Notes & Comments December 1999
We told you so
There are many reasons to be critical of multiculturalism. In practice, it is neither multi nor cultural. Inspired primarily by ideological rancor, its partisans are always talking about diversity, but in fact they everywhere act to enforce strict conformity. Their commitment to diversity really means a commitment to a left-liberal tablet of values. Multiculturalists pretend that the traditional, Eurocentric curriculum is intellectually narrow and stifling, but it turns out that the multicultural curriculum is laughably superficial. The multicultural alternative to traditional education is little more than political posturing.
These are not arcane truths. Readers of The New Criterion have been exposed to them for years. We are gratified that the mainstream media are beginning to wake up to these elementary facts. Under the headline Critics Say Emphasis on Diversity Squelches Basic Learning, the Associated Press recently ran a story that confirmed what every sensible person already knew: multiculturalism promises diversity but delivers confusion.
The story, reporting on the results of a Harvard University study, has something of the amazed air of the man who one day first saw an elephant. What an extraordinary creature! Books that used to teach schoolchildren reading now focus too much on cultural diversity and not enough on laying a foundation for reading, writing, and thinking, the story begins. Yes, and have you noticed how long its trunk is? The story goes on to quote Sandra Stotsky, a deputy commissioner of the Massachusetts education department and a research associate at Harvard Universitys graduate school of education: Children hop from culture to culture, century to century. You are not introducing them to a good literary foundation. You are introducing them to linguistic chaos. Too true; and by the way, in case you hadnt noticed, the beast is unusually large.
The Associated Press story is news only because the common-sense truths it reports have been largely denied by the mainstream media. Multiculturalism is the approved, politically correct banner under which progressive sentiment marches. To reject multiculturalism is to reject an important part of liberal orthodoxy. This is the chief reason that one seldom encounters serious criticism of multiculturalism in the liberal media. It is gratifying to know that when an elephant wanders into ones living room, people sooner or later take notice.
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 18 Number 4, on page 2
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