The world is a complex, multicultural space. It’s composed of different continents and countries.
If there’s one thing all of these different places have in common, it’s that they are all inhabited by people. These people have different backgrounds. The aspect that makes two people similar is the fact that they are not the same — sometimes they’re multicultural.
In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “multiculturalism” is defined as, “Of, relating to, reflecting, or adapted to diverse cultures.” Diversity is presented in various forms. Yet, Dr. Christine Sleeter thinks the way multiculturalism and ethnic studies are taught in the United States is failing.
Sleeter is a professor who focuses on multiculturalism and ethnic studies curriculums in higher education. She offered some insights during a speech at the 2017 Diversity Symposium at Colorado State University about the importance of implementing a proper curriculum on multiculturalism and ethnic studies.
During her speech, Sleeter noted that in K-12 schooling, 84% of teachers in the United States were white. This impacts students because as a child is growing and developing, he or she learns and mirrors those that are around.
How will a child feel when his or her heritage or background is not discussed in school or in textbooks? This question becomes especially important when children are a minority or come from a multiracial background.
Sleeter goes on to say that, “The fragmented inclusion of people of color in the dominant curriculum leaves many students of color feeling like, as Caroline Turner put it, ‘guests in someone else’s house.’”
The term “guests” has a connotation of not being part of the whole, rather an addition or burden on top of the whole. When students of color feel as though they are not part of something, this feeling can carry with them in other parts of their lives.
Multiculturalism matters for one simple reason: everyone matters. Every background, every culture, every race and every ethnicity has played a role in society at large. Having an understanding of someone else’s culture and having knowledge of someone else’s culture creates space for everyone, not just for the majority.