The Cultural Difference Paradigm

On p. 50 in An Introduction to Multicultural Education under the subheading of "The Cultural Difference Paradigm," Banks states, "Unlike the cultural deprivation theorists, cultural difference theorists reject the idea that low-income students of color have cultural deficits. They believe ethnic groups ... have strong, rich, diverse cultures."

It is our RESPONSIBILITY as teachers to respect, not pity, our students' cultures, lifestyles, and histories. We must attempt work with our students to encourage them to write, create, and express who they really are as individuals, not who society deems as acceptable statistics.

Coming from VERY dire childhood experiences socially, personally, and economically, I remember those few teachers in the 1960's and early 1970's who went beyond the bias and bigotry of our cloistered white community to expose us as students to the beliefs of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. We lower class students were spoken to as people by those few teachers, no matter what we were wearing on our feet. We were "forced" to learn about other cultures, lands, and peoples. We were equally as important to those teachers as those students who lived in brick houses and heated their homes with gas or electricity. Surprise, surprise! Middle-class white America in southwestern Illinois wasn't the center of the world!

Today I believe that my experiences of picking cotton as pre-schooler in Arkansas, stoking a coal furnace in the dead of winter as an elementary student, or wearing my first store-bought-dress in the 8th grade are examples of the "microculture" (pp. 53-55) within my community that was a much richer life experience than the gentler lives of many of the wealther families. They were looked up to as the standard to be respected and feared. The question isn't whether those people were good or bad, the importance is how I saw myself through my heart.

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