Sunday, March 9, 2008

Yes to multiculturalism. No to Multiculturalism

If the title confuses you, let me try to explain. There is one form of multi-culturalism that I am all for. There is another form that I oppose. Today, our society is tying itself up in knots over this issue, and it is the Multiculturalists, the folks on the far left and in our universities who are doing the tying.

As someone who has lived in three different foreign countries (Germany, Italy and Thailand)for a total of 11 years, who has learned several languages, visited over 50 other countries and is married to a Mexican immigrant, I consider myself to be a very multicultural person. It is not a question of being "tolerant", rather I genuinely like and am attracted to numerous different cultures. My wife and I have a circle of friends that probably consists of more than 50% of people from other countries. One of the great things about living in Southern California is the variety of nationalities, foods and languages.

In spite of all that, I remain firmly committed to the old concept that those who immigrate to America should assimilate into our culture and accept our values and traditions. If they don't, their children and grandchildren traditionally do.

I also think that, instead of focusing on our differences, we should focus on what binds us together as Americans-common values, freedoms and language (English).

Yet, there has been a movement in this country for the past couple of generations to move away from the old melting Pot concept and "celebrate our diversity". It is largely championed by the those on the far left-especially in our universities. It is called Multiculturalism. Ostensibly developed to combat racism and to get us all to love each other, it has accomplished neither. Instead, Multiculturalism has contributed only towards a form of Balkanization of Americans into competing tribes; whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, Native Americans and Arab-Americans, many of whom are Muslim-now a distinct minority group. So now we have observances like Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian-Pacific Islander Month and on and on. Indeed, the concept of Multiculturalism has become an industry in itself, with Diversity Consultants, Diversity Seminars and what have you.

Further, where once integration was the goal we strove to achieve after coming out of the darkness of enforced/de facto segregation, now it seems that in some quarters, integration is an outmoded concept. Go onto any university campus, and you will see Black Student Organizations, Mecha (for Mexican-American students, Muslim Student Unions and so on. The result is that Americans-especially young Americans are withdrawing into their own tribes. Is that a worthwhile goal? Not in my view. Yet, it is the goal and design of many on the far left. Why?

To me, the far left in America has a goal to tear this country down and rebuild it in their own image. What better way than to divide Americans-especially when they are young. Make sure that everyone identifies first and foremost with their "Group". Tell them they are victims in a white racist country that will never let them succeed no matter how hard they try. When people come along who prove that idea wrong, (Condoleeza Rice, Clarence Thomas, Ward Connolly for example,) they are castigated as sell-outs.

In addition, the emphasis on Multiculturalism has not done much to bring minority groups together. In places like Los Angeles, black and Hispanic gangs conduct armed warfare on the city streets, while their counterparts in prison are also killing and maiming each other. Mention Multiculturalism to them and they will laugh in your face.

It is especially ironic that, at a point in our history when we face a grave threat in the form of international Islamic terrorism, we would want to be divided. More than ever, we need to come together as Americans under a common threat. There are many aspects of our identity that we share as Americans. We cannot afford to forget about them. The Multiculturalists can talk all they want about "celebrating diversity". The fact is that if we really consider ourselves as part of different tribes-and competing ones at that- we will act like it. Do we really want to go in the direction of places like Rwanda, Kenya or Sudan? Oh, but that could never happen here, you say. I revert your attention back to the mean streets of LA and our prisons.

Ironically, today we see a major political party in America, one that boasts of being the party of inclusion and diversity, on the verge of a rupture over race and gender-all because their two remaining candidates consist of a white woman and a black man (Clinton-Obama). Not surprisingly, but sadly, their support-to a large extent-is breaking down along racial and gender lines, while most Hispanic Democrats are going to Clinton.

It may be naive to say so, but our ultimate goal has to be to achieve a common identity as Americans, drop the hyphens from our consciousness and our lexicon, and stand together as one people. That is not to say that we cannot respect the ethnic differences or old mother country heritage. However, if we are to survive as a people and a great nation, then those differences have to recede into the background.

The term multiculturalism is actually not a bad word in of itself. When I look at my own life (as a white male), multiculturalism has been and still is a central point of my being.

I just don't spell it with a capital "M".


Lance Christian Johnson said...

I agree with you for the most part, Gary, but you lose me when you say the right-wing catchphrases about the "Far Left" trying to tear this country down. It's a little too Bill O'Reilly for my tastes, and that sort of way of looking at things is just one more way that's dividing us up into "tribes," only this time it's along political idealogies. That sort of rhetoric hurts your argument, and probably turns a lot of people off who might be inclined to agree with you (or at the very least, consider your point).

As for "celebrating diversity," I see your point. Still, I think that the problem can't just be blamed on liberals. Part of the problem is that certain groups don't, on the whole, feel as though they're part of the culture of this country. I think it's too simple to blame that phenomenon on any one thing though.

I know for myself, I'll have the occasional white student grumble when we read something by a nonwhite author, even though it's pretty much dead white guys for the rest of the year. And I'll hear white people grumbling that there's no "White Entertainment Television." My response to them is always, "Do you really feel, that as a white person, you're not being represented in the media?"

Personally, I look forward to a day when nobody feels the NEED for a Black History Month or a Black Entertainment network. I don't know if we're near that, but maybe one day it'll come.

As for the various clubs on school campuses, I don't think that it should necessarily be something to be feared. I think that the beauty of being an American is that people can identify with their ancestry AND being an American. I really believe that we can have it both ways, but I agree with you that we don't want to focus so much on the differences that we forget about the things that unite us.

Gary Fouse said...


Your points are well taken. However, I took pains to use the term, far-left as opposed to left or liberal. (Much like OReilly does). There is a difference, you know.

I agree that some groups have historically felt left out of the American culture, but now I think the problem is more that some of these groups are still being told by their own "leaders" that they are not part of the culture. I think that is very counterproductive. We are not still living in the 1950s.

As for various student groups on campus, you may be right. I just wish they would spend more time associating with everyone on campus.

And I would add that at UCI, the Muslim Student Union is a cause for concern. Same at many other campuses.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

There may be a difference between "far left" and "liberal," but I feel like the message of that is, "It's okay to be liberal, but just make sure that you're not TOO liberal!" Feels like a witch-hunt to me, as though O'Reilly pictures a secret cabal of left-wingers who gather in hidden meetings to plan the destruction of our country.

If this is true, then there's a "far-right" who gathers like a secret cabal in hidden meetings to plan the overthrow of our current system of government to create a Talibanesque (only with Christian law) society.

If one notion is crazy, then they're both crazy.

Gary Fouse said...

First of all, Lance, it is true that conservatives think in terms of a "far-left" and don't have much concept of what "far-right" is. Similarly, liberals think in terms of a "far-right" and have no concept of the "far-left". In other words, most folks only think that the other side has extremists.

In my view, I can define what I think the far-left is- anarchists, those who think America is a bad country, Communists (who are trying to re-define themselves as something else.), those who detest our military, etc. I believe that these groups are more numerous and more influential than what you might consider the far-right.

As to the far-right, who do you really think that is? People who want to establish a Christian theocracy in America? I guess there are people like that, but how much influence do you think they have? I think-minimal.

Give O'Reilly some credit. He tries to make a distinction between liberals and the far-left. To Olbermann, all conservatives seem to be far-right lunatics-to use his own words.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

The "far right" has little power? Are you kidding me? Ever hear of "abstinence-only" education, which has been shown to be a failure, yet we're still debating it as though it has some merit? (Have you actually looked into this? Kids were being taught that they could get pregnant by touching somebody's genitals and that you could contract AIDS through tears!)

How about the Intelligent Design/Creationism movement? Why would they even be discussing this foolishness unless the extreme right had some influence?

Have a look at the English textbooks that I have to use. Anything that could potentially offend those with delicate tastes has been removed, essentially gutting much classic literature of its meaning.

What about people like Ann Coulter, who you claim to like, who's given a forum to call anybody who disagrees with the administration a "traitor"? And I know that even you're quick to disassociate yourself from guys like Michael Savage and that one moron who kept saying "Barak Hussein Obama".

I don't deny that there are extremists on both sides, but you can't honestly say that an "extreme" right has little influence on this society.

Gary Fouse said...

I would maintain that the far-left has more power and is more a danger than the far-right. Examples? Hollywood and universities.

As for textbooks, California state regs on textbooks used in this state have to pass the political correctness muster in order for the state to purchase them.

Who is teaching abstinance in Calif public schools as compared to who is teaching kids how to put on condoms?

As I pointed out in my earlier response, we have difference definitions of extreme right and extreme left because of our own views.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

In all honesty, I'd rather that they teach them how to put on condoms than "abstinence only" education. At least then they're learning facts, and not nonsense about getting AIDS through tears.

Funny how there are more pregnant teenagers in the Teen-Pregnancy Belt...oops, I mean Bible Belt.

And I was actually talking about this very thing with my students yesterday. A lot of them told me that their middle schools barely touched on contraception during sex ed. And I'm in the "liberal" Bay Area.

Gary Fouse said...

It is a touchy question, but there are a lot of parents out there who want to reserve the right to teach their kids about sex-to themselves.

In many cases, kids are being taught things in school that go against the beliefs of their parents-not that all parents are wise or doing the right thing at home.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I agree that it's a touchy subject, but isn't it interesting that the rate of STDs has been going up ever since the implementation of all these "abstinence only" education programs?

Personally, I don't think that we can trust the average person to teach about sex anymore than we can trust them to teach chemistry. This is ultimately a public health issue, and I'm thinking that it might outweigh their right to remain ignorant.

Gary Fouse said...


First of all, I don't necessarily see a nexus between abstinence only teaching and STD rise. Secondly, which public schools are teaching abstinence only?

Finally, ask yourself this question: If parents don't have the right to teach their kids about sex without the schools contradicting them, who do the children belong to,the parents-or the state? Your last statements indicate you think they belong to the state.

That is just another danger of a bigger, more powerful government.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

No offense, Gary, but if you're not seeing the connection between abstinence only education and the rise in STDs, then you're not really paying attention. (And please realize, the key is "abstinence ONLY.") Shoot, there was an article about it in my local paper just a few days ago.

I am with you when it comes to not making the government too powerful. However, we as a society should not cave into the demands of people who want to remain ignorant. If parents don't want their children to learn about sexual education, then they have the right to take them out when those lessons are being taught, just as some of them do when evolution is covered.

So ultimately, the child belongs to the parents, and the final decision rests with them. However, I don't think that the rest of us should bow to their demands of encouraging ignorance and alter what's being taught in the public schools. If they don't like it, they have every right to seek an alternative - but they don't get to dictate what everybody else gets taught.

And the default lesson should be to EDUCATE the kids about how they can prevent STDs, because people are living in a fantasy land if they think that kids won't have sex just because they're told not to. You're working against a biological imperative on that one, and if there are some kids who'll never appreciate the importance of reading (or math, history, etc.) there are at least just as many who won't appreciate the importance of denying their basic biological urges.

Gary Fouse said...

As we speak, California is moving to eliminate home schooling by requiring that parent(s) have teaching certificates. Some on the left disparage parents who home school.

Of course, kids will have sex, and they should be equipped with the information they need. Nonetheless, adult who know the info still make bad choices as well.

As to science vs religion, that is another difficult issue. Would I object to my kid taking a science class and being taught about evolution? No, I just would not want a teacher telling him that religion is a crock if I am trying to impart a religious belief to my child.

Remember what famous dictatorships did in the area of education. (Nazis, Soviets)

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I'm aware of the move to require home-schooled parents have teaching credentials. Honestly, I haven't given it enough thought to have made up my mind about it one way or another, but there are still other choices (like private school) if parents want their kids to learn a certain way. And as I wrote before, they have the right to dismiss them from specific lessons if they want - which has always been the case, and I don't see it changing anytime soon.

And I'm well aware of what the Soviets and Nazis did regarding education - shoot, I'm teaching my freshmen about that right now! What they did was sacrifice facts over idealogy, which is EXACTLY what teaching "abstinence only" is all about. Despite the facts that most Americans want comprehensive sexual education for their children, and despite the fact that those sorts of programs haven't proven effective (if anything, they've proven the opposite! Not only that, but the comprehensive programs seem to indicate that the kids who learn about it actually start having sex later in life.)

As for evolution, teaching it isn't the same as saying that religion is a crock. I really don't think that it's fair to imply that a lot of teachers are even doing this. (Did you see the PBS special on Intelligent Design? Most of the teachers who were adamantly opposed to teaching Intelligent Design were church-going, Jesus-believing Christians!) Is it possible that there are a handful? Sure, just as it's possible that there are a handful who proseltyze religion (like the one at my school.)

To say that the Genesis account, or Intelligent Design, is not science is not the same thing as calling religion a crock. It's stating a simple, unarguable fact. But from most Christians I talk to, it doesn't matter because the Bible isn't TRYING to be a science book in the first place. (After all, a guy loses his superhuman strength by getting a haircut! Is the point of that a science lesson on the relationship between hair and superhuman strength? I would hope not!)

Back to the original point, the fact is that there most certainly those who might be considered "far-right" who have wielded far too much influence over our public schools - as all the money towards "abstinence only" education proves, along with all of the time wasted debating Intelligent Design, shows that there are other extremists out there who have exerted an influence besides the far-left.

Gary Fouse said...


You and I teach at different levels-high school vs college, so our perceptions as to who has the most influence may differ.

My perception is that education is dominated from the left- at the college level, there is no doubt. Your perception, if I interpret correctly, is that the right-at least at secondary level- has a lot of influence.

I think religion should not be prosetilyzed in public school. Nor should it be torn down in public school. As to that point, isn't it interesting how education is drawing a strict line when it comes to Christianity while trying to instill a respect for Islam?

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Well, I can only speak for myself and for some of my friends in education. I try and show and encourage respect for EVERYBODY, but it seems like some Christians feel as though we're knocking it when we treat them the same way as we treat everybody else.

A coworker once had a parent get upset at her because she used BCE and CE instead of BC and AD. Apparently, acknowledging that not everybody is a Christian, and therefore some don't recognize "In the Year of Our Lord", is tearing down Christianity to them. We're not using the Muslim way of keeping track of the years either. No special treatment for anybody.

Gary Fouse said...

I wouldn't agree with that analysis. I think there is a movement to undermine the traditional Christian nature of the US, while at the same time, placing Islam under the protective mantle of political correctness. At the same time, we should all be concerned over the rise in anti-Semitism-mostly fomented by Islamists and their sympathizers.

Maybe it's too early in the morning, but whatdos BCE and CE mean? Are these new terms like "Personhole cover?

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Is it possible that some people are out there who are trying to actively destroy Christian influence in this country? Possibly. Calling it an actual "movement" is paranoia. I'm sorry, but if the public library near me closes for Good Friday, I'd say that Christians still have a pretty strong influence.

And yeah, I know all about Bill O'Reilly and other Fox News pundits who spoke of the "War on Christmas." It certainly sounded threatening, but it turned out that many of the examples were completely made up. (Like how Best Buy was "requiring" employees to say "Happy Holidays" - total B.S.) That whole thing was yellow journalism not seen since the sinking of the Maine. (The thing is, I always understood "Happy Holidays" to be a shorter way of saying, "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year." It just also conveniently covers other faiths as well. People have said it as long as I can remember.)

BCE stands for Before the Common Era and CE stands for the Common Era. Yeah, it's a bit politically correct, but it does acknowledge the fact that not everybody is a Christian. It's religiously neutral, but I know of at least one parent who got upset and insisted that there was nothing religious in BC and AD, which is asinine. (Unless of course, you think that AD means "After Death.")

As for myself, when I give notes I write BCE and CE, but I tell the kids that if they want to write BC and AD that it's their notes and they can do it however they want. And if the Muslim and Jewish students want to do the complex math to have it fit their calendars, then more power to them.