Another type of educational program used to battle prejudice in schools is multicultural education. The aim of this strategy is to help students recognize and value other cultures. This program is implemented by providing information so that students can respect cultural identities and help them realize that people from different ethnic backgrounds are often perceived through negative lenses (Verkuyten, 2008). Although this method is widely used, some state limitations of its effectiveness. A drawback of this multicultural intervention method is that it’s not based off of evidence drawn from psychological or social sciences (Rutland, 2015). Consequently, some research states that multicultural awareness education can lead to negative effects on children’s intergroup attitudes and even lead to reinforcement of negative stereotypes (Bigler, 2002).
Even though multicultural programs or diversity courses are implemented, racial prejudice persisted due to the preconceived stereotypes that students enter the educational setting with (Hogan and Mallot, 2005). The limitation for this drawback is that these types of multicultural methods were employed upon college students and adults, whose preconceived knowledge is too solidified to change with just a mere course over diversity. However, for children, multicultural interventions educating about racism, oppression, and social issues, have positive effects on reducing negative racial attitudes. According to studies involving teaching about historical discrimination, these learning sessions lead to improved racial attitudes toward minorities (Hughes, et al., 2007). For example, an educational program teaching about the Holocaust to a random sample of Israeli and German adolescents resulted in more positive interactions (Shamai, Yardeni, & Klages, 2004). These data clearly show the correlation between knowledge and the desire to socialize with other outgroups, which leads to an overall reduction in racial prejudice.School culture and climate is what makes up a child’s sense of safety and belonging, which is important for academic achievement.
Consequently, it is crucial to provide a positive school culture for the students. The authorities have control over shaping the culture. These authorities include the student body for setting social norms, but most importantly, the teachers. Spending more than 40 hours a week in schools, which is more than time spent with family, students view teachers as parental figures (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 2002).
However, there are many teachers who underestimate their responsibility over their students. Although all teachers may teach on the same curriculum, each teacher delivers a “hidden” or implicit curriculum. This hidden curriculum is the underlying messages that are taught to the students based on the teacher’s personal beliefs on students’ ethnic backgrounds and learning styles.
These messages can either result in positive or negative intergroup attitudes among the students (Dessel, 2010). The goal of this method is to create a positive school climate by equipping teachers with the knowledge to handle the pressures from multicultural classrooms. Many teachers are often unprepared to work with the diversity of ethnic backgrounds (Dessel, 2010). Fortunately, the results of a well-equipped staff show beneficial results in reducing prejudice. According to a study performed to research suicide rates among minority students, teachers who spent time fostering quality student-teacher interactions decreased the risk of suicide for those students (Eisenberg & Resnick, 2006). An article in the Journal of Adolescence reported that the extent to which the students feel that their teachers care positively correlates to their academic success (Russell, Seif, & Truong, 2001). As shown, teachers have so much control over the outcome of their students and most effectively shapes school culture.
Similarly, Enayati states that having an older figure relate to and care about an another for a short amount of time, leads to significant and lasting outcomes in terms of health and reduced cognitive activation of negative stereotypes (Enayati, 2012). Educating teachers to handle difficult situations that arise from a multicultural classroom can effectively reduce racial prejudice in academic success.