Families, Values, and Public School Curriculum

The Project on Families, Values, and Public School Curriculum is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and sponsored by the five centers that make up the CUNY Consortium of Rockefeller Fellowship Programs (The Asian American Center, CLAGS, The Center for Puerto Rican Studies, The Simon Rifkind Humanities Program, and The Women’s Studies Program). It has focused on the portrayal of families in multicultural curriculum materials used in New York City schools by bringing together scholars, parents, teachers, and community activists to discuss the history of multicultural educational efforts and to explore future prospects. This spring the Project put on two roundtable discussions which brought together people from a variety of communities, including Asian, AfricanAmerican, Latino, and lesbian and gay. The first roundtable took place on February 26 and was attended by community activists, Ntanya Lee and Robert Hughes from PACE (People About Changing Education), and Sonali Shroff, Ritu Sinha, and Anita Lalani from YAAR, the South Asian youth organization. Anthropologist Martin Manalansan spoke about Philipino-American family structures, and early education expert Elaine Wickens reported on her training of teachers who have students from lesbian and gay families. On April 23, the Project put on the second of its roundtables on multicultural education in conjunction with PACE. Over 40 people attended the panels on the status of multicultural education in New York City public schools. Among the speakers were Carole Berotte Joseph, who is co-chair of the Chancellor’s Multicultural Advisory Board and the director of the Haltian Bilingual Technical Assistance Center at City College, who spoke on the history of efforts to establish a multicultural curriculum in the city’s public schools. Lillian Lopez, a single mother, an active participant in the struggles over the rainbow curriculum, and a member of the Community School Board in District 15, recounted the political struggles over the Children of the Rainbow curriculum. Virginia Casper from the faculty of the Bank Street School of Education reported on her research findings that young children’s conceptions of family structure are often more sophisticated and realistic than those of their teachers. The fourth speaker on the first panel was Nona Smith of the NAACP, who discussed the debates within the African-American community over the Rainbow Curriculum. The afternoon panel was a large roundtable discussion, which included contributions from high school students, parents, teachers, and community activists on teach ing materials about lesbian and gay people of color. The Project has produced a background paper on the history of multicultural education in New York City and has also developed a bibliography on multicultural education which lists materials on lesbian, gay, and bisexual educational issues, bilingual education, and the debate over the NYC Children of Rainbow Curriculum. A th ird roundtable on “Families, Va lues, and Public School Curriculum” will take place in January 1995.