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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

“PC and multiculturalism” (op-ed: Ellensburg Daily Record)

Ellensburg Daily Record (1/26/93)

As our state moves further into the discussions over much needed education reform in public schools and our local university continues to discuss a revised mission statement, the debate needs to be informed properly with due concern for a couple of problem areas.

First, there is a group of folk who apparently think the term “political correctness” is a creation of the political right wing. This is nonsense since the issue of political correctness is really one involving academic free speech in America’s colleges and schools. Furthermore, political correctness had its impetus from the concerns of such distinguished liberals as Harvard’s Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Duke’s James David Barber, as well as Duke’s Kenny Williams, Harvard’s Edward O. Wilson, Yale’s Donald Kagan, and Illinois State University’s Anne Wortham.

 Their fear is that political correctness is a form of political intimidation from special interest groups and is gaining momentum in our country’s schools and universities. The result is the stifling of a free, rational and reasoned exchange of ideas, popular or not. These scholars point to a fact of faculty and teacher life in our country where one needs to be more careful of offending someone’s sensitivities and self-esteem, than of encouraging the quest for truth and scholarship.

A second concern is the organized movement for diversity or multiculturalism in America. It is difficult to persuasively argue against the notion of social multiculturalism if one means by that cultural pluralism as expressed in the motto of the United States, E Pluribus Unum (“one out of many”). There are, however, two ways of looking at pluralism or multiculturalism. One way is as an individual, and the other way is as a group.

 For the individual, theUnited States is a nation composed of persons of different beliefs, backgrounds, appearances, group affiliations, etc. The laws of our country forbid ethnic exclusivity or favoritism. The individual is free to adopt the values and beliefs and habits that individual. wishes. Our laws recognize different backgrounds, heritages, racial compositions, life choices, and affiliations. In short, preserving individual political liberty is the main focus of this aspect of cultural pluralism and is the glory of our admittedly flawed system.

However, there is the other side of multiculturalism which is the group focus, and it is this view that is currently being promoted by various vocal groups. This view holds thatAmericais not composed primarily of free individuals, but rather distinct and competing groups. This focus is on preserving ethnic, racial and cultural differences. This group pluralism stresses an expanded view of equality (political, as well as social, economic, cultural) for the designated groups, and seeks to highlight the differences among the groups. Furthermore, it expects and demands that if one is a member of a particular group one gives up one’s individual will for the group will. No breaking of ranks is tolerated.

The drive for multiculturalism inAmerica’s schools will degenerate into this group focus where pluralism becomes tribalism. Our curriculums should not be carved up into small special departments or goals catering to select and exclusive groups. This push will only foster group grievances and not promote social tranquility.

Fortunately, modern American society is erasing the differences between groups in an astonishingly fast rate through communications, travel, and employment.Americamust continue to transform itself into one cultural vision by severing the roots of old ethnic mentalities and prejudices. Forced multicultural and diversity programs are an undemocratic and bad idea since they produce what Schlesinger calls a culture of “self-pity and victimization.”

As Anne Wortham recently wrote, “Multiculturalism’s espousal of the compulsory preservation of ethnic differences and the maintenance of the cultural identity and solidarity of subgroups threatensAmerica’s free and open social order.”

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