Monday, July 25, 2011

Multicultural Education: enlightenment or degradation?

I say tomato (to-may-to) and you say tomato (to-mah-to) -- George and Ira Gershwin (1937) Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
Would you eat horse steak or dog? How about jellyfish? Would you let your kids swim naked at the beach? Would you let your teenager and his or her friend of the opposite sex sleep over? Would you want people to move into your neighborhood who worshipped a goddess of death or practiced animal sacrifice as part of a religious ceremony? What about eating peyote as a religious practice?

These are all practices tolerated, encouraged even, by literate people of highly developed cultures from around the world. You personally might be willing to tolerate them. But would your neighbors?

It’s easy to go on enthusiastically about multiculturalism as they do in public schools and elsewhere as if it were a case of just trying a taste of a new kind of food like kielbasa, or pepperoni, or knishes or jambalaya or anything else not too different from “the norm.” But deviant stuff? Not likely!

But how different is deviant? How very deviant is deviant? When should “deviance” be discouraged? Schools tend to stifle deviance a lot sooner than many a household. Where can you talk loudly and whenever you please, where can you go around in your bathing suit, and when can you slap your little brother for misbehaving? In lots of homes, in many, if not most, public places, but, not in a public school.

What kind of reception would some of the “out of the ordinary” behavior described above likely receive if it were suggested as part of your child’s multicultural education? Would it be welcomed and practiced? Or merely discussed as an example? Or disregarded. Or even condemned as disgusting, immoral or UnAmerican?

For a chart and examples and to examine these issues further, see Evaluating Cultural Practices for Inclusion in the Public School Multicultural Curriculum

--- EGR

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