What’s so Important About a Culturally Responsive Curriculum?

Some of you may feel compelled to use the “color-blind” approach to instructing your students, overlooking your students’ race or ethnic background in the interests of equality. These are noble intentions, of course, but consider becoming “color aware” instead.  Why? Because although students are individuals, they are also products of their environments. No one grows up in a vacuum. A multicultural society is best served by a culturally responsive curriculum.

Schools that acknowledge the diversity of their student population unify their school and promote cultural understanding. The end result is that, a culturally responsive curriculum is inclusive. All students are included within all aspects of the school. A culturally responsive curriculum also encourages teachers’ understanding of each student’s non-school cultural life. It provides a way for teachers to incorporate this information into the curriculum, promoting inclusion.

An alert and sensitive teacher will not only be aware of students’ varied backgrounds but will also highlight moments that emphasize the interesting differences among students. For example, it’s certainly possible that a student might be ridiculed because of his name—or anything else that marks him as “different.”  But as a teacher, your interest in his background helps validate him. When he notes the similarity between, say, the flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh and a myth from his homeland, she encourages him to share this.

Schools have a responsibility to teach all students how to synthesize cultural differences into their knowledge base. This will definitely facilitate students’ personal and professional success in a diverse world.

A culturally responsive curriculum helps students from a minority ethnic/racial background develop a sense of identity as individuals, as well as to identify proudly with their particular culture group. Schools with a culturally responsive curriculum strive to develop a balanced understanding of history, because this perspective reflects both the positive and negative experiences of all of America’s ancestors.

It is also important for teachers of monocultural classrooms to integrate multicultural learning experiences into the curriculum. Multicultural learning experiences tend to build a tolerant, accepting, and nondiscriminatory classroom environment. They foster empathy and appreciation for other cultures and prevent prejudices built on ignorance and lack of exposure. According to education icon Gloria Ladson-Billing, students in monocultural learning environments should also be exposed to the history and perspectives of diverse populations. Such learning experiences expand their understanding of individuals they will likely encounter in a diverse adult world.

What other advantages can you see to adapting a culturally responsive curriculum? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

References

Culturally responsive teaching is a theory of instruction that was developed by Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and has been written about by many other scholars since then. To read more of her work on culturally responsive teaching and other topics, click here to visit her Amazon.com page.

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