Making Multiculturalism Meaningful
As I’m sure you are well aware, there currently is an enormous emphasis on “multiculturalism” in education, even at the preschool level. Consequently, everywhere you look, early educators are conducting “multicultural” activities for young children. Unfortunately, when I ask these people what they hope the children will learn as a result, I’m typically met with blank stares. They may mumble something about teaching “tolerance” or “acceptance,” but the fact is that they are engaging in “exposure” without a clear educational purpose.
My mother taught home economics in the New York City schools, and she was conducting lessons in multiculturalism long before the concept became popular. She would take something that was standard nutritional fare, such as a protein wrapped in a starch, and parade it around the world. It would start as a French crepe, then become a Jewish blintz, then a Mexican burrito, then a Chinese egg roll, and so on. While her students were sampling the variety of delicious dishes, she was making sure they learned an extremely important principle: “different” does not necessarily mean “better” or “worse” and “equal” doesn’t necessarily mean “the same.”
To me, that principle is the essence of multiculturalism, and yet it is difficult to detect in most multicultural activities I’ve witnessed. That is why I’m so glad that Romp n’ Roll has introduced “Chef Rompy Around the World.” It is a class that is not only enormously enjoyable for the children but highly educational as well because, in the tradition of my mother, it makes multiculturalism truly meaningful.
Michael K. Meyerhoff, Ed.D. (a.k.a. “Dr. Mike”) is a member of the management team at Romp n’ Roll. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also held a position as a researcher with the Harvard Preschool Project. He may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.