authorized mandatory busing
  • Milliken v. Bradley I and II (1973, 1977)—Detroit schools not allowed to mandate cross-district busing (usually thought to be the beginning of the end of busing as a strategy for desegregation)
issues of religion
Issues of Religion
  • Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925)— legitimized parochial and other private schools
  • Engle v. Vitale (1962)—mandatory prayer violates separation of church and state
  • Abington School District v. Schempp (1963)—public schools cannot begin the day with required prayer or Bible reading



Epperson v. State of Arkansas (1968)— schools cannot ban the teaching of evolution

  • Edwards v. Aguillard (1987)—no state can require that the Biblical version of creation be taught
  • Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergens (1990)—students may organize and participate in Christian clubs that meet before or after school hours
issues of language
Issues of Language
  • Bilingual Education Act (1968)—provided funding for bilingual education programs
  • Diana v. State Board of Education (1968)— tests for eligibility for special education services must be given in the dominant language of the student
  • Lau v. Nichols (1974)—affirmative steps must be taken by a school district to rectify language deficiencies



Keyes v. School District No. 1 (1977)—bilingual education is compatible with desegregation

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School Children v. Ann Arbor School District Board of Education (1979)—legitimated Black English as a dialect
  • Proposition 227 (1998, California)—required schools to teach Limited English Proficient (LEP) students in special classes, mostly in English, for not more than one year
issues of gender
Issues of Gender
  • Title IX, Education Amendments (1972)—prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in schools receiving federal aid
  • Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools (1992)— schools receiving federal funds can be sued for sex discrimination and harassment
  • Alida Star Gebser and Alida Jean Mccullough v. Lago Vista Independent School District (1998)— made it difficult to recover damages from a school district for sexual harassment
issues of disability
Issues of Disability
  • Education of All Handicapped Children Act (1976)— made schools responsible for education “in the least restrictive environment”
  • Honig v. Doe (1988)—special education students who are disruptive may not be suspended or expelled without due process
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 1990)—extended services to age 21
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1992)— extended rights of people with disabilities to the private sector
issues of social class and school funding
Issues of Social Class and School Funding
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965)—provides funding for Title I and for Head Start
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1981)
  • Rose v. Council for a Better Education (1989)—Kentucky Supreme Court declares property tax basis for school funding unconstitutional



Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1991)

  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act (2001)—No Child Left Behind Act vastly increases federal role in public education
public responses to multicultural and bilingual education reforms
Public Responses to Multicultural and Bilingual Education Reforms
  • One group consists of those who advocate programs such as multicultural and bilingual education.
  • Another group consists of those who oppose any special programs, either because:
    • they believe “traditional” schooling provides sufficient upward mobility, or
    • they believe pluralistic approaches will destroy the country.



A third group asserts that pluralism in education should not be viewed as either a remedial form of education or an effort at reparation, but rather as the long-overdue affirmation of a social reality.

theoretical perspectives on multicultural education
Theoretical Perspectives on Multicultural Education
  • Sleeter and Grant propose five types of multicultural education:
    • Teaching the culturally different
    • Human relations approach
    • Single-group studies
    • Inclusive multicultural education
    • Education that is multicultural and social reconstructionist
teaching the culturally different
Teaching the Culturally Different
  • These approaches attempt to counter a perceived cultural deficiency
  • Develop competence in the dominant culture
  • Maintain self-identity and retain own cultural identity
  • May mask an assimilationist ideology
human relations approach
Human Relations Approach
  • Assumes multicultural education is a means by which students of different backgrounds learn to communicate more effectively with one another while learning to feel good about themselves
  • This is a fairly limited approach, and does not include attention to curriculum expansion and empowerment.
single group studies
Single-group Studies
  • Instruction that focuses on the experiences and cultures of one specific group
  • African-American History, Chicano Literature, and Native American Culture are some examples.
  • While important, such efforts may tend to reinforce a single perspective, while paying less attention to multiple perspectives.
inclusive multicultural education
Inclusive Multicultural Education
  • Places multicultural education in the larger context of overall curriculum and school reform
  • Focuses on the strength and value of diversity in a pluralistic nation
  • Expanded attention to the differences in gender, religion, geographical region, and disability
education that is multicultural and social reconstructionist
Education That Is Multicultural and Social Reconstructionist
  • This approach goes beyond multicultural education by helping students critically analyze the larger social forces involved in discrimination and oppression.
  • Believes that the entire education program should be designed to address the needs of diverse groups regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, religion, exceptionality, or gender
  • Seeks to prepare students not only to think in multiple ways, but to be willing and able to help bring about social justice in the society
something to think about
Something to Think About

The history of multicultural education has its roots in a debate between those who think that American schooling should provide a common education to all children based on the history and culture of European Americans and Western civilization; and those who think that American schooling must recognize and affirm the rich historical and cultural backgrounds and perspectives of a population that has always been diverse and is becoming ever more so. The debate continues.