Why should we expose children to different cultures at the pre-school level? After all, one might say, by the time children reach adolescence they will have forgotten everything they learned when they were three to six years old. Quite on the contrary, during the pre-school years children are forming the concepts (laying the foundation, so to speak) for the way they look at things, and the way they learn, the rest of their lives.
If we make learning enjoyable at the pre-school level children will develop a love of learning that will last throughout their lives. By the same measure, if we expose children to different cultures by introducing them to other languages, dances, foods, art, etc. then we prepare them for a life of curiosity and acceptance of other people and their backgrounds. By developing this understanding of other cultures early they will be able to more effectively relate to other people, of all backgrounds, later. This will be increasingly important in the future when our communication channels broaden and the people that use to be half-way around the world begin to seem like our next door neighbors.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, this will be our world of tomorrow. Multi-cultural education, then, is one way to prepare children for the continuing change of society as we know it. By increasing children’s awareness of others and the different ways in which people are simply people we prepare them for this change.
On the other hand, of course, there is the prominent view that we should teach a child his own culture first, then we can worry about other cultures and peoples. It is true that a society’s primary means of communicating and advancing itself is through a similar language and culture. However, in today’s environment of ever-increasing technology and easier means of communicating people have to adapt quickly. In order to tie different cultures and societies together people need to be aware early of others’ differences before these differences are able to distort their views. Otherwise, prejudices and lack of awareness to “other ways” will begin to cloud the judgement of those who are not culturally enlightened. The easiest way to prevent this from happening is to begin by working from a broader base of knowledge at an early level.
So why multi-culturalism in pre-school? Perhaps we should ask why not? If we would like ours to be a more open and understanding society we will want to begin by opening the eyes of those who are most receptive to other cultures. Those who are just learning what culture is all about. Those, indeed, who are just learning what life is about. Eventually these children will also be the ones who take our places in society. And we would hope that we have them well prepared for the task.
This was written by our owner, John Weinacker. Mr. Weinacker has a Masters degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education as well as a Masters in Business Administration. He has operated Weinacker’s Montessori School since 1990 and was one or the original students when it opened in 1969. In addition to his formal education, Mr. Weinacker also holds American Montessori Society (AMS) certifications at the Early Childhood, Lower and Upper Elementary, and Administrative levels.