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Celebrating Diversity Everyday

Copyright © Adam Waxler

By the year 2020 almost half of the population of the United States will be from ethnic groups (Woolfolk, 1998).  Therefore, as teachers, we must place a high value on cultural diversity and educational equality.  Gloria Ladson-Billings (1994) in her article, “What We Can Learn from Multicultural Education Research”, brakes down multicultural education into five areas bringing up many possible problems we may face as teachers today and in the future.  I agree with Billings that multicultural education can help teachers be more successful with all students.  However, I have trouble with one particular example she used concerning content and materials.

I have always questioned the value of such shortsighted efforts in cultural awareness as black history month.  At first this may seem like a great idea, to single out African Americans who have made an accomplishment or contribution to our society.  However, to do this one month out of the year is degrading to those particular individuals and to African Americans as a whole.  I have known several African American Professors that were outraged that every February they would receive numerous telephone calls to speak at various universities simply because they were African American.  In response one particular Professor would tell the interested university that they would be glad to be a speaker any other month of the year.  This usually led to the university changing their mind about who they wanted as a guest speaker.  Black history is part of U.S. history and should be taught everyday of every month.  Billings does not mention black history month in her article, but she does refer to superficial celebrations.  I agree that these short-lived celebrations, whether they are a day or a month, trivialize multicultural education.  Schools need to move away from this towards a curriculum that celebrates diversity everyday not just once a year.

However, educators must be careful of how they go about integrating multiculturalism into the classroom.  One example that Billings gave I strongly disagree with.  The example involved the reading of several ethnic versions of the Cinderella story.  The idea of multiculturalism is not to take white and make it black.  Or in this case take white and make it Chinese, Egyptian, and Zimbabwean.  The idea is to celebrate ethnic differences and similarities by studying, comparing, and contrasting different cultures.  Taking a European story, such as Cinderella, and trying to adapt it to a different ethnic culture I believe does more harm than good.  It gives the impression that the only way to study ethnic achievement is to adapt it to European culture.  I believe the better way to have students understand about various cultures is to compare and contrast different stories from a variety of ethnic groups.  In all fairness, Billings does provide a number of examples that compare and contrast different cultures, but the Cinderella example was not one of them



Billings, G. (1994, May). What we can learn from multicultural education research. Educational Leadership, 22-26.

Woolfolk, A.E. (1998). Educational Psychology (7th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Adam Waxler is a middle school social studies teacher, teacher mentor, and the author of eTeach: A Teacher Resource for Learning the Strategies of Master Teachers. Adam is also the editor and publisher of The Teaching Teacher’s Newsletter. For more information about his ebook or to sign up for your free monthly newsletter log onto: