Monoculturalism encourages a normative cultural unity or cultural homogeneity, and it possesses negative attributes due to the philosophy encouraging ethnocentrism, absolutist thinking, naïve realism, lack of respect for other's opinions as well as the use of derogatory terms to describe customs different from one's own. Scholars have found that minority faculty members tend to feel isolated at predominantly White institutions, especially if they focus on issues such as social change and ethnic concerns. Many of their White counterparts may believe that they were hired as a result of affirmative action initiatives.
Keywords Assimilation; Cultural Conservatism; Culture; Diversity; Ethnocentrism; Monoculturalism; Multiculturalism; Naïve Realism; Political Correctness
Monoculturalism encourages a normative cultural unity or cultural homogeneity. For example, if a country has accepted a large number of immigrants, there will be initiatives to get these individuals to assimilate to the practices of the dominant culture. Monoculturalism tends to be spearheaded by individuals who seek to protect national cultures or identities that are perceived to be threatened, especially by attempts of globalization. Monoculturalism possesses negative attributes due to the philosophy encouraging ethnocentrism, absolutist thinking, naïve realism, lack of respect for other's opinions, and the use of derogatory terms to describe customs different from one's own.
How do these viewpoints affect the field of education? Southern Nazarene University (n.d.) prepared a statement for ethnocentrism, but the arguments can be used for all three viewpoints. Monocultural thought can have a negative impact on one's ability to learn about different cultures and may hinder the education environment in which students participate. If monoculturalism is prevalent in many of our educational institutions, the students in the majority may:
• Be led to make false assumptions about cultural differences.
• Experience problems in communicating with other students who have different cultures and value systems.
• Make premature judgments about others.
• Evaluate everyone based on their value system.
In the United States, Caucasians are perceived by some as the dominant group. The rules of the American culture are based on Caucasian values and beliefs. As the country diversifies, these concepts will become a problem. In order to fit into a global culture, students will need to become aware of a group of diverse cultures in order to interact with those that are sitting next to them in class. After reviewing the above-mentioned list, students will have to be open to:
• Checking their assumptions about people of different cultures.
• Making an effort to communicate with students from different cultures.
• Talking to diverse students about the various cultures.
• Finding out how the values of other cultures are similar and different from their own.
• Accepting that differences does not equate to inferiority.
Learning about the cultures of others can promote understanding versus division. Some knowledge about diverse culture and about the role of culture in human societies can prevent misunderstandings and increase the opportunity for friendly, productive interactions on the job, in the classroom, and the community at large.
The United States is moving toward being a society that has no ethnic majority. Therefore, it is important for education systems to provide opportunities for students to learn about individuals who are different than they are. Also, these institutions must be proactive and make an effort to provide the entire study body with information about the various cultures that are represented in their constituency. For example, the Middle Eastern, Hispanic and Asian population has increased in the United States, and the children are a part of the American educational system. Some critics argue that educational material should be prepared based on the different cultures.
"The demand for multiculturalism is strong in the contemporary world and is invoked in the making of social, cultural and political policies, especially in Western Europe and the United States" (Sen, 2006, par 1). Demographics suggest that the world is moving toward becoming a multi-ethnic and international culture (Visions, n.d.). Sen (2006) asserted that this should not be a surprise considering the fact that increased global contacts and interactions, especially extensive migrations, have positioned the diverse practices of different cultures in close proximity to one another. Teachers are in a powerful position to influence children and adolescents toward an understanding and appreciation of people from different ethnic groups. To avoid addressing the ethnic diversity of communities and the nation itself, a fundamental reality in the children's lives, is to shortchange students, leaving them unprepared for the challenges and reality of a multicultural society (Sawchuk, Taylor, Perry & Mt. Saint Mary's College, 1997).
Many researchers and organizations have reported on the individual, institutional and societal benefits of diversity and teaching from culture-centered perspectives (Chang, Witt, Jones & Hakuta, 2000). For example, at the individual level, the benefits are generated as people become aware of and acknowledge racial differences. The institutional level is geared towards employers and focuses on how the organizational culture changes as a result of cross-cultural understanding. Benefits to society can be experienced as scholars continue to pursue research opportunities and address issues such as gender, race, ethnicity and affirmative action in the workplace.
Regardless of whether or not a person is on the job, in the community or at an educational institution, they will encounter experiences with individuals who are different than themselves. Many will be curious and welcome the opportunity to learn about other cultures and differences, whereas, some may not.
Not everyone supports diversity. Some view this concept as a hindrance to society that is as dangerous as communism. "Multiculturalism, as the new menace is known, has been denounced in the media as the new McCarthyism, the new fundamentalism, even the new totalitarianism - take your choice" (Ehrenreich, 1991, p. 84). Critics assert that followers of multiculturalism place too much emphasis on being politically correct at the risk of taking away a person's ability to have freedom of speech and freedom of thought. Being politically correct means constantly watching what one speaks in order to avoid offending someone else's value and belief system. Many conservative scholars believe that "when advocates of multiculturalism adopt the haughty stand of political correctness, they quickly descend to silliness or worse" (Ehrenreich, 1991, p. 85).
"The function of the university is not simply to teach breadwinning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools or to be a centre of polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life, an adjustment which forms the secret of civilization" (DuBois, 2005, p. 85). DuBois had a vision that institutions of higher education played a key role in shaping the minds of our future scholars. It was the institution's responsibility to bridge the gap between learning and taking the wealth of knowledge into the real world. The faculty members were charged with educating and preparing students to enter the real world, which was pluralistic and diverse. In order to achieve this goal, institutions had to provide an atmosphere and culture that allowed students to learn from different perspectives.
For the leadership of higher education institutions, diversity is not a luxury; it is a necessity. "With the changing demographics of...
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