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Building a Community of Shalom: What the Bible Says about Multicultural Education

HeeKap Lee, PhD., Azusa Pacific University


Multicultural education is a highly controversial topic in which it has been the center of contentions and conflicts as it has evolved for the last couple of decades. Several concerns and problems existed in the field of multicultural education will be addressed in this article. In addition, a new framework of multicultural education, called the shalom model, which is drawn from the Bible is presented, along with the characteristics of the model. The goal of multicultural education, according to this model, is to build a community of shalom, an image that is clearly described in Isaiah 11:6. In order to accomplish this goal, the model suggests that all people need to be equipped with the truth that all people are the image bearers of God. This concept is expanded into four implementation interventions when relating to others: biblical perspective; cultural competence; contextualized pedagogy; and intentional praxis. Finally, regarding the application issue of this model, some points of the implementation strategies are addressed in this article.


Multiculturalism is a highly controversial topic in our culture and has become a source of contention and conflict as it has evolved during the last couple of decades. Educators specializing in multiculturalism claim that the current school system has failed to integrate diverse racial, cultural, and language-background students into the system, especially as each relates to working cooperatively and productively in a school. Several issues and concerns surrounding multicultural education are addressed in this article, along with a new model of multicultural education, which is drawn from the Bible. This particular model posits that the goal of multicultural education is to build a community of shalom. In order to accomplish this goal, we need to understand that the human being is the image bearer of God. This concept is supported and strengthened through four interventions: biblical perspective; cultural competence; contextualized pedagogy; and intentional praxis.

Multicultural Education: An Overview

Historical evolvement of multicultural education

The roots of multicultural education were borne out of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the call for equality and social justice in society for women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups (Santrock, 2004). Gradually, with the growth and development of ethnic studies, it became evident that the oppressed and minority group cultures as well as that of the dominant group should be integrated into the school curriculum. In addition, many other groups suffering from institutional discrimination were included as part of multicultural studies. The 1990s were characterized by the development of standards, in which the multicultural educators promoted the inclusion of diverse groups and multiple perspectives (Gollnick & Chinn, 2009). Subsequently, the threads of globalization have made multicultural education a high priority on America’s educational agenda. Some stated overall goals for multicultural education include world harmony and an understanding that will enable all to constructively coexist in the world with diverse people (Tiedt & Tiedt, 1990). Kjos (1995) envisions that the mission of the school is to prepare students for life in the next century and to shape them toward a “global village,” a worldwide community of people joined together by a common set of values.

Many educational researchers argue that the current model of schooling has failed. For example, Bowles and Gintis (1976) criticize schooling; claiming education in a capitalistic society has contributed to the reproduction of social inequality. Apple (1982) argues that schooling perpetuated social inequality by reproducing the attitudes and personality traits upon which a capitalist society depends. Bourdieu (1971) asserts that schools carry on social inequality by adopting the cultural capitol of the middle-class, which isolates the working class. Banks (2005) claims that the current school system has neglected to integrate diverse racial, cultural, and language-background students into the curriculum and school systems. The incompatibilities or discrepancies between the culture of the school and those of different ethnic groups have created controversy in making decisions about educational programs and practices that reflect and promote cultural diversity.

Multicultural education in the public school can serve at least two important functions (Lee, Singletary, Singletary & Metcalfe, 2007). In settings where diversity is limited, multicultural education can serve as a means of constructive and proactive school-change intervention. It also serves as a way to transform society in general through a continued increase in our awareness of the positive attributes of a fundamentally fair diverse environment.

Hernandez (2001) summarizes characteristics of multicultural education in three ways: First, multicultural education is about students becoming academically and socially prepared in multiple, interrelated cultural and linguistic communities. Second, it is about teachers, as members of a professional community, to commit to the ideals of education, equality, and excellence for all students. Finally, it is about significant educational change occurring by providing dynamic teaching and learning environments and opportunities that reflect the ideals of equity and excellence.

How do we evaluate the movement of multicultural education since its evolvement in American education for the last couple of decades? Gollnick and Chinn’s (2009) analysis is correct when they summarize that “still, after eight decades of concern for civil and human rights in education, racism persists. Educators struggle with the integration of diversity into the curriculum and provision of equality in schools” (p. 8). Therefore, even though there are many achievements have been made in the field of multicultural education during the last several decades, there still remain some unresolved issues.

Characteristics of current multicultural education approaches

As long as multicultural education has been studied, multiple voices are expressed from many different educators and researchers. Even though it is impossible to grasp the trends and issues in a simple sentence, I identify the characteristics of multicultural education in several ways. First, multicultural education originated from a post-modern perspective. Postmodernism claims that there is no objective reality and denies absolute truth and that truth claims must be seen as perspectives, influenced and biased by the cultural, political and personal perspective of the person making the claim (Knight, 2006). Postmodern thought has influenced education by promoting values such as tolerance, intuition, and diversity above reason or strict moral absolutes (Newton, 2004). Multicultural educators embrace cultural pluralism (or relativism) in which they assume that all cultures are equal and there is no ideal or standard culture.

Second, multicultural education is a critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy focuses on the culture of “everyday life and the interaction of class, race, and gender in the contemporary power struggle” (Gollnick & Chinn, 2009, p. 8). The multicultural education movement of the last several decades reflects the strong but variable influence of the political struggles of the working class, racial and ethnic groups, and women both within and outside the fortress of education, to obtain fuller access to education. Sleeter and Grant (2003) propose five general approaches to multicultural education: exceptional and culturally different students; human relations; single-group studies; multicultural education; and education that is multicultural and social reconstructionist. The multicultural and social reconstructionist approaches promotes cultural pluralism in which educators need to take action to reconstruct democratic ideals and the society for equality. Nieto (1996) identifies the characteristics of multicultural education in seven ideas: an antiracist education; a basic education; important to all students; persuasive; education for social justice; a process; and critical pedagogy. Freire (1972) sees the purpose of education as a process of liberation from the unfair, distorted, and dehumanized society ruled by the oppressors. How can the oppressed participate in developing the pedagogy of their liberation? “Only as they discover themselves to be hosts of the oppressor can they contribute to the midwifery of their liberating pedagogy. The pedagogy of the oppressed is an instrument for their critical discovery that both they and their oppressors are manifestations of dehumanization” (Freire, 1972, p. 33).

Third, multicultural education is an umbrella concept which targets individuals who belong to all non-dominant groups of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic class, sexual preference (orientation), religion, and ability (achievement). NCATE (1982) defines multicultural education as a way to include a focus on ethnicity, gender, race, religion, class, and exceptionality into the learning environment. Gollnick and Chinn (2009) identify the areas of multicultural education as physical and mental abilities, gender, ethnicity, race, language, religion, class, sexual orientation, geography and age. Multicultural education started with the concerns about civil and human rights in education, gradually expanding to encompass all minority groups and individuals with special needs such as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer), students with disabilities, a low economic status, the people in poverty, a technology divide, and global education. This caused an identity crisis in multicultural education.

Fourth, multicultural education is a political movement for social justice. Most multicultural educators have expanded their concerns to social and political inequality that has enforced the minority by a European mainstream. Hence, multicultural education is the means for the working class, racial and ethnic minorities, and women to obtain fuller access to education and social equality. Freire (1972) implemented the role of education as an action against dehumanized authorities and Banks (1999) emphasized the social empowering of multicultural education.  Sleeter (1989) suggested that multicultural education needs to help shape a future America “that is more equal, democratic and just, and that does not demand conformity to one cultural norm” (p. 63).

Concerns and Problems

Multicultural education has effectively evolved since it started, along with the civil and human right movements. However, on the other side of success, there are some concerns and problems that where educators need to be cautious. First of all, one serious problem remains with the definition of multicultural education. Every multicultural educator defines this term in various ways so that there is no agreed definition of multicultural education. Banks (1999) conceptualizes multicultural education as an idea, while Sleeter (1989) identifies it as a moving strategy for social justice. Pang (2001) centers the attention on the individual students of color, whereas Atwater (2007) views it as a curriculum change. Bennet (2001) clearly points out this issue:

The failure to consider the integration of race, social class, and gender leads at times to an oversimplification or inaccurate understanding of what occurs in schools, and therefore to inappropriate or simplistic prescriptions for educational equity (Bennett, p. 197).

However, the educational interventions that multicultural educators suggest to solve educational inequality are neither new nor creative, but they remain the same interventions that are already being used in education. The interventions that the multicultural educators suggest are differentiated instruction, universal approach, constructivist learning, authentic assessment, and culturally responsive teaching.

Second, multicultural educators tend to see the world as a dichotomy and focus on the power-struggle relationship between the majority and minority, haves and have-nots, oppressors and oppressed. Even though multicultural educators mention that multicultural education is for everybody regardless of their backgrounds, their focus tends to be more on the students of color, or other disadvantaged students that are neglected or marginalized in schools. To them, the history of multicultural education is the story of the victims who have been discriminated against, but eventually gained access to resources and power in society (D’Souza, 1991). They claim that poor school performances among ethnic children are “related to conflicts in learning style; that is, the U.S. school system as an institution is based on and rewards a mode of learning that is characteristic of Northern European culture” (Diller & Moule, 2005, p. 99).

Furthermore, multicultural educators focus on the reproductive and negative function of schooling rather than the productive or positive aspect contributing to the society. They claim that schoolings in the United States is a tool of enculturation, an instrument by which the current capitalistic structure is reproduced and perpetuated. For example, Apple (1982) emphasizes the importance of the explicit curriculum in the reproduction of consciousness in capitalistic societies while Bowles & Gintis (1976) and MaLaren (1989) call attention to the hidden curriculum in schools which reproduces the attitudes and personality traits upon which work in a capitalist society depends. In addition, Bourdieu (1971) asserts that the cultural capital is what reproduces educational inequality in a school. In a classroom, the cultural capital of students who occupied the ethnically subordinate class is systematically devalued. Bernstein (1976) contends that class membership and family socialization generate distinctive speech patterns in a school classroom. Working-class students learn restricted linguistic codes while middle-class children use elaborated codes. However, schools generally affirm and reward students who exhibit the elaborately coded middle-class speech, while devaluing students who use restricted working-class coded speech.

New Paradigm of Multicultural Education

As we see, a number of concerns and problems which have been discovered in the field of multicultural education. Is there any way to reconceptualize multicultural education to address the concerns and problems that are shared? My intention in this article is to suggest a different perspective on multicultural education with the framework I’ve drawn from the Bible.

The Bible teaches a unique lesson about multicultural education. God created the physical world as well as a nonphysical (social) world called culture. He created man in the image of God and appointed man to be the governor and developer of culture. Hence, multicultural education is our essential task of developing and conserving this created order (Wolters, 1985). Jesus summarizes the greatest commandment, which says to love your God and your neighbor, that man may apply to rule the culture. Furthermore, Jesus’ teaching focuses on the true relationship between God and humans, between humans and their fellows, and between humans and the physical universe (Graham, 2003).

Based on the teachings of Jesus and a biblical foundation, this article presents a new framework of multicultural education, called the shalom model. According to this model, the eventual goal of multicultural education is to build the community of shalom, as God commanded. This goal would be accomplished through two stages. First, all individuals need to know that every human is created in the image of God (imago dei) and every human being needs to be treated honorably and respected. The idea of the image of God can be extended and supported through four principles of interventions when human beings relate to others: (1) Biblical perspective; (2) cultural competence; (3) contextualized pedagogy; and (4) intentional praxis. Through implementation of these four principles, the eventual goal of multicultural education may be accomplished. The model is presented in the figure below.

Figure 1. Shalom Multicultural education model

This model characterizes several features. First of all, the essential idea of a community of shalom comes from the Bible, especially based on Wolters’ (1985) theme of the creation-fall-redemption process. In addition, this model clearly sees that multicultural education is the intervention that “participates in the ongoing creational work of God, to be God’s helper in executing to the end the blueprint for his masterpiece” (Wolters, 1985, p. 38).

Second, this model is comprehensive in covering the theory and practices, personal as well as the social/community level together. The change strategy starts from the individual level to the community through four intervention principles. Also it encompasses knowledge, skills, and disposition for effective training in the field of multicultural education.

Components of Shalom Model of Multicultural Education

Imago Dei

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26).

Understanding that human beings are created in God’s image (imago dei) is the primary and foremost foundation of the model. The Bible clearly points that only humans are made in the image of God and he was so pleased with man by pronouncing it “very good” (Gen 1:31).  The ‘image of God’ means that we are the image bearers of God, carrying the same attributes with the creator even though he is infinite and perfect, whereas we are finite by creation and imperfect because of the fall. Graham (2003) identifies the six characteristics of man as the image bearer of God: active and purposeful; rational; creative; moral; free and responsible; and faithful.

The image of God determines our relationship to God as well as to the fellow men. God desires that we (human persons) enjoy fellowship with him (divine person) as well as each other rather than displaying solidarity. The image of God affects all people regardless of their situations, status, cultures and contexts. All races and ethnic groups have the same status and unique value that result from bearing the image of God. This concept demolishes every theory of racial superiority or racial inferiority, which is in direct disobedience to God’s principle of the image of God (Hays, 2003). Therefore, sin is the failure to reflect the image of God, as evidence by ethnic, racial and cultural segregations, divisions, and separations.

There is a common bond among human beings. The doctrine of creation and of the descent of the entire human race from one original pair means that we are all related to one another… if the bond between us is fully understood and acted upon, it should produce a concern and empathy for other people (Erickson, 2001, p. 168).

The image of God inspires us to be the active advocates of multicultural education because God placed man in a special position as the ruler of all cultures and as the representatives of the Creator (Ng, 1992). The word ‘rule over’ (Gen 1:26) is not to control or exploit the culture, but to live in harmony with nature and to care for the earth and for the other (Grenz, 2004).

How do we implement the truth of being created in the image of God? Cottrell (1999) summarizes it in several ways. First, every human being possesses an inherent dignity, meaning, and worth. This is true of the lowest and cold-hearted person on earth, as well as the noblest. It is the basis for self-respect. Second, we must have a unique respect for human life. Finally, with this perspective we grasp a sincere desire to evangelize the lost (Cottrell, 1999, pp. 41-42).

The image of God is the core organizing principle of the shalom multicultural education model. This principle should be supported and strengthened through the four interventions when it relates to others and applies to education. These four are: (1) biblical perspectives; (2) cultural competence; (3) contextualized pedagogy; and (4) intentional praxis. In the next section, I will explain each intervention in detail.

Biblical Perspectives

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8).

The Bible does not directly present multicultural educational strategies and tactics, however, there exists plenty of biblical evidence to affirm that all people, nations, languages and tribes are to be joined together as a family without racial, cultural separation and distinctions. All of Jesus’ teachings can be summed up with the commandments which state to love God and our neighbors.

First and foremost, multicultural education is the obedience to God’s command. God created a diverse and multicultural world and proclaimed “it is good.” He enjoys diversity and is pleased to see the world that he made. And he empowered us to rule the world on behalf of his position (as our reasonable act of stewardship and worship – not to replace him). Hence, multicultural education is our responsibility to sincerely take care of the culture that God created.

Second, multicultural education is an intentional process of reconciliation. The beautiful and perfect culture that God created was alienated, entangled, and isolated from human beings because of sin. However, God’s will is for all people and all culture to come before His throne as a community (Revelations 9:7). Reconciliation is the overcoming of alienation, estrangement, hostility, and enmity through the spirit of Christ (Harkness, 1971). God doesn’t want us to live isolated or separate from other cultures and ethnicities. Hence, multicultural education is our intentional response to reconcile all cultures and ethnicities that were or are discriminated against based on national, racial and /or cultural grounds because of sin.

Third, multicultural education is the application of God’s love to the world. Without love, we cannot have true fellowship with one another as God requires. Micah teaches us three principles for multicultural cultural education: (1) act justly; (2) love mercy; and (3) walk humbly with God. Love is the moral and ethical standard when we relate to others who are also the image bearers of God. That’s why Jesus taught his disciples the new commandment of love in John 13:34-35, saying “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Multicultural education intends to heal the wounds of separation by bearing one another in love. Jesus showed this example of love by laying down his life for his friends (John 15:12-13).

Therefore, finally, multicultural education is the means through which we develop our spiritual formation. It is the practice of the fruits of the Holy Spirit that are described in Galatians 5: 22, which include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Multicultural education affirms the absolute value, authority and dignity of individuals and expresses the belief that all are created in the likeness of God. Hence, understanding multicultural education based on the biblical foundation gives us a totally different perspective to see and relate to others. The table below is a summary of the comparison of these two perspectives.

Table 1. Comparison of two approaches

Cultural Competence

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble (1 Peter 3:8).

As Micah stated (Micah 6:8), God requires us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. But the question still remains; how do we do that? In order to accomplish this, what cultural competencies and skills do we need to possess? This concern deals with the issue of cultural competencies. We need to understand that there are many different cultural values, traditions, and approaches that may make someone uncomfortable. Hence, one of the multicultural education objectives is to help individuals become culturally competent by equipping cross-cultural competencies. All individuals need to accept their own ethnic and cultural identities first, then they need to be competent to relate to other people from other ethnicities and cultures (Banks, 2009).

Cultural competence refers to “the ability to successfully teach students who come from other cultures other than your own. It entails mastering complex awareness and sensitivities, various bodies of knowledge, and a set of skills that, taken together, underlie effective cross-cultural teaching” (Diller & Moule, 2005, p. 5). What are the attributes of a culturally competent person? Boutte (1999) focuses on how a personal perspective on culture changes over time when interacting with other cultures. The value and attitude of a culturally competent person is described in stage three of his framework on the stages of multicultural growth. A culturally competent person actively seeks learning opportunities from other cultures and ethnicities by appreciating and respecting them with joy. This model illustrates how an individual can develop from holding a one-dimensional perspective to incorporating a multidimensional one. Table 2 provides more detail.

Table 2. Stages of multicultural growth, from Boutte (1999)

There are several models of cultural competence available. Agyeman (2001) suggests five steps to cultural competence: (1) valuing diversity by accepting and respecting differences; (2) having the ability to undertake cultural self-assessment in order to see how one’s actions affect people from other cultures; (3) being aware of the dynamics that exist when cultures mix, such as the understandable mistrust of historically oppressed groups toward members of a dominant culture; (4) Institutionalizing cultural and traditional knowledge that will enhance an organization’s ability to serve diverse populations; and (5)  developing approaches to service delivery that show understanding of diversity between and within cultures.

Cross et. al (1989) identify five areas of multicultural competencies including awareness and acceptance of differences, self-awareness, dynamics of difference, knowledge of students’ culture, and adaptation of skills. Atwater (2007) develops a model of cultural competence training that consists of two approaches: cultural knowledge training and color-conscious training. The former training approach largely emphasizes learning about cultural differences and cultural learning styles, while the latter (color-conscious training approach) emphasizes a fundamental shift in teachers’ conceptual thinking about racism, their own racial attitudes and identity, and the effects of skin color and institutional discrimination on the opportunities of non-white students. Cultural competence provides the powerful ability with which we may build a peaceful community among other cultures and ethnicities. Multicultural education is an intervention to transform the world in which we educate all individuals, with full cultural competence.

Contextualizing Pedagogy

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law, so as to win those under the law (1 Cor 9:19-20).

Education should be contextualized. The power of Jesus’ teaching resulted from his contextualized education. Lee (2010) answers why Jesus’ teaching was so effective;

His teaching was casual and contextualized. He did not follow a systematic reaction to situations or a coherent program. However, his teaching was powerful because he always gained his audiences’ attention by establishing points of contact with various persons and groups and by his involvement with them. Jesus’ teaching was adapted to his audience, and he differentiated the main focus of his teaching based on his audiences’ situations and contexts (p. 72).

One of the main reasons why schooling has been lacking is that teaching does not meet the different and diverse needs of students. Friere (1972) criticizes the banking methods of education in which the teacher makes deposits and students silently receive, memorize and repeat what the teacher instructs. In this method, the teacher cannot meet the individual needs of students. Only when teachers understand students’ cultural background can they design and deliver an instruction to meet diverse students’ needs. Therefore, teaching methods and procedures should be modified and differentiated based on students’ cultural and social contexts. In order to facilitate culturally responsive education, four components should be considered (Diaz-Rico & Weed, 2006) including respecting students’ diversity; working with culturally supported facilitating or limiting attitudes and abilities of students; sustaining high expectations for all students; and marshaling parental and community support for schooling.

Many multicultural educators have suggested several forms of multicultural education methods. For example, Saengwichai (2010) developed a model of contextualizing pedagogy which consists of five stages. The first stage, preparation, is a process of understanding the larger framework of the students. It helps teachers appreciate the diversity and the complexity of the students and their backgrounds and help them consider a variety of approaches, methods, and techniques in their teaching. The second stage is called exploring the issues, which is for the teacher and the student to be informed of the realities of life and to be able to accurately raise the right issues, needs, and problems. Stage three is to integrate with the scripture in which the teacher and students commit themselves into investigating the scripture with the hope of finding answers from the word of God. The next stage is designed for interacting with the community. This stage not only helps students see the connection between theory and practice, but also helps the people in the community to feel empowered to reflect and interact with themselves and their context. The final stage is implementation. Students carry into effect the insights they have learned from the previous stages by applying the truth to their lives and the life of the community by making adjustments and refinements.

Based on the teaching process of Jesus in the Bible, Lee (2010) clarifies a model of a contextualized education process that consists of five stages: (1) inspiring learning by essential questions; (2) facilitating situated learning; (3) exploring hypotheses; (4) encouraging transfer evaluation; and (5) transforming society in a community. Ozele (2006) suggests a dialogical pedagogy for multicultural education which provides a forum in which questions are formed, raised, and addressed. Ng (1992) recommends a process-orientation method as an effective multicultural pedagogy using story, festival, art, music, drama as well as symbol, image, and metaphor.

Education does not happen in a vacuum, but takes place in the complex daily realities of human life in the dynamics of interaction with the immediate personal setting as well as the macro environment. In order to facilitate multicultural education effectively in a classroom, teachers must employ effective teaching strategies that align with students’ culture and contexts. Ladson-Billings (1995) suggests that linking school culture with home culture and incorporating culturally relevant teaching skills are critical strategies for planning a teaching as culturally responsive. Culturally contextualized education inspires students to become sensitive to their relationship with their cultural heritage in order to have a basis for understanding others in their cultural environment (Ozele, 2006).

Intentional Praxis

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:24)

Multicultural education is praxis of action like the Apostle John taught in 1 John 3:18. Jesus also emphasized the education of praxis when he taught. He always encouraged his audience to apply the lesson learned to practical situations. Multicultural education is not a theory, but an action, a change process to remove inequalities and unfairness in education and society. Freire (1972) calls this a praxis which refers reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it. The process of praxis is never ending, but an on-going one as long as we live in this society. Hernandez (2001) points out that multicultural education is about significant educational change occurring by providing dynamic teaching, learning environments, and opportunities that reflect the ideals of equity and excellence. This requires that students develop decision-making and social action skills so they can take personal, social, and civil action to make the United States and the world more democratic and humane. Sleeter and Grant (2003) criticize the theory-based interventions of multicultural education which only promote adding diversity in a school or classroom. They advocate multicultural education as facilitating social reconstruction. Students should be aware of the injustice of society and learn how to acquire constructive responses.

Three pathways of change that focus on multicultural education are suggested by Gorsky (2005): (1) the transformation of self; (2) the transformation of schools and schooling; and (3) the transformation of society. Across these three contexts, multicultural education provides insight for an individual and for society that also transforms schools into a more participative and more collaborative setting where all children can share, develop, and create learning opportunities together. Banks (1999) created the four approaches the multicultural curriculum reform: contribution; addition; transformation; and social action approaches. The last approach includes all the elements of the integration approach, but adds components that require students to make decisions and take action related to the concept, issue, or problem studied in the unit. The major goals of instruction are to educate students for social criticism and social change and to teach them decision-making skills. Multicultural education is an intentional intervention where educational and social inequality and unjust treatment are removed.

Community of Shalom: The Essential Goal of Multicultural Education

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them (Isaiah 11:6).

The essential goal of multicultural education is to build a community of shalom. The image of the community of shalom is clearly described in Isaiah 11, that the lion and the lamb lie down together. The term ‘shalom’ originally refers to wholeness. It is “the inner wholeness of the fulfilled person, but it is also a relational word including (upward) peace with God and (outward) peaceful integration within the society of God’s people” (Motyer, 1984, p. 209).

The community of shalom is a community in which everything exists in the order as God created. It is a community where all peoples and cultures are linked together in unity and apparent equality.

This community is actually modeled in Genesis 1 where the triune God existed in unity and community. When God created the universe, it was a perfect community of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The divine community of shalom must be related to human fellowship with each other because God created mankind in a community. He did not ask us to live the solitary way, but live together in harmony and peace. Multicultural education is devoted to build this kind of community through four interventions: understanding multicultural education based on the biblical perspective; developing cultural competences; educating students using contextualized pedagogy; and on-going process of praxis.

How can we develop a community of shalom? Palmer (1990) clarifies 10 features of public life which give the key components to build a community of shalom. These 10 are: (1) strangers meet on common ground; (2) fear of the stranger is faced and dealt with; (3) scarce resources are shared and abundance is generated; (4) conflict occurs and is resolved; (5) life is given color, texture, drama, a festive air; (6) people are drawn out of themselves; (7) mutual responsibility becomes evident and mutual aid possible; (8) options become audible and accountable; (9) vision is projected and projects are attempted; and (10) people are empowered and protected against power. Raleigh Washington and Glen Keherin (1993) create the key principles of shalom ministry, including committed relationship (Ruth 1:16), intentionality (Eph 2:14-16), sincerity (John 15:15), sensitivity (Eph 4:15-16), sacrifice (Phil 2:3-4), interdependence (2 Cor 8:12-14), empowerment (2 Cor 8:9), and repentance and forgiveness (2 Cor 5:17-21).

Multicultural education intends to create a community of shalom that pursues wholeness by promoting unity and peace among different people. Only as we live in fellowship can we show what God is like. This is the ideal goal of multicultural education.

Shalom Model Implementation

In the previous section, I explained the key features of the shalom model of multicultural education. The purpose of multicultural education is to build a community of shalom and the change strategy starts from the individual level. All individuals should understand that humans are created in the image of God. This idea should be strengthened through four interventions in order to reach the goal of multicultural education. Does this model address all the concerns and problems of the current multicultural education approaches that I mentioned in the previous section? I define that the goal of multicultural education as building a community of shalom that the Bible teaches. In this model, there is no conflict and political dichotomy between minority and majority groups because all are created in the image of God. In addition, all fall short of God’s glory because of sin, and multicultural education can provide the reconciliation process in which all cultures and ethnicities are united together to make a community of shalom. How can we apply this model in multicultural education class? The table below is the summary of the model along with the implementation strategy for multicultural education.

Table 3. Shalom model implementation.


Multicultural education for the last several decades has achieved significant success. However, several concerns and problems remain unsolved. That’s why a new perspective of multicultural education is presented in this article. Multicultural education is an intentional process of reconciliation, the application of God’s love to the world, and spiritual formation. The goal of multicultural education is to build a community of shalom that was modeled by the triune God in Genesis. The image of the community of shalom is clearly described in Isaiah 11 in which the lion and the lamb lie down together. The isolated, estranged people and cultures because of sin are linked together in unity and community. Based on these biblical perspectives, a new multicultural education framework, called the shalom model, is presented as an effective way to convey the Bible’s view of multicultural education.

The shalom multicultural education model consists of three parts. First, the model starts recognizing that all human beings are created in the image of God. Hence, all people, regardless gender, ethnicity, physical and cognitive conditions, are treated equally and honorably. The concept of the image of God must be extended when it relates to others with four interventions: biblical perspective; cultural competence; contextualized pedagogy; and intentional praxis. Multicultural education is not an idea, but an on-going action in order to change the unjust educational and social realities with the love of God. Through all these efforts, the goal of multicultural education of building a community of shalom will be accomplished.


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Dr. HeeKap Lee is an associate professor in the Teacher Education Department at Azusa Pacific University. He may be reached at


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