Multiculturalism: "Hot" Issue
The idea of multiculturalism has to be defined against the traditional, classic body of knowledge and its models that have dominated the universities for the past hundred years. Our university system is based on the German example. Basically, there are the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Science explains nature. Period. The social sciences and the humanities are value laden insofar as how you frame a question will determine the answer.
The question today is whether there are many paradigms to explain and understand the human condition. The multiculturalists say yes. They understand and explain via the mechanisms of race, class, sexual orientation, ideology, culture, gender, religion, physical handicap, status as a Vietnam veteran, and so forth. Each group argues that its point of view is equal to the next. The classicists and traditionalists argue that there can be only one truth in the final analysis, fixed for all time and natural, though they allow for r a slow, organic development in which they assimilate the best from each new generation. It is really a battle of the radicals and revolutionaries versus the conservatives and reactionaries.
They are fighting the battle to the finish at the universities because universities are the ultimate guardians of the values of capitalist society and producers of the elite for the next generation of leaders. In the end, we are talking about who will rule the nation, anticipated in how knowledge is disseminated to the general society through the socialization process at the universities.
The general consensus is that the traditional and core body of knowledge and its teaching have broken down into constituent interest groups organized around departments, such as Jewish Studies, Women's Studies, African American Studies, and so forth, representing pressures from inside and outside the university who want radical change. Knowledge and its models are being put into attending to ethnic and gender pride and the self-esteem of members of former pariah groups, such as sexual minorities and Vietnam veterans. Too, special treatment is given to children of wealthy alumni and athletes, although that has always been the case. However, once you begin the path of appeasement, there is no end. In the final analysis, who does not think that their particular circumstances are exceptional?
Thus, relativism is the philosophy of the day in which whoever has the power defines what is to be studied and with what grants. We hold this trend most applicable to the humanities and social sciences because their disciplines are not strictly empirical but rather have a strong subjective, emotive, and value-ridden component. The university curricula have been rearranged along the following lines.
1. Political agitation is an integral part of devising new areas of study for students. Affirmative action and quotas are used to achieve a representational sample of the whole population. Open admissions, where uniform academic standards are set aside, aim for a political goal of equality. Equality through preferential treatment of historically mistreated groups is opposed to freedom to compete openly irrespective of your history. The traditionalists argue that this double standard is upsetting old, established guidelines of excellence and virtue to develop a moral/cultural elite best suited for the nation above particular interests. For instance, there is now a cap on Asian American students in the California university system. They are being punished for doing too well. This group is an unrivaled success story in terms of immediate adaptation to the system. So, there is reverse racism at work. In the end, you must balance achievement with ethical and humanitarian considerations to arrive at social equity.
2. A market mentality now prevails in which students shop for courses that make them feel better about themselves and courses that will enrich them by taking as many business credits as allowable. This commercialism reflects the original business foundations of our country.
3. "Political correctness" is the doctrine that certain topics, issues and questions are taboo to ask, for instance, why have so few women achieved eminence in the sciences; what is the real relationship of race and intelligence; what are the relative merits of cultures—every culture is now human, hence equal, so knowledge must be put into the service of empowering minority groups; what is the authority now of the teacher in class if his tenure is put to a popular vote, so educators must be entertainers and politicians as well as scholars who publish; talk of abortion, eugenics, and euthanasia are suppressed so as not to offend anybody. But excellent teaching is offending prejudices by inciting rethinking to adapt to a changing world.
Charles Murray's The Bell Curve, Harold Bloom's The Western Canon, and Robert Hugh's Culture of Complaint, to name a few notorious examples, are slighted at universities because of their ultraconservative, if not reactionary viewpoints. Their theses are that the universities are producing professional politicians and bureaucrats who exploit being victims to such a degree that they are undermining their own limited, legitimate concerns. They are saying let the status quo make a case on even terms where there is an open competition of ideas. In effect, they feel the best of our Western heritage is being censured and politically edited to the extent where standards no longer have meaning in the academy. These two sides are extreme presentations. There is a large middle stratum who is saying "cool it" and "let's get to work and talk through these differences."
4. Nihilism presents itself in the universities. Anything goes.
5. When you arbitrarily discriminate for an individual, you correspondingly deny a place to another deserving individual, particularly in scholarship monies and grants. Universities are blatantly engaged in social engineering, compromising their disinterested roles as critics of society's weaknesses and strengths, and becoming participant in the political process as both agent and subject. Is this lobbying of interests and causes in their original purpose? If they become too political, do they become part of the problem in the intense partisanship characteristic of our new "attack" politics? Too, should they be the vanguard of the ruling political class as in the elite schools? Why are Marxist analyses tabooe in the more conservative institutions? Also, is it proper for the Christian Coalition to educate warriors for Christ based on faith alone and then place them into the public schools? Since Jews/Muslims and Hindus have no souls, they are not really welcome. Consider Falwell's Liberty University.
6. There is no longer objectivity about the "great works"—now subject to mediation and negotiation by people who are not even qualified. Often trivial or marginal texts are introduced to appease an audience who can no longer read critically. Most readers do not have the educated taste to tell a good piece of work from a bad one. The normative drive toward consensus in a university that disinterestedly pursues truth is gone, perhaps forever. Ideological factors displace due process. The civil discourse of mutual respect and recognition where the unforced force of the best argument prevails no longer holds true.
7. Interest group politics prevail, in which each group has veto power so that no one articulates a general interest above all groups. What we have in the end are mutually exclusive, antagonistic departments; there is no longer a healthy competition of ideas based on intrinsic merit. There are now deeper divisions between classes and races than at any time since the Second World War.
Will the democratization of education render an undergraduate degree without
value? Do you really create equality with open admissions with no standards with
the rationalization that everyone must be given a chance, however slim, to
succeed? If they are passed along the system, what does that do to the degree?
It becomes worthless because of an inflationary effect. There must be the
freedom to allow conservative and radical points of view a full airing if we are
to have integrity. The truth will set us free.
8. If religion is introduced by the right into the schools through a constitutional amendment, the result will be the end of the separation of church and state and we will become a confessional state. All our freedoms would be placed in jeopardy. Private interest groups based on religion will subvert universal and general education for all and make education a field for debates over moral conduct instead of teaching students the basic tools to survive in a highly competitive capitalist society. Belief in God or not-God will not help you hold a job or build the achievement-oriented character necessary for the work ethic. The end result can only be interminable litigation in a court system already overloaded with crank cases.
9. Is there a master model of how to approach multiculturalism? Yes. The destruction of European Jewry by the paganized bourgeois Christian world demonstrated the dangers when a political/cultural/ educational elite puts itself into the service of a totalitarian society: nationalism plus racism plus imperialism equals genocide in an era where it is now technologically feasible. The Jews' fate is our fate because we all have lost a way of life, leading thinkers, artists and scientists, and a population. World War II was ground zero for our collective morality.
The murderers were abetted by those who knew and stood by, including the top officials in the governments of the United States and Great Britain. The destruction of the Jews was not in the interest of the species, humanity, or the forces of life, Eros. The death instinct or unbridled aggression triumphed in the Second World War since Hitler did achieve his main biopolitical objective and Stalin conquered Eastern Europe. Realpolitik superseded common sense and human decency. We know there were Righteous Gentiles; hence, we have a starting point from ground zero to build for a better humanity.
Marginalized groups, the outcasts, need a weapon. That is to be found in higher education. If the truth is not politically manipulated, then it will be the antidote to the big lies that make totalitarian movements so attractive to mob actions. The ultimate payoff is a victory for Eros, which binds people together in cooperation, and mutual respect and recognition. Then, you are a citizen of the world where all are at home and welcome. Universities can be a focal point for such praxis since their diversity represents the world. But that diversity must be able to produce and perform to objective criteria of the real world, and go into society civilized and ready to work and love without being part of Freud's civilization and its discontents' mentality, that is, neurosis-ridden and dysfunctional like Joseph K. of Kafka's The Trial.