I thought that the “Final Word” method of discussing Beyond Heroes and Holidays was a very effective way of facilitating respectful and sensitive discussion in each of our groups. It gave everyone a chance to speak freely and uninhibited, and provided a chance for everyone to respond in an open dialogue. This resulted in a space for meaningful conversation.
My group discussed the chapter of Beyond Heroes and Holidays called “Affirmation, Solidarity, and Critique: Moving Beyond Tolerance in Education”. This chapter discussed the process of transforming monocultural schools into multicultural schools and how we can achieve this goal. It defined four levels of progress toward the ideal: 1) tolerance, 2) acceptance, 3) respect, and 4) affirmation, solidarity, and critique. The fourth level is the desired goal, but we must remember as educators that this achievement is not an arrival or a static event. The progress and examination must be ongoing and perpetual. Just as the learning process is lifelong, the process of transformation is lifelong, too. Constant observation, assessment, and re-evaluation must occur and keep occurring.
One of the main topics of discussion in my group was the “how” of moving toward multiculturalism in education. We all became inspired by the idea of teaching critical thinking to our students to help combat the monocultural status quo in the classroom – and by remembering to think critically as teachers about the systems that are in place. Critical thinking is one of the greatest skills we can teach our students; with that knowledge of how to think for oneself comes the ability to question. Through questioning, we can move toward change, as students and teachers together. When students and teachers question the status quo and our social reality, they become informed and mobilized.
Through teaching our students to think critically and to question, we also open the door for a discussion about power dynamics. When students and teachers question the power dynamics in place, the conversation can move toward dismantling those oppressive power structures.
Through critical thinking, we allow ourselves to challenge our assumptions, an idea that is critical to the “affirmation, solidarity, and critique” level of multicultural education support.
When we look at the idea that culture is not static or fixed, we open ourselves up to the ability to critique those systems in place. By critiquing fixed ideas of culture and history, we can move away from the perpetuation of a static, monocultural history of the conqueror and move toward multiculturalism. Multicultural education IS achievable, especially if we think of progress in terms of a continuum in which we can move ever closer to the ideal. Critique and critical thinking are the keys.