By Dr. R. A. Slaughter
It is emotionally and mentally draining to attend schools where multiculturalism plays no significant role in the curriculum. I argue that this phenomenon is beyond maleficence. If change is to come, parents must take up the mantle to increase multicultural literature in their children’s schools.
Although the U.S. Department of Education makes the genre optional, the concerted effort to increase multicultural literature in schools bespeaks an ABAR (Anti-Bias, Anti-Racist) school spirit. Ultimately, that is what every school should aspire to achieve.
You would think that increasing diverse literature in schools is out of the parents’ realm, or that parents have no say or influence over a school’s curriculum. That is not the case. As school stakeholders, in public or private schools, parents have great leverage.
Especially in these racially turbulent times met with protests, rallies, and insurrections, leaving a trail of important hashtags and memes in their wake, parents have more influence now than ever before. Consider this: by the year 2050, ethnic minority children will make up the majority of the United States public school classrooms, and in some cities this change has already taken place. This statistic is in direct contrast to the teaching population, which is 87% white females.
There is a conundrum afoot: Despite the availability of thousands of new novels featuring diverse protagonists, these books are not making their way into the classrooms. Why? Research shows that few white teachers are eager to teach a multicultural curriculum because they lack cultural literacy. This lack encourages teachers to subscribe to colorblind ideology, which allows a single cultural narrative to dominate and encourages the idea that race is not an issue.
Research shows that this situation has a major impact on the educational system, the perceptions of teachers, and how they perceive their students, families and communities of color. Parents can disrupt this narrative and demand that school stakeholders adopt a more inclusive curriculum complete with multicultural literature in the school and classroom libraries. It is also not unreasonable to demand that school stakeholders adopt a curriculum that promotes high quality multicultural literature of all races, classes, religions, sexualities, abilities, and otherwise marginalized groups.
This demand is congruent with the ideas expressed by The National Association for Multicultural Education.
In the effort to address multicultural issues in the classroom, The National Association for Multicultural Education (2018), set standards for multicultural education. Establishing a school staff that is culturally competent, and to the greatest extent possible racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse, is the premier standard. Partially designed for teachers who have limited knowledge and skills to teach a multicultural curricula and help celebrate students of color, multicultural education is paramount.
Multicultural literature is the platform on which multicultural education stands. If parents do not vehemently oppose the standard curriculum which promotes cultural hegemony, multicultural literature will always be foreign materials in the American classroom allowing systemic and colorblind racism to prevail.
In my book titled “Turning the Page: The Ultimate Guide for Teachers to Multicultural Literature,” I contend that parents can boycott the standard curriculum and its white supremacist narratives that are often based on lies and misrepresentations.
It is true. Like the warriors in Wakanda, parents can change the landscape of classroom and school libraries. Here are five steps to start the literary revolution designed to interrupt the cycle of literary oppression dominating your child’s school curriculum:
1. Offer to create a parent-run task force that reviews the school’s curriculum in the effort to diversify the reading material while making it available to the general public.
2. Write to the administrators of your child’s school including the head of the English departments and offer a list of traditionally published multicultural books to be included in the curriculum.
3. Offer to start a book club, featuring book talks, at your school focused on multicultural literature.
4. Opt out of school generated monocultural summer reading lists. Instead, make arrangements to complete summer reading assignments on pre-approved multicultural books.
5. Demand that school stakeholders use a peer-reviewed rubric to detect bias and stereotypical images in books included in the curriculum.
Dr. R. A. Slaughter earned her doctoral degree in Cognitive Studies in Reading at Widener University. Her dissertation explores multicultural literature in private schools through the lens of Critical Pedagogy. Her new book titled “Turning the Page: The Ultimate Guide for Teachers to Multicultural Literature,”published by Rowman & Littlefield, is available for order. To contact her, email: [email protected] For other multicultural book suggestions, visit: literacyuniversity.org.