Copyright © 2013 Karl M. Bunday, all rights reserved.
[This is a revised version of a message I composed on-line that received favorable comment during on-line discussion. The first Web posting of this revised version was to the Learn in Freedom! Web site on 12 February 1999.]
I frequently find that the word "multiculturalism" is used as a euphemism. As a euphemistic term, "multiculturalism" is invoked as an excuse for governmental control of children's associations, education, and political preferences. At least anywhere I have ever lived, all the resources necessary to become a multicultural person are fully available outside the public schools. I myself am a multicultural person. I speak and read Mandarin Chinese, although I am of European ancestry, and talk to my Taiwan-born wife in Mandarin around the house. We are bringing up our two sons to speak three languages with their parents. Indeed, the only barrier we have had in achieving full native trilingualism in our older son is my wife's reluctance to speak her own native language (Taiwanese) to him, which is precisely an effect of her public schooling in Taipei, Taiwan, in which the speaking of Taiwanese was disfavored by comparison to speaking Mandarin. Until recently we lived in the United States, where my older son acquired a fine native speaker's command of Mandarin with only three brief visits to Taiwan in more than six years, and where I was able to make my living the last few years as a Chinese-English interpreter. Now we are living in Taiwan, just as we did when we were first married, and both of our children are gaining new opportunities to use all three of their languages. It is ludicrous to think that any school in any one country could provide my children the multicultural learning experience that our international move is providing them. And well before we moved here, my older son had plenty of interaction with children from around the world, all outside of school walls. The neighbor children and children of our friends he played with came from, or had ancestors who came from, at least four different continents. While growing up in Minnesota, my son heard conversations in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Khmer, Wu Chinese, Tagalog, Spanish, Ilocano, and a variety of other languages. Oh, yes, in English too.
Local people in both Minnesota and Taiwan are very conscious of my children looking different from most other children in both those places. That pattern of physical appearance results from their "mixed-race" background. I utterly reject racism, because I believe all human beings were created by God and share a common heritage, and have hope only in the common Savior sent by God. There is a total lack of scientific evidence to support any theory of racism, and racism is a grave offense to Christians like me who observe that in Christ "there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and in all." It is an especially grave offense that public schools in the United States, since their founding in the modern form by Horace Mann, were divided by "race" as if racial categories had any real meaning. Private, outside-of-school opportunities for learning (such as those used by Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin Bannecker, and Frederick Douglass) have always been more truly multicultural than the public schools.
I am observer of the common humanity of all human beings. However, after living for three years in a non-Western country with a radically different culture from that of the United States, and after my study of history and meeting people from many parts of the world, I am also not a cultural relativist. Some cultures are better at protecting the weak, encouraging innovation, and dealing with neighboring cultures than others. That's why I support the free movement of people and ideas around the world, so that each person can be a member of a culture in which that person is safe and happy. That is genuine multiculturalism, to let people decide for themselves what their favorite culture is, without government interference.
I am a participant in world culture (the elements of which I select with considerable guidance from the Bible) and listen to music from Africa, from the African diaspora in the Western Hemisphere, from Polynesia, and from all parts of Eurasia. In restaurants, I've enjoyed Ethiopian, Indian, German, Sri Lankan, Colombian, Nepali, Vietnamese, etc., etc. food; at home I eat Mexican, Korean, Italian, Chinese, Norwegian, Japanese, etc., etc. food. I sing songs from the ante-bellum South and from Reformation Europe and read poetry from Tang dynasty China and Renaissance England, and so on. Of course any of us using the Internet are using computers with parts manufactured all over the world, and reading electronic signals that have bounced around the entire planet.
All these things belong to all humankind, and there is certainly not any necessary relationship between a person's racial heritage and the person's cultural heritage. I agree with the concerned parents who say that much of what is named "multiculturalism" in school curricula in many countries should actually be properly called "ethnic factionalism." Such curricula encourage racial stereotyping and divisiveness. Day by day now I live the life of a person who is visibly a "foreigner" wherever he goes--and what helps me cope with people here is not the compulsory schooling I or they received but our voluntary efforts to get along.
I have the Motown Records compact disc recording of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s great speeches at home (Gordy GCD06220GD). King's dream was a society in which his children would "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." That is not a dream of racial preferences, nor is it a dream of moral relativism. James Madison considered this issue much earlier in the pages of the papers he wrote for The Federalist, the arguments in favor of ratifying the United States constitution. He warned that people should never feel that they belong to permanent interest groups or classes, because that would bring about the danger of "faction" in the country's political system (as indeed it does in many countries). Madison quite reasonably pointed out that everyone really belongs to floating interest groups, with their occupation sometimes united against other trades, or their region united against other regions, or their party united against other parties. But diversity of interests was never mistaken by Madison or by King for a diversity of objective moral standards. A new generation has come that knows not what King and Madison wrote on these issues, and that is regrettable. As my children grow up as indisputably multicultural persons, who, God willing, will never attend school in their childhoods, I pray that they communicate King's and Madison's message to the next generation of people all over the world.
What have been your experiences with multicultural learning in the real world? What resources and techniques were helpful for you? I would be glad to hear from you.
[Last revision 9 March 2013]
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This School Is Dead: Genuine Multiculturalism page is copyright © 2013 Karl M. Bunday, all rights reserved.
A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body.