Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Acknowledging society's contributors

I taught my first graduate class the other night. It was a Multicultural Education class. Though I would never want to teach a group of teachers reading strategies and classroom management techniques and such, I have always wanted to teach Multicultural Ed.

The class of 11 people was pretty diverse. Out of those 11, 4 are male (2 white, 1 Asian/Indian, 1 Hispanic) and 7 female (2 white, 5 African-American). Four of them teach elementary, 4-5 of them teach high school, and 2-3 are not teaching right now. 10 of the 11 have predominantly African-American and Hispanic students in their classes. The Asian man teaches Humanities in Plano and has an overwhelmingly white class. The diversity of the class is going to add to the richness of perspectives.

Last night as I gave them tasks and assignments that would introduce them to a number of different "unsung heroes" in our history, one of the African-American women made the comment, "I feel dumb." Another African-American woman made a comment that implied she blamed herself for not knowing more about the variety of cultures and names of the people in different cultures who have made major contributions to our society.

Did you know...

Shirley Chisholm, an African-American congresswoman ran for president in the 1970s

Sacajawea, a Native American who aided Lewis and Clark on their expedition

Charles Drew, an African-American man who founded the blood plasma and transfusions

Maria Tallchief, an Osage Indian who was a famous ballerina

Diego Rivera, a Mexican artist

Jose Marti, a Cuban poet

Seiji Ozawa, a famous Japanese-American orchestra conductor

Garrett Morgan, an African-American who invented the stop light

It's interesting to me that if we want to learn about cultures other than the mainstream, White culture, we feel like it's our own responsibility to do that. Yet, from a very young age we are fed a variety of information about White inventors, musicians, politicians, leaders, etc.

I think Stevie Wonder's song, "Black Man," describes it best:
"We pledge allegiance all our lives to the magic colors red, blue and white. But we all must be given the liberty that we defend. For with justice not for all men, history will repeat again. It's time we learned this world was made for all men."
I would add to his song...this world was not just made for all men, but by all men...and women! I think we would be much better off if we acknowledged that.
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