Texas State U. Professor Teaches South African University How To Infuse ‘Multiculturalism’ in Curriculum

Texas State University-San
Marcos’ Multicultural Curriculum Transformation Project, a program designed to
help diversify its faculty teaching methods and course content, has caught the
attention of a university a world away — in South Africa.

Dr. Sandra Mayo,
the director of TSU’s Center for
Multicultural and Gender Studies and an associate professor of theater, is
leading a two-day workshop on the program at Tshwane University of Technology
this month to help the South African institution resolve the academic and
cultural problems created by the country’s apartheid past.

“I am not
expecting [Mayo’s] first visit to make dramatic changes, but I am certain that
her experiences as a director of multiculturalism and theater will be of help
and that it will be a start,” says Dr. Errol Tyobeka, the vice-chancellor at
Tshwane.

Tyobeka met Mayo
last year, when he visited Texas State
as an American Council on Education Fellow, a higher education leadership
development program. It was then that he learned about Mayo’s involvement with
the multiculturalism curriculum, and decided to secure Mayo’s visit to Tshwane.

Launched in
2004, the Multicultural Curriculum Transformation Project emphasizes the
importance of understanding the cultural diversity among students by using new
strategies to help enrich the course content.

The program
promotes learning through different perspectives, like age, gender, race,
religion, socioeconomic status and others, by utilizing a variety of teaching
styles, including lectures and verbal and electronic discussions. The approach
can help students apply their personal backgrounds to the lesson, improving the
experience for themselves, their classmates and the instructor.

Mayo says the
goal of the curriculum is to “infuse multiculturalism into courses, regardless
of disciplines, in order to tell a broader truth by teaching from multiple
perspectives.” The students not only appreciate and respect cultural
differences, she says, but they use those differences to better understand and
help each other. For instance, a graduate-level philosophy of education course
has been updated to include an exploration of “equity and its meanings in
relation to the educational roles and responsibilities of teachers in a democratic
society.”

Though South
Africa has made tremendous progress in the
past 14 years, the skeletons of apartheid continue to haunt the nation
economically, socially and academically.

The academic
challenges at Tshwane, Tyobeka says, include a faculty that is predominately
White teaching a student body that is majority African. The curriculum itself
poses a challenge as well, as it is generally Eurocentric.

Mayo will also
be presenting a lecture focusing on playwright Sterling Houston’s depiction of
the story of Isis and Osiris. Her paper, titled “Reconciling Sterling Houston’s
Isis in Nubia with Ancient Nubian History and Myth,” was also presented
at the 50th annual conference of the International Federation of
Theater Research, which took place this month at nearby Stellenbosch
University.

She says she
hopes her visit and presentation will be the start of a long-term relationship
between the two universities.

“The goal is for students to understand a subject from
many perspectives and to equip themselves to work toward a more democratic
society.”

– Margaret Kamara

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