Melting Pot or Salad Bowl?

If you were a product of the 70s (and now I’m dating myself), then you are well acquainted with the School House Rock series that were part of the Saturday morning cartoon line-up.

When I taught U.S. History, I used this video as an introduction to get my students to think about whether they viewed our nation as a melting pot or salad bowl. My teaching positions have afforded me the opportunity to work with a diverse group of learners based on race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, disability, and giftedness*. As such, I was curious as to how my students viewed the interconnectedness (or not) of our pluralistic society.

In fact, Banks (2016) calls for educators to consider the fact that schools today exist “within a pluralistic democratic nation [and] should help students develop clarified, reflective, and positive cultural identifications” (p. 28). To begin this process, teachers need to determine the lens through which students view themselves and their role at school and within the larger community. One way to start the conversation might be to play this video and give students a graphic organizer with which to organize and justify their perspectives. In the past, I have used the Big Idea template where students would write the generalization at the top and then including supporting details/statements in the pillars below.

This type of activity may be a good way to discern students’ perspectives on the make-up of this great county we call America. To make this more relevant and personal, I think another good option is for students to take this activity home and complete it with their parent/guardian and even siblings. This way students would also begin to have conversations with their family about who they are, where they come from, and how they view their role in the family and larger community. And no, this type of conversation doesn’t only apply to the history classes. Each and every teacher has a duty to ensure that the education we provide to our students is culturally inclusive, meaningful, and engaging. But that’s a topic for a different blog post.

*The terms used here are defined in Banks, J. A. (2016). Cultural diversity and education: Foundations, curriculum, and teaching (6th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

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