Let Stew Our Multicultural Broth

I wrote this in my hellish five-hour credential class. That should explain me waxing poetic as I do, but that’ll never excuse this post from being as overwrought as it is. The Third Law of the Internet clearly states “Throw it on; see if it sticks;” I might as well post this.

The abominable multiculturalism rears its chimeric head again, only it buzzes to the tune of “culturally responsive.” I have a bone to pick with my hellish five-hour credential class.

How does cultural responsiveness benefit our students?

Ignore subject matter. Students forget subject matter once they stop using it, no matter how relevant you make it. The lessons students use for the rest of their lives have more to do with how to live in our country.

Read the tenets:

  • It acknowledges the legitimacy of the cultural heritages of different ethnic groups, both as legacies that affect students’ dispositions, attitudes, and approaches to learning and as worthy content to be taught in the formal curriculum.
  • It builds bridges of meaningfulness between home and school experiences as well as between academic abstractions and lived sociocultural realities.
  • It uses a wide variety of instructional strategies that are connected to different learning styles.
  • It teaches students to know and praise their own and each others’ cultural heritages
  • It incorporates multicultural information, resources, and materials in all the subjects and skills routinely taught in schools.

Sure, some of this is unobjectionable. Build bridges “between home and school.” Use a “wide variety of instructional strategies.” Laudable.

But why should we know and praise cultural heritages? Why should we incorporate multicultural information, resources and materials? What’s with discovering the “legitimacy of cultural heritages?”

Metaphor: Why encourage chunks in our melting pot’s broth?

Before the inevitable commenter replies in faux inspiration: No, these chunks do not add flavor. Potatoes are chunks, and potatoes add flavor, but only once they’ve absorbed some of the existing broth. Just so, stewing cultures are best when dissolving.

Behind this new multiculturalism is the idea that it is transformative, that students become “social critics.” As this idea is applied and as is popularly understood — not in the academic realm, where the research aims — there’s the idea that conflict exists only because people within a culture do not understand those in their foe culture, or that all conflict can be solved by understanding.

An example is warranted, and one comes quite easily. For example: Iraq is ravaged by sectarian violence, but not because the Sunnis misunderstand the Shi’a. They understand each other quite well. They hate each other because of it.

Even wars of domination become wars of culture. All become conflicts that continue because of either the petty or huge disparities between cultures.

In this Age of Computers, Information and Things That Go Beep in the Night, understanding others is important. Relying on yourself, standing up without individuals in your culture backing you up is more important. Moreover, on the Internet you are not held accountable for the sins of your fathers. At the same time you are held accountable simply to yourself.

Reinforcing culture reinforces a group mentality, not an individual mentality.

Just in case this turns up during my 2036 presidential run, I also do not legislate based on my personal beliefs. Unlike warring cultures, I don’t believe everyone should think how I think simply because I do so and therefore it is worthwhile.

Why must we insist on wrapping new and exciting vegetables in Saran Wrap, simply because we had once wrongly hastened the process by dicing our vegetables, because we once agressively attacked indigenous culture?

Let it take as much time as it needs, but let stew our multicultural broth.

Moral of the story? Address the historical legacies of our many cultures. Emphasis: historical.


  1. What bothers me with multicultural curriculum is the de facto impression there’s some sort of competition going on between countries. Like a “my poet is better than your poet” face-off, even if your country in general never cared a whit about poetry but focused on the visual arts instead.

    That and the idea I should be rooting for a particular “team”, rather than being a citizen of the world.

  2. Amen to that.

    Multiculturalism also tends to become a rant against Western societies’ influence on indigenous, when, in fact, every dominant culture tries to “extinguish” a less dominant culture.

    Central America’s a perfect example. The Aztecs were a ruthless people who forced surrounding tribes to submit. It isn’t just a European thing.

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