Chapter 3 Preface
Population analysts predict that there will be no majority race in the United States by the year 2010. This demographic shift, many educators argue, makes it imperative for today’s students to learn to function in culturally diverse environments. One goal of multicultural education is to foster acceptance of diversity by increasing students’ awareness of the histories and traditions of America’s many racial and ethnic groups.
Supporters of multicultural education often contend that minority perspectives and realities have been excluded from the study of history, literature, and the humanities. Such exclusion leads students to wrongly conclude that civilization is the product of European males and their white descendants. This ignorance of the multiethnic nature of history intensifies intolerance and stifles moral and intellectual development, multiculturalists argue.With the purposeful inclusion of minority and female viewpoints in school curricula and textbooks, they maintain, teachers can help students broaden their perspectives and, ultimately, contribute to the common good. In the opinion of educator James A. Banks, multicultural education “helps students transcend their cultural boundaries and acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to engage in public discourse with people who differ from themselves and to participate in the creation of a civic culture.”
Critics, on the other hand, argue that multicultural education...
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Multicultural Education is Beneficial
I. An important goal of multicultural education is to educate citizens who can participate successfully in the workforce and take action in the civic community to help the nation actualize its democratic ideals. These ideals, such as justice, equality and freedom, are set forth in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Democratic societies, such as the United States, are works in progress that require citizens who are committed to democratic ideals, who are keenly aware of the gap between a nation’s ideals and realities and who are able and willing to take thoughtful action that will help make democratic ideals a reality.
DISTORTION BY CRITICS
Although some critics have misrepresented multicultural education and argued it is divisive and will Balkanize the nation, the aim of multicultural education is to unify our nation and to help put in place its ideal of e pluribus unum—“out of many, one.”
The claim by conservative social commentators that multicultural education will divide the nation assumes that it is now united. However, our nation is deeply divided along racial, ethnic and social-class lines. Multicultural education is trying to help unify a deeply divided nation, not to divide one that is united.
Multicultural theorists assume that we cannot unite the nation around its democratic ideals by forcing people from different racial, ethnic and...
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Multicultural Education is Counterproductive
It is along ideological lines that the debate over multiculturalism has assumed its current form and substance. Thomas Sowell, in Inside American Education, states that the “ideological components of multiculturalism can be summarized as a cultural relativism which finds the prominence of Western civilization in the world or in the schools intolerable.” Recently, this anti-West aspect of multiculturalism was evidenced at Yale University, where a $20,000,000 grant by Texas billionaire Lee M. Bass, exclusively for the development of programs and courses in Western culture, met highly politicized faculty opposition, with the result that Yale returned the money.
John O’Sullivan, editor of National Review, decries the multiculturalist assertion that America is an “idea rather than a nation [possessing] a distinctive but encompassing American identity.” Peter W. Cookson, Jr., author of School Choice: The Struggle for the Soul of American Education, offers the insight that multiculturalism’s hostility to the West and repudiation of an identifiable American culture is augmented by a radically new definition of community, one that swerves from the traditional emphasis on “family, neighborhood, church, lodge, and school to race, gender, occupation, and sexual preference.”
These ideological divisions within U.S. society threaten to rend the nation into hostile factions. For example, Richard Bernstein, in...
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Curricula and Textbooks Should Reflect Multiculturalism
While developments have taken place in contemporary popular culture toward a certain radical eclecticism—a postmodern sensibility in the areas of art, architecture, music, and literature, that in some ways brazenly absorbs third world and ethnic images—the school system, particularly the school curriculum, remains steadfastly monological. For example, while popular artists such as David Byrne and Paul Simon directly incorporate Afro-Brazilian and South African styles into their music (albums such as Rei Momo and Grace Land are good examples), and while minority artists like Spike Lee, Julie Dash, and the Afro-Asian Black Arts movement in England have begun to influence new ethnic themes in television and film culture, American educators have responded with a decided lack of enthusiasm for cultural diversity and, at times, with a sense of moral panic with respect to the demands for a ventilation of the school curriculum. It is this administrative hostility to diversity that, over the years, has propelled minority agitation for multiculturalism in schooling.
Driven forward by demands from racially subordinated groups for fundamental reforms in race relations in education and society, and by the efforts of mainstream educators to provide practical solutions to the problem of racial inequality in the United States, multicultural education emerged in the late 1960s as a powerful challenge to the Eurocentric foundations of the American school...
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Textbooks Favoring Multiculturalism Distort History
The nineteenth-century German philosopher, Georg Friedrich Hegel, responding to a student’s interjection “But sir, what you say does not agree with the facts,” replied: “Let the facts be damned.” Undoubtedly, Hegel made this remark because he wanted his views to prevail. He might even have had good reasons for wanting to ignore or damn the facts. This might also be true of some multiculturalists, who frequently damn the facts in promoting their ideology.
Historical omissions and distortions abound in multiculturalists’ publications. The negative or harmful practices of non- Western or minority cultures are typically omitted, and in the rare instances when they are noted, they are presented in an innocuous manner. On the other hand, the Euro-American’s cultural shortcomings, or negative cultural practices, are cited wherever possible and are often portrayed at great length. The great achievements of the Western world are portrayed as being no more important than the far less spectacular accomplishments of non-Western societies. Sometimes even new “facts” are created, for example, the multiculturalists claim that Crispus Attucks, killed in the Boston Massacre in 1770, was black; that Western civilization was stolen from Africa; that the American Indians were highly conscientious ecologically; that the Constitution of the United States was shaped by the Iroquois Indians; and others. This tactic is reminiscent of the “noble lies” that...
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Bilingual Education is Beneficial
Civil Rights advocates warned that Proposition 209, California’s 1996 ban on affirmative action programs, would have disastrous results for minorities, including closing public university doors at an alarming rate to black and Hispanic students with good potential.
And, based on recent data released by the University of California’s premier campuses at Berkeley and Los Angeles, showing steep drops in admissions of black, Hispanic and Native American applicants for 1998’s fall freshman class, the warning has proved to be well-founded.
And in June 1998, Californians again went to the polls, where one of the items they voted on—and passed 61 percent to 39 percent—Proposition 227, was a measure that can be expected to have similarly disastrous results for minorities. It will dismantle all bilingual public educational programs at all levels, regardless of effectiveness.
ERODING EDUCATIONAL INCLUSIVENESS
This will not only further erode affirmative action, but also will erode the very educational foundation of inclusiveness that has strengthened the social fabric of America, especially since 1968, when the country’s first bilingual education act was passed.
In fact, what has made American education distinctively strong is its inclusiveness, through which excellence is enriched by differences.
California provides an array of programs to assist students who are learning English. All schools...
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Bilingual Education is a Failure
A mother should know.
To measure the success of bilingual education in America, listen to the testimonies of some Hispanic mothers who are suing the state of New York for keeping their children in bilingual programs beyond the state-mandated three years. Juana Zarzuela testified that her son was transferred from bilingual education to special education despite her objection to his participation in either program. “My son has been in bilingual education for five years and in special education since 1994. [He] cannot read or write in English or Spanish,” she said. Carmen Quinones testified, “My son is in ninth grade and has been in bilingual education since he entered the school system. My son is confused between Spanish and English.”
Ada Jimenez testified that her grandson also cannot read or write in either language after five years of bilingual education. According to Jimenez: “I personally met one of his teachers in the bilingual program who did not speak any English.We were told that because my grandson has a Spanish last name, he should remain in bilingual classes.” Because of his name, the school put Jimenez’s grandson into a bilingual program in which up to 80 percent of his day was spent in Spanish—even though he did not speak any Spanish.
Parents aren’t the only ones upset about bilingual education. Edwin Selzer, an assistant principal for social studies at one New York high school, testified that “once...
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