||How the Language has Changed||||Trends & Challenges in the US||||Issues in Canada||
Multiculturalism is a new word in our society, although it has come to describe our origins, as America, the "Melting Pot". Professor Jay of the University of Wisconsin suggests that perhaps multiculturalism has replaced the term "race" in recent years as more politically correct and more accurately descriptive. "Multiculturalism may also have become a popular term as "race" lost much of its former credibility as a concept. Scientists agree that, in terms of DNA genetics, "race" has no significant meaning as a way of categorizing human differences. Intermarried families offer the puzzle of a parent and child considered as belonging to two different races--clearly an absurd idea given that race was thought of as biologically passed from parent to offspring. Thus "culture" began to replace "race" as a term for distinguishing among distinct human groups." (Jay 2002)
Although multiculturalism is a reasonably new term and perhaps a new mission in education since the 1980s, many agree its roots can be traced to the 60s and 70s and the civil rights movements. (Jay 2002, Gorski 1999) Along with multiculturism as a changing force, other politically correct terms have changed in recent years, many of which describe the different ethnic backgrounds within the United States as they find ways to express and identify themselves. "People of color" is a term now used to identify more than one cultural influence or a general term for anyone other than anglo (white) Europeans or Americans. African Americans were known in history as other unnamable terms, but most recently called blacks or coloreds. Now they are called African Americans or lumped in the category of people of color. Hispanic or Latino are terms that are more broadly used today lumping many cultures together, specifically, Spanish speaking countries in central and South America.
Not only has the language changed, but in recent years there has been a call for culture neutral testing. Standardized testing is always under criticism, but in the last decade or two, there has been an attempt to create standardized tests that are less discriminatory and more appropriate for many students with diverse cultural backgrounds. However, there are still problems. "In a study of 150 nursing students of American Indian origin, nearly 75% dropped out of the program, often citing frustration with standardized tests such as TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education) that evaluate language and math skills. A suggested solution to help such students is to initiate a program to improve these skills. However, these required tests are a way of holding American Indians to standards set by the dominant culture. It would be better to determine if they can function as professionals with the skills they have rather than allow a test to decide their ability" (Manifold and Rambur, 2001).
Although Canada has been historically bilingual, particularly in Quebec and New Brunswick, it also has been homogenous in its Eurocentric system of education. Some educators have been unable or unwilling to recognize that their perspectives are shaped by their own cultural experience. They assume that everything they do is correct and any conflict is the fault of others for being different (Beairsto and Carrigan, 2004). Those that have been open to offering multicultural aspects to education have done so in a superficial way. Cultural studies have often been limited to exposure to typical music, dance and cuisine of selected peoples, as much for entertainment as for instruction. What little historical information is offered is done so from the perspective of the dominant Canadian culture making some students feel invisible. Some students are asked to share facts about their cultures as though they were tour guides, while students of European ancestry and born in Canada are never asked to do the same. Administrative personnel do not represent the diversity of the student population, reminding minority students of how little influence they have. Multicultural sections of programs are often added on as novelties to the otherwise Eurocentric system of education (Zine, 2002).
Some hope has emerged as immigrants themselves have contributed valuable and authentic educational materials to Canadian programs. The content and style offer alternatives to the usual approach to assimilate people into society and view everyone as the same (James, 2004).
Beairsto, Bruce and Carrigan, Tony. (2004, Spring). Imperatives and possibilities. Education Canada, 44(2): 4-6.
James, Carl E. (2004, Fall). Assimilation to accomodation: immigrants and the changing patterns of schooling. Education Canada, 44(4): 43-45.
Zine, Jasmin. (2002, Summer). Inclusive schooling in a plural society: removing the margins. Education Canada, 42(3): 36-39.