Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Question: How do supporters of multiculturism and opponents differ in their points of view?

Answer/Quote: [Note: I have removed the quotation marks in order to shorten the expression of the speaker’s ideas. RayS.] Concern for what constitutes America. Belief that America is tied to Western civilization’s values of individual freedom and tolerance. Advocates of multiculturalism attempt to incorporate into the curriculum…the wide range of cultures that coexist in the United States. Those who oppose multiculturalism are promoting the idea of America as something fixed and given that has not changed in the last 200 years. Defenders of multiculturalism are content to retreat to an identity politics that defines isolated groups and cultures within America. Seem to welcome fragmentation and deride cultural unity as a myth.

Neither side is right.

Our insistence on a multicultural curriculum is…an effort to rethink and renegotiate the relationship between our sense of what is individually distinctive and a common culture that may somehow encompass all of us. The goals of multiculturalism open the possibility of conceiving a democratic culture as a process in whose transformation we are all invited to participate. –From a speech by Alice Kessler-Harris, president of the American Studies Association, published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 1992.

 Comment: Fair enough. We have to think about democracy as a process in which we must define what is individual and traditional that unites us and to do this, we must all participate. RayS.

Title: “Multiculturalism and the Common Culture.” From a speech by Alice Kessler-Harris. Reprinted in English Journal (January 1993), 9.

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