What is Cultural Diversity Awareness?

According to a polled group of students, instructors and close friends, cultural diversity is…

“To recognize people’s customs, culture, and religion”

“To understand others’ cultures”

“Knowing and learning other cultural practices”

“Knowing and understanding the differences and similarities of beliefs”

“Teaching young children about other ethnic groups of people”

Encarta® defines cultural diversity as:

 “An ethnic variety, as well as socioeconomic and gender variety, in a group, society, or

institution.”

MN Cultural Dynamics Education project, Building Cultural Connections definition is:

“Diversity- the difference between people including, but not limited to, shape, size, ability, gender, color, age, sexual orientation, family background, economic status, spiritual belief, race, culture, ethnicity and political affiliation.”

Based on the gathered definitions, their definitions showed a relationship to the Encarta dictionary and MN BCC project definitions.

As an early childhood education instructor, I feel that we are not doing enough to help our students understand cultural diversity. We may tend to avoid sensitive issues pertaining to prejudices, biases, cultural conflicts, stereotypes, and cultural lenses.  Although there is diversity content in the majority of the Rasmussen College curriculums, we only touch on what’s on the surface of a deeply complex issue.

During a recent assignment as part of my Early Childhood Education degree course, students were asked, “Are there learning materials within the classroom to promote diversity awareness among children?” A majority of the students replied “no.”  When I ask the students, “How can you make changes to promote diversity in the learning environment for children?”  Students suggested offering different snack foods, setting out multi-cultural dolls, and integrating non-English languages into the classroom. These materials are important tools for promoting diversity because they can be seen, heard, and touched.

I ask myself, “Are we doing a good job in helping our students understand cultural diversity? And, “Are we aware of our own cultural diversity awareness?”  Some might think I am emphasizing on this topic too much, but I feel that we should keep an open mind to set a strong foundation for our future early childhood educators to understand the meaning of cultural diversity awareness.

Source:

Minnesota Cultural Dynamics Education Project. (2001) Building Cultural Connections. Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning

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This article was written by Oth Lo, Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator at Rasmussen College in St. Cloud, MN; where she teaches students in the School of Education Degree program.

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