Publication Date

1999

Abstract

During the last two hundred years, education has helped the United States economically and technologically advanced forward, but we need to ask ourselves, "who has benefited and who has suffered from this growth?" Noam Chomsky, as well as Howard Zinn and James Lowen, explain that education has often been used for the purpose of serving power and privilege. One way in which people are indoctrinated into white, elite thinking, which continues to perpetuate racist thinking, is through the teaching of world history and multiculturalism. The coexistence of multicultural education and the world history curriculum fosters the idea of the "exotic other," and this paper explores this concept by analyzing the following question: Does the teaching of world history and multiculturalism in Vermont's middle/high schools further perpetuate the racist stereotyping of the "exotic other?" Our educational system, which publishes textbooks like the one analyzed for this paper, stresses the importance of "Western Civilization." "Uncivilized," "poor" and "tribal", common adjectives used to describe people outside of the US border, are used to generalize the accounts of wars, discoverers and technological advancements in the pages of history textbooks. Multicultural education, which entered into mainstream education in the sixties, employs the ideas of teaching tolerance and appreciating others. In this paper, survey results will show that celebrations centered around non-US holidays, foods and clothing enter into student's thinking during multicultural lessons. The contrasting messages from multicultural teaching and world history teaching leaves the learner with an obscure understanding about other people, an "exotic other" view. By the exotic other, I mean a superficial image of a person or people from a non-western culture who exist in unfamiliar and unrelatable conditions to US students. This teaching destroys the formation of understanding and compassion between people, and it thereby prohibits people from uniting together to change oppressive an unjust social systems.

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