Culture Matters

The benefits of integrating culture in the education system

Multi-cultural Education

Multicultural education is more than celebrating Cinco de Mayo with tacos and piñatas or reading the latest biography of Martin Luther King Jr. It is an educational movement built on basic American values such as freedom, justice, opportunity, and equality. It is a set of strategies aimed to address the diverse challenges experienced by rapidly changing U.S. demographics. And it is a beginning step to shifting the balance of power and privilege within the education system.

What does culture do for us and our students?

  • It imposes order and meaning on all our experiences.
  • It provides a world view that includes values, ideas, beliefs, and assumptions about the nature of the world, and the way it works.
  • It provides a perceptual lens through which experiences are filtered and knowledge and meaning are made.
  • It allows us to predict how others from our group will behave in certain situations, but it is not effective at providing us ways of predicting how people from other groups may behave.
  • It provides us a language and imagery for talking about and explaining our world.

Culturally Responsive Teaching & Learning

Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning.flv

Culturally Relevant Teaching


  • Culturally Mediated Activities: the use of symbols, thoughts, and mental process derived from an individual's culture
  • Scaffolding: promotes social interaction and development of multicultural competencies
  • Trusting relationships: the core of building a community of learners
  • Codes of power: translating mainstream social behavior into understandable contexts

(Jones, E. B., Pang, V. O., & Rodriguez, J. L., 2001)

TEACHERS and future teachers

Teachers should acknowledge that different cultures exist in modern diverse classrooms and provide the necessary accommodations for those differences. For instance, when addressing students, teachers should strive to use appropriate language: choose vocabulary well, even if teachers individually feel confused about which terminology to use. Teachers have an obligation to request clarification or admit their ignorance as to what terminology will be most welcomed by an individual or group of children. Further, Teachers should inquire from the students about the names they like to be called and use languages that affirm diversity. Teachers should attempt to ‘‘even the playing field’’ so that the languages and cultures of individual students are perceived as equally valued and powerful. In practice, teachers must be willing and ready to establish sound pedagogical practices that recognize diverse learners.

(Keengwe, J., 2010)

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Banks, J. A. (2006). Improving Race Relations in Schools: From Theory and Research to Practice. Journal of Social Issues J Social Issues, 62(3), 607-614. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2006.00476.x

Erker G. (2011, February 21). Culturally Responsive Teaching & Learning.flv. Retrieved from

Gindis, B. (1995). The social/cultural implication of disability: Vygotsky's paradigm for special education. Educational Psychologist, 30(2), 77.

Jones, E. B., Pang, V. O., & Rodriguez, J. L. (2001). Social Studies in the Elementary Classroom: Culture Matters. Theory Into Practice, 40(1), 35.

Keengwe, J. (2010). Fostering Cross Cultural Competence in Preservice Teachers Through Multicultural Education Experiences. Early Childhood Education Journal, 38(3), 197-204.

Ovando, C. J., & Combs, M. C. (2012). Bilingual and ESL classrooms: Teaching in multicultural contexts. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.