Multiculturalism and the Western Tradition

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 4, 1999 | Go to article overview

Multiculturalism and the Western Tradition


Multiculturalism is now the primary vehicle of social and political change that our education establishment imposes on America's students. Most multiculturalists have determined that all cultures in their manifest behavior are relative; One is as good or right as the other and any attempt to judge otherwise is biased due to our own cultural and social prejudices. Unfortunately, the social and cultural prejudices of multiculturalists have never interfered with their ability to judge ours or someone else's culture. But many political and cultural conservatives abide under the illusion that such relativism on the part of students, not to mention their professors, first emerged in the 1960s. On the contrary, it has been endemic in this century and continues to divide our families, our communities, and our nation. Any idea of truth is extreme; exclusively the ruling class' habit of defining truth to its own advantage. This extreme skepticism is an abyss used to destroy the concept of any kind of cultural, moral judgment. Its end is the long historical reality of Realpolitik; politics for power sake, where only force and propaganda count. And most of the arguments that counter the multicultural premise continue to focus on a cultural basis, instead of looking for the important, universal truths that illuminate our common human nature.

Multiculturalists have established a number of "dirty words" that they wish to erase from our educational vocabulary. Terms such as "Eurocentric," a name for the traditional values in Western culture, a culture dominated by "dead white males" from Greek antiquity to the first half of the 20th century in Europe and North America. They have replaced these buzzwords with a few of their own, such as "cultural diversity" and "Multiculturalism." In our ethnically and culturally diverse large cities, the school populations include children from black homes of African and West Indian origin, as well as white homes having families of European origin. They also include Hispanics, Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans, and children in families from India, Southeast Asia, and the Arabic and Iranian Near East. And for some time, educators have responded to these facts by making efforts to acquaint this diversified school population with the plurality of ethnic backgrounds and cultural differences that go into the tapestry of American society.

And because of this descriptive multicultural character, students should have some understanding of history and geography, and how they relate to the mixture and cultural differences which have entered into the fabric of American life. Children should learn that many different cultural groups, especially in antiquity, have contributed to the development of mathematics, physics and astronomy, and they should be impressed with the fact that these sciences are not solely of Greek and Roman origin. Contributions to our understanding of these sciences come from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and India, not just Greece. Such teaching of the early developments in mathematics and natural sciences is not inconsistent with the present transcultural character of the disciplines themselves. At this point, "Eurocentrism" is a moot issue.

It is the prescriptive character of transcultural ethics that gives us the proper understanding of our descriptive multicultural society. The truth lies in the universal values which transcend matters of culture - matters of taste. If judgments can be made about how government and society should be organized everywhere, in order to be good for human beings to live in, then a prescriptive political philosophy can be transcultural, and education in these affairs should not be multicultural.

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