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Monday, June 17, 2024

Multiculturalism and Cross-Cultural Awareness: Not Really Intertwined (Part II)

By Ardain IsmaPart II.Last week, Dr. Ardain Isma (left in the picture) emphasized on the concept of culture in general. This week, he focuses on the historical framework of “multiculturalism in the United States as well as its impact on multicultural education.Historical FrameworkMulticultural America is the product of the mingling of many different peoples over the course of several hundred years in what is now the United States. Cultural diversity was characteristic of this continent prior to the coming of European colonists and African slaves. The indigenous inhabitants of North America, who numbered an estimated 4.5 million in 1500, were divided into hundreds of tribes with distinctive cultures, languages, and religions.Although the numbers of Indians, as named by Europeans, declined precipitously through the 19th century, their population has rebounded in the 20th century. Both as members of their particular tribe (a form of ethnicity), Navajo, Ojibwa, Choctaw, and others, and as American Indians (a form of pan-ethnicity), they are very much a part of today’s cultural and ethnic pluralism. This ethnic pluralism has given birth to what Dee (2000) calls “a mosaic of cultures(p. 3).Most Americans are descendants of immigrants. Since the 16th century, from the earliest Spanish settlement at St. Augustine, Florida, the process of expanding the population of this continent has gone on apace. According to Phelan and Davidson (1993), close to a million Europeans and Africans were recruited or enslaved and transported across the Atlantic Ocean in the colonial period to what was to become the United States (p. 8). The reality of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds played a major role in influencing educational policies and citizens perceptions about new immigrants and what Phelan and Davidson call “domestic minorities(p. 3).The first census of 1790 revealed the high degree of diversity that marked the American population. Almost 19% were of African ancestry, another 12% Scottish and Scotch-Irish, 10% German, with smaller numbers of French, Irish, Welsh, and Sephardic Jews. The census, however, did not include American Indians. The reason for that was the English did not consider American Indians as real people.The British, very often labeled as the “founding people, made up only 48% of the total population. According to Webster (1997), at the time the United States was created in 1776, the country was already a society with broad ethnic and cultural diversity (p. 15). The country already had a variety of communities differentiated by culture, language, race, and religion. Such diversity was a major source of debate for policy makers trying to make educational decisions that would be acceptable to all sides. By 1840, the controversies surrounding multicultural education had already reached great proportions (Webster, 1997). One of the main reasons for the controversy was that all parties recognized the importance of considering the “identities, intellectual development, social mobility (p. 13) of students.Castor (1991) reported that the current United States includes not only the original 13 colonies but lands that were subsequently purchased or conquered. Through this territorial expansion, other ethnic peoples were brought within the boundaries of the republic; these included, in addition to many Native American tribes, French, Hawaiian, Inuit, Mexican, and Puerto Rican, among others. Since 1790, population growth, other than by natural increase, has come primarily through three massive waves of immigration. During the first wave (1841 to 1890), almost 15 million immigrants arrived, consisting of more than 4 million Germans, 3 million each of Irish and British (English, Scottish, and Welsh), and 1 million Scandinavians.A second wave (1891 to 1920) brought an additional 18 million immigrants, with almost 4 million from Italy, 3.6 million from Austria-Hungary, and 3 million from Russia. In addition, over 2 million Canadians, Anglo and French, immigrated prior to 1920. Subsequent decades, from 1920 to 1945, marked a hiatus in immigration due to restrictive policies, economic depression, and war. A modest post-World War II influx of refugees was followed by a new surge of approximately 16 million.The third wave, which began in the early 1960s and continues today, has already included some 4 million from Mexico, another 4 million from Central and South America and the Caribbean, and roughly 6 million from Asia. According to the 1970 U.S. Census report, almost 90% of the first two waves originated in Europe, whereas only 12% of the third did.Immigration has introduced an enormous diversity of cultures into American society (Dee, 2000). The 1990 U.S. Census report on ancestry provides a fascinating portrait of the complex ethnic origins of the American people. Responses to the question, “What is your ancestry or ethnic origin??were tabulated for 215 ancestry groups. The largest ancestry groups reported were, in order of magnitude, German, Irish, English, and African American, all over 20 million. Other groups reporting over 6 million were Italian, Mexican, French, Polish, Native American, Dutch, and Scotch-Irish, while another 28 groups reported over 1 million each. Scanning the roster of ancestries, one is struck by the plethora of smaller groups, including Hmong, Maltese, Honduran, Carpatho-Rusyns, and Nigerian, among scores of others. Interestingly enough, only 5% identified themselves simply as American, and less than 1% as White.Immigration also contributed to the transformation of the religious character of the United States. Its original Protestantism (itself divided among many denominations and sects) was both reinforced by the arrival of millions of Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians, and diluted by the heavy influx of Roman Catholics, first the Irish and Germans, then Eastern Europeans and Italians, and more recently Hispanics. These immigrants have made Roman Catholicism the largest denomination in the country. Meanwhile, Slavic Christian and Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe established Judaism and Orthodoxy as major American religious bodies.The 1990 census reported some 3 million Muslims in the United States, resulting from Near Eastern immigration and the conversion of many African Americans to Islam. Smaller numbers of Buddhists, Hindus, and followers of other religions also have arrived. According to Amirthanayagam (2000), in urban America today there is a conglomerate of places of worship including mosques and temples as well as churches and synagogues. Religious diversity represents a major source of multiculturalism in this country (Amirthanayagam, 2000, p. 185).The immigration and naturalization policies pursued by a country might be the key to understanding its self-conception as a nation. By determining whom to admit to residence and citizenship, the dominant element defines the future ethnic and racial composition of the population and the body politic. Analyzing these realities, one might be able to say that each of the three great waves of immigration inspired much soul-searching and intense debate over the consequences for the republic. If the capacity of American society to absorb some 55 million immigrants over the course of a century and a half is impressive, it is also true that American history has been punctuated by ugly episodes of nativism and xenophobia. With the possible exception of the British, it might be difficult to find an immigrant group that has not been subjected to some degree of prejudice and discrimination. From their early encounters with Native Americans and Africans, Anglo-Americans established “whiteness?as an essential marker of difference and superiority.Katsiaficas and Kiros (1998) claimed that not all Anglo-Americans were racists or xenophobes. Citing Christian and democratic ideals of universal brotherhood, many advocated the abolition of slavery and the rights of freedmen, freedom of religion, and cultural tolerance. Debates over immigration policy brought these contrasting views of the republic into collision. The ideal of America as an asylum for the oppressed of the world has exerted a powerful influence on the liberal reception of newcomers. Moreover, American capitalism depended upon the rural workers of Europe, French Canada, Mexico, and Asia to work its factories and mines. Nonetheless, many Americans have regarded immigration as posing a threat to social stability, the jobs of native white workers, honest politics, American culture, and even biological integrity. The strength of anti-immigrant movements has waxed and waned with the volume of immigration, but even more with fluctuations in the state of the economy and society. Although the targets of nativist attacks have changed over time, what has not changed is the constant theme that foreigners pose a great danger to American values and institutions.Hahn (1989) wrote that Irish Catholics, for example, were viewed as minions of the Pope and enemies of the Protestant character of the country. A Protestant crusade culminated with the formation of the American (or Know-Nothing) Party in 1854, whose battle cry was “Americans!?While the sectional conflict reached culmination in the Civil War, anti-Catholicism continued to be a powerful strain of nativism well into the 20th century. Despite such episodes of xenophobia, during its first century of existence the United States welcomed all newcomers with minimal regulation. In 1882, however, two laws initiated a progressive tightening of restrictions upon immigration.The first established qualitative health and moral standards by excluding criminals, prostitutes, lunatics, idiots, and paupers. The second, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the culmination of an anti-Chinese movement centered on the West Coast, denied admission to Chinese laborers and barred Chinese immigrants from acquiring citizenship. Following the enactment of this law, agitation for exclusion of Asians continued as the Japanese and others arrived, culminating in the provision of the Immigration Law of 1924, which denied entry to aliens ineligible for citizenship (those who were not deemed White). It was not until 1952 that a combination of international politics and democratic idealism finally resulted in the elimination of all racial restrictions from American immigration and naturalization policies.Yeh (2000) argued that the United States pursued restrictive and racist immigration policy until 1965. The Immigration Act of 1965 did away with the national origins quota system and opened the country to immigration from throughout the world, establishing preferences for family members of American citizens and resident aliens, skilled workers, and refugees. The unforeseen consequence of the law of 1965 was the third wave of immigration. Not only did the annual volume of immigration increase steadily to the current level of 1 million or more arrivals each year, but the majority of the immigrants now came from Asia, the Caribbean (noticeably Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic), and Latin America. The cumulative impact of an immigration of more than 16 million since 1965 has aroused intense concerns regarding the demographic, cultural, and racial future of the American people. The skin color, languages, and lifestyles of the newcomers triggered a latent xenophobia in the American psyche. While eschewing the overt racism of earlier years, advocates of tighter restriction have warned that if current rates of immigration continue, the minorities (persons of African, Asian, and Hispanic ancestry) will make up about half of the American population by the year 2050. Knowing these facts, it is important to go back and look at the historical development of multicultural education over the years in this country and how cross-cultural awareness can be built through it.Program FrameworkMulticultural education in the United States began in the 19th century with the arrival of immigrants from Europe. As the immigrants kept coming, so did their children. Most of the European immigrants who arrived before 1890 came from Northern Europe. While there were conflicts between the different groups, English was always the language that dominated the social, economic, and political life. As the 20th century approached and new waves of immigrants from Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe began to arrive, the previous immigrants from Northern Europe began to see themselves as the rightful and legitimate inhabitants of the country. They saw the new immigrants as a threat to the American democratic tradition. Unfortunately, distinctions were made between new and old immigrants. As a result, a movement called nativism was born. Its purpose was to stop the flood of new immigrants. Because of their Catholicism, cultural differences, and competition for jobs with the old immigrants and native-born Americans, the new immigrants became the victims of blatant nativism.Despite prejudice and discrimination against the new immigrants, the country’s leaders and schools officials agreed on one thing: The children of new immigrants had to be educated in a way that fostered assimilation with the rest of society. Students were taught to change their manners and practices of personal hygiene as part of the process of becoming good, clean Americans (Phelan & Davidson, 1993, p. 12). Although there was a great desire to Americanize the children as quickly as possible, the consensus among school officials was not to educate them to a higher level. Most of these children were given culturally biased tests that resulted in placement in vocational schools. This prompted many people in academia to say that the educational system was not helping the immigrant students but instead was helping the government and the business community (Phelan & Davidson, 1993). Immigrant children were taught to become only “obedient citizens and dutiful workers(p.13).The Immigration Act of 1917 was meant to drastically reduce the flow of immigrants from Southern, Eastern, and Central Europe by requiring these immigrants to pass a reading test before they could enter the United States. When the nativists realized that this action was a failure and people continued to come in record numbers, the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed. School officials not only had to deal with new immigrant children, they also had to accommodate thousands if not millions of African American children coming from the countryside to the urban areas. That reality precipitated the creation of a new curriculum to promote diversity in the classroom.?If the Immigration Act of 1924 nearly stopped the flow of immigrants, it did not solve the cultural diversity problem that preoccupied the political and economic leaders of the United States.The perception that assimilation could work only for White people but not for people of color triggered African American leaders to push for their own civil rights. By the early 1960s many African Americans who had become highly assimilated still found themselves unable to participate fully in mainstream American institutions. Blacks were still denied many opportunities because of their skin color. Nieto (1996) revealed that numerous problems of educational institutions occurred mainly in areas with large numbers of Black, Hispanic, and American Indian children (p. 35). These institutions frequently implemented policies that put in jeopardy the academic achievement of students who were in danger of failing (p. 35).In the beginning of the 1960s, many educational institutions at all levels began to respond to the Black civil rights movement. That apparent success has caused or forced other alienated ethnic groups of color, such as Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, and Puerto Ricans, to make similar demands for political, economic, and educational changes. Many Hispanic and other minority leaders have begun to openly talk about a new school reform where multiculturalism could play a major role.According to Bahamonde and Friend (1999), the real movement to change federal policies toward implementing a more constructive bilingual and multicultural education began in the 1960s (p. 1). This movement, new pluralism, forced the government to come up with a new Immigration Reform Act in 1963, making it more likely that people from other countries would immigrate to the United States. This act was so effective that in 1968, according to the 1970 census, the United States experienced its largest wave of immigrants since the turn of the century.A novel element in this new wave of immigration is worth noting. Not only had the number of immigrants entering the United States increased, but the characteristics of the immigrants also had changed dramatically. Although most of the immigrants who entered the United States between 1951 and 1960 were from Europe (about 59.3%), only 18% of legal immigrants between 1971 and 1980 were European. Most immigrants during these latter years came from Asian and Latin American nations such as the Philippines, Korea, China, Mexico, Cuba, and Haiti. During the decade 1980 to 1990, there was a dramatic increase in the number of Haitians living in the United States, most fleeing political repression in their own country.The new pluralism movement achieved another outcome. According to Bahamonde and Friend (1999), in 1974, Congress passed the EEOA (Equal Educational Opportunity Act), which forced school districts around the country to develop curriculum that would allow bilingual students to preserve their language and cultural heritage. This also triggered a great deal of debate among academics about whether it was the responsibility of schools to help students preserve their bilingualism (Bahamonde & Friend, 1999, p. 4). This new reality could not be ignored, and cross-cultural awareness became essential to improving the academic achievement of immigrant children.The approaches to achieving cross-cultural awareness are as varied as the labels. Social scientists propose solutions that span every aspect of the curriculum, every subject area and every grade level. A review of research concerned with achieving cross-cultural awareness revealed three approaches: (a) cross-cultural awareness through multicultural literature, (b) cross-cultural awareness through the arts, and (c) integrated approaches to cross-cultural awareness. A review of the literature for each approach follows.Cross-Cultural Awareness Through Multicultural LiteratureIn an educational environment where the whole language approach is increasingly replacing phonics and basal readers, the use of stories and novels about foreign cultures to enhance the reading curriculum has been advocated. Reading stories about foreign countries in multicultural classrooms not only improves students reading level, but teaches students how to get along with people whose culture and ethnic backgrounds are different from theirs (Stern, 1996, p. vii). In Tales from Many Lands, Anita Stern provides a series of stories based upon tales from foreign countries.Stern (1996) suggested that a well-balanced multicultural literature program could be effective depending on the learning style of the students. She claims that it works best with intuitive learners, and believes that students can learn better and make more academic progress by reading multicultural literature than by using what she refers to as a regular textbook (p. 4). Stahl (1999) further states that understanding the way students learn is important for “making sure that all the needs of diverse learners are being met (p. 29).Other researchers agree that children who are exposed to multicultural literature portraying specific ethnic groups in a favorable way display a more positive attitude toward other ethnic groups and minorities. McDougall (2000), for example, claims that multicultural history is the only way to teach students that all people are the same (p. 19). Furthermore, McDougall claims that isolating other cultures in literature or refusing to teach certain historical facts for fear of the negative impact on students self-esteem is to deprive students of an important opportunity. He claims that one of the most important messages to be learned from multicultural history is that everyone, every culture, and every civilization is similar at some level (p. 19).Several goals can be achieved through multicultural literature. According to Monges (2000), multicultural literature helps preserve cultural history and enhance ethnic identity. Using multiethnic literature in reading instruction can help “children realize that all ethnic groups have roots in the past and a strong heritage that is part of their culture(Florenz & Hadaway, 1989, p. 3).Cross-cultural awareness through multicultural literature contributes to eliminating all form of discrimination, whether ethnic or cultural, and changing biases toward cultures that are different (Monges, 2000). Reading multicultural literature helps advance cross-cultural skills and understanding of various styles of cultural communication. And finally, it helps disenfranchised ethnic groups to become what Monges calls “part of the mainstream culture(p. 7).Reading multicultural literature can expand students?intelligence about other cultures and values that go beyond borders and can play a major part in achieving social and economic success in the 21st century (Monges, 2000). Through reading, students can enrich their knowledge about different people, places, and things that might otherwise be difficult to acquire (Hall & Moats, 2000, p. 27). Children can acquire a tremendous amount of information about life experiences that they could never get, even through extensive travel or conversation with their parents (Hall & Moats, 2000, p. 28).The role of multicultural literature in improving cross-cultural understanding can be explained in part by the way in which children experience literature. As Monson, Howe, and Greenlee (1989) note, “Realistic fiction allows children to relate to the story characters and gives opportunity to develop interest in the lives of others and empathy for those who differ from them (p. 4). Monson et al. chose literature for children based on a survey examining what American children were interested in knowing about children from other countries. Their responses indicated curiosity about basic physical and psychological needs such as food, housing, clothing, and family life. Monson et al. found that children’s questions were best answered by literature from a foreign country.Reading in general, and reading multicultural literature in particular, may be one of the best ways to shape a child’s life and ensure that he/she can survive well in a multiethnic environment (Florenz & Hadaway, 1989). Reading can enrich vocabulary, expand knowledge about many different subjects, and foster appreciation of the reading process. The mere reading of multiethnic texts or novels, however, is not sufficient. Florenz and Hadaway (1989) stress the importance of responding to the literature, analyzing text, making judgments, observing, comparing, hypothesizing, organizing, summarizing, criticizing, and applying.Storytelling also can “help develop children’s multicultural understanding and appreciation (Imdieke, 1990, p. 6). Imdieke examined the advantages of traditional storytelling, in contrast to reading, as a way to expose children to other cultures and traditions; and found that children, after having been exposed to a storyteller, were highly motivated to listen and to attempt their own storytelling.In the next section, other forms of artistic expression are explored as media for multicultural instruction. These include music and the visual arts.Cross-Cultural Awareness Through the ArtsBoyer-White (1989) observed that traditionally taught American and European music reflects only a part of the highly developed musical systems in the world, and viewed it as the educator’s responsibility to “equip students with the tools needed to understand better the variety of music systems that exist (p. 54). Several experimental programs exemplify the integration of multiculturalism into the arts.Buck (1990) devised a music curriculum that spans one whole school year and introduces students to the world of music. Materials such as folk instruments and other artifacts were selected based on relevance and quality and integrated into the lessons. Activities included folk dancing and comparative exercises in melody, rhythm, harmony, and tone quality. Buck said about the unit, “Not only were basic music concepts learned, but the material enriched students experiences with knowledge about the world in which they live (p. 34).The same concept of world art underlies Cocciolone’s (1989) international art exchange project. Cocciolone’s goal was to “teach the students, that the culture of a country is reflected in its art, and that art is a universal language (p. 9). The researcher sent the art work of American students to various schools in different countries, asking in return that students send letters with examples of their own art work. Cocciolone asserted the following:The accumulated wealth of drawings and paintings provided the American students with material to compare their own world to the color and detail, evidence of the modern world mixing with traditions, the art history of a country, and its contributions to the modern day world (p. 11)Windows of the World, another art project, was devised in an effort to “teach more about foreign cultures and make textbook locations seem more relevant (Kepner, 1990, p. 29). Kepner contacted schools in 29 countries and requested a quilt patch from each for a world quilt that students would assemble. The quilt patches that arrived from all over the world provided students with the opportunity to compare and contrast different styles and treatment of the material. Kepner concluded that the Windows to the World unit created enthusiasm for learning about other countries and was both meaningful and exciting for students.Like literature and storytelling, music and the visual arts can provide effective media for teaching students about other cultures and enhancing cross-cultural awareness. Although the majority of researchers have focused on a unidimensional approach, some have advocated for an integrated approach to multicultural education.Integrated ApproachesHahn (1983) recognized the need for “integrated development of positive attitudes, knowledge, and skills for effective global citizenship(p. 152). The purpose of his pilot project was to foster positive attitudes in young children toward children of a different culture. Hahn enlisted the support and participation of language, art, and music teachers. Mexico was chosen as the target culture and children’s play as the general topic. Objectives included interacting constructively with others, making positive statements about self and others, comparing and contrasting games, learning Spanish words, and participating in play activities. Activities extended over 5 one-hour sessions, and included circle discussions, language instruction, art activities, dance instruction, food tasting, singing songs, playing games, and creating and telling stories. The researcher used naturalistic evaluation to show that program objectives were achieved. Hahn (1983) concluded the following:Global education works largely in the affective domain. Producing citizens who are responsive, caring, and cognizant of various people and cultures, and who are able to function responsibly in a complex, global world, is the task which confronts us (p. 157).Bellucci and Nissim (1989) designed a cross-cultural awareness curriculum for the purpose of modifying children’s attitudes about cross-cultural concerns. Activities included: (a) attitudes pretest, (b) photo interpretation, (c) personal questions, (d) awareness sociogram, (e) film festival, (f) poems, (g) experimental exercises, and (h) public and commercial television. Activities b, c, d, and g were aimed more at exposing and reducing prejudice and negative attitudes, whereas activities e, f, and h were designed to actively promote cross-cultural awareness through exposure to films and literature from or about another culture. The researchers concluded that the curriculum framework could be beneficial “to counselors [and] to teachers, in assessing more acceptance and understanding of cultural similarities and differences in their classroom, and to students as learners (p. 208).Despite the importance of using literature and art to promote cultural awareness, an integrated approach as exemplified in this section may prove to be the most constructive mechanism. In contrast to singular approaches, an integrated method makes participants live the experience rather than feel it or try to understand it through reading. The integrated approach provides the students the opportunity to constructively interact with one another and to participate in several activities that allow them to learn about each other’s differences. The experience of language, music, food, and other aspects of the culture not only help children to respect and tolerate others, but also gives them a unique opportunity to compare and contrast their preferences with those of others.End of part 2.Note: Dr. Ardain Isma is the chief editor for CSMS Magazine and the executive director of the Center For Strategic And Multicultural Studies. He also teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at Nova Southeastern University. He is a novelist and the author of several essays on multiculturalism and Caribbean politics. He may be reached at publisher@csmsmagazine.org.

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