When teaching the undergraduate social foundations course in a teacher education program, Gunilla Holm tried various approaches to help her students better understand the inequalities among schools and students and the cultural diversity in American schools. In particular, she wanted her students to become more involved in issues of cultural diversity and to move beyond their narrow stereotypical views. Most students came from small, rural towns or suburbs and they are middle-class and white. Very few had grown up in an urban setting.
and they had had virtually no experience with children from another ethnic background or who spoke another language. Thus, many were not aware of how their own thinking and attitudes are rooted in their white middle-class culture.
This restricted environment made it difficult for her students to relate to textbook discussions about the needs of children from unfamiliar backgrounds. To accomplish her goals for multicultural education she decided to use biographies and autobiographies of significant figures whose stories would enlarge her students‘ world.
One that proved successful was Samuel Freedman’s biography Small Victories. Students read the book. wrote responses and discussed them in class. Their views on Small Victories were very personal. They compared Seward Park High, the school in the book, and its problems with their own high school experience and they saw Jessica Siegel as the kind of teacher they would like to become. Many of the students were amazed at how different this school was from the one they had attended. As one student said, “Small Victories presents an overwhelming picture of a place I never knew existed” This technique can be utilized very effectively in other schools.