Foundations and Current Issues of Early Childhood Education/Chapter 5/5.3

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Multiculturalism in The Early Childhood Classroom[edit | edit source]

by Mei-Yi Chen

A Nation of 300 Million[edit | edit source]

The population of the United States is changing and will continue to change. Having more than 300 million people, America is a nation of blended races. In addition, the country has added 100 million people since 1967 and about 53% of them are recent immigrants or their descendants, according to Jeffrey Passel, demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center. “The newcomers have transferred an overwhelmingly white population of largely European descent into a multicultural society that reflects every continent on the globe.”(Nasser, 2006). All these statistics have magnificent implications for increased multiculturalism.

style="background-color: #FFF7F7;

border: solid 1px #FFBDBD; padding: 1em;" valign=top | The USA’s Population

Estimate Total: 288,378,137

White alone 215,333,394

Black or African American alone 34,962,569

American Indian and Alaska Native alone 2,357,544

Asian alone 12,471,815

Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone 397,030

Some other race alone 17,298,601

Two or more races: 5,557,184

Two races including Some other race 1,246,041

Two races excluding Some other race, and three or more races 4,311,143

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2005 American Community Survey Produced by Mei-Yi Chen

Multiculturalism[edit | edit source]

According to Wikipedia, “multiculturalism is an ideology advocating that society should consist of, or at least allow and include, distinct cultural groups, with equal status. Multiculturalism is a term often used to describe the cultural and ethnic diversity of a nation and recognizes that this rich diversity is a positive force in furthering society’s nationhood or cultural identity(2007).”

The seven stages of moving toward multiculturalism, according to Jaime Wurzel, are (1) Monoculturalism, (2) Cross-Cultural contact, (3) Cultural conflict, (4) Educational interventions, (5) Disequilibrium, (6) Awareness, (7) Multiculturalism.

Bridging The Worlds[edit | edit source]

Young children who live in a multicultural community experience cultural diversity firsthand; it is part of their world. On the other hand, other children who live in a monocultural community often have difficulties understanding and accepting an environment that is different from theirs. Knowing more about the significance and nature of children's’ journeys between home and school and the influences of those journeys, educators can help their children bring together the worlds of home and school and all other worlds that they may experience in their daily lives. Early childhood educators can create multicultural classrooms which can provide children a common ground and help them to connect all worlds together.

In The Early Childhood Classroom[edit | edit source]

Classrooms around the United States are becoming more and more culturally diverse. Early childhood educators need to understand that teaching their new students successfully means learning about new cultures. Moreover, how educators respond to the multicultural makeup and needs of children will determine how well the children fulfill their responsibilities in the years to come.

Goals[edit | edit source]

In early childhood classrooms, educators should transmit multiculturalism to children and the following goals need to be accomplished:

1. Recognize the beauty, value, and contribution of each child.

2. Teach children to respect others’ cultures as well as their own.

3. Talk to children about racism and current events regularly.

4. Assist children in functioning successfully in a multicultural society.

5. Increase children’s opportunities to talk and play with diverse people.

6. Encourage children to experience in positive ways both their differences as culturally diverse people and their similarities as human beings.

7. Help children notice and do something about unfair behavior and events.

8. Help children who are affected by racism develop a positive self-esteem.

Requirements for Early Childhood Educators[edit | edit source]

By understanding diversity and respecting individuality, educators can better serve culturally diverse students. Moreover, early childhood educators should possess three elements.

1. Personal commitment

There is no short cut or panacea to accomplish educational equality for America’s culturally diverse populations. In addition, working with children and their families with diverse cultures is challenging and can be difficult. In order to make significant progress, educators need to have sincere and wholehearted commitment. Such commitment can be tough but is necessary for educators in dealing with a variety of issues in the multicultural classrooms and in meeting the challenge of diverse groups of children.

2. Knowledge of what makes a difference

“Recent research has redefined the nature of our culturally diverse students’ educational vulnerability. It has destroyed both stereotypes and myths and laid a foundation upon which to reconceptualize present educational practices and launch new initiatives. This foundation recognizes the homogeneity/heterogeneity within and between such populations.”(Garcia, 1995). The study findings for early childhood contribute important knowledge to general instructional organization, literacy development, academic achievement in content areas and the perspectives of children, parents, and educators. Therefore, educators should recognize that academic development has its roots in sharing knowledge and experiences through communication. Within the knowledge-driven curriculum, skills are tools for acquiring knowledge, not an essential goal of teaching events.

3. Educational leadership

Educators need to move beyond national educational goals. Educational leadership is needed to spread new knowledge, to apply new knowledge to skill development, and to engage in childhood development.

Practices[edit | edit source]

                        Children learn by observing the differences
                        and similarities among people and by absorbing
                        the spoken and unspoken messages about those 

“Numerous research studies about the early process of identity and attitude development conclude that children learn by observing the differences and similarities among people and by absorbing the spoken and unspoken messages about those differences.”(Hepburn, 2007). In order to teach children to respect and value diversity, educators should include the following elements in the early childhood programs:

• Raising cultural awareness

Educators need to acknowledge that frequently developing their own multicultural awareness, attitudes toward children and their families, and knowledge and skills is necessary and significant. By doing that, appropriate instructional materials like multicultural literature should be provided in the class. In addition, an antibias and multicultural curriculum and activities need to be carefully designed and implemented in the program. An antibias curriculum can help children to learn about their own identity and to respect different gender, ethnicity, races, backgrounds among people.

• Teaching to children’s various learning styles

Every child learns in different ways. To be able to meet children’s physical, emotional, social, and academic needs, educators need to know each child’s unique learning style.

• Welcoming parent and community involvement

Educators should provide parents and the community frequent opportunities to be involved in school activities. Some recommendations are using a personal touch and nonjudgemental communication, expressing resolve in maintaining involvement, providing strong leadership and administrative support, and managing community outreach.

• Supporting and valuing every child

The concepts of valuing the individual and respect for human diversity have evolved slowly over the ages. Every child needs to be treated as an individual and children need to learn their own identity and background.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Early childhood educators still have a long way to go to make sure that all classrooms and curricula fulfill children’s needs of multiculturalism. They can be at the forefront of making great progress by educating both themselves and young children for living in a diverse society.

Multiple Choice[edit | edit source]

1. According to Jaime Wurzel, which option is NOT included in the stages of moving toward multiculturalism (A) Monoculturalism, (B) Cross-Cultural contact, (C) Educational interventions, (D) Equilibrium, (E) Awareness.

Answer: (D)

2. In multicultural early childhood classrooms, certain goals need to be accomplished in order to transmit multiculturalism to children EXCEPT: (A) Recognizing the beauty, value, and contribution of each child, (B) Teaching children to respect others’ cultures as well as their own, (C) Avoiding regular discussion with children about racism and current events, (D) Helping children notice and do something about unfair behavior and events, (E) Helping children who are affected by racism develop a positive self-esteem.

Answer: (C)

3. Which of the following are the three requirements of early childhood educators with a multicultural perspective: (a) Educational leadership, (b) Personal Commitment, (c) Multilingual, (d) Knowledge of what makes a difference?

(A)abc, (B)acd, (C)bcd, (D)abd.

Answer: (D)

4. To teach children to respect and value diversity, educators should include the following elements in the early childhood programs EXCEPT (A) Raising cultural awareness, (B) Teaching to children’s various learning styles, (C) Welcoming parent and community involvement, (D) Supporting and valuing every child, (E) Providing a multilingual curriculum.

Answer: (E)

5. Which of the followings statement are true: (a) America is a nation of people of diverse cultures; (b) Since 1967, America has added 100 million people and less than half of them are recent immigrants or their descendants; (c) Children learn by observing only similarities among people and by absorbing the spoken and unspoken messages about those similarities; (d) Some children live in a multicultural community and others live in a monocultural community, and both groups need to be educated in multiculturalism.

(A)abc, (B)abd, (C)bcd, (D)acd

Answer: B

Essay[edit | edit source]

What are some trends that will encourage educators to transmit multiculturalism in the early childhood curriculum, programs, and practices?

Though some educators and parents have opposed multicultural teaching in the past, the public is recognizing more and more that effective multicultural education is good for all. A wealth of materials have become available to assist early childhood educators in teaching multiculturalism. Because not all materials are of equal value or worth, educators will have to be more discerning when choosing materials appropriate for their children. More early childhood educators are realizing that children as young as preschoolers can learn about multiculturalism, and multicultural activities and content are being included in curricula. Moreover, multicultural curricula are becoming more pluralistic and include knowledge and information about numerous cultures. Consequently, more children will be exposed to and examine a full range of cultures rather than only two or three. “Many early childhood educators are being challenged to preserve children’s natural reactions to others’ differences before they adopt or are taught adult stereotypical reactions. Young children are, in general, understanding and accepting of differences in others.”(Morrison, 2004, pg.458)

References[edit | edit source]

Dilg, M. (2003). Thriving in the Multicultural Classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

Garcia, E., McLaughlin, B., Spodek, B., and Saracho, O. (1995). Meeting the Challenge of Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood Education. Yearbook In Early Childhood Education, New York: Teachers College Press. 6, xvii.

Hepburn, K. (Ed.)(2007). Annual Editions: Building Culturally & Linguistically Competent Services. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill.

Howes, C. (2002). Teaching 4- to 8-Year-Olds. Baltimore: Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co.

Kendall, F.E. (1996). Diversity in the Classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

Melendez, W. and Ostertag, V. (2006). Teaching Young Children in Multicultural Classrooms. Florence, KY: Delmar Publishers.

Morrison, G. (2004). Early Childhood Education Today. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Ltd.

Nasser, H. E. (2006). A Nation of 300 Million. USA Today. Retrieved from

Trumbull, E., Rothstein-Fisch, C., Greenfield, P., and Quiron, B. (2001). Bridging Cultures between Home and School. Florence, Kentucky: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2005). American Community Survey. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2007). Multiculturalism. Retrieved from

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