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Plan would infuse classes with multiculturalism A year of meetings yields response to state requirement


A Carroll County schools task force has written a plan to infuse class work with perspectives of diverse cultures, religions, ethnicities and genders.

Like school systems throughout the state, Carroll submitted this month its "Education That is Multicultural" action plans to the State Department of Education. The plans are the culmination of a yearlong series of meetings involving a large group of teachers, parents, administrators, business people and a student.

School board member Gary Bauer wonders how many genders that might include.

Just two -- male and female -- said Peggy Altoff, social studies supervisor for Carroll County Schools.

The word "multicultural" has worried Mr. Bauer and other conservative Christians around the country. A main concern has been that homosexuals could seek to be recognized as a culture or even gender.

Educators behind the state and local plans say that isn't an issue for them and is hardly likely to happen in Carroll County, where the population and school leadership are generally conservative.

"I wouldn't think so," Mr. Bauer said. "But you don't know all the pressure that could be brought in from outside."

The intent of the state's 1993 multicultural-education bylaw is to include a variety of cultures in all subject areas, from curriculum guides to staff training to the way teachers conduct their classes.

The gender issue, for example, could address making sure teachers don't call on boys more than on girls or the other way around, she said.

The state bylaw says the intent is to provide education and materials that are "multicultural, while recognizing our common ground as a nation. These will enable students to demonstrate knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of cultural groups in the State, nation and world.

"Diversity factors include but are not limited to race, ethnicity, region, religion, gender, language, socioeconomic status, age and individuals with disabilities."

The state required school systems to review their practices, survey students, teachers, parents and business people about how well the schools address other cultures, then develop an action plan based on the survey results.

The Carroll task force, appointed by Superintendent Brian Lockard, did that, and some of the members will continue to serve on a steering committee that will check periodically on how well the schools are doing in including diverse cultures.

Ms. Altoff said the action plan will merge with the existing schedule for reviewing the curriculum and training staff members. The inclusion of various cultures will be one more thing teachers and administrators consider. The schools have adopted a similar approach to weave technology and career education into all subject areas, she said.

"We wrote this plan to meet the requirements of the bylaw, but to tie it in to what's already happening here," Ms. Altoff said. "We're not adding on; we're including it within the existing structure, where appropriate."

The survey found that students said other cultures were addressed often in subjects such as social studies and language arts, but not as often in math, science and physical education.

Ms. Altoff said that wasn't surprising. But even math and science can include other cultures by using them in the context of the material being taught. A geometry course, for example, can use the Egyptian pyramids as examples.

The other four board members did not express concern about the interpretation of gender, but some said they were concerned that ordering an action plan was another requirement that the state had handed down to the county without money to back it up.

At the request of member C. Scott Stone, Ms. Altoff will calculate how much the plan will cost so that the board can present it as an example when it meets with state legislators in February.

The bylaw dates to 1974, but until 1993 it addressed only social studies. In 1993, the State Board of Education expanded it to apply to all subject areas.

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