Diversity and Citizenship Education: Global Perspectives

By James A. Banks | Go to book overview

FOREWORD
Will Kymlicka

THE CHAPTERS IN THIS VOLUME testify to a striking worldwide trend regarding the diffusion and adoption of the principles and policies of multicultural citizenship. This trend has been intensively studied within the Western democracies but has now reached even the most remote regions of Peru (Brysk, 2000), the highlands of Nepal (Gellner, 2001), and the peripheries of Communist China (see Wan, Chapter 13).

This trend is quite remarkable given the many obstacles faced by proponents of multiculturalism. These range from deeply rooted legacies of ethnocentrism and racism that denigrate the value of minority cultures to modernizing ideologies of nation building that privilege uniformity and homogeneity over diversity. The chapters in this volume provide eloquent, and at times inspiring, testimony to the struggles that have been required to overcome these obstacles (see, e.g., Gonçalves e Silva, Chapter 7). They also remind us of the ever-present possibility of a backlash and relapse into more homogenizing or assimilationist models of citizenship (see, e.g., Castles' discussion of Australia, Chapter 1).

However, the successful diffusion of multiculturalist ideals has generated its own dilemmas and challenges. Multiculturalism is not a simple or straightforward idea: it carries within itself various tensions and conflicts. Even in contexts where there is broad public support for the idea of multiculturalism, there are likely to be deep disagreements about how to interpret or implement it.

One central tension, highlighted in the introduction by Banks and picked up in most of the chapters, is the need to “balance unity and diversity” (Banks et al., 2001). How can we ensure that the recognition of diversity does not undermine efforts to construct or sustain common political values, mutual trust and understanding, and solidarity across group lines?

Critics of multiculturalism typically view this problem as insoluble. They assume that identities are essentially zero-sum, so that policies which

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