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"All these woes shall serve for sweet discourses in our times to come." 
Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene 5

 

Developmental and Educational Theories
Socrates
Plato
Jean Piaget
Multicultural Theories
Horace Kallen
James Banks
Bill Martin
Martin J. Beck Matustík
Judith M. Green

Socrates

Socrates (470-399 BC) Self-knowledge is the epitome of the educated person, according to Socrates. He believed that this development was not attainable in childhood, but was achievable in adulthood. At which age it becomes possible is now believed to be an individual development in that some can learn self-knowledge before adulthood, and others may never reach this point.

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Plato

Plato (427-347 BC) Socrates' most famous pupil was Plato. Plato's curriculum design included liberal arts as well as economic and political arrangements. His papers provided an academic and political instigation for leaders of the ideal state. It became a guide to the ongoing debate on the pedagogy of the oppressed. He was looking for a more liberal design to education to release people from the darkness of ignorance. He felt that the goal should be to continue to reach for idealism.

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Jean Piaget

Any theorizing on the developmental construction of human knowledge should include some reference to Piaget. Piaget was interested in how knowledge grows. His answer was that knowledge is constructive and changing - progressing. As knowledge develops information includes and/or reconstructs old logic into new constructs of higher meaning. Thus, adults' modes of thinking and logic are very different from those they possessed as children (Craig, 1999).  According to Piaget, there is a relationship between the knower and knowing which results in the development of self-knowledge. This development happens bit-by-bit, gaining new depths as the development of meaning and knowledge begins to show relationships. Some examples are:

  1. As a child, if something happens he may feel anger. Anger may make the child feel hyper and reactive to things outside of the event that originally caused the anger. As the child matures, he may understand that some "event" (the feeling of anger and the reactions that follow) is a cover up for what caused the event in the first place. Understanding first that the event is not the reaction and, second, that he plays a role in the situation both lead to "gaining self-knowledge." It is by synthesizing all aspects of knowledge that self-knowledge develops.
  2. As a child develops he begins to understand that he is unique (and a sense of uniqueness is important), yet part of the whole (a member of society).
  3. Piaget also believed that as a person developed, he gained the ability to discern between things, making comparisons and contrasts. A person may be able to distinguish things that are common in their culture yet not common in another culture. This ability to distinguish is part of developing.
  4. Piaget believed empathy to be a developing process also. Robert Craig in Philosophical and Educational Foundations in a Multicultural Society said that empathy "is the perception of the similarities between self and others." Empathy, then, is an understanding so intimate that the feelings, thoughts and motives of one is readily comprehended by another. It is more than the recognition of someone else's feelings, but rather a deeper understanding. Thus, empathetic reactions allow people to recognize that something is different from what is already familiar or acceptable to them, yet not be prejudiced by its unfamiliarity (Piaget, 1970).
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Horace Kallen

If the culture of the nation has multifacets, values, etc., it may be termed cultural pluralism. This theory, cultural pluralism, was developed by Horace Kallen. He describes it as to "allow for some degree of cultural diversity within the confines of a unified national experience" (Craig, 1999). Kallen attempts to express, with this theory, that each ethnic and cultural group in the United States is important and that their unique contributions add to the variety and richness of the American culture. His theory also recognizes that the dominant culture must be also recognized in the society (Kallen). The recognition of the dominant culture is not part of all multicultural theories, as you will see described in Banks' Afrocentrist group.

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James A. Banks

Banks believes that a part of the education of students is teaching them how to think rather than what to think. He explains that students should be taught to understand all types of knowledge and become active in debates about knowledge construction and conflicting interpretations. Students should be instructed in the creation of their own interpretations of the history of the past and history in the making. They must learn to identify their own positions, interests, philosophies of ideals and assumptions. In short, they must become critical thinkers with the knowledge and skills, plus the commitment, needed to participate in democratic action. With this foundation, they can help the nation close the gap between its ideals and its realities (Banks, 1993).

In The Canon Debate, Knowledge Construction, and Multicultural Education, Banks identifies three scholarly groups participating in the canon debate. (For more information on the Canon Debate, see http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~daniel/hyperwriting/arguments/moskal/thesolu.html) The first is Western traditionalists.  Western traditionalist, like Kallen's cultural pluralism group, also believe that the dominant culture of Western civilization needs to be prominently presented in schools. Western traditionalist, though, believe that the history, culture, literature, etc. of this group are in danger of being pushed aside by the efforts of feminists, minorities and other multicultural reform groups. Unlike Kallen's group, Western traditionalist show little interest in teaching diverse or multicultures. 

But, if Western civilization were the only history and culture taught, would this minimize the importance of other cultural groups in the making of America? Afrocentrists believe this to be true. They feel that African history and culture should be the center of curriculum so that all students can learn of Africa's role in the development of Western civilization. Afrocentrists also believe that theirs should be central in the curriculum in order to motivate African American students to learn.  Yet I contend that if the theory of Afrocentrists is that a particular culture should be central to the education of all children, would it not follow that the Spanish would believe that the history and culture of Spain should be central? Certainly their role in the introduction of horses to America, the discovery of the Americas, and reign over Texas played important parts in the development of the West. And the French, who have added to much to the language of America and especially to the culture of Louisiana, would they not feel that their history is just as important as that played by the Africans in the South?  

A third group, whom James Banks calls the Multiculturalist believe that education should be reformed to give more attention to the experiences of people of color and of women. With support from at least two national organizations, this multicultural group gains support (Banks, 1993).

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Bill Martin

In Multiculturalism: Consumerist or Transformational?, Bill Martin wrote, that the whole issue of multiculturalism raises the question of "difference" in a way that seems to run against many philosophical or social theories. He argues, 

If multiculturalism, as a social and political agenda, is to be more than a banner under which diverse groups pursue their piece of the pie, then it must indeed be a matter of a 'gathering,' one that aims to, through the enactment of a radical diversity, bring together a radical confluence of possibilities for all humankind. (Martin, 1998, pg 128)

Martin fights, like Banks, against the push of Afrocentrist and Western traditionalist. This piece of the pie Martin calls "consumerist multiculturalism". Instead, Martin proposed something new. A multiculturalism that is not "consumerist" but "transformational", and this, he says, requires a framework. Martin says that while issues of class, race, ethnicity and other views diverge, most agree, in there concern for overcoming oppression through social, cultural, and political conflict and the need to communicate about the many facets of the different views. Society must have a collective vision of social change to work toward a new type of multiculturalism, one that emerges through transformation.

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Martin J. Beck Matustík

Matustík verbalizes the obvious when he says "All sides in the current debates on rethinking the western canon concede that the multicultural world is here to stay" (Matustík, 1998). Matustík, in his article, "Ludic, Corporate and Imperial Multiculturalism: Impostors of Democracy and Cartographers of the New World Order," wrote, "The culture, political and economic wars turn on how and through whom to tell the multicultural story." Matustík says that theorizing multiculturalism includes some points that go all the way back to Plato's liberation of education and politics. Plato's Republic not only provided a classical academic and political canon for the leaders of the ideal state, it became a guide to the ongoing debate on the pedagogy of the oppressed (Matustík, 1998). He believes that we must create a new multicultural enlightenment "a corporate, globally local multiculturalism, as opposed to a national monoculture" (Matustík, 1998).

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Judith M. Green

Green points out that multiculturalism is not unique to the U.S. Other countries have accommodated small groups of other cultures. These contained groups were usually tolerated for the benefit they brought the dominant culture. The uniquely American twist is the semi-willingness to accept refugees and allowing them to affect the existing culture. By teaming, groups have gained strength and power, bringing on changes like wage increases and employment security. Women and minorities (Hispanics, Africans and Native Americans) have advanced due to increased economic opportunities, more effective political participation, more favorable media representation, and others. But the end of the 20th century has brought Americans to a place of "embattled impasse that calls for a new and deeper rethinking of the purposes and contents of education in a society that continues to claim and to aspire to be guided by the ideal of democracy" (Green, 1998). This nation has always regarded education as an effective mode of change, personally and socially. So, it is through education that America would have it's greatest success in transformation. Some groups, she contents, fail to see that we are now what we have always been. That is, America, from it's birth, has always been a multicultural society whose many cultures have hybridized through struggles, interaction, cooperation (Green, 1998).

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Last updated: December 06, 2000.