Multicultural versus global education: why not two sides of the same coin?

Teachers currently find themselves adrift in a seemingly endless sea of school reform literature and policies. Moreover, the often acrimonious, and increasingly politicized public debates about educational issues (phonics versus whole language, immersion versus English as a second language, basic skills versus problem solving) contribute to the feelings of helplessness and frustration experienced by many classroom practitioners, especially those working in large, urban settings. As if teaching weren’t demanding enough, these practitioners face additional challenges, including poverty, violence, overcrowding, and huge bureaucracies, which drain precious energy from the primary goal of opening students’ minds. Teachers are increasingly being mandated to address societal issues and complex global problems in their classrooms. These issues, such as poverty, crime, drugs, family dynamics, etc., are far beyond the school’s means to solve. Yet, they create a high level of stress for both teachers and students, with an undeniable impact on what does, or doesn’t, happen in class. Unfortunately, two of the major disciplines teachers have to confront are often at odds in United States society. Those disciplines are multicultural education and global education. This paper will seek to describe the background of these two disciplines as well as propose ways to have them cooperate rather than work at cross purposes.