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Locating Resources With a Multicultural View of History

March 18, 1993|MARY LAINE YARBER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Mary Laine Yarber teaches English at Santa Monica High School

The way history is being taught in California's public schools is rapidly changing in order to include the roles and perspectives of more cultures, including black, Latino, Asian and American Indian.

But finding historical accounts by or about non-Europeans can be tough.

I've surveyed some colleagues and other contacts to find some of the area's best resources.

A good place to start is with the California History Project at UCLA, (310) 825-9750. It runs a summer institute that helps teachers design their own multicultural curriculum.

"They provide you with teaching (materials) based on original sources that will allow your students to actively do history," said Patrick Cady, a history teacher at Santa Monica High School. By studying the original sources, he said, students can "evaluate what should and shouldn't be included in an official history--which is what real historians do."

Cady also has high praise for the lesson plans produced by Teachers Curriculum Institute, 281 Carolina Lane, Palo Alto, CA 94306.

"They incorporate not only the best in multicultural education but also the best in terms of learning theory," said Cady.

My colleagues also recommend the "Magazine of History," published by the Organization of American Historians at 112 North Bryan St., Bloomington, Ind. 47408. Aimed at secondary teachers, the magazine regularly includes lesson plans and other materials with a multicultural bent.

Also recommended is the "Resource Directory for Teaching Intercultural Communication," which lists about 200 organizations and embassies that offer some ethnic angle on history. The address and kinds of materials (films, journals, workshops, etc.) are given for each. The directory, compiled by Richard L. Wiseman, is available through the Speech Communications Department of Cal State Fullerton, Fullerton, CA 92634.

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Bookstores are also excellent sources of historical accounts by or about various ethnic groups.

"The best bookstores for academic resources are in museums," Santa Monica High history teacher Donald Hedrick said. "The Getty has a pretty good one, or the universities."

The Midnight Special Bookstore on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica is also a good resource. It has separate sections on Asian-Americans, Black Studies, Latin American Studies, Jewish Studies, Gender Studies, and California/Southwest (Latino) Studies.

But look beyond the usual history materials there. "What's most useful for me is literature, rather than specifically social studies material, because then you get a true voice," said Judi Fox, a practice teacher in Santa Monica.

"I get a potpourri of ideas and authors in one evening, like having a conversation with somebody from each of those cultures," Fox said. "It breaks me of my Anglo thought patterns."

Curriculum and other resources are in great supply at Social Studies School Service, 10200 Jefferson Blvd., Culver City. "Just look through their monster collection of materials," Cady said. "They also have giant catalogues specifically for multicultural materials within specific subject areas."

For more recent history, try the newspaper. "I get an overwhelming majority of my material from The Times," history teacher Randy Denis said. "On Tuesday there's a World Report section that has lots of good articles about history-making events and people everywhere."

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The Los Angeles County public library system operates four excellent resource centers: The Asian-Pacific Resource Center in Montebello, (213) 722-1746; the Black Resource Center in Los Angeles, (310) 538-3350; the Chicano Resource Center in Los Angeles, (213) 263-5087, and the American Indian Resource Center in Huntington Park, (213) 583-1461. They offer books, newspapers and magazines, music cassettes, documentary and feature films, and videos.

Guest speakers are a particularly powerful resource, and even students can help find them.

"When we study the Holocaust, I usually get speakers through my students," Denis said. "I ask, 'Do any of you know someone who survived the Holocaust?' Someone always does."

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