Dr. Valerie Ooka Pang; Annie Nguyen, Requa Anne Stathis
NATIONAL FORUM OF MULTICULTURAL ISSUES JOURNALVOLUME 10, NUMBER 2, 2013SPONSORED BY THE TEXAS CHAPTER OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FORMULTICULTURAL EDUCATION32Caring-Centered Multicultural Education:Culture- andRelationship-CenteredValerie Ooka PangProfessorSchool of Teacher EducationCollege of EducationSan Diego State UniversitySan Diego, CAAnnie NguyenPh.D. StudentSan Diego State University/Claremont Graduate UniversityRequa Anne StathisPh.D. StudentSan Diego State University/Claremont Graduate University__________________________________________________________________________________AbstractThe Caring-centered Multicultural Education celebrates the importance of education and thedevelopment of citizens who care for others and work collaboratively to build a compassionate andequitable society (Pang, 2010). Caring-centered Multicultural Education is a framework whichintegrates three theories: Ethic of Care (Noddings), Sociocultural Theory of Learning (Vygotsky), andEducation for Democracy (John Dewey). The caring-centered philosophy is a culture-centered andrelationship-centered framework dedicated to equity in education; it arises from an ethical purpose tocare for and teach all children. Teachers, who hold a moral commitment to care for all students,believe their contribution to a just society is their efforts to create an educational system that isdedicated to developing the potential of each student. The goals of Caring-centered education arecomprehensive school reform and the closing of the achievement gap between children from low-income and culturally/linguistically diverse communities from their mainstream peers. Two casestudies of Caring-centered education demonstrate how the principles are operationalized by teachers.__________________________________________________________________________________The Caring-centered multicultural education framework celebrates the importance of educationand the development of citizens who care for others and work collaboratively to build a compassionateand equitable society (Pang, 2010). The caring-centered philosophyis a relationship-centered andculture-centered framework dedicated to equity in education; it arises from an ethical purpose to carefor and teach all children. Teachers, who hold a moral commitment to care for all students, believe
VALERIE OOKA PANG, ANNIE NGUYEN, and REQUA ANNE STATHIS33their contribution to a just society is their efforts to create an educational system that is dedicated todeveloping the potential of each student. The goals of Caring-centered education are comprehensiveschool reform and the closing of the achievement gap between children from low-income andculturally/linguistically diverse communities from their mainstream peers.Caring-centered education focuses on the importance of human relationships among teachersand students and on the psychological integrity and achievement of students in cross-cultural settings.The underlying belief is that conditions of caring, community (in a democracy), and culture in diverseclassrooms produce higher levels of achievement that lead to greater social efficacy. This moreeffective learning community empowers and prepares students from culturally/linguistically diverseand low income groups to work toward social, political, and economic justice and achieve theirpersonal professional goals (Pang, Rivera, & Mora, 1999). Here is the definition of MulticulturalEducation that is utilized in Caring-centered education:Multicultural Education is a field in education that calls for total school reform and is based onthe belief that education is an intellectual and ethical endeavor. The field seeks to develophappy, creative, ethical, and fulfilled persons who work toward a more compassionate and justsociety. Students are also encouraged to develop vitaldecision-making and interculturalcommunication skills. Multicultural Education,as part of a life-giving process of growth andjoy, focuses on teaching the wholestudent with the goal of academic excellence and developingthe potential of eachstudent by integrating three critical belief systems: the ethic of care theory,education for democracy, and the sociocultural context of human growth and development.(Pang, 2010, p. 222).Caring-Centered Multicultural EducationThe importance of culture in the caring-centered framework is intertwined with thedevelopment of caring and socially just schools. Caring-centered education is based on a framework ofthree theories (Pang, 2010); the first is the ethic of care (Noddings, 1992), the second theory is thesociocultural theory of learning (Cole, 1996), and the third is education for democracy (Dewey, 1916).One of the key principles of the field is its holistic perspective. Teaching is seen not onlywithin the development of the whole person, but also as a comprehensive process. Teaching is an art;it is not made up of many isolated skills. Rather, teaching is a complex combination of skills,knowledge, and beliefs that work in sync to create an environment that encourages maximum growthin the student and the teacher.Arising out of the ethic of care, caring is viewed as a fundamental human capacity that refers tocoherent patterns of behaviors in interpersonal interactions rather than a romantic notion ofsentimentality (Noddings, 1992; Pang, 2010). Caring is the nurturing of trusting relationships as thefoundation for building an effective and motivating classroom environment. It can be seen in variousaspects of schools such as teacher empathy, positive school climate, affirmation of students,commitment to care for others, and affirming the family knowledge that students bring to school.Schools must be places where students and teachers learn, are valued and affirmed, and collaborate inthe establishment of capacities to care for each other and the greater society within a social justiceorientation.Culture is also at the core of the framework because it is seen as a crucial element in thedevelopment of effective learning. “Culture is like the air; it is always there” (Pang, 2010, p. 36).
VALERIE OOKA PANG, ANNIE NGUYEN, and REQUA ANNE STATHIS34Culture warms children; it is a blanket from their families that embraces students when they are firstborn. Culture also guides young people and affirms their identity. Culture also provides children withfilters that shape their interpretations of life. Culture is all encompassing. Culture refers to explicitelements, interactional patterns, and values (Valle, 1997). Cultural background is taught throughlanguage, nonverbal communications, and social interactions. New ideas are interpreted in relationshipto prior knowledge, how an individual identifiesher/himself, and a persons perspectives. Therefore,thesecond theory of the framework, the sociocultural theory of learning, was developed by Vygotskyto explain how learning is socially mediated. He believed that people learn through social interactionsand these interactions occur within multiple cultural contexts. Scholars like Vygotsky believe languageand social interactions are major cultural tools needed to develop brainpower, our cognition.Cultural dissonance often occurs in classrooms when culturally diverse students come withdifferent perspectives or beliefs about life that contrast with those of their peers and teachers.Misunderstandings can arise when teachers misinterpret or do not understand student behaviors andviewpoints.Strong cross-cultural communications must be nurtured in teachers and students.Culturally/linguistically diverse students also must have a working knowledge of mainstream cultureto survive economically, politically, and socially. Teachers also must be able to reach all of theirstudents and it is crucial that educators do not overlook the low achievement of many diverse students(Gay, 2010). Some teachers may gloss over the low academic achievement of students and considerthat presentation of ethnic history, literature, or rituals are sufficient additions to the schoolcurriculum.The third theory in the Caring-centered framework is education for democracy developed byJohn Dewey. As an advocate of democracy, Dewey believed that schools should be major institutionsto mentor children to become active citizens who make just decisions based on the common good.Dewey proposed that schools should be laboratories of democracy where students developedcommunication and collaboration skills that enabled them to work with others as responsible citizens(Cremin, 1988). Dewey saw democracy as a way of life and not only a form of government (Dewey,1916). The result is that schools become places where students are actively involved in the process ofdemocracy.Dewey did not look at democracy merely as a system of government in which everyone votesand majority prevails. For Dewey, democracy was a mode of associated living, and decisionswere made by a shared process of inquiry . . . Democracy . . . is not a state; it is more a process,and its rules must be under continual scrutiny, revision, and creation. (Noddings 1995, p. 35)In addition, Dewey also thought that through collaborative living, racial and class bias could bebroken down. Since students would be in classrooms with students of many different culturalbackgrounds, they would be enriched by the many viewpoints and belief systems that they shared witheach other. Dewey viewed schools not only as places where children could develop their minds andtheir abilities to read, write, and do mathematics, but also as places where students could learn aboutsociety and different ways of looking at the world through discussions and subject areas related to thearts, nature, and ethics.Education for democracy is student centered and the theory advocates the teaching of higher-order-thinking analysis skills in students so that they will examine racial inequities, class struggles,and gender discrimination (Dewey, 1916; Freire, 1970). Schools should be places of activity wherepeople work on common problems and establish rules collaboratively (Noddings, 1995). Education for
VALERIE OOKA PANG, ANNIE NGUYEN, and REQUA ANNE STATHIS35democracy focuses on teaching students how to analyze power relationships and build collaborativecommunities; it also encourages social communication skills. See Figure 1 for a visual representationof Caring-centered Education.Figure 1. Caring-centered multicultural education framework teaching the whole student.One of the most effective ways to explain how the Caring-centered framework can be seen inschools is through the presentation of examples. The next two sections describe two case studies ofhigh school students who were guided by caring-centered teachers. The first one describes theexperience of a first-generation college bound student. The second case explains how a teacher wasable to build on the abilities of a high school student who did not feel as if he had many inherentstrengths.Case Study One: Nancy’s Climb to Academic Achievement and CollegeNancy comes from a low-income, first generation, Vietnamese American family.Hermother was a refugee who left her country by boat in the early 1980s. Life was extremelydifficult as a refugee. She first lived in a camp in Malaysia and later in the Philippines. It tooktwo years before she was allowed to go to the United States. When she arrived in San Francisco,Nancys mother worked hard so that her younger sisters could attend middle and high school.She herself did not have the financial support to go to college. Nancys father has not been amember of the family since she was born.EducationforDemocracyEthic of CareSocio-CulturalTheory ofLearning
VALERIE OOKA PANG, ANNIE NGUYEN, and REQUA ANNE STATHIS36Nancy attended an elite public junior high in the Bay area. However, she had troubleadjusting to high school because it was more academically rigorous. Though she entered as astraight A student, Nancy failed several courses as a freshman and was put on academicprobation; her mother was extremely disappointed and felt a grade point average below 4.0 wasnot good enough.Nancy decided that she could do better so when she entered sophomore year she wasmotivated to start again with a clean slate. She was determined to pass all of her classes andcontinued to do so through her junior year. When her senior year arrived, Nancy’s counselor,Ms. Brown, called her in for a meeting to discuss grades and college plans. Ms. Brown informedNancy that if she wanted to go to college she would have to make up her D’s and F’s fromfreshman year. Nancy was shocked and overwhelmed; she thought that since she had done sowell in the rest of her years in high school, she did not have to worry about anything. Nancy hadalways planned to go to college; her mother had never expected anything less and there she wasin her senior year, being told that she might not get into college.No one in Nancys family had gone to college so she did not have anyone to get advicefrom. Her older brothers had dropped out of high school. Nancy did not know what steps sheneeded to take in order to be admitted to college. She worried that educational opportunities werenot open to her, she might not get to go to college and she did not want to disappoint her mother.Ms. Brown, her counselor, assured Nancy that college was still possible; she needed to workhard and make up the classes with failing and poor grades. The counselor explained that Nancycould take extra classes at her high school and a local night school. This was the beginning of alife changing relationship between Nancy and Ms. Brown who closely mentored and cared forher during the senior year of high school.Ms. Brown encouraged and nourished Nancy. She took extra time to meet with the youngstudent. They created a strong trusting relationship of open communication and Nancy began tofeel empowered and set her path to college. Nancy took action by signing up for 8 classes in onesemester as well as a night school course in order to meet college admissions requirements in herlast year of high school. As the semester went on, Nancy continually met with Ms. Brown anddiscussed her progress. Ms. Brown believed that Nancy was going to make it. The counselorhelped Nancy use her organizational skills so she also developed stronger study habits. Nancybegan to think that she might become the first person in her family to go to college. She passedall of her classes and earned an overall 3.0 GPA, just high enough to be considered by a 4-yearuniversity.Nancy believes that without Ms. Browns mentoring, her higher education goals may nothave been possible. She might have first gone to a community college and then could have givenup on her quest for a college degree.Upon entering college she built a relationship with another counselor in the EducationalOpportunity Program (EOP), Mrs. Williams. Like Ms. Brown, her university counselor believedin Nancy and continued to encourage her to remain focused on her academics. Nancy wasextremely homesick during her first year of college since she moved hundreds of miles fromhome. However, Nancy believed in herself and knew that educational opportunities were open toher.Ms. Williams and Nancy met several times each semester, and during their meetings, Ms.Williams introduced the idea of graduate school. This relationship was pivotal in helping Nancyexcel in her studies, graduate with her undergraduate degree in 3 years, and be admitted intograduate school. She earned high grades in college with an overall GPA of 4.0 in her master’s
VALERIE OOKA PANG, ANNIE NGUYEN, and REQUA ANNE STATHIS37program.Equal educational opportunity is possible for students from underrepresented families.Both Ms. Brown and Ms. Williams affirmed Nancy and taught her how to become self-empowered. These are important elements of caring-centered education. Other teachers andeven her own mother told her she should go to college, but did not show her the steps that sheneeded to take in order to become successful. Her mother wanted the best for her, but oftenscolded her for not getting an A in a class; then Nancy would feel like a failure. However, Ms.Brown and Mrs. Williams always believed in Nancy and taught her howto reach her collegegoals. Nancy has earned not only her undergraduate degree but also a Masters in counseling.Today Nancy is a counselor and works with high school students, mentoring other students likeherself whose goalis to become the first in their family to graduate from college.Case Study Two: High School Vocational EducationCollege career and technical education (CCTE) courses are focused on preparing highschool students for academic and occupational success by incorporating core academics withtechnical and entry level job training experience. The goal of CCTE programs is to provide asuccessful transition for students from secondary to postsecondary school and attainingemployment as caring, contributing citizens (Gordon, 2008). In many districts in SouthernCalifornia, high schools offer several CCTE courses in a variety of career fields including, butnot limited to Child Development, Arts Technology, Nutrition and Biomedical studies. Capstoneor advanced CCTE courses are offered to students during their last two years of high school dueto their occupational nature.Through community based partnerships, students taking capstone courses receive entrylevel job training skills and are placed in corresponding career field internships. These advancedCCTE courses were formerly termed Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) because theirfederal funding source originally supported college vocational programs (Wang & King, 2009).The most current ROP funding for community based instruction programs is directed from theCarl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 with the government’s goal ofdeveloping competent and academically as well as occupationally prepared citizens. Thefollowing case study involves a twelfth grade student from a school in Southern Californiaenrolled in the CCTE Child Development program.Students participating in this course received training in developmental psychologytheory and entry level preschool curriculum planning and implementation for the first nine weeksof school. Next, students are placed as teacher aide interns in preschools within the surroundingcommunity.During the first week of school Chris, a pseudonym, caught the teachers attention withhis boisterous and high energy personality. He was a student who might be labeled as the “classclown,” always more interested in entertaining others than focusing on his studies. Chris told hischild developmental psychology teacher that he had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD); he warned her that most of his teachers eventually got sick of him and then kicked himout of their class. Fortunately, CCTE courses offer a less restrictive and a more hands-onlearning environment where students like Chris can redirect their energy. The teacher wasshocked to hear how negatively Chris viewed his interactions and relationships with otherteachers. She was determined to ensure that her class would be a positive growth experience forhim. She started by developing a program for Chris by connecting his interests and caring about
VALERIE OOKA PANG, ANNIE NGUYEN, and REQUA ANNE STATHIS38him as a person. The teacher and Chris also found out that they had a personal connection; bothwere Italian and had similar cultural views. A rapport began to grow.After meeting with Chriss case manager and talking with his parents, his high schoolteacher realized that developing a caring and trusting relationship with Chris would be importantin teaching him. Chris was in credit recovery (a program to help students make up failed classed)for several of his core classes, but he was able to maintain a B in Child Development through thefirst nine weeks of the rigorous course. One of the strategies that the teacher used was to breakdown child development concepts. Chris did well; he got his work done on time and respondedwell to gentle reminders from the teacher to stay on task.Due to his hard work and B average in Child Development, Chris was placed as a teacher’s aideat a preschool within the local community for an hour and a half, four days each week. AlthoughChris was initially apprehensive about teaching young children, within a few weeks he wasthriving in his internship. The preschool children enjoyed his high energy. They also thoughtChris was an excellent picture book reader. He read stories with animation and lots of differentvoices. Chris along with his mentor found ways to channel his "class clown" strategies so that hewas successful in preschool.Unfortunately, it came time to switch to a new preschool and Chris was not thrilled at thethought of leaving behind the children with whom he had formed strong bonds. After one weekat his new internship site, Chris thought about dropping the new internship. The ChildDevelopment high school teacher listened to Chris; he felt it was difficult to form relationshipswith children in the new preschool. However, his high school teacher did not want him to giveup because Chris had put in a great deal of effort in this new class. The high school teacher andChris made an agreement that if within two weeks he was still ambivalent about this newinternship, he could return to his old preschool. Over two weeks passed and the teacher did nothear from Chris. Thinking no news was good news the high school teacher asked Chris how hisinternship was going and he smiled and simply told her it was better.Soon after Chris journal entries demonstrated that he was developing strong relationshipswith the children in the second preschool. They were so happy that he was willing to play kickball and run with them during recess. Chris was a success. Once again Chris received anoutstanding evaluation from his second internship site and is now working at his third preschoolinternship for the school year. He has maintained a high B in the class, but more importantly haslearned that his teacher cared for him and assisted him in finding how to channel his strengthsinto his work as a preschool aide. His energy and animated nature were assets; the childrenappreciated his teaching style. Chris was developing not only a knowledge of child psychology,but he also put into practice caring-centered education by developing strong relationships withhis preschool children and teaching important community skills.Both case studies are important examples of how Caring-centered educators move toaffirm students by integrating student cultures and developing trusting relationships. In addition,the teachers/counselors mentored their students so that they are successful in developing theiracademic and personal potentials.ReferencesCole, M. (1996).Cultural psychology: A once and future discipline. Cambridge, MA: BelknapPress of Harvard University.
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