THEORIES OF CULTURAL CENTEREDNESS:
MULTICULTURALISM & REALITIES
THE MOVEMENT TOWARDS MULTICULTURALISM
A recent discussion in a braiding salon turned to the lack of understanding between different cultures on certain concepts that have different meanings. As a multiculturalist who is also African centered, I responded to the discussion on cultural realities from a centered perspective. The scenario was this way: A black man is admitted to the psychiatric ward in a local hospital because he was talking out of his mind. The nurses on the floor who were white, assessed his case; when asked what he was doing which resulted in him being placed on the ward the man said, “I can’t understand it; I was just minding my business riding around on my hog; I was doing fine, and they say I’m crazy.” The nurse said, “what do you mean you were riding on your hog, that doesn’t seem right. The bewildered man repeated what he had said. The nurses decided that the man should be committed because he was “out of his head.” My hair technician, the one black nurse who worked on this ward, came to work the day after the decision to commit; she was briefed on the patient who was ‘not talking right’. After talking to the patient, she explained that he was not ‘out of his head.’ She explained that by riding on his hog, the patient had a cadillac that he rode around in, and he was therefore “living abundantly, or living high on the hog.” Her response closed a gap between white and black culture; her response proved that learning does not exist outside of culture. In black culture, a cadillac automobile is a sign of success---doing all right. Without the perspective of the black nurse the outcome for this patient could have been very different; this is the case in many situations, particularly for students of color. The relevance of culture, in situations at work, and particularly at schools demonstrates a need for cultural awareness; especially cultural competency for professionals who work primarily with other cultures .
Teachers working with black students need increased awareness that different cultures interpret important concepts differently. The teacher trained on concepts of cultural centers is more prepared to stimulate learning among her students; she is aware of another reality and armed with a tool to employ a more multicultural approach to learning. The multicultural movement affirms a need for more culturally consistent models of education. On the movement, James A. Banks (1992) asks, “What does it mean to adopt a multicultural approach to American education?” It means, he 2
concludes, to debunk the myths of multiculturalism by asserting the fact that the multiculturalist wants to reformulate and transform the Western canon, not to purge the curriculum of the Western ideas. Western ideas are more traditional, i.e., if you teach a child mathematics, social studies, or English, his/her culture does not significantly impact his/her learning.. The traditionalist and multiculturalist must come together.
Banks lends support for a more multicultural or centered perspective in American education by affirming that education within a pluralistic society should help students create and maintain a civic community that works for the common good. Education in a democratic society should help students acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills they will need to participate in civic action to make society more equitable and just.
The debate on education is focused on the condition of urban education. The plight of Americans who seek public education suggests an alarming and ostensibly insurmountable problems: academic failure, high dropout rates, drugs and a recent rash of mysterious violence. One reaction to the condition of urban education in America is the concept of centeredness, or the movement toward multiculturalism, the development of alternative perspectives for urban learners in particular, and...
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