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Banks and Multicultural Education

As a leading Philosopher of educational theories, Dr. James A. Banks offers considerable insight into the importance of multicultural education, especially in today’s society. His theory of multicultural education is comprised of five dimensions and is designed to reinforce the notion that all instructors, no matter what subject area, are responsible for instructional strategies that incorporate multicultural education in their classroom environment.

Banks and Multicultural Education

James Banks and Multicultural Ideas

The first of the five stages is content integration; all educators should think outside the box because schools in America are microcosms, using multicultural examples and evidence in their various classes. Math teachers can incorporate various cultures into examples of word problems; history teachers can focus on the experiences of various cultural diversity group and not just on those of the dominant white male perspective. Second is a concept called knowledge construction: by challenging oneself and students alike to consider the language they use, the generic terms they apply, and the images they construct, individuals will naturally diversity the way they think. Third, Banks calls for something called “equity pedagogy,” providing opportunities for all students, no matter what their racial or ethnic background, to succeed. Fourth is prejudice reduction, something that all teachers should be working toward naturally. This is part of any modern-day social interaction; by reinforcing it through various lesson plans, behaviors are increasingly likely to change. The final dimension described by Banks is empowering the school culture and social structure. Change cannot be limited to just one classroom; when students are in social settings, then, the lessons could be lost. Instead, entire schools need to adopt a sense of multiculturalism, reinforcing these principles at every possible opportunity and improving the quality of interactions among students in the process.

James Banks has developed what he calls the “five dimensions” of multicultural education to help teachers in their endeavors to implement multicultural education. The first and foremost of these is integration of multicultural learning with regular classroom subjects. Here is a list of James A. Bank’s multicultural dimensions:

  1. Content Integration
  2. Knowledge Construction Process
  3. Prejudice Reduction
  4. An Equity Pedagogy
  5. Empowering School Culture and Social Structure

Banks also offered examples of how the humanities could be reformed or enhanced to address the attitudes of an increasingly diverse student population including the introduction of the concept of scientific racism and discourse on culturally exclusive history. According to Banks, reformed curriculum via multi-culturally enhanced humanities would work to create students with the knowledge “to care, and to act in ways that will develop and foster a democratic and just society where all groups experience cultural democracy and empowerment”.

The Importance of Diversity in Bank's Multicultural Education

! Establishing the importance of diversity in curriculum over 2 decades ago included a call for reforming courses to address the growing multicultural element of the classroom. There was growing support for advocating classrooms where students from different cultural backgrounds could experience humanities that recognized input from culturally diverse sources. Banks suggested that this was necessary because the “knowledge created by elite and powerless groups in the same society tends to differ significantly”. Furthermore, content must be presented to pupils in such a way that they can connect with it. If they cannot connect with it, due to the teacher’s shortcomings in multicultural methodology, they miss out on much of their education.

Banks noted that at the time he came up with his five dimensions of multicultural education, it appeared that there was much working against the implementation of multicultural education presently. Teacher education had also fallen short in preparation of pre-service teachers, and staff development for veteran educators, and was focused on other, more urgent matters such as standards and assessments.

It is apparent that, overall, teachers lack the knowledge, methodology, and philosophical roots to successfully implement multicultural education in their classrooms. Much change is needed regarding racial and gender, as well as cultural, issues.

In the literature on the subject of Banks’ early investigation of multicultural education, there are a number of compelling arguments that have been made supporting the contention that curricula based upon multicultural should be implemented beginning in the early childhood years. The most common arguments that are presented in favor of early multicultural education fall into three categories, namely, the pedagogical argument, the sociocultural argument, and the moral argument. Much can still be done. Although there are persuasive and meritorious arguments on both sides of the debate about multicultural education in early childhood, ultimately, the adoption of a multiculturalism-influenced curriculum appears to be the more potentially advantageous approach. If educators feel uncomfortable with the prospect of completely revising their curricula, traditional instructional methods and subjects can be modified to include multicultural issues and awareness. In this way, the learning experiences of even the youngest children can more accurately reflect the rich racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity that characterizes America in the twenty-first century.