|The DNI Journal|
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Is Multiculturalism Another Symbol of The Emperor's New Clothes?
by Paul D. Christiansen, Ph.D. & Michelle Young
|Remember the fairy tale about the ruler who had
such a passion for fashion, that he became a willing
victim of two con men? Rather than having the emperor
think they were fools, nearly everyone in the kingdom
went along with the scam of The Emperors New
Clothes. Everyone except a child, that is.
In a way, the banter surrounding words like multiulturalism, globalism and internationalism is similar to the story. We humans have big egos, and many of us toss words around without fully grasping their meanings. If this sounds like you, dont worry. Youre not alone!
In 1994, Publishers Weekly carried Michel Thomas Fords The Cult of Multiculturalism, an excellent article about publishers views of multiculturalism in childrens literature. Even most publishers seem to have a gap in understanding the words. Many see these buzzwords of the Nineties as an opportunity to focus on a particular race or ethnic heritage. How we define the buzzwords themselves sets the stage for the development of attitudes which will eventually be displayed in our behavior patterns.
For the sake of simplicity, this months column will focus on the definition of multiculturalism, but whether we call it multiculturalism, globalism or internationalism, the most important key to understanding will be to reach beyond easily-played semantic games.
Ask yourself-honestly-what youre doing with the words themselves. If youve been developing definitions to justify inappropriate thoughts, attitudes and behaviors, you may be displaying patterns that demonstrate a tendency to misuse or abuse historical facts. People who fall in this category generally want others to believe they have everyones best interests in mind, but somehow their own prominence and personal gains usually outweigh any real help they claim to be giving the others in their midst. Unfortunately, the fallout from this kind of behavior fosters a polarization rather than a uniting of everyone involved. Feeding people false information, no matter how flattering it seems, will not help people in the long run.
What many people
refer to as multicultural, Dr. Christiansen refers to as
polycultural which simply means many cultures. He defines
multicultural as a way of believing, thinking and acting
which treats other people regardless of cultural
differences with respect and appreciation of who they are
as individuals. Dr. Christiansens research (1975)
brought out a second factor: that people are people, and,
as such, we need to form relationships on an individual
rather than on a group-to-group basis. People arent
labels, classifications or categories that fall into
blanket terms of race or ethnic structures. Yet all too
often, a teacher can be heard to say, This is my
Mexican (Indian or some other racially-or
ethnically-identified) child. And although this
teacher may not harbor any negative attitudes about one
of these labeled children, the process of categorizing
will eventually create a separation that will be
perceived as an act of racial or ethnic discrimination
|On a more generalized, group level, the practice
of highlighting individual cultues or races during
specific months of the year, as is done in the United
States, carries similar dangers. Although folks may have
good hearts in their wishes to recognize people of a
particular ethnic, cultural or racial background, this
practice is perceived as another form of segregation,
often at the cost of friendly relations between the
recognized group and the rest of the people.
Most of us remember when the
history books themselves related incomplete histories
based on the achievements of one racially-identified
group of people. In their effort to right these obvious
wrongs, historians scrambled to develop new history books
that highlighted the achievements of all. Unfortunately,
too many of the new books became old history books with
plugged-in punch lines about this or that culture,
resulting in easily warped histories. From the historical
perspective, it really shouldnt matter who our
ancestors were in terms of their value and worth as
individuals. Yet because these books have been developed
into categories where people have been trapped into
negatives and positives, weve developed a type of
caste system that frequently lends itself to
stereotyping. Weve all seen these things occur in
the study of Germany and its people, for instance.
History must be founded on truth and its facts
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