Multicultural Perspectives 1
Running head: MULTICULTURAL PERSPECTIVES IN THE CLASSROOM
Multicultural Perspectives in the Classroom and Curriculum
Tajii R. Nord
University of South Alabama
Multicultural Perspectives 2
Introducing students to a diverse curriculum in higher education has been researched
with mixed conclusions. Studies have shown a positive impact on students by addressing,
and discussing sensitive issues concerning race relations. In multicultural classes students
gain respect and appreciation toward individual differences that’s needed in today’s
society. Research has also shown problems with the implementation of a diverse
curriculum, and lack of diversity amongst college faculty members. The purpose of this
paper is to review and discuss the different studies that considered both the positive and
negative aspects of providing a diverse curriculum.
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Diversity means differences and encompasses gender, culture, ethnicity, sexual
orientation, languages, disabilities, and race (Schauber 2001). Diversity for the purpose
of this paper will focus primarily on racial and ethnic differences. In reviewing multiple
studies, a unifying theme has been identified that multicultural education is needed for
students in today’s society. Due to the Civils Rights movement during the late 1960’s
multicultural education emerged with lots of promises and little delivery (Howley 2001).
Multicultural education is described as promoting strength, equal opportunity, social
justice, reducing prejudice, and the distribution of power between members of different
ethnicities (“Integrating cultural,” n.d). During the 1960’s and 1970’s diversity planning
originated in institutional policies to support affirmative action and equal opportunity for
a diverse student body (Iverson 2008). By the year 2050 48% of the United States will be
from a minority groups (Williams 2001). The future of our nation to remain productive
and prosper depends on our abilities to interact with other countries effectively (Bruce,
Weil, and Calhoun 2004). Effectively communicating and working with diverse
individuals in the US or abroad is needed for successful working relationships for all
individuals. Multicultural classes can properly enrich, inform, and teach to the whole
being of all students. Incorporating traditional studies with a diverse curriculum further
expands the knowledge base of individuals, producing culturally aware, empathetic, and
socially equipped individuals (Humphreys 1998).
Multicultural classes provide students with historical knowledge about other cultures,
and how to avoid stereotyping (Humphreys 1998). It’s essential for students to not only
learn American history, but to be knowledgeable about International diversity (Bucher
2000). Students that have taken multicultural classes have reported their more willing to
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seek out relations with other ethnic groups, are equipped with skills needed in the
workforce, can debate sensitive issues fair and objectively, and are prepared to take
action against social structural inequalities (Williams 2001). According to Humphreys
(1998) students whose professors included racial and ethnic materials during coursework,
had an increase level of satisfaction with their college experience.
Occidental College in California offers a course called “The History of Human
Patterns of Migration, Emigration, and Immigration” informing and preparing students
for current immigration challenges. In New Jersey Rowan College offers a course called
“Comparative Race Relations: A History of Race Relations in South Africa, Brazil and
the United States that develop students cognitive understanding of beliefs, and origins of
their cultural attitudes and traditions (Humphreys 1998). Most universities in the U.S
offer some form of multicultural classes. Out of 196 colleges surveyed 54% offered
multicultural courses, 33% offered ethnic and women’s studies and 34% offered
multicultural classes as a general education requirement (Schauber 2001).
In 1862 congress passed the Morrill Act to create land-grant universities that provide
higher education to all citizens. Historically only the dominant culture benefitted, while
minority groups were excluded (Iverson 2008). Colleges may have strategies and plans to
reach out and recruit a diverse faculty, and serve a diverse community. Yet, many
minority groups still remain underrepresented at many college campuses (Iverson 2008).
Change can bring about internal struggle if the organization is not ready to diversify.
Some view that improving college diversity plans as a mandate, or fear the unknown
challenges and uncertainties (Schauber 2001).
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In a study that analyzed 21 University diversity plans, a common trend was identified.
Diversity plans contained language that referenced diverse people as outsiders, at risk for
failure after entering college, non tenure, harassed, and discriminated against. Dialogue
such as “us” and “them” was identified which further separate diverse individuals from
the dominant culture. Assumptive concepts from one view point to be inclusive may
work to further exclude a diverse population. Also, the recruitment of a diverse faculty
was considered a challenge due to lack of funding and supportive resources (Iverson
A study performed by Schauber (2001) at Oregon State University (OSU) extension
program analyzed the organizations readiness to effectively serve a diverse community.
In the study 16 organization leaders and 10 faculty members were asked fourteen
questions concerning: challenges or benefits of working with diverse groups, to define
diversity, and challenges and benefits of their jobs. It was discovered that participants
were committed to serving diverse populations, open to diversity training, agreed new
approaches to diversify were necessary, able to be creative while working with people,
aware that a diversified staff was needed, and that due to an increase in serving a diverse
community funding could possible increase (Schauber 2001). Participants expressed
some defensive concerns about: cultural and language barriers, workload too strenuous to
accommodate a diverse group, pressures of promotion and tenure left little time to
promote community relations, lack of funding to hire a diverse staff, and that the
organization was not committed to reaching out to diverse groups (Schauber 2001).
Uncertainties that participants expressed were: fear of offending cultural groups,
concerns of a quota system to service diverse groups, lack of proper cultural educational
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designs, and fear of not communicating effectively (Schauber 2001). The study revealed
that faculty members were supportive of serving and hiring a diverse staff, yet due to
misconceptions and fears, no further actions were taken for improvement. After
reviewing the findings of the study OSU is taking steps in the right direction to improve
and implement an effective diversity plan. A diversity committee of 30 people has been
formed responsible for staff development, mentoring of staff, revising recruitment
procedures, and reviewing the language capacity of staff members (Schauber 2008). OSU
is focusing on the positive reasons needed to effectively diversify in a rapidly changing
In conclusion the different studies, books, and articles all agree that a diverse
curriculum that properly prepares students for the global society is imperative. The word
minority over the next 40 years will become obsolete (Bruce et al. 2004). The problems
that colleges are experiencing are effectively reaching out to a diverse community, and
reflecting the diverse cultures via faculty members. Faculty members that are recruited
are treated as outsiders and not supported with deficiencies due to cultural differences.
University state they lack funding to properly recruit and train diverse faculty members.
Implementation of a diverse curriculum from a dominant culture perspective can produce
an opposing effect on diverse students further alienating minority groups (Klenowski
2009). If colleges are willing to accept the challenge, invest time, money, train staff, and
effectively recruit to better serve their communities, the long term goal to increase funds
while increasing their diverse student population can become a reality (Caraballo 2009).
As mentioned by Caraballo (2009) being only interested in ethnic food, music, dress,
and dance shows a tolerance of multicultural education, but fails to change schools and
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societal power structures. According to the New York Times diversity map of school
districts (n.d) in 2006 out of 64,873 students Mobile County ranked third in diversity out
of 67 in the state of Alabama. Native Americans are 1%, Asians 2%, Hispanic 1%,
Blacks 51%, and Whites 45% of the populations. Since 1998 to 2006 Whites have
declined by 8%, Blacks have increased by 6%, Hispanics have increased by 1%, Asians
have increased by 1%, and Native Americans show a .5% increase.
Providing a platform to service all students to further the growth and development of
the United States to function effectively in a diverse world through multicultural
education should apply in all educational settings. Creating dialogue and a action plan
from many different perspectives to gain insight on an effective diverse curriculum will
be a challenge, but is a necessity that colleges cannot afford to ignore.
Multicultural Perspectives 8
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