A debut book elaborates on the fundamental ideas at play in the growing field of multicultural education, specifically at the college level.
In this work, Spiteri (Social Policy and Social Work/Univ. of York) surveys the studies that lay out the theoretical groundwork for this cross-disciplinary endeavor. Overall, this project reads like an academic literature review, whereby the author summarizes or quotes applicable studies in the text and then lists them at the end of each chapter so that readers can conduct additional research based on their own interests. Spiteri aligns himself with the major shift in pedagogy toward a student-centered approach rather than the traditional teacher-centered mode, cleverly referred to here as “talk and chalk.” He recommends moving away from the lecture-based courses that are delivered in front of a large group of passive students who are expected to absorb and regurgitate the information uncritically. Instead, he asserts that university educators need to ensure “that the students can use their own cultural frames of reference in order to understand, explore further, and, if need be, challenge what they are being taught.” At the same time, the author recognizes the challenges facing college faculty members that may impede the best of intentions: heavy workloads, large class sizes, and lack of familiarity with new technologies. While he uses the passive voice too frequently, Spiteri organizes the material very well and produces a smooth flow of argumentation. Notably, in order to provide instructive anecdotes, the author draws on his own experiences as a lecturer at a vocational college in Malta when asylum seekers from Africa were entering the country, along with students visiting or relocating from other European nations. He deftly demonstrates how meaningful classroom interactions can help students examine their own culturally transmitted preconceived notions regarding facets of identity such as race, class, gender, nationality, religion, and sexuality. Given that identity and culture are not monolithic concepts, Spiteri writes optimistically: “Since cultures evolve, people need to evolve. And as people evolve, they transform. Multicultural education makes it more likely that this transformation will take an equity-centered direction. The process is one that is both ongoing and dynamic.”
More theoretical than practical but vital for educators and particularly valuable for those entering the profession.