A sociological study of the manifestation of multi-culturalism in public schools

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Hammer, Christy Lee
Sociology; Ethnic and Racial Studies; Women's Studies; Education; Sociology of
thesis / dissertation description
Debates on multi-culturalism are prevalent in politics, the mass media, and the educational system. I identify the range of local and national views concerning multi-culturalism and multi-cultural education, and explore how these views are manifest in actual multi-cultural practices in the schools. My central thesis is that the implementation of multi-culturalism in the schools threatens core, traditional values functional to the power structure. Yet, effective, quality multi-cultural education does takes place. This reveals a contradiction between the needs of the Nation-State to maintain certain core values and the need for multi-culturalism by international capitalism. I have explored multi-cultural issues in New Hampshire through teacher surveys and interviews. Many educators support multi-cultural education but say that it is not yet needed in New Hampshire. A broad range of views are found in both educational trade journals and the popular press. Two major multi-cultural issues in the U.S. are described: bilingualism is explored as the first multi-cultural issue in New Hampshire, and, as the effect of the post-1492 European expansion into the New World is reexamined, the homage paid to Columbus within the school system is questioned. Direct focus on the structure of oppression and on racism and sexism is largely absent in the writings on multi-culturalism that I have examined, particularly those for educators. Related topics I have explored are: the political correctness debate, cultural relativism, race relations and Afrocentric curriculum, the validity and inclusiveness of the Canon, "reverse" discrimination and affirmative action. Obstacles to an understanding of the relationship of multi-culturalism to educational equity include: lack of public knowledge of civil rights laws in education, the role education plays in social reproduction, and the mystification of the structure of educational finance. My suggestions for future research include critical analysis of textbooks to determine both the focus on and avoidance of multi-culturalism and the perpetration of Eurocentrism in textbooks. Individualism is offered as one explanation for the scepticism towards multi-culturalism on the part of some teachers. I have made some recommendations for a true multi-cultural, gender-fair, and global education.