“There may be a perception among some teachers… that ‘multicultural books’ are only for or mainly for so-called minorities, rather than all children.” – Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, Ohio State University
A diverse curriculum spans across disciplines, age groups, and material. Adopting what scholars refer to as ethnic studies programs includes kindergarten students reading picture books like Grace Lin’s “Starry River of the Sky” and middle schoolers learning the history of African Americans beyond the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement. Ultimately, a case for diverse curriculums span within and outside of the school: curriculums as state mandated and “curriculums” as brought by exposure to the wider world.
Above: Grace Lin presents on the importance of windows and mirrors in children’s literature. Lin is the author of several Newberry Book Honor children’s picture books, including Starry River in the Sky, which focuses on the author’s Asian-American heritage (The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf, 2016).
Modernly, curriculums are largely silent on racial issues and teach largely along standards and tellings of Whiteness. In urban school districts, with large populations of non-white pupils, these curricular silences on racial diversity are most visible and most detrimental. Lack of racial diversity presented in curriculum places these students of color as outsiders within their schools. Ultimately, this mismatch of who students are and who students learn about creates a less relatable curriculum which ostracizes minority voices from understandings of literary, historical, and even scientific canons. Students of color, without their voices heard or issues of race properly tacked in curriculum, face disadvantages in both testing and overall day-to-day engagement (Au 2015).
At a time of more honest attention to why we teach what we teach, urban public schools are at a precipice of attacking the viscous homogeneity of curriculum. The difficulty lies in the multitude of contenders within the problem. Teachers are hindered by predetermined content and textbooks are hindered by state standards, which are woefully driven by the political whims of the modern day. Yet, as many aware and conscious individual factions exist within public education, the more reactive schools can be to the very tangible and near insurmountable effects of learning about everything except yourself. Grassroots efforts prove particularly helpful in this very fight.
Header Photo: (We Need More Diverse Books, 2015).