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Multiculturalism in the Classroom
Posted: Friday, December 6, 2002


My gratitude to Ms Susan Herbert (Express Nov.12, p. 10) for her provocative incursion into the theme of "Culture in the Classroom".

Being a pioneer product myself in Social Studies from the School of Education (1972-73) I was inducted early, as so many of my colleagues, into not alienating students from the social milieu. We were to transform our charges to become active, intelligent participants in the host society. I always thought that this imperative underpinned the teaching vocation/fraternity in T&T.

The classroom teaching-learning exposure, Ms Herbert, is individualistic-based because of the critical GCE/ CXE evaluation method. However there is scope for encouraging extra-curricula teamwork immanent in the House system, College Quizzes, Carnival/cultural events, team sports and developing the school as a community.

Teachers serve as effective change managers, absentee parents, classroom moderators/facilitators of learning and father figures etc. The pre-Independence period, Ms Herbert, did not establish standards of excellence for the rural dispossessed and educationally disadvantaged- only for the preferred urban.

Examine where the schools were established, where the libraries were located and who received the State scholarships. The rural periphery’s experiences were ignored and negatively reinforced as expressions of paganism.

May I propose to Ms Herbert and hence to The UWI School of Education a teaching methodology that is geared to translate their genuine concerns for managing and harnessing the powers/values/richness of our ethnic and hence cultural diversity that always characterised and pervaded the classroom setting.

Please conceptualise a curriculum for teaching the tenets of multiculturalism ("cultural border crossing") instead of race relations as an antidote to counteract the failed policies of assimilation and cultural pluralism that hitherto, after 40 years of independence, have contributed in no small measure to contemporary ethnic polarisation. Only then can we drift away from cosmetic tolerance and participate in genuine peaceful co-existence of cultural diversity.

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