Saturday, September 27, 2008

Five Basic Principles

Since the last several posts have focused on teaching, here is a tool I found the most helpful in designing curriculum and guiding choices as a teacher. Bettie Sing Luke is a national trainer for the NEA, a past designer of strategy and training tools and trainer for Project REACH, and past Eugene School District's Multicultural District Coordinator. Presently, she is staff person for the OCA in Seattle, Washington, a grassroots Asian Pacific American civil rights organization.

Five Basic Principles of Multicultural Education tm
(aka Five Basic Principles of Successful Teaching in General)
by Bettie Sing Luke

1. Teach that everyone has a culture.
(This truism addresses the discomfort many Americans have about the concept culture. Everyone has tradition, family, ancestors, common experiences with a group. By learning about it and sharing it, learning from others respectfully, gaining the confidence and skill to listen and learn across cultures is a good skill. As for people for whom culture is important, it erases the weird division between home and school for them. Acheivement gaps are created from such divisions, when something as basic as family, language, tradition are seen as irrelevant to scholarship and success).

2. Everything can be taught from multiple perspectives.

( See the description of the 5-corner intersection below. I don't know the technology to show the visual. Whether it is an historical event, an aesthetic value or a scientific or math concept, there is more than one way to look at it. Teaching points of view and multiple voices from five street corners strengthens teaching for democracy, diversity and dignity in the classroom).

3. Bridge back and forth from a multicultural national reality to the global. Show the connections.
Prepare students to live with confidence and happiness anywhere in the country and the world. If you teach globally, connect to the rich diversity of this nation. If you teach locally, connect with the world.

4. Teach co-responsibility to confront harassment; give students the skills
The flip side of the creativity and richness of our multicultural national identity is the conflict which arises from disrespect of that national identity.
Teaching co-responsibility, and appropriate ways to confront the –isms (namecalling, harassment, bullying, putdowns) is a powerful tool. We’re part of the problem (apathy or harassment) or part of the solution.

5. Teach the head/hand/heart.
This principle supports hands on learning. In DOING, the concept or idea becomes committed to the heart. And if a student has a good idea and has the opportunity to realize it, they are learning to have vision.

I do not have the technological know how to show you the Five Corner Intersection for the second principle of Multiple Perspectives. Let me describe it here. It's an important tool to teach anyone functioning in a democracy. I show the students a five corner intersection with an collision in the middle -- a yellow school bus and a red Miata. On each of the five street corners, symbolized by A - E, are witnesses.

I say, "You are a police officer and you came upon the accident scene after it happened. Lawsuits are built on your report. It's important. Which witness will you talk to to get the truth of what happened?"

Students will try to guess, "I think it's A."
"What if I were to tell you that A is a grandmother of a school child and when she sees that accident she is horrified that children have been hurt by that reckless Miata."

"I think it's D"
"D? Collects Volkswagons, and is sympathetic with the Miata that the big ol' school bus smashed such a beautiful car."

"Maybe C"
"Well C is the insurance agent for the school district and is praying it was the Miata's fault!"

"how about B"
"B is interesting. B had an accident himself which ended up in a lawsuit and bad feelings; you'll have to guess with what to guess his position about this accident. But he hasn't forgotten the injustice he feels was done to him."

"E? Well, E hates the color red!"

The students get it early. The officer needs to talk to everyone. I say, "Yes! and through the lens of his experience, his upbringing, his training, he puts it together and comes up with the truth."

Do you see how you can put anything into the middle -- Columbus' voyage, the zero, what is beauty, what is family, what is a frog. Then look at it from many perspectives. Each person will definitely hear and see through their own lens -- your own experiences, what you've been taught, your upbringing-- and through that, just as the police officer did you will come up with what makes sense.

Some people may cringe about something which is not absolute, but such is the human experience. All disciplines, including math and science, have aspects of their area of study which can be described as the human experience and to study that, there must be a consciousness of differences, and a respect for civil dialogue as well as acknowledging one's own position with one's own lens.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.