EVELYN B. KALIBALA
Evelyn B Kalibala, I’m director of the office of multicultural education in New York City Public Schools System.
Um New York City had one of the strongest policy statements uh on multicultural education. In 1989 um it was used in Bank’s first book, first edition, of Introduction to Multicultural Education. And the policy came out of committees uh an advisory council on multicultural education that had uh people like Winn Baker, Ferrel Banfield, Louis Raez, who and dif—and people from different organizations, ADL, the national conference of community and justice, uh working on what they thought was important for a school system that uh wanted to infuse multicultural education into it’s instructional materials. Um it was a very very strong policy and the policy called for the development of curriculum. And so the uh schools systems thought about developing curriculum and one of the things that we thought was really important we started at kindergarten, first grade and to begin spiraling um themes up through the grades but we also thought that there was a need to have um good material out on American history and social studies so we started in uh seventh and eighth grade which was American history in New York State. Um we did that for social studies we developed a literacy language arts curriculum that complimented that with the themes that and also an art curriculum. The art curriculum was never published. But um our first grade curriculum children of the rainbow was a very inclusive one and it had books uh that in it and conversation in it how you how to value uh to uh you had to value um homes that included two mothers and two fathers and that caused a very very strong controversy in New York City and the policy was changed in fact we got notice of the change in 1995 when we were in the --(?) conference. And the policy was changed to a multicultural policy that was not inclusive and an anti- d—d—anti-discrimination policy that was inclusive. So now New York City has two policies. Um the our multicultural policy is not a strong one.
I think it’s good to have a policy in place because as I do curriculum and as I do professional development I can always refer back to the reason that I’m doing it because this is a policy. Um but then you would have to have someone in the position to use the policy. So the policy could be just a piece of paper that would say uh no one uses. But the policy could be something that could be used. Uh for an example we do a lot of professional development now and one of the emphasis throughout the country is standards and literacy and so um I have to incorporate that into everything that I do. But um I went back to the policy and the policy talks about human rights issues. So I said okay we’ll do professional development on human rights issues using um literacy so this is how I look at the policy and also incorporate the um focus of our chancellor and our school board.
Well the standards movement in New York City right now it’s very very strong as well as New York State. Um all of the subjects we have um standards in English language arts, math, science, social studies and arts at New York State. New York City has adapted the national standards so we have um standards in English language arts, but our um English language arts also has a section it’s language arts. In the front it’s English language arts and then there’s ESL and we plan to um produce a book on other languages starting with Spanish. We have um and these are performance standards too that we have adapted the national performance standards at uh Laura Resnick out of the University of Pittsburgh. We have uh customized those national standards so we have math uh that is out, we also have science, we’re working on applied learning that should be out um this year. The standards that are set out for New York State and the national standards and multicultural education have some of the same goals. And so when you look at them you say oh this is wonderful they’ve incorporated a lot of the multicultural philosophy into the standards movement. And so you have the standards uh saying that um all children can learn and that’s what we say in multicultural education. You have the standards saying, the performance standards saying, but we have to look at how we are teaching to bring all children up to the high expectations that we have. Which is the same thing that we say in multicultural education. Um what I have been seeing in um the standards movement is that we are saying that we have to bring all children up to standards. We are saying that all children can learn. We are saying that we don’t believe in the bell curve theory. But in order to do this there has to be resources and the resources to give children an opportunity to come up to standards and not be(?). um and so what we I think are doing right now, we’re saying all of this but we’re not giving the teachers the materials, the parents the materials all of the resources that are needed and now we’re saying well these children are not coming up to standards. Uh what what is again why aren’t the children coming up to standards. Oh and we have the promotional policy there’s no more social promotion. So again I feel our students are being looked at critically for not meeting the standards and um and so we’re in a circle again where we’re not providing the resources that the schools, the teachers, the administrators. The the other problem that I think we’re facing nationally too that relates to the standards is we have in New York City a large exodus of teachers because of retirement. So we have a gap uh in experience and the new people coming in as teachers and administrator need lots of support and uh much of the support is not there now.
Um in looking at the contents standards New York State and the national ones I don’t see people who have been uh multiculturalists who have looked at them who have had input so I think that nationally New York State the standards had been created by people who don’t have always the sensitivity or the knowledge base that would include anti-bias and anti-races, prejudice reduction materials. And so we again the multiculturalists have been left out and after the standards have been created then they’ll say oh would you look at this where we have not be brought in at the beginning. Uh so I find um we all know there are no national social studies standards because there cannot be an an agreement on what should be included so nationally we have the applied learning standards.
You know I I think since multiculturalism is really so new that sometimes we haven’t uh had the time to talk about exactly what a multicultural classroom should look like. Um I know Maine, uh New York City, are northeast consortium of multicultural education did put out a checklist and it is being used by the northeast consortium uh equity center. Um what would I tell a teacher as they teach courses in multicultural education I talk about theme development and um themes that have and Banks talks about the big ideas that we develop our instructions around the large ideas and when we do that I think individual students have and opportunity to look at things from their perspectives. So I think teachers need to have uh tools and strategies on multiply intelligences. They need to have tools and strategies that incorporate cooperative learning that and different learning styles. They have to have all of these strategies. They have to be very very aware too of um the culture of the students who are sitting in front of them as well as if we are going to multiculturalists we have to be able to have an avenue so that students not only know about the students in the classroom but the larger society and global village that we live now so it’s a very difficult task there’s not materials around and maybe what is happening now is teachers collaborating with one another. Teachers have the time to talk and discuss, develop units and themes around things that they might be able to use. That might be a way that we can break through some of the things we are now doing in the classrooms and it’s not easy. It’s very very difficult and it’s a lot of work. I remember when I first started teaching and this was a couple of years ago um my husband um looked at me one day as I worked uh weekends and then the evening he says gee whiz you know if you loved me as much as you love those children I’d be king and teaching really requires a lot of the individual because you have you have one child you know what I mean but if you have twenty some children that need your attention that you have to understand and uh care for and provide learning experiences for you’re going to have to give some of that up to the students and let them also be part of the teaching process.
I think that all teachers have to have the highest expectations for all of their students. And that is definitely a belief system and it’s something that’s very very difficult to teach in an in-service or a pre-service course. You can show research that says what high expectations has done but unless you truly believe that all of you students will be able to learn they might not and I mean and I sometimes look and I say you as parents if you’re a parent or if you have children in your family what are your expectations and usually this child will live up to those expectations. If you had the same expectation for the students sitting in front of you they will soar but you have to believe in your heart that they will be able to do it and uh once you believe in your heart that they will be able to do it then you will find a way to make them do it. You – if they don’t do it uh by just reading the material you will find maybe some hands on you might find a video you might find another students that might be able to explain it. So you’ll find a way to make sure that that child or those children do meet the very high expectations you have for them. But I think it’s something that has to come from with in.
I think uh that if we have students uh that we are not aware well let let me go back because I think first the first obligation for a teacher would be to know themselves and their culture and I truly believe the more we know about ourselves the more we can reach out to others. So once I know about my culture because then I can understand how that part of my culture might relate to your culture or to another students culture. So um I would have to then make an effort to learn about the majority and you could have a very very diversed group of students in front of you so you’re not going to be able to study and know about all of the students and so you’re going to have to bring in resources, the students themselves are resources, the students parents are resources, people in the community might be resources. But it would encumbered upon the teacher to make sure that every culture all of the diversity with in that class is valued and uh some sort of um material, some bulletin boards, some story, some video, is used to validate that child’s culture.
Being an advocate is also a very very difficult thing to do and we as multiculturalists are talking about being advocates, empowering ourselves, and then empowering our students. Uh there are many uh situations that you come across that I might come across that we feel powerless to do anything about. I think that we sometimes have to look within. We cannot give up on anything. We have to look within and see how we might be able to overcome and maybe sometimes just talking with a colleague, talking with a professor, talking with the principle, and with conversation ways come about that someone is going to help you solve that problem, empower you, them, us, the community to begin to do something about it. Talk with the parent. There are many many ways conversation and letting people know exactly how you feel sometimes brings the answer about uh to solution to becoming an advocate. And then coming to conferences uh like the Maine conference. Going to Nabe(?) Going to AERA. You meet people with some of the same situations that might help you become an advocate or empower you to change what you might think. Um it’s not what you would like.
Multicultural education as we know it is not an easy task and I think we’re all growing um as we come in contact with one another. And it takes time and we have to be patient. In New York City when we began um there were many many people that resisted. Many people that did not believe but I have seen now we have a core of people who are very committed, very dedicated, want to make change, have discussion groups, and so uh and this has been ten years, over ten years. Uh and I have people who now call me and say I want to come to your sessions only because um the professional development that we do we keep the same people every year. The same people come we have to six sessions. We have a theme. Um this year the theme is stories of choosing to participate, stories of courage and you can see that the theme it self it’s very multicultural. Um but again we’re doing it through social studies uh and as well as uh language arts. So the stories of courage. Um people learn from these. We usually have a keynote speaker, we have a ---cut, I’m going to start that over again because I kind of lost my thought see.
In ten years um I’ve seen people who are committed. People who are advocates. People who come together and discuss ideas. People who want to continuously be apart of the professional development that we give people who are constantly looking for what books uh they could be reading to get to another level. We have more or less gone beyond um the food and etceteras. We have studied for two years we studied the religions that we have in New York City and how they impact on learning and we had our um workshops and houses of worship and so we are most teachers are familiar with the Judeo Christian beliefs. They had no idea what a Buddhist temple looked like. They had no idea of the many gods that um the Buddhists worship and why the worship them and what it looked like in a Buddhist temple. They had no idea what a masque was like inside and why why it was shaped the way it was and really how um the Muslim religion uses the Jewish as well as the Christian bible and th they built on that and so um we really the hin – we um went to a Hindu temple. I’m sorry the Buddhist don’t have a gods but Hin – cut that one.
No it’s the Hindu that have many many gods in their --- okay.
Um we went to um different houses of worship. We went to a um Buddhist temple and we went to a Hindu temple. Now the Hindu temple uh had many many gods, many people going around, many people worshipping them. We learned what the gods represented and why they wor--- why school children would go to one god. Where the Buddhist temple was very very quiet and serene and um you would think uh it’s a wonderful place for meditation. So we experienced all all of that uh and learning how that impacted on students who uh come to our schools because New York City is getting very diverse. We we— did that over a two year period and we still haven’t touched on that many religions that we have in New York City. So we’re doing in-depth study, we’re doing a study now on ageism and how that impacts really on our student population, our parents and etceteras. So we’ve taken many many topics that are included in multicultural education that most people don’t look at. And so I see we’ve progressed. We’re also uh looking at professional development this year uh choosing to participate because this is what we’re about in multicultural education, stories of courage, so we’re bringing in social studies and language arts. So I think one of the things that I’m really pleased about is the core people that really are advocates for an education that is multicultural in New York City. We still have a long way to go. We’re doing action research, we’re beginning a project on action research so that teachers can be more reflective on their practices. And one of the reasons for that is we want to begin to see K-12 exactly the impact that what people have been writing about, the theorists have been writing about, how is this really impacting our multicultural education. Because they truly believe that unless we start doing research and looking at what it looks like in the classroom um we will not get to the point that we read about in all of the text books. So I I hope that a partnership a more serious partnership will begin with people, the practitioners, K-12, and the people in the university because unless that happens uh we won’t be building on what we’re talking about.
Um I do believe that when we talk about the whole child we have to consider everything that impacts on that child and we as educators just talk about um the knowledge and the core curriculers and we don’t look at what else makes up the psyche of that child and I think um if we don’t begin to look at the culture the religion the family beliefs and values that we cannot impact the way we would like to on how that child learns uh and maybe what that child learns. Um I just think it’s critical. We talk about the whole child and we talk about eh looking at the whole child but we don’t consider some of the things that make that child the whole child.