Thomas J. la Belle and Christopher R. Ward. Ethnic Studies and Multiculturalism

Article excerpt

Within the barely 133 pages of this book, the authors, LaBelle and Ward, carefully examine the timely, important, and controversial issues swirling around the roles and placement of ethnic studies and multiculturalism in academe. The straightforward examination of the origin of the discipline of ethnic studies and the development of multiculturalism are confined to three parts: "Historical and Conceptual Backdrop," "Multiculturalism and Ethnic Studies: A Contemporary View," and "The Context and Strategies for Addressing Diversity." Two generally well-written chapters comprise each the three parts. Part 1 of the book is especially informative. The authors provide an insightful historical context into which the reader can locate the observations and recommendations offered later regarding the contemporary challenges facing multiculturalism and ethnic studies on college and university campuses. Chapter 1, "Ethnicity, Multiculturalism, and Higher Education in the United States prior to the 1960s" is a useful overview discussion of the historical roots to the contemporary discussions of ethnic studies, multiculturalism, and diversity.

Labelle and Ward attempt in Ethnic Studies and Multiculturalism to provide an even-handed examination of the subjects comprising the title of the book. And yet, it seems as though they are uncomfortable with, or a bit uncertain about, the eventual place of ethnic studies in college and university curriculae. I have the impression, especially from Part 3, "The Context and Strategies for Addressing Diversity," that they believe that ethnic studies ought to best be seen as a transitory academic phenomenon. Given the several constraints against ethnic studies, e.g., budget cuts and backlash politics among them, the authors tilt towards favoring the believed efficiency of a multicultural, that is, integrative approach to teaching about this nation's ethnic heritage. Apparently, they are of the opinion that the more ethnic specific approaches common to methodologies used in ethnic studies don't recommend themselves to the task of building stronger human relationships. …