Do heritage months promote culturally inclusive classrooms or othering?

Heritage Months, designed as a way to celebrate diversity and develop culturally inclusive classrooms, may actually lead to unintended but very real stereotyping. Here’s an example of what may happen when a celebration such as Cinco do Dayo is co-opted by folks who equate cultural diversity with the 3 Ds – dance, diet, and dance.

To avoid this sort of false representation, here are some thoughts, research, ideas and practical suggestions for you and your colleagues to consider when planning for a heritage month or a multicultural celebration.

First, talk about the purpose and the intended message of the event. When we started talking about heritage fairs, the topic quickly turned into a conversation about othering.

We ended this video with a call to action – if we are going to re-frame the conversation about othering, what will that look like?

Dawson College in Montreal, Canada offers a great set of resources in their publication, Tackling Othering In and Out of the Classroom. This site provides links to Jane Elliot’s classic classic blue eyes / brown eyes experiment, information about the human library, and a collection of videos presented at Dawson College’s 2011 conference. Each link provides a start point for a difficult but necessary conversation. At your next professional learning session, provide time for a shared investigation and discussion of these resources and the resources below.

So, how do we rethink ideas such as Heritage Fairs? At Beyond the Apple, we think change begins with a classroom commitment to cultural inclusiveness.

But what does this look like in classroom practice? Check out Dr. Mishy Lasher’s ideas about Countering a Culture of Othering With a Culture of Upstanding.

We especially like Lashey’s number 4, Cultural Humility: Cultural humility prioritizes self-humility rather than accumulating knowledge about someone else. It presumes becoming open to the other, rather than seeing the other as the object of study.

If Cultural Humility is new to you, you and your colleagues may wish to check out this video:

Wow! Isn’t it amazing how a discussion about a well known school celebration such as a heritage fair can lead to a whole new way of viewing ourselves and others. We hope these thoughts and videos will help to inform your next multicultural celebration.

For more conversations about education, please visit: Beyond the Apple . . . Reframing Conversations in Education or contact us at

About Beyond The Apple

Beyond the Apple provides everything a Professional Learning Community needs! Designed to follow Beyond the Apple's Tenets of Adult Education, our videos re-ignite the excitement of professional conversations among educators in the classroom, university, colleges and professional training. Our free teaching and learning resources provide a follow up with more information that is current, research based and practical.
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