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Multicultural Perspectives, 9(2), 4350

C 2007 by the National Association for Multicultural Education


Copyright 

The Culture of Mexican-Americans: Its Importance for Early


Childhood Educators
Olivia N. Saracho
University of Maryland

Frances Martnez-Hancock
Seminole Community College
This paper provides an introduction to the MexicanAmerican culture, describing (1) cultural diversity and linguistic policies in the United States;
(2) cultural and linguistic studies that have examined the backgrounds of Mexican-American
individuals; (3) the characteristics of this population; (4) issues on discrimination and human
relations; (5) the socioeconomic factors that
Mexican-American individuals encountered due
to their lack of education; and (6) the predominance of poorly paid and undereducated unskilled
workers. Although many Mexican Americans have
moved up the social ladder to the middle class,
others have not. However, they have a richness of
language and culture to share with the school.

(Saracho, 2003). This article provides an introduction to


the Mexican-American culture, which can help in the
preparation of all teachers and the children they teach,
especially those who are culturally different from the
mainstream American culture.

Cultural Diversity and Linguistic Policies


Historically, cultural diversity and linguistic policies
in the United States have been affected by two historic
strands: assimilation and maintenance. The assimilation
ideology has been reflected in the policies of France,
where the central government defined and regulated the
national culture, strived to have the French language
accepted as the sole language of the state, and protected
it as much as possible from foreign influences. France
gave equal treatment to all its citizens when linguistic
and cultural minorities, both national and immigrant,
assimilated to the prime French language and culture
(Bourhis & Marshall, 1999). Linguistic and cultural
minorities in France generally referred to those people
who had immigrated from other countries and for whom
French was not the primary language. The United States
has attempted to imitate this point of view, which has
lead to the emergence of several developments.
In the 1960s educators used the term minority
education to explain the national achievement gap
problem. The Coleman Report (Coleman, Campbell,
Hobson, McPartland, Mood, Weingeld, & York, 1966),
a national survey of school achievement, described
the lower test scores of African-American, MexicanAmerican, and American Indian students. Liberal
reformers in the 1960s endorsed a variety of early
childhood compensatory education programs (such
as the various Head Start and Follow Through early
childhood program models) that focused on early literacy
experiences and teaching children appropriate school
behaviors. Underlying these liberal reform programs was

A societys culture consists of whatever it is one has


to know or believe in order to operate in a manner that is
acceptable to its members, and to do so in any role they
accept of themselves. Saracho and Martnez-Hancock
(1983) viewed culture in a broader context to include
elements of lifestyle, such as language, diet, dress, social
patterns, and ethnicity. The literature provides many
definitions on culture; however, throughout this text, the
definition provided by Saracho and Martnez-Hancock
(1983) will be used. This definition focused on the
communitys values, beliefs, and behaviors as well as
its language, customs, and traditions. An understanding
of the childrens culture can help develop the educators
knowledge about these children, their strengths, their
problems, and their contributions to school. The future
of this nation depends to no small extent on developing
a greater understanding of how this diverse population
(which has been placed in the contexts of social,
economic, and educable risk and vulnerability) can
achieve social, educational, and employment competence
Correspondence should be sent to Olivia N. Saracho, Department
of Curriculum & Instruction, University of Maryland, 2311 Benjamin,
College Park, MD 20742. E-mail: ons@umd.edu

Multicultural Perspectives
43

a basic set of beliefs and assumptions about the culture


of low-achieving ethnic minority groups.
During this time, many liberals and conservatives
subscribed to Oscar Lewis (1965) culture of poverty
view of the poor. Lewis conducted an ethnography in
two cities: New York and Mexico City. He concluded
that disintegrating and chaotic family structures were
common among poor urban communities, regardless of
their ethnicity. Each generation passed on a way of life
marked by fatalistic, violent, cynical, and unproductive
attitudes and values. This negative portrayal of the poor
prompted post-World War II educational researchers to
write about low-income minority youths. They created
a cultural deficit discourse that blamed the victim
(Valencia, 1997) to justify school failure when actually
the schools failed to understand the complexities of
constructing cultural identity and language maintenance
among American linguistic and cultural minorities.

language and culture to adapt only the best patterns or


customs to make them their own.
Example: Juan Jose enjoys eating the food from his culture. He makes it a point to celebrate birthdays and holidays with his family and friends, because he usually gets
to eat and has a good time. However, when he is with his
English-speaking friends, he refuses to speak his native
language and only listens to English-speaking stations on
the radio.

Level 4 (highest level): Students are able to make the


transition back and forth from one language and culture
to another language and culture with ease.
Example: Juanita is a fluent bilingual student. She speaks
her native language and the schools language. She carries
a conversation in the language that is used in the group.
Her behavior is appropriate in the different situations or
settings such as at home, school, or gatherings. (pp. 53
54)

Failure of the Schools


Recent studies by Sheets (2002) and Wortham and
Contreras (2002) supported these levels. Sheets (2002)
qualitative study revealed that students had feelings of
alienation because they perceived that the school was
an adult-centered institution. Wortham and Contreras
(2002) showed that the first-day-of-school experiences
of adolescents were similar to those of Sarachos (1986)
Spanish-speaking 6-year-olds. They found that when
the students arrived to school on the first day, they
typically experienced culture shock as a result of being
transplanted into a different linguistic and cultural
environment. Teachers of non-English-speaking students
spent many hours with these new students resulting in
the students refusal to leave their classroom for fear of
the unfamiliar: the completely alien English-speaking
world of the school. These Spanish-speaking students
missed their familiar friends, surroundings, and activities
associated with their culture. As a result, they frequently
found mainstream American life sterile and boring
(Wortham & Contreras, 2002).
Each persons identity was closely related to the
family. Traditional Mexican-American families who have
maintained the Mexican culture of their first generation ancestors have become less common. Traditional
Mexican-American families are those who still maintain
values of typical communities that are rural, located
close to the Mexican border, and situated where most
of the population is Mexican American (Saracho &
Martnez-Hancock, 2005). Their traditional structure
of the Mexican family was rooted in the socioeconomic needs of an agricultural society in Mexico. As
the Mexican-American community has become more
urbanized, the family structure has been changing to
become more like the mainstream American structure.

Studies of the failure of schools to successfully educate


Mexican-American children have contributed to the
development of several theories to explain these students
low academic achievement. One theory suggested that
Mexican-American children failed in the classroom
because they encountered styles of language socialization
that differed from those at home (Delgado-Gaitan, 1990).
Saracho (1986) concluded that children in this position
may function in one of the following levels:
Level 1 (lowest level): Students become confused
when they experience a drastic difference between the
two language and cultures.
Example: A series of charts is used to teach the unit of the
family. The father usually is blond, has blue eyes, wears
a suit, and holds a black attache case. Dalia, who does
not speak or understand English, sees the charts and discovers that the family on the chart does not resemble her
family. Her father has black hair and wears greasy overalls because he is a mechanic. This experience confuses
her.

Level 2: Students deny their language and culture,


pretending that their language and culture is the same as
the schools.
Example: Miguel Jimenez, a Spanish-speaking student,
changes his name to Michael and may even go a step
further and change the pronunciation of his name to
Geemenes.

Level 3: Students adapt to those new or different


customs in the culture in which they perceive to have
more advanced patterns. Children will assess each

The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education


44

A myth has existed suggesting that Mexican-American


individuals do not value education. The myth reflected
Mexican-American childrens school experience and
poor academic achievement. Valencia and Black (2002)
examined this myth in three ways. First, the basis for the
myth has been based on the pseudoscientific concept of
deficit thinking, which they referred to be a mind-set
that was molded by the fusion of ideology and science
that blamed the victim instead of holding oppressive
and inequitable schooling arrangements guilty. Second,
they explored the course of the myth-making itself
using several sources such as early masters theses and
published scholarly literature, particularly reflecting the
cultural deprivation and at-risk child classifications.
Third, they provided a discourse on how the myth
could be discredited using evidence such as (a) the
Mexican-American peoples long-standing struggle for
equal educational opportunity, (b) scholarly literature
documenting parental involvement, and (c) a case study
of transgenerational parental involvement. Valencia and
Black (2002) suggested that this strong evidence showed
that Mexican-American individuals did indeed value
education. In their final analysis, they concluded that
it is important for scholars to consistently discredit the
myth that Mexican-American individuals do not value
education. Discrediting the myth is essential, and the
work of scholars can help discredit this myth.
The reality of Mexican-American families and their
rich, varied, and positive expressions regarding the
importance of education needs to be acknowledged.
Riojas-Cortez (2001) examined the Mexican-American
cultural traits that young children displayed during
sociodramatic play in a bilingual preschool classroom.
This study highlighted the value of play as a way to
discover the childrens cultural awareness and knowledge
base. The study showed that during play children
displayed the cultural traits that reflected their knowledge
of language use, values, beliefs, discipline modes,
housekeeping, and value of education. Pena (2000)
studied the involvement of Mexican-American parents
in their childrens elementary schools, observing the
parents activities and interviewing teachers, parents,
and administrators. She concluded that many factors
affected parental involvement, including language, parent
education, family issues, and others. Unfortunately,
the teachers did not recognize such influences and
had different role expectations for those families. This
suggested the need to examine the way students used their
cultural and linguistic perplexities to succeed in school.

emerged. These studies may have been influenced by


educational ethnographers that American mainstreamed
scholars have disregarded. Educational anthropologist
Enrique Trueba (1999) reported that:
The first critical ethnography was constructed in 1542
by an oppressed Indian, Francisco Tenamaztle, who had
led the revolt against the Spaniards in the states of
Jalisco, Michoacan, and Colima in central Mexico. He
was captured and exiled to Spain, where, assisted by Fray
Cristobal de las Casas, he defended the human rights of
all the Indians. (p. 125)

Early classic educational ethnographies include


Forgotten people: A study of new Mexicans by George
Sanchez (1940) and Barrio boy, an auto-ethnography
by Ernesto Galarza (1971). First generation MexicanAmerican educational ethnographers were not cited in
the literature until the post-1960s civil rights era. The
majority of contemporary Mexican-American educational
ethnographies have been characterized by their use of
borderland theory which focused particularly on the
philosophy or knowledge of those Mexican-American
individuals who lived along the border. Ethnographers
used this new borderland sensitivity to assess the value
of Mexican-American cultural and linguistic practices in
schools, families, and community settings.
Mexican-American ethnographers adopted diverse
philosophies based on their observation of la frontera
(the border) life. The border and its surroundings
shared a repertoire of cultural and linguistic experiences
derived from Spanish and American colonialism as
well as the nationalism from the United States and
Mexico. These cultural and linguistic experiences were
depicted in anonymous corridos (Mexican ballad songs),
historias (stories), and literary works. They have provided
the legacies, transformations, and developments of the
theoretical and spiritual meanings of the living philosophy
of the borderlands and mestizaje (mixed ancestry).
Many of these ethnographers described the border and
the experience in the borderlands as the ultimate frontier
of postmodernism. Delgado-Gaitan (1990) and Trueba
(1991) initiated the use of a trans-frontera awareness to
delve into the many literary, oral, and home pedagogical
traditions of Mexican-American families in the United
States. According to Trueba (1999), contemporary
Mexican-American ethnography recognized its historical
roots in narratives of appraisal that stretched across old
and new forms of colonialism and border life. An old
tradition of narrating the origin of Amerindian cultural
roots of survival endured in the essential core of families
and communities. Contemporary Mexican-American
ethnographies contributed to an extension of historical
sentiments, experiences, and active presence of the people
(Villenas & Foley, 2002).

Cultural and Linguistic Studies


Many studies examining the rich cultural and linguistic
backgrounds of Mexican-American individuals have

Multicultural Perspectives
45

Vol. 9, No. 2

Characteristics of the Mexican-American


Population

Discrimination and Human Relations Issues


The current economic and political climate in the
United States and Europe has affected the American
societys perception of immigrants. People have been
usually identified by their physical characteristics or their
language. In a 2002 Pew Hispanic Center Survey of
Hispanic individuals, 24% of Latino individuals reported
some form of discrimination in response to their physical
appearance; an additional 20% attributed discrimination
to a combination of language and physical characteristics.
Mexican-American individuals (48%) felt discrimination
among Hispanic groups as well. Overall, 78% of Latino
individuals surveyed experienced discrimination at
work, while another 75% of them experienced it in
school.
We have differentiated Mexican-American individuals
to denote that the Hispanic population is homogeneous
because they all speak Spanish and/or come from
Spanish-speaking countries. There are many differences
within any given ethnic group and between groups.
Individuals of Mexican origin are classified by the federal
census under the Hispanic category. In the case of
Mexican-American individuals, there is much variation
in how they identify themselves. There are generational
and immigration status differences as well as social class
differences. Some may call themselves Mexicans, others
Mexican Americans, or still others may call themselves
Chicanos, or Americans of Mexican descent. Nieto (2000)
explained the term Chicano was the most common term
used in the late 1960s and 1970s. It is a self-affirming
and political term which reflects the unique realities of
the urban, economically oppressed Mexican Americans
in the United States.
The undocumented group of Mexican individuals,
many from the poor rural areas, which includes the
Indian or indigenous population of Mexico, have their
own language and culture. In his book, Crossing Over, A
Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail, Ruben Martnez
(2001) traveled with immigrants to discover the origins
of three Indian migrants, all from the same family, who
died in a traffic accident while traveling illegally to their
destination in the United States. Martnez (2001) traveled
to their town of origin in the state of Michoacan, in
Central Mexico. He claimed that Michoacan, Jalisco, and
Guanajuato were the Mexican states that were the places
of origin for many Mexican immigrants. He described
their lives, the disconnections from the families, and the
adaptations they made in their new country in order to
survive. He also depicted their struggle to assimilate
into the mainstream American culture or to become
mainstream American and fit in society.
In the Pew Hispanic Center (2002) survey, 80% of
Latinos expressed confidence that their children (growing

Mexican-American individuals represent distinct


groups which differ physically, socially, economically,
and culturally from one another. Mexican-American
individuals also differ from those of other Hispanic
groups, since very few of them entered the United States
as professionals. Many settled in the United States before
the Pilgrims arrived and many continue to settle in the
United States. Both legal and illegal immigration brought
many people from Mexico to the United States. They were
often found at the bottom of the social strata in their home
country and may have been discriminated against by
members of their own ethnic group. They chose to come
to the norte (north), to the other side (al otro lado) of the
border, and risk it all. Many times they paid a high price
for this decision. They were placed in financial debt and,
often times, their lives were jeopardized (Martnez, 2001).
Mexican-American individuals, in close proximity to their
mother country, continued to have on-going interactions
with first-generation immigrants who reinforced their
traditional values (Becerra, 1998).
Trueba (1999), in his book, Latinos Unidos: From
Cultural Diversity to the Politics of Solidarity, concluded
that, in spite of the diversity, Latinosincluding MexicanAmericanswere united by common experiences in the
United States. A National Council of La Raza (NCLR,
2001) report, Beyond the Census: Hispanics and an
American Agenda, highlighted the fact that the majority
of Hispanics live in California, Texas, New York, Florida,
Illinois, Arizona, and New Jersey. It also reported growing
Hispanic communities in Georgia, North Carolina, and
Tennessee. The Mexican-American population primarily
has lived in the urban areas of Los Angeles, Chicago,
and Houston, although migration throughout the United
States has been common.
The Hispanic population has become one of the
largest non-English-speaking language groups in the
United States. The 2000 United States Census (United
States Census Bureau, 2000) reported that there were
20.6 million Latin American/Hispanic individuals. This
figure did not include the 3.8 million residents of
Puerto Rico. Other subgroups categorized by the United
States Census Bureau included Puerto Ricans, Cubans,
Central and South Americans, Dominicans, individuals
from Spain, and others of Hispanic descents (NCLR,
2001). The Mexican-American population has had the
youngest median age (24.2). The National Council of
La Raza (2001) advised caution in interpreting figures
based on the peoples responses to the United States
Census questionnaires, especially since a significant
number of Hispanics (42.0%) checked the other
category.

The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education


46

Challenges and Issues of Speaking Spanish

up in the United States) would get a better education, and


76% of Latinos were confident that their children (once
grown) would have better employment and better wages.
Martnez (2001), a son of immigrant parents, added that
from an historical perspective, the familys difficult
circumstances were perhaps the sacrifice made by all
first-generation immigrants, just as European newcomers
worked in the sweatshops, in the fields, and on the streets
with their pushcarts. He claimed that he and his father
were considered Mexican in America and American in
Mexico. It was a hard decision to choose between the
two. For these immigrants, the attraction continued to
be prospects of work in the meat-processing plants in
the Midwest; in the nurseries; in the fields in California,
Illinois, and Florida; and in the hotel and restaurant
industries throughout the country. They were able to
work in the United States, but they found it difficult to
understand their supervisors instructions and to achieve
any type of promotion due to their lack of knowledge of
the English language.

Instruction in Spanish immersion programs in schools


throughout the United States has become very popular,
especially with middle- or upper-class students whose
parents wish them to learn a second language. This is
meritorious since students in the United States need to
learn and appreciate others perspectives and need to
develop positive human relations with others. Learning a
second language is important in accomplishing this. There
are some Mexican-American parents who do not speak
English, who desire for their children to be bilingual,
and who enroll them in bilingual programs to maintain
their language and culture. They see bilingualism and
biculturalism as an asset and are proud of their heritage.
Other parents become anxious for their children to learn
English because they believe that a fluent knowledge
of English will help them to succeed in school and
become acceptable citizens of the United States. These
parents may prohibit their children to use the Spanish
language and/or display cultural traditions. They may
have personally experienced shame or prejudice when
using Spanish to communicate and they want to save
their children from being ridiculed. This negative attitude
toward Mexican-American individuals and the Spanish
language is primarily found in the Southwestern part of
the United States, and this may be rooted in prevailing
prejudices from the Mexican American War of 1848.
Unfortunately, the Spanish spoken by immigrant or
minority students in the United States is not highly
valued or recognized as a national resource. Yet, this
is the language of communication for many immigrant
children who attend school. These students quickly
learn that their language is not acceptable. The social
movement of the 1960s (including the Civil Rights
movement of the 1960s and the Chicano Movement
[a social movement] for Mexican-American individuals)
demanded that Mexican-American citizens be granted
the rights that were provided to them in the United States
Constitution. The Chicano Movement in particular also
demanded the rights that were guaranteed under the
1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the war between
Mexico and the United States. Many first generation
Mexican-American individuals speak English, have
elected Mexican-American individuals to Congress, and
are more involved in the political process.

The Challenge of Not Speaking English


Immigrants live bilingually with their identity expressed in Spanish on a daily basis (Maciel, Ortiz, &
Herrera-Sobek, 2000). The Pew Hispanic Center (2002)
showed that 89% of Hispanic individuals believed that
immigrants needed to learn English to succeed in the
United States, with 89% of those of Mexican descent in
agreement. Thus, the different Hispanic groups had a high
degree of agreement that they needed to learn English.
The Pew Hispanic Center (2002) figures indicated that
61% of native-born Latino individuals spoke predominantly English and 35% were bilingual. In comparison,
72% of the foreign-born Hispanic individuals spoke
predominantly Spanish and 24% were bilingual. The
children of Latino immigrants who were born in the
United States consisted of 47% who were bilingual, 46%
who were English dominant, and 7% who were Spanish
dominant (Pew Hispanic Center, 2002).
Baez (2002) described how learning English required
children to forget their Spanish language. The children
were required to forget their own language to successfully
immerse themselves into a new culture and language.
Such requirement established the conditions for inclusion
and exclusion as well as the conditions for assimilation
or acculturation. Baez (2002) criticized this requirement.
He stated, Forgetting does not mean ignoring the plight
of those oppressed by hegemonic structures, and so one
must question how language sets the stage for ignoring
social inequities (p. 123). Baez supported bilingual
programs in the education of children who did not speak
English, especially those who spoke Spanish.

Social Economic Factors


Employment is an issue for many Americans. They
may be fearful of immigrants, people who are different,
and see them as a threat to their employment security
(Becerra, 1998). The Pew Hispanic Center (2002) survey
reported that 66% of Latino individuals had difficulties

Multicultural Perspectives
47

Vol. 9, No. 2

saving money for the future, 28% had problems paying


the rent, and 30% lost their jobs or were laid off.
In the 1940s under the bracero (unskilled laborer)
program, the United States allowed Mexican laborers
to work in the United States during the war. Again in
1986, under the Immigration Reform and Control Act,
amnesty was granted to many undocumented immigrants.
These included over two million, mostly Mexican,
undocumented immigrants. Many of these immigrants
came to the United States to escape Mexicos economic
problems and to pursue the American Dream (Martnez,
2001).
One of the reasons for the economic problems of many
Mexican-American workers related to the industrial
sectors in which they have been employed. The statistics
indicated that 41% of Hispanic workers were employed
in service occupations or as operators and laborers
(United States Census Bureau, 2000). An analysis of the
socioeconomic status of Hispanic individuals in general
revealed that only 14% were employed in managerial
or professional occupations. Only 11% of Hispanic
individuals over 25 years of age had at least a bachelors
degree. The census also showed that home ownership by
Hispanic individuals was 46%. In 1997, there were only
472,000 businesses owned by individuals of Mexican
origin. They owned the highest number of Hispanicowned businesses (United States Census Bureau, 2000).
Thus, this group consisted of hard-working people who
were typically undereducated and worked as unskilled
laborers and, as a result, received low salaries. Although
many have moved up the social ladder to the middle class,
there were many who were still working class or poor.

economic factors within society as well as by the minority


groups cultural characteristics, although Rosenfeld
(2002) found that Mexican-American individuals were
assimilating with non-Hispanic White individuals over
time and the evidence tended to reject the segmented
assimilation hypothesis.
Valdes (1996) described the way rural, workingclass Mexican-American values guided some Mexican
individuals and Mexican-American individuals to decline
academic success for the sake of maintaining their
relationships. According to Munoz (2002), MexicanAmerican individuals became stressed when adjusting to
the mainstream American culture. His study showed that
Mexican-American individuals became more stressed the
longer they lived in the United States.
Reforms need to be made in teacher education
programsboth preservice and inserviceto meet the
needs of teachers of Mexican-American students. Some of
these reforms are already taking place, but others need to
be put in place to change the perspectives of the colleges of
education. Many teacher education programs are already
requiring that their students general education programs
include studies of developing world cultures. This is
being done to broaden the focus beyond Euro-centered
cultures. While the cultures of Latin America may be
included here, so would the cultures of Asia and Africa.
In addition, within the professional preparation
program, attention needs to be paid to multicultural
education. Hyun and Marshall (1997) argued that a
teacher preparation program that is multicultural should
not only be about sensitizing teachers to race, gender,
ethnicity, religion, and social class status; but it should
prepare prospective teachers to understand themselves
and their individual family and ethnic cultures so they can
realize how their own backgrounds make them similar
and different from others. They proposed a model called
Developmentally and Culturally Appropriate Practices
(DCAP) to guide teaching and instructional thinking. This
was similar to the planning process in Yorks (1998) book,
Big as Life, The Everyday Inclusive Curriculum. She
suggested a transformation of the curriculum to integrate
anti-bias and multicultural education by creating a
collaborate climate, which could be family-oriented, and
learning about the context. It would also require them to
teach knowledge of child development, prejudice, racism,
and culture.
Nieto and Rolon (1997) proposed a framework they
called centering pedagogies. This framework was
similar to the concepts of culturally compatible, culturally congruent, culturally responsive, and bicultural or
culturally relevant pedagogy. They defined centering
pedagogies as the development of a bicultural environment in which students could explore their own social
and individual factors that affect their identity and that
the social contexts of their lives can also be explored

Educational Implications
With our current concern for the successful education
of all children, educators need to focus on the cultural
backgrounds of all the children in the schools and
especially on the distinct Mexican-American subcultures
and the socialization that Mexican-American children
experience. They need to debunk what Valencia and
Black (2002) referred to as the myth of MexicanAmerican socialization. Too many researchers, scholars,
and educators assumed an absence of assimilation and
acculturation in Mexican-American individuals, which
results in school failure. This assumption absolved
society and the schools of failing to provide the quality
and appropriateness of formal education for MexicanAmerican students. Nieto and Rolon (1997) affirmed
that change can only occur when schools stop blaming
Mexican-American students and their families for their
lack of success. Educators need to become aware that low
status and the continued alienation of minority groups
are situations that are brought about by many social and

The Official Journal of the National Association for Multicultural Education


48

and affirmed. York (1998) noted that this knowledge


should be used to learn about the individual children,
their families, and the communities they served. Wortham
and Contreras (2002) maintained that cultural relevant
pedagogy can help in some respects, but it will not help
the students to succeed academically and develop pride
in their home cultures. Sheets (2002) concluded that it is
important to apply in the school sets of values, attitudes,
and beliefs that resemble those held by both students and
teachers.
Multicultural education for preservice teachers needs
to be of a general kind. Since teacher preparation
institutions cannot predict where their graduates will
teach or the composition of the classes in those schools,
the approach to preservice multicultural education needs
to be generic. Novices will learn methods and techniques
that can be applied to a variety of cultures, depending
on where the students practice and where they establish
themselves. The key to these programs is to develop a
cultural sensitivity within prospective teachers and a set
of methods and techniques that can be applied to a variety
of cultures. This is important since the United States is
a multicultural society where children of any particular
culture can be found throughout the nation.
Methods courses in early childhood education can also
be used to support multicultural education in a number
of ways. Social studies courses can deal with ways
of presenting individual cultures, including those of the
Mexican-American individuals in early childhood classes.
Teachers can be helped to plan and provide for various
cultural holiday celebrations in their classrooms. They
can be taught ways to support dramatic play activities so
that they will reflect various cultures. The students can
be shown how to create prop boxes that reflect different
cultures. (Prop boxes are ways of organizing and storing
materials for dramatic play.) A prop box would include
artifacts related to a particular play theme. The students
can also be introduced to resources relating to the music
and art of the various cultures that can be used in early
childhood classrooms.
In-service workshops and classes can provide teachers
with resources and strategies relating to the particular
culture that teachers are dealing with in their classrooms.
The following are examples of resources and strategies
for teachers.

and other similar artifacts. Children can dramatize a


Quinceaneara celebration, which is a 15th birthday
festivity that may consist of a mass and/or dance.
2. Teachers can provide cooking experiences of MexicanAmerican foods, such as pinto beans, Mexican soup,
and Guacamole. If the teachers are allowed to have a
hot plate in the classroom, they can cook beans. This
is an easy recipe: Pinto beans, water, salt, bacon, salt,
and pepper can be mixed in a pot that will sit on a
hot plate for several hours. Mexican soup can also be
cooked in a hot plate using a variety of vegetables such
as squash, carrots, beef shank, corn, rice, and salt.
These ingredients are mixed in a pot that is cooked on
a hot plate. Teachers can also cook cold dishes such as
guacamole or Mexican salsa. Guacamole can be made
by smashing avocados; mixing onions, salt, parsley;
and adding chips.
3. Teachers can introduce the music and art of the
Mexican and Mexican-American people as well as
familiar artists and musicians. Children can listen
and learn how to dance La Raspa, a popular dance
that is a combination of the Hokey Pokey and folk
dancing. Records can be found in a music store
that carries Mexican-American music. Teachers can
also introduce children to familiar music artists like
Vicente Fernandez or Mariachi Azteca. In art, teachers
can have children make a piZata, covering a blown-up
balloon with paper mache, making it into some shape
such as an animal or bird, then painting and decorating
it. Children can be introduced to the work of MexicanAmerican artists such as Gaspar Enrquez, who uses
murals and metal works to integrate elements of both
the Mexican and American cultures, and Lado Lopez
Ulcerous, a Mexican-American nationally syndicated
cartoonist.
4. Childrens storybooks reflecting Mexican-American
families and themes can be introduced to teachers.
Workshops can help teachers use these books.
Children can learn about Pat Mora, who is a childrens
author and poet. Storybooks can include Family
Pictures/Cuadros de Familia, written by Carmen
Lomas Garza. (San Francisco: Childrens Book
Press). This picture book is an album of paintings
of the artists memories of growing up in a small
Texas town. The paintings are direct descriptions of
her Hispanic community. Paintings include a birthday
celebration, picking cactus, making tamales, and
going to church. Another good example of such books
is Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto, illustrated by
Ed Martnez. (New York: G. P. Putnam & Sons). In
this book, a girl named Mara helps to make tamales
at Christmas. At the same time, she tries on her
mothers wedding ring, which becomes misplaced.
In an effort to find the ring, the children eat all the
tamales.

1. Teachers can be helped to create prop boxes reflecting


the Mexican American culture. Prop boxes of Tejano
musicians and Quinceaneara celebration can be used .
A Tejano musicians prop box can include a guayavera,
cowboy straw hat, shawl, short skirt, flowers for
hair, guitar, accordion, and the like. Children can
use these props and role play a Tejano musicians
group. The Quinceaneara prop box can include a
formal gown, tiara, veil, gloves, music instruments,

Multicultural Perspectives
49

Vol. 9, No. 2

To nurture a democratic society, educators must


prepare individuals in a cultural pluralism environment.
A democratic society requires that individual differences
be appreciated and respected. Teachers need to use the
students own life history and unique characteristics as a
basis for a high-quality education. They need to utilize
educational programs that are fundamental to cultural
pluralism to assert the rights of individuals and their
personal dignity. Only then can educational programs
afford the foundation of a real democracy based upon
cultural pluralism (Saracho & Martnez-Hancock, 1983).

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