POST MODERN EDUCATIONAL REVOLUTION

SHOULD MULTICULTURALISM PERMEATE EDUCATIONAL CURRICULUM?

 

Post Modernism has its roots in Kantian constructivism.  This foundationless worldview dominates all areas of curriculum agenda--epistemology, hermeneutics, science, history, art, law, media, literature and education.  The hot button vocabulary is pluralistic--diversity and tolerance must understand how and why we got there!  We can now begin a brief trek down the educational road.

 

In the past three decades, American public schools have been encouraged to embrace multiculturalism as a curricular focus at the heart of this educational revolution derived from a statement by the American Association of Colleges and Teacher Education in 1972, which set the tone for a paradigmatic revolution to support cultural diversity and global understanding.  In the 1980’s several influential writers, such as Allen Bloom, E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., William Bennett and Nathan Glazer warned of the divisive (contra unity via tolerance) nature of Multiculturalism and called for a renewed curricular focus on cultural commonalities shaped by the Western tradition.  Their very name was abhorrent to the counter culture, the New Left, the adversary culture.  This culture is most clearly expressed in the reflection of American culture society that we remember so well from the 1960’s and early 1970’s.  The claim that the radical left has been placed in the graveyards of the past is demonstrably not true (see esp. Paul Hollinder, The Survival of The Adversary Culture (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1988).  The demise of the older “radical” movements of the 1960’s (1970’s Feminism) are not gone; they have appeared in the “Emperor’s new clothes.”  By the 1980’s the adversary culture had resurfaced with renewed vengeance.  In its incarnational form the adversary culture was part of the counter-culture that has become part of mainstream America.  During the 1968 Democratic Convention, the representatives of the adversary culture were outside the convention rioting in the streets.  During the 1988 Democratic Convention, they were inside helping to run the show.  The radical left of the 60’s is most evident on college campuses, where the faculty goes about the task of politicizing their disciplines and their campuses.  The adversary culture, i.e. the mindset of the radicals of the 60’s and 70’s, controls the curriculum of most major universities and colleges.  The mindset of the adversary culture is well and in control of the hierarchies of America’s mainline “Christian Denominations.”  This influence is even apparent on many evangelical campuses!

 

Some of the politically correct diatribes against America, capitalism, economic freedom and whatever category the Adversarial culture despise at the moment of their existential angst--according to Paul Hollander:

 

“Even if the majority of the students in the nations today do not subscribe to multiculturalism, large and vocal positions of their teachers do, especially in the humanities and social sciences.  My own discipline, sociology, has, for example, been quite thoroughly politicized and probably a majority of its practitioners take the way of thinking for granted.”  (Paul Hollander, The Survival of The Adversary Culture, op cit, p. 14).

 

The post modern adversary culture found a home even in prestigious Stanford University in California.  William Simon, a former secretary of the treasury and current president of the John M. Olin Foundation, describes the effect a core of radical leftists has had at Stanford. 

 

“Stanford’s pattern of scholastic bias and academic double standards is, by now, well-established.  In 1983 the school expelled a scholar from the Ph.D. program for documenting the Chinese policy of massive coerced abortions.  Earlier this year (1988) several books were removed from its core Western civilization reading list because of the sex or race of their authors.”  (William E. Simon, “Re Reopen the American Mind”, The Wall Street Journal (8, July, 1988).

 

The essence of this on going cultural war is the constant bullying of those who do not share their zeal to place “ideology over the pursuit of truth.”  The victory of single-minded zealotry is crystal clear--who determines, who and who will not receive tenure; who and who will not be permitted to speak on campus (see esp. Bill Anderson, “Stanford’s Mind Games on Christian Campuses Too?”  World (25,Feb. 1989), p. 11).

 

“One central result of the new educational model is watering down the quality and radicalism of the content of its Western civilization independence of the counter cultural, i.e. adversarial culture.

 

While students and government all over Eastern Europe are denouncing Marxism, students (Left Wing) often return to school “where Marxist academia do not deign to notice the real world.”  (See Schaeffer’s Whatever Happened to True Truth?;  The Ugly Side of Tolerance, Marxists On Campus”, a syndicated column by Georgie Anne Geyer, Aug. 29, 1989).  After examining the course of socialism in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, Nicaragua and in the third world, sociologist Peter Berger is led to conclude: “Even in the early 1970’s it should not have been news that socialism is not good for economic growth and also that it shows a disturbing propensity toward totalitarianism with its accompanying terrorism.”  (Peter Berger, “Underdevelopment Revisited” Commentary, July 1984, p. 43).

 

How odd that people all along are claiming to be set free from totalitarianism terror and declaring themselves free from capitalism and a greedy, free market such systems are throwing off the shackles of intolerance.

 

Any analysis of postmodern enemies of “Permanent Things” must take serious note of Deconstructionism.  According to Allen Bloom, deconstructionism “is the last predictable stage in the suppression of reason and the denial of the possibility of truth in the name of philosophy.”  (A. Bloom, The Closing of The American Mind (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1987, p. 379.  Some of this work is brilliant but it is no solution to our educational oasis).  Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals (NY: Harper and Row, 1988, pp. 67-68.)  Johnson’s work is a fascinating and revealing study of many heroes of the left, also Klaus Bockmuehl, The Challenge of Marxism (Colorado Springs, CO). 

 

The straightforward mission of hermeneutics charged with the murky metaphysics of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger and the subsequent work by law student Hans Gadamer, deconstructionism is closely related to hermeneutics.

 

Rothbard sums up the essential message of Deconstructionism in three words:  (1) Nihilism, (2) Relativism, and (3) Solipsism.  Rothbard’s analysis runs deep in the murky water of the deconstructionist Movement included Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Paul Ricoeur.  Rothbard explains:  “Either there is no objective truth or, if there is, we can never discover it; with each person being bound to his own subjective views, feelings, history and so on, there is no method of discovering objective truth.  In literature, the most elementary procedure of literary criticism, (that is, trying to figure out what a given author meant to say) becomes impossible.  Communication between writer and reader similarly becomes hopeless; further more, not only can no reader ever figure out what an author meant to say but even the author does not know or understand what he himself meant to say, so fragmented, confused and driven is each particular individual.  So, since it is impossible to figure out what Shakespeare, Conrad, Plato, Aristotle or Machiavelli meant, what becomes the point of either reading or writing literary or philosophical criticism?  (Murray N. Rothbard, “The Hermeneutical Invasion of Philosophy and Economics” The Review of Austrian Economics 3 (1989):45)

 

Rothbard’s critical analysis is perhaps the best brief criticism of Deconstructionism and its influence throughout post modern academia.  “Disciples after discipline, from literature to political theory to philosophy to history, have been invaded by an arrogant band of hermeneuticisms, and now even economics is under assault.”  (op.cit., p. 49)

 

It would be a serious error in judgment to think of Deconstructionism as nothing more than a self-refuting exercise--interpretation or non interpretation, deconstructionism is more than an intellectual permissiveness, it is also a practical permissiveness.  If truth is relative, so are ethics!  Deconstructionism spells the end of human learning.  There is no “reason” to take it seriously.

 

There cannot be any respectful critical encounter with this intellectual disease.  Rotherbard argues that our only response “is scorn and dismissal. Unfortunately, they do not often receive such treatment in a world in which all too many intellectuals seem to have lost their built in ability to detect pretentious claptrap.” (Ibid, p. 53)

 

It is nothing short of amazing that it is the pragmatists, the relationists, the deconstructionists and other twentieth century sophists who have the temerity to dismiss Christianity as a house of “unreason” composed of ignorant right wing, bible thumpers.  But if their passion is to be taken seriously we all dwell in the same house of cards and all are riding first class on the Titanic.  Merely rearranging the deck chairs is a futile enterprise” 

 

What must Christians think of a society and of academicians who regard this sort of thing as serious scholarship?  Nothing enhances the likelihood of their continued success more than the ignorance, apathy and indifference of parents, educators and legislators. 

With this brief trek let us take a trip down the yellow brick road to multicultural pluralism where we encounter “The Ugly Side of Tolerance” (Charles Colson, Christianity Today, March 6, 2000)

 

In this intellectual and word maze the only possible response is Tolerant Diversity.  “How to be Offensive Without Really Trying” (see my essay, “Chameleons in The Temple of Tolerance” and “Idols in The Temple of Tolerance”)

 

Charles Colson, in his inimitable manner, exposes the “Ugly Side of Tolerance.”  In September of 1999 the Southern Baptists published a booklet encouraging prayer for the conversion of Jews.  Jewish leaders were incensed.  “Any prayer that invites us to abandon our faith is an attack on our integrity and commitment,” thundered Anti Defamation League Director Abraham Foxman.  Baptists are also preparing a prayer guide for Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists.

 

If that is not enough, the Vatican announced a Papal visit to India, prompting hard line Hindu leaders to demand that the Pope publically disavow that Jesus is the only means to salvation.  Left wing media was of course sympathetic to the offended religions.  Their politically correct attack was the charge of “bigoted” as a prefix for Christian One Bible belt.  Such audacity!  Jesus is under fire!  (See my essay, “From Syncretism to Pluralism” and “Jesus Under Fire” (Acts 4.10ff.)

 

The essence of post modern tolerance is the call to forced neutrality rather than tolerance of competing ideas.  Gary Phillips writes that the object of today’s dialogue is “no longer a search for any kind of normative truth, but an exercise in social healing for marginalized groups.”  How should Christians respond? (1) Remain loving.  We must avoid heavy handed tactics that can give legitimate offense; we overcome Evil and Error by Good and True Truth.  (2)  We must stand firm in our Convictions!  (See my essay “Christian Conviction in Our Pluralistic Cultural Wars.”)

 

We must surely thank God that John Paul II set a positive example of standing firm in his visit to India.  Despite the threats of rioting mobs, he exhorted his bishops to evangelize, emphasizing Jesus as the only way to salvation.  (3)  We must design an effective apologetic for why truth claims are good for individuals and society.  The exclusive gospel of Jesus is under fire in our post modern maze in which the gospel of universalism is heralded--all roads lead to heaven!

 

Post modernism seeks to stifle truth claims with cultural pressure and speech codes.  But, as legal scholar Russell Hittinger reminds us, these attempts are in reality a tacit acknowledgement by post modernists that they can’t win in open debate.  “This situation should only encourage us to press home our case lovingly, yet vigorously.”  (Charles Colson, “The Ugly Side of Tolerance” Christianity Today March 6, 2000, p. 136); also see Terry Mattlingly’s article, “Turner’s Intolerance of Vatican Document on Truth and Salvation (Scripps Howard News Service, Sept. 15, 2000).

In this cultural maze, a brief trek through the valley of multiculturalism might provide the basis for Christian understanding of the nature and significance of it.  This trek might possibly locate crucial areas of constructive encounter with our post modern educational revolution.  Two factors dominate the left agenda in our culture and the academy: (1) Denial of the Very Possibility of attaining True Truth and (2) Denial of Objectivity.  They result in an over dependence of democracy and hermeneutics.  The Temple of Multiculturalism is controlled by the psychiatrist as priest and polls as the authority!!

 

In post modernism, “the term “democracy” does not contain enough positive content to stand alone against the forces that you dislike. . .it can easily be transformed by them.”  (T.S. Eliot, Christiantiy and Culture).  “So long as we consider “education” as a word in itself by which everyone has a right to the utmost without any idea of the good life for society or for the individual we shall move from one uneasy compromise to another.” (Eliot, ibid.)

 

Ronald H. Nash, The Closing of The American Heart: What Is Really Wrong with American Schools (Probe Books, Word Publishing) brilliantly unfolds the closing of the American heart, which was his way of referring to the systematic elimination of moral and Christian values from American public education through the second half of the 20th century.  The Post Modern education system has allowed millions of students to graduate who are culturally illiterate (note his chp. 3, pp. 45-59).  There are three kinds of illiteracy: (1) Functional, (2) Cultural, and (3) Moral.  From Matthew Arnold’s book, Dover Beach to Russell Kirk’s phrase, “Enemies of the permanent things.” Those classic permanent things, those values that have been replaced with relativistic nonsense, irrational ideas, and moral bankruptcy sent Arnold into eternal sadness.  In order to restore functional, cultural and moral literacy requires that we know who the enemies are.  Christians must constructively loosen the destructive control over the education of future generations.  The present Youth culture is one who “knows not Joseph” or Joseph’s God.  We must arm all persons in both the culture and church who desire to see an end to the crisis of American education. 

 

For our examination of the nature and significance of multiculturalism we arbitrarily choose two essays:  (1) James A. Banks, “Multicultural Education, Development, Dimensions and Challenges,” Phi Delta Kappen (yes) (Sept. 1993) and (2) Linda Chavey’s, “Demystifying Multiculturalism,” National Review (Feb. 21 1994) no (yes): Education professor James A. Banks, a leading advocate of multicultural education, identifies what he feels are some of the current misconceptions about multicultural education, details its accomplishments, and promotes its further implementation in the schools.  (no) Linda Chavez, director of the center for the New American Community, attacks the basic assumption of multiculturalists and accuses them of following a political agenda designed to culturally divide America.

 

Since a theory of education is not and cannot be neutral, we first must trace the post modern educational revolution and the narrative displacements of the controlling assumptions concerning the nature and purpose of education.  Beginning with The Enlightenment (Man, the Measure), a radical shift in belief and behavior patterns occurred in Western culture.  The Scientific Revolution, which begins with Galileo, Kepler, et.al., Newton’s equations ended the Aristotelian dominance of Western thought.  The scientific developments from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries produced the Modern Scientific Narrative, which became the sole interpreter of reality and the source of True Truth.  The euphemistic term which covers the development is Positivism.  Positivism claimed that the Scientific Method alone is the source of True Truth concerning reality.  The scientific developments from Darwin to Einstein became the controlling narrative of Western education.

 

The social and cultural consequences of scientific developments generated the secularistic narrative for decoding reality. At least six factors must be understood if our post modern educational narrative is to be understood and evaluated:  (1) Secularism began with the Renaissance; (2) The break up of Christendom with the Protestant Reformation; (3) Nationalism and linguistic culture identity; (94) Scientific Revolution challenged Christendom’s prescientific presuppositions about the universe, man and every social institution via influences of Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Marx and Freud; (5) The Enlightenment displaced classical Christian World View.  The result was that science became the ground of all the world’s religions in a “Common Natural Religion” present in human nature (e.g. Deism, Atheism); (6) Urbanization, dislocation of family structure, sensory overload, stress (see my essay, “Lord of The City), est. 1984, Year of The Yuppie (Newsweek), Orwell’s 1984, Totalitarian BIG BROTHER), Brave New World, and Brave New World Revisited; Newbigen’s Beyond 1984, the official government mandate for the multicultural Outcomes Based Education (see my essay, “Outcomes Based Education and “Whoever Controls The Academy Controls The Family; Scans, a government commentary of Outcomes Based Education); The New Liberal Arts 101: Multicultural Government as surrogate parents; An Autopsy of Seven Deaths: (12) Death of God, (2) Death of Man, (3) Death of Culture (Post Modern “One Worldism”), (4) Death of History, (5) Death of Science, (6) Death of Language, and (7) True Truth).

 

Some cultural indicators of our Post Modernism: (1) Multiculturalism cultural/ epistemological pluralism; (2) Generation X (70 million were born between 1946 and 1964) (see my essay, “The Counter Culture: Adversarial Culture and The Influence of Toffler, Reich, Marcuse and Ferguson Upon It”); (3) Post Modernism: Denial of True Truth and the Exclusivism of the Christian Faith (Resurgent Tribal Universalism); (4) Pluralism: Empirical (fact), Cherished and Philosophical (World View/Ideology); (5) Humanism: “Man, The Measure”; (6) Secularism: Marginization; trivialization of God; (7) Narcissism: Meaninglessness; (8) Inclusivism: Tribal Universalism, faith in Jesus unnecessary for salvation from sin and death (Acts 4.10-12); (9) Exclusivism: Faith in Jesus necessary for salvation (see Rom. 1.20ff; I Cor. 1.18ff; Acts 17 - Paul on Mars Hill).  (see my essay “Definitions of Postmodernism” and “Post Modernism/ Multiculturalism (Outcomes Based Education, Goals 2000, Scan, etc.). Christian Education in the context of Alternative Belief and Behavior Systems); Narrative Displacement Between Modern and Post Modern Epochs and the Impact on Christian Education; and Christian Convictions Between Chameleons and Musk Oxen). (10) Ultimately, Epistemological/Cultural Relativism (see my essay “Tracking The Maze From Foundationalism to Non Foundationalism in Post Modern culture”; “Terrorism of Truth; Search for True Truth in Cyberspace”; “Between the 15th and 17th centuries: Emergence of Autonomous Man in Western Culture.”

 

Before we can constructively engage the post modern multiculturalism and our educational revolution, we must also understand the strengths and weaknesses of Outcome Based Education and its multicultural curriculum.  The remainder of our brief study will engage the positions of responsibility through the writings of two specialists in post modern education, James A. Banks (yes) and Linda Chavez (no).

 

During the past 25 years, American public schools have been encouraged to embrace multiculturalism as a curricular focus.  The “No One” American statement, issued by the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education in 1972, set the tone for the movement by calling for an effort to support cultural diversity and global understanding.  In the 1980’s a number of influential writers, such as Allan Bloom, E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., William J. Bennett and Nathan Glazes, warned of the divisive nature of multiculturalism and called for a renewed curriculum focus on cultural anomalies shaped by Western civilization (e.g. Clark Kerry, president of the University of Chicago, and Mortimer Adler, editor of The Great Books). The authors of these Great Books continued the policy of having no Blacks, women or any minority group contributions.  Now you’ve done it!  We are about to enter the counter culture, narrative displacement and adversarial culture.

 

The narrative displacement which took place between the 1970’s and 1980’s launched the so-called Cultural Wars, which have persisted on educational battlefields that extend from kindergarten to graduate school (e.g. all accrediting associations agenda.  See my essay, “Whoever Controls The Soul of Education Controls The Soul of Culture:  From Clark Kerr to the reprint of Newman’s The Ideas of The University.”  The Uses of the University has been the singly most influential work in American Research Universities.  It was published during the tumult of The Free Speech Movement.)

 

Some major works published during the tumult of The Free Speech Movement and radical educational revolution were William Bennett’s To Reclaim A Legacy (1984), Lynn Chaney’s American Memory: A Report On The Humanities in The Nation’s Public Schools (1988), and Dinesh D’Souza’s Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex On Campus (1991) stirred much of public concern over an encroachment by the multiculturalists upon the classical canon and the subsequent diminishment of cultural literacy. Though these works show much brilliant analysis, they consistently fail to critique the radical post modern shifts in science, history, epistemology, etc., which show its Deconstructionist Narrative.

 

Every brilliant response to multiculturalism needs to engage the hermeneutical revolution from Foucault, DeMan, Eco, Lyotard, Nietzsche, Heidegger and other less talented gurus of post modern multiculturalism.   In defense of multiculturalism, Ira Shor, in his book, Cultural Wars: School and Society in The Conservative Restoration (1987), claims that the understanding motivation of cultural literacy “backlash” was to restore conservative themes and “right words” that establish “raw authority at the top.”  While discrediting the literalism of the 1960’s, another supporter of a multicultural curriculum is Asa G. Hillard, III, who contends that the traditional Eurocentric curriculum is warped and restrictive; that the primary goal of multiculturalism is to present a truthful and meaningful rendition of the whole human experience; and that a pluralistic curriculum is not a matter of ethnic quotas for “balance,” as some conservatives contend.

 

Two fundamental social realities undergird the multiculturalist effort to reform the curriculum at all levels: (1) The traditional curriculum has neglected the contributions made by minority groups to American culture; and (2) The economy is becoming more and more globalized.  Since the minority cultures are increasing the challenges become clearer with the passing of each day.

 

The voice of James A. Banks argues that multiculturalism is helping to develop more positive attitudes among students of different cultural backgrounds and that it will eventually reshape the American identity in a positive way.  Linda Chavez maintains that multiculturalists confuse race and national origin, which are immutable traits, with cultural attributes, which are learned and wrongly dismiss the idea of one common American culture.  On the contrary, she contends, most minorities and immigrants strive for assimilation into the mainstream culture; therefore, multiculturalism is not a grassroots movement but a political strategy for keeping the country culturally divided.  No brief study can possibly address the magnitude nor complexity of The Cultural Wars debate but this offers a point of departure for serious examination and critique of this post modern debate.  James A. Banks claims that--

 

(1)  Multicultural Education is for the Others.  He claims that a serious misconception about multicultural education is that it is an entitlement program and curriculum movement for African Americans, Hispanics, the poor, women and other victimized groups (Banks’ “Multicultural Education” (Phi Delta Kappa, Sept. 1993).  Despite all that has been written and spoken about multicultural education being for all students, the image of an entitlement program for others remains strong and vivid in public imagination

 

as well as in the hearts and minds of many teachers and administrators.  The tension continues between mainstream and marginalized “others.”  Many critics such as Arthur Schlesinger, John Leo and Paul Gray, have perpetuated the idea that multicultural education is the study of the “other” by defining it as synonymous with Afrocentric education (see Bank’s article).  The history of intergroup education teaches us that only when education reform related to diversity is viewed as essential for all students and as promoting the broad public interest, will it have a reasonable chance of becoming institutionalized in the nation’s schools, colleges and universities (Banks, ibid).  The intergroup education movement of the 1949’s-1950’s failed in large part because intergroup educators were never able to persuade mainstream educators to believe that the approach was needed by and designed for all students.  The War ended as mainstream educators viewed intergroup education as something for “them” and for “us.”

 

(2)  Multicultural Education is opposed to Western  culture.  Banks denies that multiculturalism is opposed to Western culture.  Multiculturalism grew out of The Civil Rights Movement grounded in such ideals of The West as freedom, justice and equality.  Multiculturalism seeks to extend to all people the ideals that were meant only for an elite few at the nation’s birth.  The reality of racism and sexism must be taught in the new curriculum.  Multicultural education views citizens’ action to improve society as an integral part of education in a democracy; it links knowledge, values empowerment and action.  Multicultural education is also postmodern in its assumptions about knowledge and knowledge construction (see my two essays on “Post Modern Epistemology” and esp. “The Social Construction of Reality.”)  It challenges positivist assumptions about the relationship between human values, knowledge and action.

 

Positivists who are the intellectual heirs of The Enlightenment believe that it is possible to structure knowledge that is “objective” and beyond the influence of human values and interests.  Multicultural theorists maintain that knowledge is “positional,” that it relates to the knower’s values and experience and that knowledge implies action.  Consequently, different concepts, theories and paradigms imply different kinds of action.  Multiculturalists believe that, in order to have a valid knowledge, information about the social condition and experiences of the knower is essential.  This resurgent Gnostic tribalism leave all alternative interpretative schemes locked in a Wittgensteinian “Language Game” which is epistemological and cultural relativism.  The issue is not--has multicultural education displaced “Western Civilization” and placed it in a cafeteria for selecting alternatives.  Since there cannot be a metanarrative which provides evaluative power over alternative options (see my essays “Idolatrous Absolutes: Man’s Search or Ultimates;” and “God, Man, Nature in Carl Sagan’s Universe”).

 

(3)  Does Multicultural Education Divide The Nation?   It is true that the multicultural mode emphasizes that America was ever unified (American melting pot).  This partly derives from the inability of a naturalist world view to ever unify.  Often, too often, the Churches reflect the culture (Niebuhr, Christ and Culture, Pop Culture, Seeker Friendly). The Multiculturalists view e pluribus unum as an appropriate national goal.  The unum must be negotiated, discussed and restructured to reflect the nation’s ethnic and cultural diversity.  Now enters the Trojan horse of Tolerant Diversity.  But since neutrality is impossible we are in a “cultural War” with no place to stand to avoid resurgent tribalism.  Post Modern multicultural education is in a constant flux, with only “power” the deciding factor between often contradictory alternatives.  (Thomas S. Hibbs, Shows About Nothing (Dallas, TX: Spence Pub. Co., 1999); nihilism in popular culture from The Exorcist to Seinfeld)

 

(4)  Multicultural Education has made Progress: While this revolution in education is still on the margin rather than the center of the curriculum in most schools and colleges, multicultural content has not replaced the European/American classics.  Goals 2000 (a commentary on Goals 2000 is available from the Government Printing Office in Washington D.C.) and the National Association of Education, is perhaps the largest and most powerful lobby in D.C.; it will not be long before it displaces the Judeo-Christian influence in the academy with ethnic diversity and post modern tolerance, which means that if there is no True Truth there is only ethnic diversity and woe to those who challenge this evolutionary, naturalistic world view. If there is no True Truth what is so important that powerful lobby forces seek to reform education?  The weaknesses of classical education models from Dewey, Spock, Lyotard, Fish, Derrida, DeMan, Eco, et al., to Deconstructionalism cannot be positively modified by postmodern multicultural relativism.  Deconstructivism is not based for constructively engaging our post modern educational revolution.  We have come a long way since The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education in 1977, which became effective in 1979, into a caldron of multicultural education in teacher education programs.

 

“The institution gives evidence of planning for multicultural education in its teacher education curriculum including both the general and professional studies components.”  (Banks, p. 91)  As the post modern textbook industry reflects the hopes and fears of African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and women become more influential, textbooks will increasingly reflect their hopes, dreams and disappointments.

 

(5) The Dimensions of Multicultural Education:  If constructive debate is to proceed concerning multicultural education, we must be clear as what the discussion is all about.  One of the issues which has plagued the public debate is oversimplifying the concept.  Many of the concerns are legitimate, but the essence of post modern multiculturalism is that its  on-going debate is grounded in French Deconstructionism, which claims that there is no inherent meaning in any text, so its meaning is shaped by each individual or community of individuals within a shared experience.  Deconstruction affirms that no one outside the sphere of meaning can possibly understand the internal significance.  This is cultural relativism and finds much help from the work of Thomas Kuhn on paradigmatic revolutions in thought systems (see my essay “Thomas Kuhn’s Theory of Paradigm, with attention to Narrative Displacement in The History of Science”)  Kuhn’s thesis with the demise of positivism as the received view has opened Pandora’s Box of public debate in every area of academia.

 

Banks utilizes six dimensions to describe the fields major components and to high light important developments with the last two and a half decades:  (1) Content Integration; (2) The Knowledge Construction Process; Prejudice Reduction; (4) An Equity Pedagogy; and (5) An Empowering School Culture and Social Structure; (6) Other Dimensions:  Prejudice reduction dimension of multicultural education focus on the characteristics of children’s racial attitudes and on strategies that can be used to help students develop more positive racial and ethnic attitudes.  Since the 1960’s (Civil Rights Movement) social scientists have earned a great deal about how racial attitudes in children develop and about ways in which educators can design interventions to help children acquire more positive feelings towards other racial groups (see bibliography at the end of this paper).

 

An equity pedagogy exists when teachers use techniques and teaching methods that facilitate the academic achievement of students from diverse racial and ethnic groups and from all social classes (Barbara J.R. Shade, ed., Culture, Style and The Education Process (Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1989).  Most multiculturalists agree that the major goal of multicultural education is to restructure schools so that all students will acquire knowledge, attitudes and skills needed to function in an ethnically and racially diverse nation and world.  The debates are consistent with the philosophy of a field that values democracy and diversity.

 

The high and noble sounding goals are grounded in French Deconstructionism, ie., cultural and epistemological relativism (see my essay, “Idolatrous Absolutes: Man’s Search for Ultimate Justification of Belief and Behavior”)  Multiculturalism is advancing everywhere for President Clinton’s Cabinet to corporate boardrooms to public classrooms.  One seriously defective demographic position that is repeatedly affirmed in media, government and education is that “whites are on the verge of becoming a minority in the United States.”  This radical shift is supposed to destroy the very idea that America is a single, unified culture.  There is a cultural revolution (war).  At the heart of the argument (really French Deconstructionalism) is the presupposition that the white population is radically declining in relation to the no-white population.  A 1987 Hudson Institute Report helped catapult this claim to national prominence.  The study Workforce 2000, estimated that by the turn of the century only 15% of new workers would be white males; these studies perpetrated the notion that white people were about to become a minority in the workplace and in the century.  The new millennium has come and this data has been found wanting in truth warrant.  But this fundamental challenge is not demographic data, but the very foundations of The Culture War which is French Deconstructionism as I have previously commented.

 

A whole new industry of “diversity professionals” has emerged to help managers cope with the expected deluge of non-white workers.  These consultants are paid as much as $10,000 per day to train managers to “value diversity,” a term so ubiquitous that it has appeared in more than 700 articles in major newspapers in the past five years.  According to Heather MacDonald in The New Republic, about half of Fortune 500 corporations now employ someone responsible for “diversity.”

 

What specifically does “value diversity” mean?  The underlying presuppositions seem to be that non-white are so different from whites that employers must make major changes to accommodate them, and that white workers will be naturally resistant to including non-whites in their ranks.  Public opinion polls don’t bear out the latter.  As for accommodating different cultures, the problem is not cultures, or race, or ethnicity, but education.   The poor production rate in many large intercity schools is self evident, but the basic issue is “Blacks,” Hispanics, or Asians.”

A very serious weakness among multiculturalists is that they insist on treating race and ethnicity as if they were synonymous with culture.  They insist that skin color and national origin, which are immutable facts, determine values, mores, language and other cultural attributes, which, of course are learned. 

 

The world view of multiculturalists is that African-Americans, Puerto Ricans or Chinese Americans living in Chicago, Los Angeles or New York have more in common with persons of their ancestral group living in Laos, San Juan, or Hong Kong than they do with other New Yorkers who are white.  Culture becomes a fixed entity transmitted, as it were, in the genes rather than through experience.  Thus “Afro-centricity” a variant of multiculturalism, is “a way of being,” its exponents claim.  According to a leader of the Afrocentric Education Movement, Malefikete Asante, there is “one African cultural system manifested in diversity” why else are they so adamant about reinforcing it?  Multiculturalists insist on teaching immigrant children in their native language, instructing them in the history and customs of their native land, then with reverence for their ancestral heroes, lest these youngsters be seduced by American culture.  Far from losing faith in the power of assimilation, they seem to believe that without a heavy dose of multicultural indoctrination, immigrants won’t be able to resist it.  And they are right, though it remains to be seen whether anything, including the multiculturalists crude methods, will ultimately detour immigrants from the assimilation path (eg. the American Melting Pot).  Only groups that maintain strict rules against intermarriage with persons outside the group such as Orthodox Jews (eg. Fiddler On The Roof) and the Amish or Irish and Italian, black-white intermarriage have even succeeded in preserving distinct full bloom cultures.

 

In American, Christianity seems to be a more effective deterrent to full assimilation than secularistic elements of culture, including language.  By the third generation in the USA, a majority of Hispanics, like other ethnic groups, speak only English. On one of the most rigorous gauges of assimilation, intermarriage, Hispanics rank high.  About one third of young third generation Hispanics marry non Hispanic whites, a pattern similar to that of young Asians.  There is an ever increasing statistic of black/white intermarriage.

 

Recently, a group of Mexican American students at UCLA, frustrated that the university would not elevate the school’s 23 year old Chicano studies program to full department status, stormed the faculty center causing half a million dollars in damages.  In the same time frame, a group of Asian American students at UC Irvine went on a hunger strike to pressure administrators into hiring more professors of Asian American studies.  They were not immigrants or disadvantaged students, but the received benefits of successful assimilation to the American mainstream (eg. enormous taxes to generate such programs).  Their parents and grandparents assimilated into American culture, but power adversarial cultural forces from the 1960’s to the 1990’s were at work in media and education.  The gurus of the counter culture of the 60’s were Toffler, Reich and Marcuse (see my paper “Counter Culture of the 1960’s”).  Fused with their revolutionary Marxism and French Deconstructionalism, a generation that “knew not Joseph” fused and fired by The Civil Rights and Feminist Movements (e.g. German Greer and Betty Friedan (note particularly an article in TIME May 1, 2000).

 

The protestor’s quest had almost nothing to do with any effort to maintain their ethnic identity.  A recent study of minority students at the University of California at Berkeley found that most Hispanic and Asian students “discovered” their ethnic identity after they arrived on campus--when they also discovered that they were victims of systematic discrimination.  They discovered resurgent racism and tribalism was their newfound victim status, these students looked amazingly like other Americans on most campuses.  This non-American generation of students at Berkeley were admitted to the University under Affirmative Action programs, presumably because they suffered some educational disadvantages attributed to their ethnicity.

 

Affirmative Action Programs make less and less sense as discrimination diminishes in this society and as minorities improve their economic status.  Racial and ethnic identity might wane if there were not such aggressive efforts to ensure that this would not happen.  The multiculturalists know they risk losing their constituency if young blacks, Hispanics, Asians and others don’t maintain strong racial and ethnic affiliations.  Younger generations must be trained to think of themselves as members of oppressed minority groups entitled to special treatment (e.g. Entitlement Culture).

The main beneficiaries are multicultural professionals, who often earn exorbitant incomes peddling identity.  Not too many years ago one particularly egregious example occurred in Washington, D.C.  The school system paid $250,000 to a husband and wife consultant team to produce an Afrocentric study guide to be in a single public elementary school.  Controversy erupted after the two spent three years and produced only a five-page outline.  When the Washington Post criticized the school superintendent for his handling of the affair, he called a press conference to defend the couple, who promptly claimed they were the victims of a racist vendetta.

 

Washington D.C. students rank lowest in the nation in mathematics and fourth lowest in verbal achievement; one can only wonder what $250,000 in tutoring at one school might have done.  Instead the students were treated to bulletin boards in the classrooms proclaiming on their behalf--“We are the sons and daughters of the Most High.  We are the princes and princesses of African kings and queens.  We are the descendants of our black ancestors.  We are black and we are proud!”  Thousand of consultants with little or no real expertise sell “feel good” programs to school systems across the nation.

 

The National Association of Education, etc., are eager to comply with whatever demands the multiculturalists make.  Americans should have learned by now that policy matters.  These policies are extended by the powerful lobby system in D.C.  Surely a brief encounter with the failure of our welfare system and crime policies could alert us to know that providing perverse incentives can change the way individuals behave--for the worse!  Who is to say that if we pour enough taxpayers money into dividing America we won’t succeed?

 

All Christian education agendas, both departments and entire educational programs, must critique the potentially dangerous dynamics of multicultural education in our postmodern culture.

 

SOME IMPORTANT SOURCES:

 

The issue of multicultural education is complex and difficult to resolve because it confronts the very core of the American democratic experience and classical Christianity.  Is the Nation and Church to be constantly redefined by the cultural influences that come to its shores?  (See especially Carlos F. Diaz, National Forum (Winter 1994); “Where is Multiculturalism Leading Us?” by Nathan Glazer, Phi Delta Kappan (Dec. 1993); “Self-Esteem and Multiculturalism in The Public Schools,” by Kay S. Hymowitz, Dissent (Winter 1992); and “Multicultural Education: Five Views” by Christine Sleeter, Kappe Delta Pi Record (Fall 1992).

 

For political perspectives on this issue, see especially “Polarizing American Culture,” Society (July/August 1993); “Multicultural Education,” Phi Delta Kappan (Sept. 1993); see esp. two issues of National Forum that focus on “Immigration and Diversity” (Winter 1994); Simonson and Walker, Multicultural Literacy: Opening The American Mind (1988); James Atlas, Battle of The Books: The Curriculum Debate in America (1990); Sonia Nieto, Affirming Diversity: The Socio-Political Context of Multicultural Education (1992); articles in defense of American culture--Bernard Lewis, “Eurocentrism Revisited,” Commentary (Dec. 1994); and Carl A. Grant, “Challenging the Myths About Multicultural Education,” Multicultural Education (Winter 1994).  Two internet sites that relate to multiculturalism in public schools-- http:/newlinks.TCcolumbia.edu/pluribus/previous and htmondhttp:/www.nwrel.org/drugfree/benard/mult/4.html.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Banks, James A.  Multiethnic Education: Theory and Practice (Boston: Allen and Bacon, 1994), 3rd edition.

Banks, “The Canon Debate, Knowledge Construction and Multicultural Education,” Educational Research (June/July 1993) pp. 4-14.

Banks, “African American Scholarship and The Evolution of Multicultural Education” Journal of Negro Education (Summer 1992), pp. 273-286.

Banks, J.A. editor, et al; Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives, 2nd edition (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1993).

Banks, “Multicultural Education: Its Effect on Students’ Racial and Gender Role Attitudes,” in James P. Shaver, ed., Handbook of Research on Social Studies Teaching and Learning (NY: MacMillan 1991), pp. 459-469.

Code, Lorraine, What Can She Know? Feminist Theory and Construction of Knowledge (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991).

Collins, Patricia H. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge Consciousness and Politics of Empowerment (NY: Routledge, 1990).

Cortes, Carlos E.  “The Societal Curriculum Implications for Multiethnic Education” in James Banks, ed., Education in the 80’s Multiethnic Education (Washington, D.C.: National Association, 1981).

D’Souza, Dinesh, “Illiberal Education” Atlantic (March 1991), pp. 51-79.

Glazer, Nathan, “In Defense of Multiculturalism’s New Republic”, 2 Sept. 1991, pp. 18-22. Groff, Gerald, Beyond Cultural Wars: How Teaching The Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education (NY: Norton, 1992).

Harding, Sandra, Whose Science, Whose Knowledge?  Thinking From Women’s Lives (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991).

Proctor, Robert E., Education’s Great Amnesia (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1988).    

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr., The Disuniting of America: Reflections On A Multicultural Society (Knoxville, TN: Whittle Direct Books, 1991).

Shade, Barbara J.R., ed., Culture Style and The Educative Process (Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1989).

Sowell, Thomas, Inside American Education, The Decline, The Deception, The Dogmas (NY: Free Press, 1993).

Standards for The Accreditation of Teacher Education (Washington, D.C., National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 1977).

Strauss, James D. “Whoever Controls The Soul of Education Controls the Soul of Culture”

Strauss, J.D., “Outcome Based Education: Fade? Failure? or Fiction?”

Strauss, J.D., “Narrative Displacement Between Modern and Postmodern Epochs and The Impact On Christian Education”

Strauss, J.D., “Four Educational Revolutions: Dewey, Spock, Derrida and Outcome Based Education.”

Strauss, J.D., “Christian Education In Our Alternative Belief and Behavior Systems.”

Taba, Hilda, et al Intergroup Education In The Public Schools (Washington, D.C.: American Council On Education, 1952).

 

James Strauss

Professor Emeritus

Lincoln Christian Seminary

Lincoln, IL 62656