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Discussions on particular educational curricular issues or programs reflect not only educational values but societal values as well. Three areas in particular that have been eliciting much discussion are bilingual education programs, services within schools for gay and lesbian students, and inclusion of multicultural curricula. Among each of these programs, questions have been raised about their relativity to education and the comprehensive research to prove that these programs are beneficial to students.
Bilingual education is a fairly new program, in which foreign-born students learn English for one period during the day while all their other classes are taught in their native tongue (Holloway). This program isn’t just restricted to students who are learning English as their second language, it is also required of English speaking students as well. It gives them an opportunity to acquire a second language easily by allowing them to interact with foreign-born students in order to learn more about their culture and their language (Holloway). School Chancellor Harold O. Levy has supported this program from the beginning. “The goal of dual-language models is to promote long-term literacy in both groups of students…whether for cultural, economic or educational reasons,” said Levy. Skeptics like Ron K. Unz said that dual-language programs require specialized teachers, and it is difficult to measure their effectiveness on immigrant children due to the scarcity and insufficient data to support whether they would work on a larger scale (Holloway). In many cases this program is very effective in the classroom, but outside the walls students seldom become bilingual (Holloway). This type of scenario is also evident in high schools when it comes to services for gay and lesbian students.
At several high schools in Westchester County, homosexual students have chosen home schooling in order to avoid taunting and harassing school days (Lombardi). Although many schools have formed “tolerance clubs” and “diversity club” students still feel that change is coming very slowly. Homophobic comments ring throughout the hallways, but little is done to prevent it, especially when teachers refrain from doing anything about it. Students feel that toleration of these anti-gay slurs have driven them to dreading going to school because they are having a sense of isolation (Lombardi). On the other hand, many clubs have flourished in the past year, and are beginning to see more and more straight students attending. Linda Prendergast went on to say that “Even if were naÐ¿ve enough to believe that there are no gay, lesbian or transgender kids…the world is a bigger place, and they’re going to have to know how to negotiate the world with people who are different than they are…this is an issue of respect for all people.” This belief can also be proven by multicultural education, in order to improve the student’s skills necessary to live within such a culturally diverse society.
One of primary objectives of multicultural education is to try and help unify a deeply divided nation, not to divide one that is united (Banks). School leaders across the country are faced with the task to ensure that these diverse groups can make a large contribution to our society through education (Banks). With the addition of multicultural textbooks in the classroom and operative teaching strategies, students can develop a racially positive attitude and perception (Banks). Thomas J. Famularo disputes this idea by stating “Multiculturalism is harmful because it attempts to deny the existence of a common American culture and emphasizes divisive group differences based on race, gender, and social class.” At the end of the day, we are going to have to realize we live in a multicultural society, and eventually we will realize that studying one part of us does not divide us; it educates us, and it might even inspire us (Banks).
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In our never ending battle to change the way we view the world, programs have been established in order for future leaders to have a better understanding of how different we all are. Developing these programs will instill new ideas to America’s youth that will give them a completely different perspective on how each of us live our daily lives. In order to accomplish this, we must look at groups of people such as the gay and lesbian community, foreign-born students, and cultures from all over the world, and take them from the margins of society, and place them in the center.