Althusser (1970) argues that the ability for the public school system to educate children is questionable because the school system itself is based on a capitalist principle of ideological reinforcement that subjugates children and makes knowledge a State controlled apparatus rather than something that children view as positive or constructive. According to Althusser, in most countries education in public school is viewed just as a compulsory necessity, and every child should have access to basic education. However, there are no adequate measures taken to ensure that children understand the importance of attending these schools. This decreases effectiveness of the majority of the national schools in terms of learning.
Althusser views the entire school system as an extension of societal conflict between the working and ruling classes, with the school system in place solely to indoctrinate students, and to socialize them as to their “proper” place within an industrial society. The author’s views are controversial, but certainly not new. He wrote during times of massive social upheaval, and the constructions of socialism significantly influenced how people thought about apparatuses of the State, such as schools; various governments used schools for facilitating their own leadership (Althusser, 1970).
Althusser attempts to explain how this multiculturalism in schools has imposed fear into children, thereby making it difficult for them to learn. According to the author, an attempt to discuss the effects of multiculturalism in the schools must first view schools as an entity, seeking out the impact of multiculturalism on the originally intended purposes of schools. Assuming that Althusser is correct about the purpose of schools in so far as national instruments of socialization, it would follow that multiculturalism is an upheaval because it reinforces notions of equality among a population, which was previously counted as docile or at least subservient (Althusser, 1970). This book gives a clear explanation on how schools fail to create the expected favorable environment that is necessary for proper learning.
Elford, G. W. (2002). Beyond standardized testing: Better information for school accountability and management. Lahnam: Scarecrow Press.
This educational text is a collection of essays by George Elford that aim to convince the reader of the need of standardized testing reform. Standardized tests are particularly key places in which the ability of multicultural education is measured (Elford, 2002). Nevertheless, Elford continues to emphasize in his essays that these tests, in most cases, are bias and do not reflect the needs of students from different cultural backgrounds. Consequently, students are normally subjected to tests that are not within their social or cultural settings; thereby it is difficult to use such tests as a measure for learning processes. This book presents a rich source of information on how measures used to determine learning in multicultural schools affect performance of some students, especially the minority (Elford, 2002).
If schools are using the standardized test as a metric to determine their success or failure, there is a great deal of pressure on schools to inflate their testing numbers artificially, through tactics amounting to cheating and scamming of the test itself. Worst of all, even schools that are following to the letter of the rules for testing are violating the point behind the test by teaching material specifically to the requirements for the test (Elford, 2002).
Elford (2002) finds that standardized tests in the United States have negatively impacted the performance of minority students. Minority students in underperforming schools do poorly on standardized tests because they have not received the correct lessons, and are not prepared to do mathematics at a grade level. However, these schools are penalized rather than supported, so schools with high concentrations of poorer students gradually have their funding reduced, and their best teachers transferred. The text is presented in a fairly subjective way, but the book is valuable for debating about some established points that are accepted in favor of standardized tests, as well as for its fact filled annex (Elford, 2002). Relative to this study, Elford highlights on the fear of imbalance resulting from standardization of tests in multicultural schools, which is making learning hard.
Garcia, E. (1974). Chicago cultural diversity: Implications for competency based teacher education. Multicultural education through competency based teacher education. Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
Competency based teacher education would be a step in the right direction to reforming the way that the public schools teach its poorest and neediest students. Teacher education in the United States emphasizes mastery of the material before professional skills, and Garcia argues that the process should be much the opposite. Garcia claims that teachers graduate for their educational degree programs with a good understanding of the material that they are going to teach, but without the skills that would make them deliberate teachers. People who are highly qualified in their fields get quickly discouraged when attempting to teach, because the reality of teaching in the real world is different from the model of teaching that they are given in the classroom (Garcia, 1974).
According to Garcia, teachers would be more effective if the education for teachers resembled professional education in other fields. Teachers would be armed with strategies for teaching and controlling students, first. Their education in their primary field would come as a separate component to their training; thus, it would be secondary to their understanding of the practices of teaching. Competency based education would also teach teachers, how to deal with mixed classroom environments, such as they would be likely to see the purpose of intentional multicultural school programs (Garcia, 1974). This book provides a rich source of knowledge as far as this topic is concerned as it shows how teachers with inadequate professionalism fail to address needs for students in multicultural schools, thereby imposing fear to minority students and making it difficult for them to perform well in schools.
Gibson, M. (1999). Approaches to multicultural education in the United States: Some concepts and assumptions. Anthropology and Education Quarterly. DOI: 10.1525/aeq.1984.15.1.05x1476t.
There are as many multicultural educational approaches as there are cultures that could benefit from them. There are approaches that range from the superficial (education about other cultures within a monoculture setting) to the completely integrated (multiple ethnicities of students who all study together under multiethnic teachers without any of the assumptions that tend to come with dealing with minority students) (Gibson, 1999). The author of this book tries to highlights the impacts of the teaching approaches used in most parts of the USA, and how they affect the outcomes of learning in public schools.
Gibson leads off with the superficial approaches, and while he seems positive on their potential, he certainly acknowledges their limitations. Approaches, which do not include actual cooperation between groups, are only a step towards the right direction in fixing the educational gap. This book points out that the only way to improve learning in multicultural schools, especially in the US, is to ensure that students are taught the cultures of their school mates, to facilitate understanding among students. This is vital in group learning (Gibson, 1999).
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Classroom education, which emphasizes a multicultural curriculum, can help prepare students for multiculturalism, by giving them the domain knowledge that allows them to conceptualize another culture. However, the result of classroom education is only an increase in theoretical knowledge, and the ideal result of multicultural education is a willingness to approach education with empathy and an understanding of other cultures in a personal way (Gibson, 1999).
Gibson is particularly excited about approaches in multicultural education that include a change in the way that administration deals with the punishment of unruly students. He suggests that many students misbehave because of deeper problems than just being rebellious, and he suggests that school administrators accept people on a case by case basis rather than just resorting to suspension and expulsion. Relative to this study, this book explains how fear is created in multicultural schools and how it can be eliminated, by introducing multicultural learning in public schools (Gibson, 1999).
Hilliard, A. (1978, summer). Equal educational opportunity and quality education. Anthropology and Education Quarterly. Blackwell Publishing, 9 (2), pp. 110–126.
Hilliard is primarily interested in extending the same educational opportunities, which are afforded by majority students, to the minorities. The article was written in the late 1970s, so it is not surprising that the focus of multicultural efforts was on establishing a base level of equality. Currently, in multicultural education, there is still certainly a gap in achievements between the majority and minority students, but the gap is significantly smaller than it used to be (Hilliard, 1978). According to Hilliard, the effect of multicultural aspects in modern schools has seriously declined compared with the situation in the 1970s and 1980s. This article is a compelling reading even for the modern study of multicultural education, because it is worth considering, whether or not the current achievement gap is structural. Is it due to societal problems that tend to affect disproportionately minorities… (Hilliard, 1978) or, as my paper suggests, is the achievement gap due to problems that exist within the school?
The Hilliard’s article explores the ways in which teachers tend to perpetrate their own values through education, something that is particularly necessary to realize in the context of majority led schools with minority students. It can be hard for teachers from different ethnic backgrounds to sympathize with their students. The educational system, being based on the replication of society’s values, must be adapted to express the values of multiple ethnic groups in order to be fair to minority groups (Hilliard, 1978). Basing the educational rhetoric of only one culture, necessarily, creates a systemic disparity for the other cultures.
Kohn, A. 2000. Case against standardized testing: Raising the scores, ruining the schools. Portsmouth: Heinemann.
Standardized tests have a problem that is born out of their importance to school administrators. School administrators are dependent on the ability for standardized tests to show whether or not they were successful in policy initiatives, so the standardized tests are given weight according to the political needs of the school system. The school systems are forced to allocate budgets in some way, and the budget allocation is easier when there is a quantifiable variable that allows people to rate some schools above others (Kohn, 2000).
According to Kohn (2000), the pressure that the test puts on school administrators takes away the value of the test. The test would normally show the performances of students, but with the tests issued in controlled and stressed environment, and with the teaching based on the test material, the test does not give any real information to the observer. Kohn believes that a potential solution to the problem of standardized testing would be qualitative assessments, to determine whether or not a student was ready to progress to the next grade. While it is true that there has to be some threshold for academic advancement between grades, there is no reason that the threshold cannot be individualized or made more personal (Kohn, 2000). This book is relevant in this study as it provide information on how political systems in a country affect the administration of schools, thereby affecting the performance of students.
Rodriguez, R. (2004). Hunger of memory. New York, NY: Dial Press.
Hunger of Memory poses a powerful critique of the way that insular communities treat those who venture outside the community for education. Rodriguez becomes estranged from his family and the community, as a student, realizing that his new experiences and views on life are no longer shared by the majority of people, with whom he had once identified. Working class students often find themselves in new environments, and it is uncomfortable to return home to their previous situations because friends and family might feel as though the student has moved on without them, or even, has abandoned them in order to pursue his own education. Rodriguez experiences these emotions, and there are certainly many in the working class community that can identify with him. On the other hand, it is easy to be critical and dismissive of Rodriguez. It does seem as though he were being overly dismissive of the feelings of others; it is as if he were unaware of the sacrifices his parents went through to secure his opportunity (Rodriguez, 2004). Rodriguez is elitist, and he writes as though he has some deep wisdom to impart on his readers.
Rodriguez had deep concerns about the separation from his family, and interpersonal conflict developing from this separation was one of the focuses of the novel. However, Rodriguez seemed to welcome the separation, to some extent. He admitted that he had longed for some degree of separation, and he certainly showed no drop in academic performance after being taken out of his home environment. Where most students would exhibit some degree of performance anxiety at separation, Rodriguez was an outlier. Sociologists might expect students in Rodriguez's position, who are forced to make a decision between continuing education and staying with their community, to make up excuses for themselves, as to why they need to return and leave their academic environment. These students would be likely to abandon their ambitious plans to better themselves in favor of staying close to their homes (Rodriguez, 2004).
Richard Rodriguez is utterly convinced of the truth in the American dream. The idea that America is a place where anyone can recreate themselves, emerging from their situation to something entirely better or at least entirely different, is at the core of his memoirs. However, Rodriguez also seems to believe that the freedom to reinvent one must always take place within the American framework; the irresistible nature of American culture makes it impossible to reject its influence altogether. In Hunger of Memory, he writes as a Chicano, but not for Chicanos (Rodriguez, 2004).
Rodriguez holds affection for the Catholic Church that is hard to rectify with his homosexuality. Regardless, in Hunger of Memory there is a scene in which Rodriguez listens to the Catholic mass without fully comprehending the meaning of the individual words. Though he can't even speak or understand Latin, the mass still has the meaning because he ascribes meaning to it. For Rodriguez, religion was a universalizing experience. In an interview that he conducted, he claims, “I belong to a world religion, and I took part of a religious language that enabled me to enter the world. It was a liturgical language that enabled me to participate in society, in any country of the world, wherever I went.” (Sedore, 78) (Rodriguez, 2004). This Catholic connection is strong throughout Hunger of Memory, and it is one of the elements that draw Rodriguez away from socialization and assimilation into the American body. A recurring theme in the novel is the struggle between the identities of being American and being Catholic. Is it possible to subscribe to the American ideals of wealth and hard work, the ethos that was built by Protestant forefathers, while still staying true to Catholicism (Rodriguez, 2004).
Rodriguez specifically valued Americanization as a way for minorities, including himself, to become successful in America. Americanization of minorities in the United States is a complicated process. There is a balance between the development of a new identity in the new environment, and maintenance of the old identity. However, Rodriguez had a somewhat different approach towards Americanization. In Hunger of Memory, Rodriguez puts forth a platform for assimilation that leaves behind the old culture almost entirely. For Rodriguez, language of his “old” culture is particularly symbolic; therefore, removing vestiges of the language is of primary importance (Rodriguez, 2004). Rodriguez said, “Proudly I announced that a teacher had said I was losing all trace of a Spanish accent.” (Rodriguez, 44) He believed that bilingual education was negative for immigrant communities because it created private languages among the immigrants that they would use in public, thus further creating separation between the public spheres of the different immigrant groups. He believed that it was impossible to promote the learning of English, while also encouraging holding on to a native language, while, in reality, those two goals are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
It certainly seems as though Rodriguez abandoned the beliefs in positions and strategies that would help his community and his family (such as affirmative action) in favor of the emulation of his authority figures. His mimicry of those around him in the academic environment was likely to his status as a scholarship student, and the pressure he felt to measure academically and socially up to the standards of his school. “As the 'scholarship boy' he courted the favor of the teachers and sought to imitate their every move, thought, and their language. It seems that he imitated them too well. He not only emulated his teachers academically, but he also internalized their prevailing negative attitudes towards Spanish.” (Blanco, 282) In fact, Rodriguez allows his native Spanish to lapse in his pursuit of fluency in English, and it is only later in his education that he goes back to learn Spanish in order to read classic works of Spanish literature. So, what Rodriguez is implying in his autobiography is that it is alright to be bilingual in an elite context, for someone who is learning a second language for literature. However, it is not alright for anyone to learn a second language as part of a bilingual program (Rodriguez, 2004).
Hunger of Memory is essentially a book about the navigation of identity in a complicated and multicultural world. He is unsure whether he fits in with the rest of the Chicano population, and the Chicano population is just as unsure as to how he fits in with them. Rodriguez resigns from his educational position as a protest against his belief that he is being included along with affirmative action programs. This protest against affirmative action is essential due to Rodriguez's unwillingness to be seen as part of the Chicano minority; however, he apparently feels connected enough to the Chicano minority to address them directly during his novel, giving them advice on how to make themselves more integrated into the white majority. This book shows that there is the need for the minority students to try and mingle with the majority since most of teaching in multicultural schools is done in accordance with the culture of the majority.
McKinney, M. (2011, spring). The Focus of leadership: Choosing service over self-interest. Retrieved from www.leadershipnow.com.
If McKinney is to be believed, the United States has a deficit in leadership. Leaders strive to advance their own ends rather than those of the people they serve, and this runs contrary to the true focus of leadership. Leaders who “help themselves to privilege and power” (McKinney, 2000) only advance their own agenda, and they fail to demonstrate the values that McKinney believes are necessary for every leader. In his article, McKinney makes a convincing case for the existence of a universal leadership value system; however, his use of religious rhetoric cripples his argument by limiting it in scope and taking away its rationality.
The premise of McKinney’s paper is that there is some problem with leadership in the United States, and the problem is rooted in the selfishness of motives that many leaders demonstrate. Leaders who typify more altruistic motivations, such as service, are held in higher esteem and are trusted to take the reins of society. There are many examples of such leaders, people who humbly accept command only when called upon, and who lead in order to better society rather than to advance their own power and name recognition. McKinney specifically points to Washington as one such leader, saying that Washington was known for his “strength of character” rather than for his willingness to cave to popular opinion, like modern politicians. (McKinney, 2000)
McKinney focuses on the concept of custodianship. A custodian is someone who is entrusted with something in order to preserve it. A custodian, by definition, does not own what he/she looks after, but is nevertheless expected to care for it. McKinney points to the bible as a source text for the idea of custodianship, a fallacy which will be explored later. Service Leadership and Stewardship are related to this ideal of care taking, as the role of the leader. According to McKinney, “True leadership…does not take away an individual’s freedom, choice, accountability, or responsibility” (McKinney, 2000). A leader makes decisions, but the decisions must promote activity and responsibility among followers. Leadership is more than just building a consensus, it involves care taking and chaperoning of a group to set boundaries and achieve goals.
In McKinney’s final section, he traces the evolution of leadership back to the Christian Bible. McKinney claims that leaders exist to enforce the “eternal rules of order” that can be traced right back to God himself (McKinney, 2000). He ends with a call to action; asking the reader to demonstrate inspired leadership by demonstrating Christian values in everyday life.
McKinney starts strongly. He recognizes that society is ailed with serious problems and corruptions among leaders, and these problems are easy to recognize simply by examining headlines and recent events. However, he makes a critical error in his reasoning, attempting to apply outdated biblical rhetoric and essentially rehashing a centuries old argument with no basis in facts of historiography.
To claim that the roots of leadership are in the bible would come as a huge surprise to the majority of the world that does not follow a Judeo Christian religion. The world is diverse, and plurality has finally been recognized for its strengthening role, so McKinney is taking a massive step back by pointing to his own religious text as the source for a universal human value. There were prominent leaders in many cultures, not just those stemming from the Christian empire, and to claim that leadership was a gift from the Christian God rings hollow to the educated and non-superstitious world.
McKinney references God as the source of boundaries, as well as some eternal rules of order. To begin with, there are plenty of atheist leaders, and some of the most ethical individuals in the world have been motivated by nothing other than their own rationality and humanity. Religious belief is hardly a precursor for having core values. Secular humanists follow a strict code of ethics divorced from superstitious, religious beliefs. Values evolve differently in each society, and, there, is no universal code of ethics, which would suggest divine intervention rather than the necessity of evolution.
McKinney makes an effort to convince the reader that leadership characteristics are divinely inspired and handed down through the Christian religious texts. However, McKinney fails to convince the reader with his opinionated view of ethics and leadership, and his article would be better suited to a religious gathering than to a real academic discussion. The author should make an attempt to divorce his personal, religious beliefs from his examination of ethics, adding to his credibility, while avoiding the alienating effect of religious doctrine on his audience.
Costello, J. J. NAADAC. In E. Van Vlec. (2011). Encyclopedia of substance abuse, prevention, treatment, and recovery. SAGE: Sage Publications.
The ethics of addictions treatment is something that each counselor and treatment provider must struggle with, but it is also a professional code of conduct that can be delineated through guidelines. The guidelines, which are set out by the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, are currently considered the standard for professional conduct among people involved in addictions treatment. When addictions professionals speak of ethics, they are referring to the degree to which their own actions, or those of a peer, adhere to as per code of conduct clauses in the NAADAC charter (Costello, 2011). However, a philosophical approach to ethics in addictions treatment must ignore the professional code to determine, whether or not certain approaches are ethical along lines that do not take into account preexisting law and standard, but are instead based in ethical theory. Inspirational ethics and minimal ethics are two competing schools of thought in ethics, and each has its place within addiction treatment.
The concept of addiction treatment is complicated. A person must be approached, examined and evaluated, and his behavior must be changed in order to eliminate the addiction. There is a short term and a long term component of addiction treatment. Short term addiction treatment, for the purpose of this paper, is the largely institution based detoxification and initial breaking of addiction (up to 3 months), with long term addiction treatment being counseling focused and involving programs such as 12 step to prevent addiction relapse.
Minimal Ethics do what the title suggests. It seeks to create conditions in which life is possible in a community, without taking steps that would infringe upon personal freedom. Minimal ethics takes the approach that less is more, when it comes to ethics, and so most of the ethical statements come in the form of negative statements. Someone who creates rules based on minimal ethics creates an ideal situation, and then bans any activity that directly infringes on that ideal. For example, in addictions counseling, the ideal situation would be to have sober and clear addictions treatment facilities. Minimal ethics would dictate that each resident must be banned from bringing drugs in to the facility, so a rule would be made to state, “Do not bring drugs into the treatment facility.”
Sullivan, J. (2005). A Comparison of minimal ethics and aspirational ethics. Retrieved from (Ethical Enrichment Material): facstaff.elon.edu.
The statement of minimal ethics is essentially that every action has a consequence, and so people should avoid actions that have negative consequences on oneself or one’s community. The emphasis in minimal ethics is on the negative. Minimal ethics requires some degree of permissiveness towards human actions, except where those actions would violate the rights of others. For this reason, actions are not condoned if they are positive; they are only banned when negative. There is no incentive for altruism, but there is a punishment for being a nuisance or damaging others (Sullivan, 2005).
This variety of negative focus is both a good and a bad thing, in addictions treatment. Addicts are used to seeing the world in black and white. They are either high or not high, drunk or not drunk; there are few shades of grey. Sometimes it might take strong negative statements to get through to them, and appealing to their higher reasoning might be lost when they are at their most desperation. At the same time, it would be a valid criticism of minimal ethics to suggest that it leaves little room for improvement in a person’s condition. Making rules based on infractions (don’t do this, don’t do that), is not an encouraging improvement as much as it is preventing regression.
Essentially, minimal ethics attempts to encourage people to be careful of their actions, and to develop an understanding that their negative actions have consequences. This is certainly useful in addictions treatment, because a large part of the battle in addictions programs is to convince the patients that they have problems that are affecting people beyond themselves. Minimal ethics causes people to look outside themselves, but only as far as they are negatively impacting their community.
Educated under minimal ethics, a person develops an idea of responsibility that is based on taking blame. An individual, who is confronted with the concept of negative repercussions for negative actions, is quick to realize that he must take the blame when he does something that hurts others. This gives a person a feeling of individual responsibility and the mandate to control his own actions to avoid hurting others. Again, there is little impetus for positive actions, but an overwhelming body of support for the control of negative actions.
Minimal ethics is weakened when a person is unable to be responsible for his own actions, or when he is kept from seeing the effect of his actions. In some treatment programs, where patients are given virtually no freedom (e.g. in a prison), they are kept from the results of their actions by an inability to see victims or to comprehend how far their addiction and confinement goes on their community. In these cases, they do not develop the connection between negative reinforcement and blame.
Research in the field of social psychology assumes that inspirational ethics may be a far harder proposition than originally thought. There is a strong situational component to decision making that is based on environmental factors, as well as on the personal wills and personalities of an individual. Miller (2003) gives an example of seminary students, who were told to go and give lectures across campus, but came as persons in distress along the way. Depending on how quickly they were told to get to the lecture, they were increasingly likely to stop to help the stranger. As the sample of students was random, one would expect that their aspirations were an even range. However, despite their aspirations, it was the situational input, the variable, that made the difference in their actions (Miller, 2003).
Considering this concept within the addictions treatment community, this would be a fallacy to assume that just because someone wanted to stay “clean”, they would. If an individual is given a strong enough motivator by an outside source, say, peer pressure, the work of inspirational ethics would be undone, and person’s inner desires would be overruled by the perceived urgency of the outside stimulus.
The idea of giving one an understanding that he is only part of a larger community is nothing new in addictions treatment. One could argue that the twelve step programs, which have been so popularized by groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, use inspirational ethics to modify the behaviors of addicts. Twelve Step programs typically require a person to give the ultimate control of their recovery to a higher power; a step that at least superficially resembles religious doctrine, but which also carries with an implied attempt to socialize them into their greater community.
If you go through the literature of the twelve step program and substitute every mention of spirituality with inspirational ethics, you are left with essentially the same program. The term spirituality is so watered down within the twelve step literature, that it is pretty much a place holder for any ethical or moral framework that the addict wants to substitute for it. Inspirational ethics requires the same acknowledgement of a broken set of motivations, and it requires the same dedication to building one’s self up through positive change rather than just through behavior avoidance.
Hugly, P. (1990). Moral relativism and deontic logic. Synthese, 139-152.
Moral Relativism comes up frequently in the field of meta-ethics, although it has not been accurately attributed to any certain philosopher. The entire idea of a single moral framework that applies to all cultures across the world is rooted in European colonialism. Nationalism requires a strong belief in one’s own belief system, and there were few that believed in anything approaching moral relativism. However, with the increasingly academic study of other cultures, especially through the discipline of cultural anthropology, people began to approach the beliefs of others through a more empirical means. This led to the diligent study of other beliefs, and the growth of moral relativism as a way to explain the differences in other cultures (Hugly, 1990).
Descriptive moral relativism holds that there are deep and commonplace differences between cultures and societies from all over the world. Despite superficial similarity between societies from across the world, the differences are much greater. Descriptive moral relativism attempts to prove moral relativism by showing factual differences in the belief systems of cultures around the world, and that any attempt to condemn those differences is to be culturally insensitive. However, are these different societies able to be held up to the same standard, or do their beliefs need to be evaluated separately, taking into account their environments?
Metaethical moral relativism states that the truths of moral judgments and beliefs between different cultures can only be evaluated on their own merits, rather than against the moral frameworks of other cultures. Take the case of polygamy, for example. While polygamy is currently considered a moral problem, and opponents of polygamy argue on ethical grounds of its legalization, the actual nature of polygamy is complicated. In the course of Western history, polygamy has historically been popular, whenever European nations required quick increases in their young populations to avoid the reduction in growth caused by war or disease. Thus, polygamy is less of a moral decision than a practical one, and if there were a universal morality against polygamy, than there would have been no condemned polygamist practice at any point throughout history. In order for universal morality to make sense, it would be necessary to convince people, who break from the moral status quo, to return to the status quo, rationally. However, “it is implausible to suppose that fundamental moral disagreements can always be resolved rationally” (Gowans, 2004).
The problem with moral relativism, at least from the standpoint of more rational philosophers such as Goodman, is that it leaves little room for the establishment of laws. A law implies a fixed standard, and it recalls the moral standards of the government or society that puts the law in place. Legal systems make no room for moral relativism; they apply the same strict principle onto every citizen of the country. If moral relativism were perfectly true, there would be no impetus to follow laws, as the laws would only be based on the opinions of the people, who created them (Capps, 2009).
The effect of stereotyping has been far reaching in the success of minority students in the educational system. Specifically, negative stereotypes of minorities have been perpetuated at every level of public and private schooling, with a net result that minority students perform worse on standardized tests and have demonstrably lower graduation and retention rates. Multicultural schooling is an attempt to bring minority students back to the forefront of educational priorities, and it has seen mixed success.
Ever since the integration of schools, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, the school system has become increasingly multicultural. The administrations of schools face a number of motivators to continue this trend, ranging from legal incentives to popular social pressure, to create a diverse student bodies. The development of multiculturalism in the classroom, and the resulting effect on student performance must be examined in order to draw a conclusion of its effectiveness as a national educational priority. Multiculturalism is present in the larger society, as well, and it has a ripple effect that bleeds over into the field of education. Thus, studies on the effect of diversity and cultural plurality in the wider American population are also applicable to the University classroom.
The USA situation
The demographics of the United States no longer represent the monolithic white majority with which many lawmakers grew up. With the growing Hispanic population, in particular, Caucasian white Americans are rapidly being relegated to a minority ethnic group. This demographic shift will cause an incredible shift in the way that education is carried out in the United States, and multicultural education programs anticipate this change by attempting to mold the curriculum and methodology behind education, to take into account the growing population of non-Caucasian students. The educational establishment can no longer make attempts in ignoring the importance of culture in education, or separating cultures, as was done previously to Brown v. Board. “American scholars in the application of disciplines to the problems of education fail to account for one of the largest single influences on the process of teaching and learning… It is the absence of such a theory that permits, even demands, that educators approach the practice of education from the perspective of universalism and standardization” (Hilliard, 1978).
There are primarily two types of multiculturalism present in the college classroom. There is an organic diversity created by natural processes. This diversity occurs when people from different backgrounds apply to the university and are accepted on their own merits, creating diversity that is parallel to the diversity already present in the United States, as a whole. In addition, there is an artificial multiculturalism that is created by universities that intentionally recruit from minority pools in order to create a diverse campus climate. Artificial multiculturalism uses processes, such as targeted admissions and affirmative action scoring, to ensure that minorities have a greater than average chance of gaining admission to programs of higher learning.
Minorities tend to be underrepresented in universities due to socioeconomic reasons; they are locked out of higher education due to their inability to pay the tuition, or because they do not have the same opportunity to attend college preparatory programs in advance of college admissions. Colleges believe that they have a mandate to create a diverse campus because of the previously cited benefits of a multicultural learning environment. In addition, there are legal incentives to universities that compel them to seek minority participation actively in their academic programs. Diversity is further encouraged through financial incentives towards minority students, with the net effect that minority students are given a larger amount (averaged per student) of scholarship awards than other students.
Multicultural education also must aim to correct the structural bias in education that came about, due to industrialization and the creation of a school system based around the needs of industry. With no clear instruction on how to teach too many different groups of students, teachers are forced to standardize their curriculum without consideration of the social, cultural, or economic backgrounds of their students. This leads to “tracking” which is universally destructive and to the standardized testing program which has been demonstrated to be unfair to minority students because it reflects the expectations and values of the majority, represented by the testing authority.
In the United States, the public education system came about as the product of the industrial age. Increased industrialization opened the way for a number of new career paths, and there needed to be a simultaneous way to prepare children for increasingly demanding technical specialties, while also socializing them into the American cultural community. Because of this purpose, public education in America worked on a tracking system. In general, students were divided into groups based on their performance in school, as well as teacher assessment. About one fourth of the students was thought to be college bound students, who would go on to become lawyers, doctors, and professors. Next to this, one fourth of the students were marked out to become technical specialists, administrative workers or accountants. Finally, one fourth was guided into industrial professions, and the remaining fourth were sent into farms and labor intensive blue collar positions. Althusser confirms the existence of this track system worldwide, claiming that education intends on teaching skills, “which are directly useful in the different jobs in production (one instruction for manual workers, another for technicians, a third for engineers, a final one for higher management, etc.)” (Althusser, 1970). The tracking system worked in America because it ensured that the industrial machine had workers for all levels of production, but as the United States has advanced in technology, the schools have failed to change. Currently, nearly every job requires some post-secondary education. Accountants, teachers, factory line workers, all are expected to have college degrees. However, the public education system still works with the track basis. Standardized testing separates students based on their perceived intellectual capacity, putting them into educational tracks just like it did fifty years ago. Thus, only about a quarter of the students in public education are receiving college preparatory educations, leaving three quarters woefully underprepared. Standardized Education is leading to a growing educational gap in America by segregating students based on their intellect, and it is encouraging the economic stratification between the working class and the college educated (Kohn, 2000).
Obviously, standardized testing is not effective. It is based on an archaic system of tracking students towards jobs that no longer exist in the American economy. It unfairly penalizes schools that are stuck with tenured terrible teachers, and it stresses students out, while robbing them of a well-rounded education. There are other ways to measure performance in students, rather than just by encouraging rote memorization. Many charter schools are experimenting with alternative forms of educational measurement, and schools like the Kipp schools have shown a great deal of promise in keeping graduation rates and literacy/math skill levels high (Elford, 2002). The educational system is clearly not rooted in failing methodology because it is the only way that people know to educate. The Kipp schools and other, alternative, charter schools have proven that, if education is the primary goal of the school system, there are ways to achieve it without using testing and rote memorization. However, the ideological interest in continuation of the public school system is exactly as it is, far too strong.
In addition, the educational system in the United States reinforces the attitudes of the outside society, using force and the unquestioned authority of educational figures to promote a monoculture agenda. According to Althusser, the ideological state apparatus, in this case, the educational system uses the same tools of repression that the state must use in order to prevent cultural and class unity and violence. Schools in the United States use a variety of repressive means to ensure the cooperation and subjugation of the students. Tools, such as detention and suspension, are scaled down versions of adult punishments teaching students at an early age that there are consequences for disobedience of those in power. The teachers and school administrators become a substitute government, demanding deference and respect through their tools of fear and coercion. Students are prevented from cooperating and uniting within the school system, because they fear the tools of punishment; but they are also thrust into an environment that encourages competition between the students themselves. Rather than seeing themselves as a unified student body, each student has the ideas of competition reinforced. Through grading policies that use curves, class rankings, and physical competitions, the individual distinctiveness of each student is emphasized. This prevents students from building a class identity, and it is similar to the competition for wages used to prevent the organization of industrial workers. Students are actively separated from their cultural identities and systematically treated as individuals in order to promote competition and to prevent the cultural unity of minority students.
However, there is an attempt by the American educational community to change the ways that schools treat students of other cultures. Multicultural students are being seen as less a problem to be solved through coercion and socialization, and more an opportunity to demonstrate the diversity and the value of tolerance and pluralism.
There are four broad “fields” of multicultural programs in the United States. Benevolent multiculturalism, as seen in Gibson (1991) is the education of culturally different groups that have demonstrated a significant lag behind the performance of the ethnic majority in the country. These groups are assumed to lag behind the national performance because of socio-economic factors, not through any cultural or genetic deficit unique to their backgrounds. Thus, this educational approach attempts to rectify the negative effects that mainstream dominance of the educational institution, which it may have on the learning of minority students. For example, in a school system with Native American students, the benevolent multiculturalists would try to include fewer elements of white culture and white history in the curriculum, sensitive that these elements would not be understood or appreciated by the minority students. In addition, Gibson claims “their (minority students) home culture differs markedly from mainstream culture… causing specific learning handicaps for the culturally different student” (Gibson 1991).
Stereotyping particularly negatively impacts Black psychology. Many African- Americans encountered mistreatment, oppression, and discrimination, and all these factors have influenced the development of black self-esteem. In term of Classism, no one could deny the existence of classes in the United States. There is still a class that obtains all the privileges in education, occupation, and even in politics. Therefore, African-Americans were more influenced by these classifications. Sexism was an issue that African- Americans suffered, as well. Prejudice toward other sexes exists in the African-American community, too. In a survey of community members in Chicago, African- American female ministers encountered opposition against taking a leadership position in the church, because they were seen as inferior to men.
Benevolent multiculturalism attempts to reduce the learning handicap faced by culturally different students through closing the gap between the home and the school environments. Gibson (1991) believes that this approach differs significantly from earlier programs, such as Head Start, which attempted to ignore, or, at least, minimize, the differences between cultures. Benevolent multiculturalism does not claim that the deficits that minority students face in education are due to any disadvantaged upbringing, merely that their upbringing was different enough that the school represents an alien culture. However, this strategy has substantial deficits, as well. This approach to multicultural schooling assumes that the poor performance of minority students is chiefly due to their cultural differences, and it assumes that a multicultural educational approach will produce substantial, measurable results. The academic literature in this area has reached no clear consensus. According to Pettigrew (1974), “There is no empirical evidence that the development of a multicultural school system has any direct relationship to minority pupils’ achievements”. A subsequent chapter will examine the various programs that school systems have implemented to address the needs of culturally different students.
Schools also may attempt to target their educational efforts towards the entire student body, making them aware of cultural differences in order to minimize tension and disharmony. This approach, the so called cultural understanding strategy, uses broader educational outreach programs that are aimed at all students, rather than just at minority students. According to Laubenfels (1971), the minority groups that are the most oppressed or underrepresented are the most likely to petition for cultural understanding programs in schools. Recently, many white groups have been pushing for similar programs in schools. For example, an increased emphasis on teaching the history of other groups (such as Asian and African history) and a change in social science curriculum to include comparative religion and comparative literature is indicative of this strategy of cross cultural education.
This approach assumes a more level playing field among students in Universities and below. It also assumes that educating people of cultures other than their own will lead to a wider tolerance of other cultures, and will minimize the alienation that people from alternative or marginalized cultures feel if they believe their backgrounds are underrepresented in the school system’s curriculum. Cultural sensitivity has few detractors within the academic community; there are almost no persons that believe an increased respect for cultural differences will lead to anything more than a reduction of discrimination. At the same time, the cultural sensitivity approach meets with difficulty in defining cultures and attempting to decide what elements of those cultures are “worthy” of inclusion in curricula. Garcia (1974) believes that cultural sensitivity education runs the risk of lumping culturally disparate groups into one group for the purposes of simplicity. He states, “Multicultural education appeals to our urge to categorize and classify, to sort and pigeonhole” (Garcia, 1974). In addition, “There is no particular reason to assume that courses directed toward ethnic literacy, and cultural appreciation will halt prejudice and discrimination, or solve the fundamental problem of iniquity” (Gibson, 1991).
Multiculturalism makes a distinction between assimilation and education. There are few proponents of socializing children into the American culture without, at least, encouraging them to hold on to the elements of their own culture that are distinctive or unique. Assimilation is thought of as a negative outcome; the advanced, modern approach to education attempts to incorporate a wide variety of students without attempting to mold them into anything that they are not. In this aspect, modern education differs from previous approaches by attempting to change educational methods to fit the needs of the children, rather than the other way around. It used to be much more common for multicultural education to be ignored in favor of monoculture education with the purposes of creating a more “American” student body out of the children of immigrants.
There are quite a few autobiographical texts that give an idea of the struggles of minority students and their unique challenges. Minority students not only face the challenges of monoculture and ethnic stereotyping within the school, but they sometimes receive a backlash from their own ethnic group, for seeking an education and “abandoning” their neighborhood. One such memoir, Hunger of Memory, poses a powerful critique of the way that insular communities treat those, who venture outside the community for education. Rodriguez becomes estranged from his family, and the community, as a student, realizing that his new experiences and views on life are no longer shared by the majority of people, with whom he had once identified. Working class students often find themselves in new environments, and it is uncomfortable to return home to their previous situations because friends and family might feel as though the student has moved on without them, or even has abandoned them in order to pursue his own education. Rodriguez experiences these emotions, and there are certainly many in the working class community that can identify with him. On the other hand, it is easy to be critical and dismissive of Rodriguez. It does seem, as though he is being overly dismissive of the feelings of others, and it is as if he were unaware of the sacrifices his parents went through to secure his opportunity. Rodriguez is extremely elitist, but he writes as though he has some deep wisdom to impart on his readers.
Rodriguez had deep concerns about the separation from his family, and interpersonal conflict developing from this separation was one of the focuses of the novel. Rodriguez seemed to welcome the separation to some extent, however. He admitted that he had longed for some degree of separation, and he certainly showed no drop in academic performance after being taken out of his home environment. Where most students would exhibit some degree of performance anxiety at separation, Rodriguez was an outlier. Sociologists might expect students in Rodriguez's position, who are forced to make a decision between pursuing their education and staying with their community, to make up excuses for themselves as to why they need to return and leave their academic environment. These students would be likely to abandon their ambitious plans to better themselves, in favor of staying close to their homes (Geller and Spinks, 2000).
To examine the impacts of multicultural education on the American student population, the wide variety of the programs, in place, in America, and their relative degrees of success need to be explored. For judging the success of the various programs, a variety of criteria can be used, including improvements in test scores, as well as improvement in self-reported aspects of student self-esteem and identification. In addition, it is necessary to define multiculturalism in general. The phrase multiculturalism may seem innocuous, but there is a number of people that disagree with its euphemistic use and believe that it is a code word for racism. “Euphemisms are used to provide for an indirect, camouflaged approach to the problem, or to obscure and fuzzily the issues. We speak of cultural pluralism… and coding labels. To use these terms in order to cover the problems of racism in education is to delay, to divert, and even to destroy meaningful efforts towards a solution to the real problem” (Hilliard, 1978).
The primary goal of multicultural education is to remove the barriers that lead to educational inequity, so those barriers must be measured and quantified in order to determine the effectiveness of multicultural programs. Sociologists and Anthropologists all agree on the importance of the minimization of diversity and the creation of a positive environment as a precursor to educational success; however, they differ in their opinions as to the best way to go about multicultural change.
So, how can one go about creating the most effective learning environment for multicultural students? There must be a balance between the recognition of the students’ cultural distinctiveness, without separating them unduly from their classmates. A balance must also be found between the education of the majority students as to the unique needs and gifts of students from minority cultures, without accidental encouraging their further alienation from the American educational mainstream.
A positive multicultural environment should provide demonstrable results including higher test scores and the increased attendance and participation of students from minority backgrounds. Unlike “Affirmative Action” or programs that only superficially address the issues of ethnic iniquity in the school system; a solution should also solve some of the structural problems that lead to the iniquity rather than just artificially inflating the participation of minority students through financial incentive and admissions program.
Outside of education, stereotyping has profound effects on the way in which cultures view themselves. The esteem of individuals is tied to their perception of themselves, usually related to ways in which they see people like themselves in the media. One group that has been devastated by negative stereotyping in the media has been Asian Americans.
Communication is significantly influenced by cultural factors, whether it dictates what subjects are acceptable or it limits the way in which communication can take place between individuals. Asian Americans have a variety of cultural backgrounds, but they all share the experience of having to square modern American cultural media with traditional views on sexuality that are rooted in Asian tradition and society. This dilemma leads to some challenges when it comes to the dialogue about sexuality between Asian Americans.
In the United States, a portrayal of the Asian American man is highly specific as it gives him a less masculine appearance than that attributed to other cultures (Alerion, 2007). In movies, even Asian protagonists are shown as being thin and relatively weak, and they play second fiddle to larger and more aggressive white or black counterparts. Even in movies where the stereotype of Asians as incredible martial artists is played upon, the action hero or martial arts star, in question, is almost always small and “surprising” in his martial arts skills, rather than fitting the traditional mold of the chiseled American action hero. It seems that popular culture is unwilling to attribute many traits that our society associates with masculinity to Asian American men, and what that has done to the Asian American perception of sexuality is fascinating.
The filial loyalty of Asian American men is also played to create a sense that all Asian Americans are “mama's boys” and are somehow reliant on strong female leadership. This is ironic, because traditional Asian culture has a strong aversion for men to be seen as anything less than the heads of their households. At the same time, older Asian men are typically shown in popular culture as being almost comically powerful, often possessing some secret power, such as martial arts ability or extreme spiritual strength.(Alerion, 2007).
In the past, a lot has been done to subvert the personal identity of Asian American men both in the name of assimilation and dubious beliefs in racial science and hierarchy. To begin with, there had been frequent use of violence to bring Asian Americans in line with white society's demands, such as when they were overtly abused and nearly enslaved in the construction of the transcontinental railroad. This violence and abuse emasculated the men, who were working for the whites, as they were constantly reminded of their relative powerlessness. In addition, the government only perpetuated this emasculation by creating internment camps during WWII that served to erode the patriarchy of the Asian American house by making it impossible for the men to maintain control and leadership of their families. The government slowly removed elements of power and leadership of Asian American men that they enjoyed in their home countries, by using violence to subvert them. Recently, popular culture has begun to shift, as Asian Americans attempt to take back the dialogue about gender roles and sexuality by presenting stories about themselves and their communities that use violence, thus, demonstrating the virility and aggressiveness of Asian males. Martial arts movies and other action rich Asian American novels and cinema are examples of an attempt to reclaim masculinity, by demonstrating that Asian Americans also have the characteristics that our society prizes in adult men (Nguyen, 2000, 113).
Sexuality in Asian American culture
Sueyoshi (2004) claims, there are other reasons why discussions about sexuality are difficult in Asian American culture. To begin with, Asian Americans had a traumatic sexual history in the United States starting from the first waves of immigration that created a massive gender imbalance with men outnumbering women, almost twenty to one. She says that while some of these men sought out prostitutes or tried to bring their wives over, “The majority, however, likely found companionship in the very homosocial communities of Chinatown. These intimate same-sex bonds whether platonic or sexual and grew from a long tradition of Chinese men finding friendship and family in fulfilling fraternal societies” (Seuyoshi, 2004).
Authorities in the Pacific Northwest looked at the homosexuality among Asian Americans and tried to suppress it in the name of moral indignation. Women among the Asian American communities were