“Assimilating” Cultural Identity in the Classroom

In his article, “Diversity, Group Identity, and Citizenship Education in a Global Age” (2008) James A. Banks argues that citizenship and citizenship education should be expanded and reformed to include cultural rights and home-culture values for citizens from diverse racial and ethnic groups as well as language groups to help these individuals attain structural equality. Banks supports his claim by describing the terms assimilation, liberal, and universal perceptions of citizenship education as well affirming why these concepts should be examined and critiqued. Bank’s purpose for his article is to prove that an effective and reconstructive citizenship education helps students of all ages to gain the skills and knowledge needed to efficiently function in a culturally different environment as well as their own cultural community. Due to his obvious tone in expressing for change, Banks is writing to an audience that has any interest in multicultural education and the impact that this type of education will bring to the students involved in any type of educational community.

Banks starts of his article by defining what a citizen is. He says that according to Lagasse, “A citizen is an individual who lives in a nation-state and has certain rights and privileges, as well as duties to the state, such as allegiance to the government” (Lagasse, 2000). I thought that in the context of his article, it was important for him to state exactly what citizenship meant for him. Banks also claims that the ideas of assimilation, liberal and universal conceptions of citizenship require these citizens to become fully invested in the cultures of other nations and environments. These people must give up their first languages and cultures to better suit the needs of the state they are in now. In these terms and so far in the research, I agree with this concept and don’t necessarily believe that it is a bad thing for people migrating to another state or environment to pick up those cultural rituals and practices that are frequent for that specific culture that they migrated to. After all, isn’t that a large part as to why they moved to another state in the first place? As far as education is concerned, Banks makes a claim that in the early decades of the 20th century researchers made a case demonstrating and advocating cultural democracy. The claim states that a curriculum for African American students should mirror specific attributes of their culture and history. Isn’t the goal of embracing diversity in our educational system aiming to incorporate all different cultures and racial backgrounds into lesson plans and curriculums no matter the backgrounds of the students in the class? Rather than pointing out to the African American students in the class specifically details about their culture, the curriculum should be the same for all students, solely for the purpose of exposing every student in the class, whether they are of this racial or background or not, to this type of culture. The most influential statement that Banks makes in his article is “When universal citizenship is determined, defined, and implemented by groups with power and when the interests of marginalized groups are not expressed or incorporated into civic discussions, the interests of groups with power and influence will determine the definitions of universal citizenship and the public interest” (Banks 11). I think this claim is extremely valid because students need to develop the skills and attitudes needed to properly interact with others that are culturally different than them, especially in an academic setting. And what better way to help these students achieve this goal of embracing cultural assimilation than in the classroom?

URL: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.3102/0013189X08317501

Banks, James A. “Diversity, Group Identity, and Citizenship Education in a Global Age.” 22 Feb. 2008, journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.3102/0013189X08317501.


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