Category Archives: Multicultural Studies

Senior Final Projects

It’s that time of the year!  Since we don’t have a senior final exam, final projects are offered instead.  There are four choices: 1) a debate between supporters of Malcolm X and Dr. King, 2) writing children’s fiction on multicultural themes, 3) planning a diverse road trip across the US, or 4) a community planning project for New Bedford on issues covered in class.  There you go…  Here’s copies of all of the assignments and rubrics… let me know which one you’re doing, and you can start as soon as possible.  Stay in touch and let me know if you have any questions, ok?

Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples make up 300-350 million people around the world.  They live in the mountains of the Himalayas, the Amazon rain forest, the Gobi Desert, the Congo jungle, the plains of Patagonia & the Serengeti and on the icecaps of the North Pole.  They have adapted to all environments in order to survive and thrive.
Click here for the full PDF notes on indigenous people.
We’ve begun this unit by taking a look at indigenous people and issues they face through the story of the Maori people.  Here are two of the first assignments.
Next, we’re going to examine the Baka people from central Africa through a National Geographic special on them.  We’re also going to learn about the work of Colin Turnbull and his famous book, The Forest People.  This is the assignment.
Now on to the websites…
One of the world’s largest and most visited sites, Wikipedia, also has a great deal of information concerning native peoples from around the world.  There are hundreds of different indigenous tribes listed here.  Look through the list and find one you might be interested in.
Many groups of people are working in the modern world to protect indigenous peoples in different nations.  The threats are political, environmental, economic, medical and more.  Some groups, like the two listed below are non-profit organizations that support their rights.
Here’s another site.
This site is from the United Nations, and it highlights many interesting aspects of native peoples from certain places around the world.  There are also activities you can learn from inside.
This website highlights the work of non-governmental activists who work everyday to inform millions and protect native peoples around the world.
This is another similar site.  Check out who they help and how they do it.

Inequality, Culture and Race

Over the last week or so, we have been exploring data, personal stories and more concerning socioeconomic status in a diverse American society.  There are many ways we’ve done this, and many take-aways from the data, encouraging great discussion in class.  First, we had to create a context for class stratification in American society as well as a historical context.  We also had to take a look a common assumptions and misconceptions as compared to data.  Then we had to determine what factors we were going to evaluate: race, gender, class, etc.  Here are a couple of the resources we’ve used:

In order to personalize the story and place it in the context of data, we also examined the lives of four people who all work, but have great difficulty in getting by from day to day.   That’s primarily because they are low wage workers.  The documentary is called, ‘Waging a Living’ by POV on PBS.  We saw how income has changed in the last 30-40  years when adjusted for inflation as well as how jobs, single parent families, divorce, health care, and education impacts an individual’s class status.  This isn’t equal across different groups in America either.

Once we looked at that data, I introduced Holly Sklar’s ‘Imagine a Country’ essay.  Many of the students were shocked and awed by the data while others found justifications for preconceived notions about diverse living conditions in America.  I originally found the essay in Paula Rothenberg’s ‘Race, Gender and Class in the United States’.  The piece is very provocative and almost always begins great discussion on economic justice as well as free market capitalism.

Finally, we explored the issues of health care and inequality in America.  The website Unnatural Causes became a central resource for us in exploring these connections.  The site contains video clips, interactive features, health care data, international comparisons and more.



Gender Equality & Rights

“His” “Story”.   It’s one way to look at the past.  If learning about multiculturalism is based on generating and respecting different perspectives, one of the most important to recognize is that of women.  Women represent almost half of the people in the world, but face many deep challenges stemming from cultures rooted in many different values.  We’re going to ask deep questions concerning race, class and gender in this unit – and explore more and more of our world and ourselves.

Think of some of the best questions you have concerning this, and many developing topics, within this unit…

Here’s the PPT to stimulate thoughts and discussion…

Murals: Windows of Culture

Art is a window to the soul, but it also a message to the world.  So many cultures in the world have expressed their vision of the world through their art.  Humans are more creative than they are destructive.  When people form communities, their art becomes public.  This is definitely the case with murals and the Latino community in America especially.  This week we are going to learn about culture through art and the meaning it has for our individual and community in our culture.

Let’s take a look at some great sites first on murals.  This first one is from the Philadelphia Mural Arts Project.

A very interesting documentary that focuses one of their episodes on murals is Visiones: Latino Art and Culture.  Check out their site here.

Chicano (Mexican American) mural art is also a powerful form of political and cultural expression.  Learn more about it and see lots of murals in the the US at this site.

Another famous mural artist was Diego Rivera.  You can see his murals and art at this virtual museum.



MFA Assignment

The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the best in the world.  It has amazing art, sculptures, swords, mummies, etc. from around the world – and we have the potential to go to the MFA on April 25th, the Monday after vacation.

Check out the MFA’s incredible website:

We would be traveling with Mr. Palumbo’s classes, and there’s more good news: the admission is free and the bus is free – but there is a catch.  There is a pre-assignment required for this field trip.  Here’s the details:

In order to learn more about the MFA in Boston, we’re going to travel around the world to the British Museum in London.  The BBC has put together an amazing website that tells the History of the World in 100 Objects.  This website is going to be the basis for our research.

First, here are the directions.

Second, here are some hints to help you with your research.

Third, here are the objects themselves.  Choose one that interests you.

Fourth, here are the podcasts that go along with each object.  They are about 10-15 minutes long and are definitely worth a listen.  (They are in groups of 5)


Music and culture are deeply interconnected.   In this unit, we will study how music influences culture, how music shapes identity, what music is, how the mind interprets music, and finally how our culture shapes our music.

First, we’re going to explore the message delivered in this video of the Malinke tribe of West Africa… Everything is rhythm.  It is so cool how it is edited.  Check it out and pass it on.

Next, let’s take a look at some of the music of the world, specifically from National Geographic.  It’s an awesome site with thousands of videos and audio recordings from around the planet.  It can be searched in many ways too.

Another way to learn about music from around the world is to listen to stories about them.  PRI’s radio show, The World is on each day from 3-4pm and 6-7pm on 89.7 WGBH Radio in Boston.  Their global hits archive is awesome and contains years and years of stories about artists and their music.  Check it out here.

If you want to learn more about ethnomusicology, come check it out in one of the largest universities in the country, UCLA.

Music isn’t just about culture; its also about the mind.  New studies are revealing a whole world of discoveries concerning music and the mind – from studying Neanderthal music language to music therapy and FMRI scans.  Learn more about it here.

As well as this episode from the great Oliver Sacks

You may want to explore music from around the world through Wikipedia.  Here’s the list.

Finally, Alan Lomax is an intersting case study of how one person tried to record as much of the world’s music as possible.  He is not without controversy, but his recordings are now an important part of the Library of Congress.  Check them out here.

Identity & Community PPT’s

Who are you?  What influences you?  How have you changed?  What do you value? Is identity biological or cultural, or both? How do moral or ethical values influence identity? How does our culture shape our identity? How do we form communities? How do communities form, or shape, us?
All of these questions are raised when studying the cultural significance of identity and community.  Let’s look at some of the PowerPoint slides shared in class, especially for people who may have missed a day or two.

Immigration Unit

This week, we examine the topic of ethics, justice and rights by focusing on the immigration debate in the United States. We will do this by researching immigration statistics, learning about the history of immigrants in the US, debating the question of illegal immigration, and finding out more about ourselves and our cultural identity in the process.  To do this, we will ask questions about what we believe is right and wrong (ethics), how laws are applied fairly and equitably (justice), and what protection individuals have against their government (rights).

Students have been issued their packets, containing history, evidence, questions, facts & figures, and stories concerning immigration.  We’re going to explore two documentaries – Farmingville and The New Americans – to understand the human and legal dimension behind legal and illegal immigration.  At the end of this unit, students will write a reflection essay on their experiences.  Students are also keeping journals from images, poetry, stories and more concerning immigration.  Depending on time, we may even have a mock trial or a debate (from the Choices Program at Brown University).  It’s a powerful learning experience, but one I look forward to sharing with my students.

Unit Objectives:

  • Students will analyze how justice and injustice is defined and applied to political, economic and social circumstances.
  • Students will investigate the perspectives of diverse ethnic and cultural groups concerning ethics, justice and rights.
  • Students will analyze relationships, patterns and lessons relating to ethics, justice and rights from American and World History.
  • Students will question how terms related to ethics, justice and rights are socially constructed, how they adapt to changing circumstances and how they influence behavior, values and identity.
  • Students will conduct research, examine choices, make decisions and take action on important issues related to ethics, justice and rights.
  • Students will debate opposing positions on the basis (whether an individual has a justified claim or protection) and content (what the rights of an individual actually are) of important political rights in current events.
  • Students will evaluate the cultural consequences of ethical values and choices in American and world history.

Background: The United States is in the midst of its fourth and largest wave of immigration. With approximately one million new immigrants entering the country each year, more than ten percent of Americans are foreign-born.  Most of today’s newcomers are Latino in origin, from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Others come from many different countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. While the majority settle in traditional gateway cities with large immigrant communities and a history of employing foreign workers, a growing number are moving into smaller metropolitan areas, rural towns and the suburbs of long-established gateways.

Regardless of their numbers, ethnic origin, or destination, immigrants often arrive at America’s front door to find the welcome mat missing. The National Immigration Forum reports that, while 50% of native-born Americans think immigration levels are acceptable, 40% think they should decrease and 10% think immigration should stop altogether.  These well-worn sentiments have forged a long trail of anti-immigrant policies and legislation that spans the four hundred years of America’s history.  Even when newcomers are welcome, their presence can challenge the communities where they settle with extra demands on schools, housing, law enforcement and social services. Local governments, particularly in the newer destinations, often lack the basic institutional tools and experience to deal with the infrastructure needs created by the new population, and nongovernmental organizations are either overburdened or simply nonexistent.

Immigrants face challenges as well, struggling to find housing, jobs and a sense of community. In suburban and rural settlement areas, the receiving immigrant populations are small or non-existent and offer few resources for the newcomers. In places such as Farmingville, New York, working conditions in construction, landscaping and other low-skill service jobs are often poor.  To make matters worse, non-English-speaking laborers, are often the focus of animosity and resentment from anti-immigrant factions, who believe they weaken the “social fabric” of American communities and threaten American jobs. In spite of this, and the difficulties encountered by immigrants and the communities where they live and work, both parties benefit in many ways as well.