By Dr. David Childs Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University
As our society becomes increasingly more diverse, it is important that schools strive toward developing a more inclusive curriculum in public schools that goes beyond simply patronizing people of color. James Banks offers four levels of multicultural curricular reform that is effective and meaningful and integrates social justice into the lesson. Below I have included the four approaches outlined by Banks. I encourage teachers to move beyond the first level (The contributions approach) to the more thoughtful, meaningful and transformative approaches to multicultural curriculum design.
From “Four Approaches to Multicultural Curriculum Reform”
By James Banks
This approach reflects the least amount of involvement in multicultural education approaches. This is incorporated by selecting books and activities that celebrate holidays, heroes, and special events from various cultures. For example, spending time reading about Dr. Martin Luther King in January is a common practice that falls into this category. In this approach, culturally diverse books and issues are not specified as part of the curriculum (Banks, 1999).
In this approach content, concepts, themes, and perspectives are added to the curriculum without changing its basic structure. This involves incorporating literature by and about people from diverse cultures into the mainstream curriculum without changing the curriculum. For example, examining the perspective of a Native American about Thanksgiving would be adding cultural diversity to the traditional view of Thanksgiving. However, this approach does not necessarily transform thinking (Banks, 1999).
The Transformation Approach
This approach actually changes the structure of the curriculum and encourages students to view concepts, issues, themes, and problems from several ethnic perspectives and points of view. For example, a unit on Thanksgiving would become an entire unit exploring cultural conflict. This type of instruction involves critical thinking and involves a consideration of diversity as a basic premise (Banks, 1999).
The Social Action Approach
This approach combines the transformation approach with activities to strive for social change. Students are not only instructed to understand and question social issues, but to also do something about it. For example, after participating in a unit about recent immigrants to North America, students may write letters to senators, Congress, and newspaper editors to express their opinions about new policies (Banks, 1999).”
Here are some other resources for teachers that highlight Dr. James Banks’ work on multicultural curriculum.
Multicultural Education: Goals and Dimensions
Approaches to Multicultural Reform
Approaches to Multicultural Curriculum and Reform
Stages of Multicultural Curriculum Transformation
On Educating for Diversity: A Conversation with James A. Banks
Bloom-Banks Matrix: Design Rigorous, Multicultural Curriculum for the Diverse 21st Century Classroom
Banks, J.A. (1999). An Introduction to Multicultural Education (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.