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A Good Time to Remember the Levels of Multicultural Education Support!

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Have a comfortable seat for everyone in your heart so that no one hesitates or feels unwelcome!

Considering the heartbreaking situation in our nation nowadays, I believe it is high time for us as educators to revisit Nieto's (2008) levels of multicultural education supports.

For those of you who are not familiar, these five levels are monocultural, tolerance, acceptance, respect, and affirmation, solidarity, and critique.

Before starting to explain each level, I would like to emphasize an essential aspect of multicultural education in schools. Often, multicultural education is isolated and seen as additional content or activities such as international nights. However, according to Banks (2015), a better approach will be embedding multicultural education in the total aspects of the school environment. Accordingly, Banks (2015), considers the five dimensions of multicultural education as content integration, the knowledge construction, prejudice reduction, equity pedagogy, and empowering school culture and social structure.

Now let's continue to focus on the levels of multicultural education supports.

Monocultural: Nieto (2008) describes monocultural education as "a situation in which school structures, policies, curricula, instructional materials, and even pedagogical strategies are primarily representative of only the dominant culture," or it can be defined as "the way things are." Some monocultural environment examples are as follows;

  • Imagine a school where all school leaders and counselors are white males, even though the school population is diverse.

  • Imagine a school where the curriculum does not recognize the contributions, perspectives, and talents of women or African-Americans.

  • Imagine a school where the music class appreciates classical music but only recognizes European classical music and ignores Asian, African, and Latin Americans.

Tolerance: According to Nieto (2008), "To tolerate differences means that they are endured, not necessarily embraced. This level of support for multicultural education stands on shaky ground because what is tolerated today can easily be rejected tomorrow." Some examples for this level are as follows:

  • Imagine a school where differences are accepted but only if they can be modified and assimilated.

  • Imagine a school with a large English as a second language population from the Hispanic community, but there is no staff on hand to speak to those families who do not know English.

  • Imagine a school where teachers genuinely want to help their students, but they have not made changes in their curriculum or instructional practices to help recognize students from different cultures.

Acceptance: According to Nieto (2008), at the next level of Acceptance, "Differences are acknowledged, and their importance is neither denied nor belittled." This is the level where we begin seeing some progress towards multicultural education. Some examples for this level are as follows:

  • Imagine a school where we see signs representing the major languages spoken at that school besides English.

  • Imagine a school lead by an African-American female school leader who organizes regular multicultural education professional learning opportunities for all faculty members.

  • Imagine a school where students of the month is a student who excelled in art.

  • Imagine a school where they begin using the term "salad bowl" instead of melting pot" because they think assimilation should not be the goal.

Respect: According to Nieto (2008), this level "implies admiration and high esteem for differences. When differences are respected, they are used as the basis for much of what goes on in schools." Some examples for this level are as follows:

  • Imagine a school where the diversity of the student population is recognized by establishing a diverse school faculty, counseling, and leadership team.

  • Imagine a school where the bulletin board recognizes and appreciates the school's diversity through various activities and achievements such as Spanish Poster Competition, African-American History Essays, or Classical Poems from different countries and continents.

  • Imagine a school where faculty has regular professional education to embed multicultural education into total aspects of the school environment.

  • Imagine a school where educators create a safe environment for students to learn and discuss historical and contemporary issues such as slavery, holocaust, rights of disabilities, and so on.

Affirmation, Solidarity, and Critique: At this point, please pause and take several deep breaths because I believe that this next level is worth focusing on and reflecting a bit more. Recognize that it does not just say affirmation and solidarity, but it also includes critique. Multicultural education at this level is concerned with equity and social justice. According to Nieto (2008), "what makes this level different from others is that conflict is not avoided, but rather accepted as an inevitable part of learning." According to Nieto (2008), "culture is not fixed or unchangeable artifact and is therefore subject to critique." Some examples for this level are as follows:

  • Imagine a school where students have opportunities to go through a process of reflection and critique of their culture and those others to transcend their own cultural experience to understand others' differences better. 

  • Imagine a school where the first thing you notice a banner with the school motto of "LEARN, REFLECT, QUESTION, AND WORK TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE."

  • Imagine a school where there are no "foreign languages," and instead, the entire school is multilingual. All students learn at least a second language in addition to their native language. 

  • Imagine a school where subjects are not taught in isolation but taught in an interdisciplinary manner.

Personally, as an educator, I have found revisiting Nieto's (2008) levels of multicultural education supports to be very helpful. I hope you enjoyed reading it as well. I think we all deserved to listen to a beautiful song. Writing this post reminded me of this beautiful song from Nessi Gomez called "All related." Enjoy!


Banks, J. A. (2015). The dimensions of multicultural education. In Cultural diversity and education: Foundations, curriculum, and teaching (6th ed., pp. 3-22). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Nieto, S. (2008). Affirmation, solidarity and critique: Moving beyond tolerance in education. In E. Lee, D. Menkart, & M. Okazawa-Rey (Eds.), Beyond heroes and holidays (pp. 18-29). Washington, DC: Teaching for Change.

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