Preface  

Multiculturalism in Early Childhood Programs

We are very pleased to present this collection of papers as part of our monograph series. The issues taken up by Carmen Treppte and Professors Fu and Stremmel are among the most challenging facing the entire field of education, and permission to include their papers in this collection is gratefully acknowledged.

The Fu and Stremmel papers included here were originally presented at the 1991 National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC) meeting. The paper by Carmen Treppte is based on a presentation at the European Forum for Child Welfare (EFCW) in Hamburg, Germany, in April, 1992. Each paper provides a different perspective on the challenges of multiculturalism and cultural diversity in early childhood programs, and in education in general.

We are especially grateful to the author and the Bernard van Leer Foundation for their permission to include the Treppte paper describing the German experience with the same kinds of issues we all face daily in this country. The Treppte paper provides the insights of a reflective practitioner on the day-to-day challenge of providing services to children and families of diverse cultural backgrounds. Victoria Fu comments, "We are most likely to notice the role of culture when we compare to each other the practices of groups other than our own, with a focus on the practices of minority groups." Readers of Treppte's paper will quickly recognize their own feelings and anxieties as she describes the difficult but rewarding task of bridging widely divergent cultures. In keeping with our philosophy of using an extended discussion of a "case" to interest readers in important concepts, the Treppte paper is presented first.

Victoria Fu provides a theoretical perspective on multicultural education that is based in the sociocultural theorizing of Bronfenbrenner, Vygotsky, and contemporary feminism. Relationships among schooling, education, and culture are explored in this paper, with the aim of enabling teachers, parents, policymakers, and others to critically examine their assumptions about diverse cultures, and to provide an integrative framework to organize multicultural pedagogy. It may be helpful to remember that the concepts of democracy and multiculturalism are of themselves cultural products. There is no way to discuss these issues outside of cultural premises.

Andrew Stremmel provides the third perspective in this collection: that of the teacher educator. How can we know which teaching practices are appropriate for whom, and under what circumstances? asks Stremmel. He argues that the powerful concepts of responsive teaching, zone of proximal development, and intersubjectivity have implications for teacher education if we are truly to meet the educational needs of an increasingly diverse population of young children.

Together, these papers have a great deal to offer us, as we confront the biases and habits we learned as we grew up, and as we try to interpret our own successes and failures.

We look forward to hearing from you about your experiences in this realm.

Lilian G. Katz
May 1993