Teaching and Learning in a Diverse World: Book Review

Overview

Teaching children from a multicultural dimension influences their attitudes and social awareness. This effect is true even when one is dealing with people from different diversities. The approach aids children to develop and shape the mechanisms of dealing with persons of different gender, class, social affiliations (Shareef & Gonzalez-Mena, 2008, p.67). It enables children to determine how to handle peer relationships, mechanisms of conflict resolution, and how to initiate contacts with others.

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Patricia G. Ramsey is a scholar interested in the subject of children development. She is especially interested in the areas of social development of children, their multicultural education, and attitude development. In her career time, Ramsey has conducted intensive studies on the understanding and perception of children in the subject of class and racial social differences. She has also covered incredible works on children’s friendship patterns, mechanisms of social interactions, and more importantly, how teachers can develop ways of development of good peer relationships among children.

Teaching and Learning in a Diverse World is one of the well-renowned Patricia G. Ramsey’s books. In this book, she provides practical and theoretical exploration of how children think from the age of three years to eight years with regard to how they respond to cultural variations, ability differences, racial affiliations, social class differences, and gender discrepancies. The central aim of the book is to develop practical and theoretical paradigms for helping teachers to guide children in the process of creating a sense in a complex world through the development of curiosity, critical thinking, and compassion.

The above theme is explored in a cluster of different chapters. The first cluster of three chapters is dedicated to reviewing the different ways of implementing multicultural aspects of education. The guidelines of the implementation process of these aspects are also covered in this cluster of chapters. The second cluster that comprises five chapters scrutinizes the different learning contexts from the dimension of culture, economic differences, abilities, people’s sexual inclinations, gender, and racial differences.

Effort is made to discuss in details how these contexts influence the worldviews developed by children together with how children can be encouraged to address proactively aspects of inequalities related to the diverse educational contexts. The book also provides various activities, which challenge different assumptions and queries in terms of reflections and discussion of the book’s subject areas. This provides a room for additional scholarly exploration. Discussion questions act as the main tool used to present arguments and materials in the book.

For Children’s Tutors

Ramsey insists that teachers have the responsibility to shape the process of forming positive identities among children. Upon reading Teaching and Learning in a Diverse World, a teacher may question how she or he can accomplish these concerns. Ramsey provides a toolkit for ensuring that children form a positive attitude. She claims that their attitude, perception, and understanding of the world are influenced by environmental factors. In this case, she criticizes children development theories influenced by traditional psychological theorists such as Erikson, Piaget, and Freud (pp.27-51).

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She argues that using such theories in teaching is problematic since they are written “from the position of racial, economic, and gender privileges” (Ramsey, 2004, p.27). The implication is that such theories enhance biased views of an individual, especially towards stereotyped people. This situation hinders positive formation of identity. Teachers have the role of ensuring that experiences of low self-identity do not influence children in their learning processes (Ramsey, 2004, p.79). This role aids in the mitigation of internalization of identity differences shaped by the perception of oppression and the insignificance on one’s demographic characteristics.

Ramsey provides various aspects that teachers can adopt to ensure that they provide multicultural education. The first area is focusing on education of children who are different in terms of their customs (98). Form this approach, schools need to adopt curriculum standards, which precisely meet the needs of pupils and students from different cultural backgrounds. To minimize biasness towards some groups of people who are considered insignificant, Ramsey advises that the curriculum needs to incorporate “single group’s studies” (Ramsey, 2004, p.19). The aim is to offer an opportunity for students to learn about the facts of certain groups of people who are considered underrepresented.

According to Ramsey, teachers need to embrace the concept of human relationship by implementing it in schools. Such concepts help to foster integration of students from diverse cultural backgrounds through the development of intergroup and interpersonal skills (Ramsey, 2004, p.88). This strategy means that multicultural education needs to focus on cognition and celebration of cultural similarities while appreciating cultural and racial differences among different students and pupils.

While this approach to education in a multiculturalism classroom is important, a weakness is introduced. Developing awareness implies sensitization and extensive exploration of the subjects of cultural differences. While teachers may play their part in ensuring that students and pupils understand that their diversity differences do not mean that any group of people is superior relative to another, outside environment such as home and other places of socialization may act to emphasize and normalize cultural difference stigmas. Hence, integration of people from diverse cultural backgrounds is a collective effort of teachers and all other parties interacting with students.

Amid the above weakness, the book is helpful for teachers seeking to gain skills in the areas of focus to realize the goal of having a future generation, which is not driven by segregation of people based on their diversity differences. Ramsey says that a teacher cannot “discuss race and culture without examining the effects of social class and economic discrimination” (Ramsey, 2004, p.7). This position is a shift from traditional approaches of multicultural education in schools, which only dwelt on issues of race and culture. Teachers can also gain substantive information on how to interweave the paradigms of gender and disabilities with classroom discussions of multiculturalism.

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The significance of gender in the debate of multicultural education is articulated to the fact, “gender is a source of power differentiation that cuts across race, culture, and class” (Ramsey, 2004, p.7). Ramsey also raises the debate that completes the considerations of multicultural education in all schools by providing background insights on the incorporation of sexual orientation topics in schools. She notes, “The recognition of hate crimes targeting gay people and lesbians led to sexual orientation becoming a theme in multicultural education” (Ramsey, 2004, p.8). From this argument, it implies that teachers should not take a stance on certain sexual inclinations and profiling.

Adoption of multiculturalism requires teaching from neutral grounds while appreciating and respecting the differences of people. Ramsey believes that it is possible for students to adopt similar approaches in their socialization and interaction processes with their peers when teacher accomplish this task (Ramsey, 2004, p.63). However, students’ ability to incorporate strategies of fostering multiculturalism is a function of the capacity to overrule racial, cultural, and gender negative stereotypes emphasized in other social settings.

For Researchers

Teaching and Learning in a Diverse World offers opportunities for further research on how different players enhancing multicultural aspects can be integrated so that the efforts put by teachers in schools to foster multicultural integration of children are not neutralized by information on cultural, gender, racial, and social economic identities acquired in homes and other social places. Ramsey’s book borrows largely from theoretical approaches in multicultural education.

The approaches are then integrated with reflections and discussions of some case examples. This introduces an opportunity for researchers to deploy other research methodologies such as empirical studies to evaluate the impacts of multicultural education on children’s cognition of identity differences. Such opportunity is incredibly important since Teaching and Learning in a Diverse World presents theoretical and practical approaches to enhancing multicultural education in schools without scholarly evidence on the evaluation of the effectiveness of such approaches.

Conclusion

Multicultural research in the context of educational institutions may call for empirical approaches to studies of the impacts of culture, gender, and racial inclination in schools. However, in Teaching and Learning in a Diverse World, Ramsey uses discussions and reflections to address multiculturalism in school settings. I would recommend this book to teachers seeking to garner information on how they can effectively teach in an environment dominated by dilemmas encountered in bringing up children in a society of inequalities and contradictions associated with a different perception of identity in terms of gender, race, and culture.

Teachers, children, and even parents need to engage each other in the discussions of multiculturalism. Success of multicultural education is more probable in case there is cooperation between all stakeholders involved in the socialization process of children.

Reference List

Ramsey, P. (2004). Teaching and Learning in a Diverse World (3rd Ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Shareef, I., & Gonzalez-Mena, J. (2008) Practice in Building Bridges: Companion Resource to Diversity in Early Care and Education (5th Ed). Washington DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

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