The Center for Multicultural Education, directed by UW education professor James A. Banks, focuses on research, policy, and services that respond creatively to the challenges and opportunities related to ethnic, cultural, and social diversity. Research activities of the Center are designed to improve teaching practice related to equity issues, intergroup relations, and the achievement of students of color.
A publication of the Center edited by James A. Banks and Cherry A. McGee Banks is considered to be the seminal work on the subject. Entitled the Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education, the volume brings thirty years of leading research and scholarship together into one volume to present the history, philosophy, practice, and future of the field. Hailed as the first resource of its kind, the Handbook provides a comprehensive reference for educational administrators, professors and students involved in multicultural education, ethnic studies, bilingual and/or bicultural education, and race relations.
A more recent publication edited by Banks, Multicultural Education, Transformative Knowledge, and Action: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, chronicles the history of the field. Published by Teachers College Press, it is the first publication in the Center's "Studies in the Historical Foundations of Multicultural Education" project. This project is designed to demonstrate ways in which the current multicultural education movement is both connected to and a continuation of earlier scholarly and activist freedom movements. "Another important goal of this project is to mentor graduate students," says Banks. "Five of the chapters in this book are authored or co-authored by graduate students," he notes. The book is intended to serve as a reference for students, scholars, and practicing educators.
The Center offers graduate degree programs in multicultural education. The master's program is designed to help practicing teachers and other education professionals to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to work more effectively with the increasingly diverse student population in the nation's schools. The major aim of the doctoral degree program is to train researchers and scholars who will teach in colleges and universities and administrators who will hold leadership positions in educational institutions.
Inservice education is another important activity at the Center. A primary goal is to help teachers and curriculum specialists acquire the expertise needed to integrate the curriculum with content related to the nation's racial, ethnic, and cultural groups. In addition to organizing symposia, workshops, and short courses, the Center offers an array of more than 20 courses on such topics as "Multiethnic Studies: Contents, Methods, and Materials," "Teaching the Bilingual-Bicultural Student," "Methods of Teaching English as a Second Language," and "Race, Gender, and Knowledge Construction: Curriculum Considerations."
A two-year project initiated at the Center in 1995 with funding from The Carnegie Corporation is aimed at synthesizing and disseminating knowledge about effective practices and programs in multicultural education. As a part of the project, a national consensus panel of experts is developing a set of design principles that will be used to identify promising practices and programs in the field. A national conference related to the project was held June 27–29, 1996 in Washington, D.C. The keynote address, presented by Stanford psychology professor Claude M. Steele, discussed "A Burden of Suspicion: How Stereotypes Shape Intellectual Identity and Performance." The conference was attended by over 150 educators from all parts of the U.S. and Bermuda.
During the summer of 1996, the Center co-sponsored, with the Southern Poverty Law Center, the first Teaching Tolerance Institute, a three-week professional development program for K–12 teachers. Thirty teachers were selected competitively from throughout the nation to participate in the program. Funded by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Institute was led by Banks, and featured such nationally-recognized faculty as Ronald Takaki of the University of California, Berkeley, Elizabeth Cohen of Stanford University, and Vivian Paley of the University of Chicago Laboratory School.