The above quote has particular significance for our students in Hawai'i because of the blending of the many different ethnicities, cultures, languages, social classes, and religions. Given this diversity, teaching multicultural education in Hawai'i provides a unique opportunity to draw upon the rich multiplicity of cultures, ethnicities, religions, and languages. However, along with that opportunity there are unique challenges. Some students question why they have to take a multicultural education course in Hawai'i because they believe that people in Hawai'i are “color blind” (Okamura, 1998). They assume that racism happens somewhere else, not here. Despite the seemingly harmonious nature of our diverse society, underneath it all there are particular groups who have historically been, and continue to be, marginalized. We found that one of our challenges teaching multicultural education was to find ways to move beyond our notions of “color blindness” and to open up a critical dialogue about race, prejudice, identity, and other socially divisive issues in an effort to prepare our pre-service teachers to be effective multicultural educators. Related to this challenge was the need to examine our assumptions and find ways not to gloss over the sensitive issues, but rather to take risks and critically inquire into our assumptions, biases, and prejudices.
In this chapter we present a pedagogical approach that describes the instructional practices that we incorporated in a required multicultural education course for education majors. Anne had taught this course three previous semesters and Amber, a graduate student and high school teacher, collaborated in the teaching and systematic study of the impact of the course on the students' views of multicultural education. We examine how the learning community created conditions that encouraged students and faculty to wrestle with, and unpack, tensions related to openly discussing issues such as racism, discrimination, and stereotyping, and to arrive at new understandings. We discuss the theories that provide the framework for our pedagogical approach, and describe the learning community as a site for incorporating multicultural activities and practices in the classroom. In addition, we explore the ways in which the learning community allowed students to reframe and expand their thinking about multiculturalism.