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Multicultural Education, A Representative Public Policy for the Construction of Multiculturalism

Flavia-Tania Stefan
Last modified: 2021-09-07


The concept of “public policies” may be understood if we start from a conceptual differentiation, characteristic of the English language, between politics and policy. In English, the term of politics is more general, referring to politics as a whole, the general strategy employed to govern and to organize society at general level. Policy refers to the concrete measures applied, by domains: education, health, environment, finances, etc. A possible definition for the term of “public policies” is provided by the endeavor constructed by Thomas Dye. According to him, public policies represent the entirety of the elements constituting the strategy of governmental structures relating to what they aim to accomplish and what they do not aim to accomplish (meaning what they avoid).

                As I have already mentioned, in order for tolerance to be possible behaviorally, we need a new type of education, compatible with multiculturalism, which should be accomplished in the first institutional educational stages. This education is the multicultural education. It is based on two principles: a) a reconsideration of the concept of culture; b) the education and education-ability of children employing strategies favorable to multiculturalism. For the reconsideration of the concept of culture, I am thinking about a replacement of the traditional mentality with a new one, compatible with multiculturalism. In the traditional perspective, culture may by exemplified by the endeavor of Roger Scruton. He starts from the distinction operated by Herder between: civilization and culture. Civilization would rather relate to superficial behavioral manners, while culture represents the expression of the spirit of a people. Lucian Blaga classifies cultures into: major and minor, the major ones superior to the minor ones. Andrew Jones quotes Immanuel Wallerstein and Andre Gunder Frank, who use the center-outskirts mechanism to explain the hierarchy of cultures. According to Wallerstein’s systemic vision, the engine of globalization is represented by the center, i. e. the strongly developed states, while the outskirts depend upon the center and refer to the former colonies. 

                Charles Taylor suggests a reconsideration of the concept of “culture”, so that the hierarchization of cultures from inferior to superior should cease. Culture is a highly important dimension which grants an individual identity. His view is completed by that depreciative image of the women in the patriarchal societies and of the black-skinned persons in the colonial societies. The vision of culture must be revised as it has to stop being hierarchizable. In order to further support this perspective favorable to multiculturalism, I will restate that we have to take into consideration the most important consequence of Einstein’s relativity. It refers to the fact that in theoretical physics we do not have any privileged reference system against which the measurements taken should be compared. They depend on the reference system in which the observer is placed, meaning “a” reference system. If in the field of the sciences qualified as exact there is no such reference system, then the claims to support such a reference system in axiology or in the field of social sciences would have no fundament.

                Tolerance is a fundamental component of the multicultural education because tolerance is not innate and is not easily built, but it requires a specific institutional program. Parekh is the one operating with the distinction between multicultural states (Russia, for example, is a multicultural state, because it contains several communities different from an ethnic and cultural point of view) and multiculturalist states (the US, Canada, or Australia), which also have policies specific to multiculturalism, aimed at maintaining and preserving the ethnic-cultural identities of the various minority communities. The question arises: why should tolerance be cultivated by a multicultural education? Because tolerance and the fact-of-being-tolerant are not innate, but must be acquired through education. The behavioral sciences reveal that aggressiveness and the seeds of xenophobia and intolerance are innate and may be noticed in the behavioral sequences of children. If David Heyd considered that tolerance is a perceptual virtue, it may constitute a subject matter of the educational system.

                In what the reevaluation of the curriculum of multicultural education is concerned, three points of view may be mentioned. Parekh operates with the distinction between monocultural and multicultural educations. The latter may be considered a well formulated retort to traditional education, based on Eurocentrism which lies at the foot of Western civilization. A well formulated curriculum may not be rendered in a simple manner, lest it should be trivialized, which would prove it is not well conceived. The examples provided by Parekh in this regard are illustrative. The History curriculum in the US in well formulated concerning the landmarks of multiculturalism, while the Literature curriculum is still being put together traditionally, containing only the names already consecrated in the history of universal literature.

                David Rosen examines the concept of multicultural education translated and applied in the pre-school system in the US. A first difficulty analyzed by Rosen is the fact that the existing educational curriculum relates to an ideal system. Rosen believes that such an ideal system does not exist, as children have different ethnical origins, and this implies different cultures and systems of values. He also identifies the issue of communicating in a natural language, in a single “official” language. Therefore, a first main component of an efficient multicultural education is that teaching be applied bilingually. Rosen starts from the dimension of educational pluralism and considers that a curriculum should also contain alternative elements, such as: strategies to survive in the wild specific to the “native” Americans and healthy cooking recipes. This pilot multicultural program meant in the first place mixed pupils: black-skinned children, white-skinned children, and Hispanic children. The advantage of a mixed class mainly concerns the perceptive tolerance theorized by Heyd. Children are educated to mutually perceive one another and to get used to this ethnic-cultural diversity. David Rosen identifies four general rules that a multicultural educational program should follow: a) the children of various ethnical, racial origins are constantly being associated at school and during the extracurricular activities so that they should interiorize tolerance; b) the school management should be made of members belonging to all the ethnic groups, so that the dominance of middle class, which was traditionally formed of white-skinned people, should be eliminated; c) the parents of various races and ethnicities are permanently associated with the management members and are actively involved in the educational process, so that a harmonization between the institutional and family environments should be accomplished; d) all the members participate in making decisions, so that none of the community members should be excluded.

                Abdeljalil Akkari highlights the importance of Paulo Freire’s pedagogical work for the policies of multicultural education. Freire was actively involved in elaborating educational programs in such countries as: Guinea-Bissau and Brazil, especially for the issue of rehabilitating “the history of the indigenous peoples” before the colonization. Freire concentrated on three main directions: a) the importance of schooling; b) the connection between the theory and practice of learning; c) examining the power of the languages used in education. Freire advances the idea that a new strategy of the curriculum should be conceived, which should be based on the real life of communities. In the relationship between teacher and pupil, Akkari criticizes Freire’s work, the traditional view, compatible with the monocultural education according to which the teacher is the one who knows, who possesses knowledge, and this knowledge has to be delivered to the pupil, who must remain passively at his or her desk. Such an authoritative pedagogy annihilates the pupil’s cultural identity, rendering them silent. The possible solutions to remedy such a situation would be: a) teachers should be highly trained in multicultural educational strategies; b) those who are involved in educational programs should be tolerant, open-minded towards multicultural dialogue; c) teachers should spend as much time as possible with other colleagues from various cultural communities while attending multicultural educational programs, so as to get used to the cultural diversity.

                McLaren analyzes one of the delusive aspects of multiculturalism “accepted” by the social majority, calling it “conservative multiculturalism”. Such a phenomenon is dangerous, because it represents a masked form of assimilation of the marginalized groups and of integration of these communities into the club of rich people of the social middle class. Conservative multiculturalism is practiced on the labor market, especially by the large multinational companies, which, under the alleged ethnical, cultural, or religious diversity of their employees, actually implement a form of westernization, or a form of uniforming Eurocentrism. Tolerance is one of the subject matters of multicultural education, because it takes a long time for children to accept and to get used to one another and thus to learn to beware of prejudgments, stereotypes, and to refrain from judging one another. A very important component of the multicultural education is the bilingual or multilingual one. States such as Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, or the US are representative in this regard.