A Multiple-Perspectives Approach to Teaching
Many recent works have established general principles for multicultural education (see Bennett 1995; Banks 1994, Au 1993, Nieto 1992; Sleeter 1993). In this article, we focus on an important dimension of teaching for diversity-enriching the curriculum with culturally diverse materials that examine ideas, issues, personalities, and groups from multiple perspectives. To that end, we have adopted a definition of multiculturalism developed by Garcia and Pugh (1992) to describe a multiple-perspectives approach to social studies teaching and learning. In their terms, multiculturalism is
a layered concept that includes not only the experiences of particular individuals and groups but also their shared interests and relationships, which in turn are embedded in the interconnectedness of all peoples of the world. In its full complexity, then, multiculturalism implies the cultivation of global views of human affairs. Paradoxically, perhaps, this expanded view of multiculturalism places primary emphasis on the individual and on the importance of individual decisions regarding all issues concerning the welfare of humankind. (218)
This definition argues for conceptual learning, a prerequisite for citizenship in the twenty-first century, and multiple perspectives regarding ideas, issues, personalities, and groups. Whether a classroom is relatively homogeneous or heterogeneous, young citizens need to learn about themselves, fellow citizens in their communities, and the many people beyond their familiar environments. Learning about themselves and others allows students to recognize the value of multiple perspectives and understand why people view issues in particular ways.
In an integrative social studies program (see Jarolimek and Parker 1993), concepts and generalizations are the mainstay of instruction. Once the concepts are identified, the next step is to select the appropriate content for building important and powerful generalizations. In an integrative social studies program, content selection is based on the goals and objectives of the program, students' intellectual curiosity, and the need to connect social studies objectives with day-to-day developments that are of interest to students.
The recent social studies standards (National Council for the Social Studies 1994a) support a curriculum that promotes multiple perspectives. Using a conceptual approach to social studies teaching, teachers can provide for the examination of concepts independently (e.g., family) or in the form of generalizations (e.g., "Families around the world meet common needs in different ways"). Using the textbook and other resources, particularly trade books, teachers can help students begin the process of examining and generating concepts and generalizations. This process leads to students analyzing classroom curriculum and exploring other materials. They soon reach beyond their immediate confines in the search for multiple perspectives through which they can investigate powerful civic ideas.
Teaching Social Studies Concepts with Trade Books
With these thoughts in mind, we present sample lesson sequences to promote conceptual learning at three different levels-primary, middle, and high school. In these lessons, to illustrate the rich content and opportunities for conceptual learning found in trade books, we have omitted the textbook as a teaching resource. The trade books and the annotations used for the lesson sequences were excerpted from "Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies," the special annual supplement to Social Education (NCSS 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994b, 1995).
The Power and Purpose of the Lesson Sequences
The trade books selected for these lessons provide personal perspectives for examining essential social studies concepts and generalizations. These perspectives transcend the limited views that most students bring to school. The related activities offer opportunities for students to construct conceptual meaning by enabling them to consider and apply new understandings as they emerge.
Poverty is a difficult concept for many young children to comprehend, but they are able to grasp the idea in a structured, literature-based learning experience. Students whose experiences resemble what the story characters faced may be encouraged by the hope expressed by others who have shared their situations. Students not touched by poverty can realize that many people live on the fringes of poverty, even in their local communities. All students will learn that people in less fortunate situations have admirable qualities common to all people: love, dignity, independence, and hope. Such understanding of others may contribute to reducing young children's stereotypes about people in poverty and help them gain a greater understanding of poverty's effects.
For the middle level lesson sequence, a more complex approach was used to present the same concept. Although we proceeded cautiously at the primary level, the selected middle level trade books offer early adolescents opportunities to critically examine poverty's causes and effects. The sensitive manner in which poverty's challenges are presented in these works can convey to students the realities of poverty level conditions.
The concept of involuntary relocation addressed at the high school level may, in some cases, be a more familiar topic. Many young adults have been introduced to stories of the Jews in concentration camps, Japanese Americans in internment camps, and Native Americans forced to live on reservations. Yet the experiences of these groups have been traditionally taught in isolation, without allowing students to reflect on involuntary relocation's global nature and devastating consequences.
When involuntary relocation is examined as a human experience, which unfamiliar groups such as the Kurds in Iran and Iraq and blacks in South Africa also suffered, the concept can be analyzed from multiple perspectives. The particular experiences of each group are, of course, highlighted as each book is read. Students, however, can gain an understanding of commonalities and differences among the affected peoples as they compare the motives for each relocation and realize that forced relocation has happened in many times and places. They may also become aware of the significance of racial and economic factors as critical elements in the relocation process. As they read about the effects of each group's relocation, they may transcend individual and national boundaries, realizing that people of many racial, ethnic, and cultural groups can suffer a common fate for similar reasons.
Many teachers recognize the intellectual value of teaching from multiple perspectives. A remark by Madigan (1993) suggests why all teachers should value this approach to the teaching of cultural diversity:
To know something without knowing its relationships to other realities is not to know. To know the white world without any sense of how it relates to the world of color is not to know the white world. We must remember that a multicultural perspective is not a deviation; it is a necessity. (176)
If we carry Madigan's thoughts a step further and incorporate them into a conceptual social studies framework, the importance of providing students with access to more than a textbook and encouraging them to become aware of multiple perspectives is clear. This awareness is a prerequisite to an understanding of self, country, and one's place in the global village. n
Bibliography of Selected Tradebooks
Ackerman, Karen. The Leaves in October. New York: Atheneum, 1991.Bunting, Eve. Fly Away Home. New York: Clarion, 1991.Fox, Paula. Monkey Island. New York: Orchard Books, 1991.Hathorn, Libby. Way Home. New York: Crown Publishers, 1994.Hicyilmaz, Gaye. Against the Storm. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1990.Hill, Elizabeth S. Evan's Corner. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967.Isadora, Rachel. At the Crossroads. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1991.Laird, Elizabeth. Kiss the Dust. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 1991.Matas, Carol. Daniel's Story. New York: Scholastic, 1993.Mills, Lauren. The Rag Coat. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991.Naidoo, Beverly. Chain of Fire. New York: J. B. Lippincott, 1989.O'Dell, Scott, and Elizabeth Hall. Thunder Rolling in the Mountains. New York: Dell , 1992.Schermbrucker, Reviva. Charlie's House. New York: Viking, 1989.Smothers, Ethel F. Down in the Piney Woods. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.Stanley, Jerry. I Am An American: A True Story of Japanese Internment. New York: Crown Publishers, 1994.ReferencesAu, K. H.Literacy Instruction in Multicultural Settings. Fort Worth, Tex.: Harcourt Brace, 1993.Banks, James A. An Introduction to Multicultural Education. Boston: Allyn Bacon, 1994.Bennett, C. I. Comprehensive Multicultural Education: Theory and Practice. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1995.Darton, F. J. H. Children's Books in England: Five Centuries of Social Life. 3d ed. 1932. Reprint. Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 1982.Garcia, Jesus, and S. L. Pugh. "Multicultural Education in Teacher Preparation Programs: A Political or An Educational Concept?" Phi Delta Kappan 74, no. 3 (1992): 214-19.Jarolimek, J., and W. C. Parker. Social Studies in Elementary Education. New York: Macmillan, 1993.Madigan, D. "The Politics of Multicultural Literature for Children and Adolescents: Combining Perspectives and Conversations." Language Arts 70, no. 3 (1993): 168-76.National Council for the Social Studies. "Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies." Social Education 55, no 4 (1991): 253-60.---. "Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies." Social Education 56, no 4 (1992): 253-64.---. "Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies." Social Education 57, no 4 (1993): 197-208.---. Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. Washington D.C.: NCSS, 1994a.---. "Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies." Social Education 58, no 4 (1994b): 241-54.---. "Notable Children's Trade Books." Social Education 59, no 4 (1995): 213-26.Nieto, Sonia. Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education. New York: Longman, 1992.Sleeter, C. E. "How White Teachers Construct Race." In Race, Identity, and Representation in Education, edited by C. McCarthy and W. Crichlow. New York: Routledge, 1993.
Cathy Y. Kim is a graduate student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She specializes in language and literacy.
Jesus Garcia is Professor of Social Studies Education at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in multicultural and social studies education.