WIUM Tristates Public Radio

The Latest on Multicultural Education

May 17, 2013

This week's guest on Emphasis is Dr James Banks, Director of the Center for Multicultural Education at the University of Washington - Seattle. He was in Macomb to give the keynote presentation during the annual Dealing With Difference Institute at Western Illinois University.

James Banks
Credit Rich Egger

Banks said a goal of multicultural education is to teach students "...to know, to care, and to act." This begins by helping teachers think about America and the world in a different way.

"For example, the westward movement - we help them understand it wasn't westward for the Indians, for the Lakota Sioux, because it was the center of (their) universe," Banks said.

"It wasn't west for the Alaskans, it was south. And it wasn't west for the Mexicans, it was north. And it wasn't west for the Japanese, it was east. So we try to help them understand new views of America."

Banks also said Columbus didn't discover anything. He pointed out people were already living in on this continent before Columbus arrived.

Banks said research has shown many children come to school with negative attitudes toward other ethnic groups. He said research has also shown those attitudes come from a multitude of places, including the media, classmates, and society in general. He said it's up to teachers to help younger children develop positive racial attitudes.

What we now know is if the school doesn't intervene to help kids get more positive racial attitudes- which we need to do, the younger they are the easier that is- that it becomes increasingly difficult as the kids grow older.

Banks said the inter-group education movement began in the 1920s. The idea changed and evolved over the years, and multicultural education eventually grew out of that. Banks said the field remains complex and continues to change.

He also said multiculturalism is a worldwide phenomenon and, like in America, many other nations are struggling with it.