Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nieto's Affirming Diversity is Nonsense

Affirming Diversity, Sonia Nieto's 1992 celebration of multicultural education, has become an educational classic. Yet her prescription for public education is based on a false assumption. Namely, that cultural values are mutually inclusive and will support the tolerance required for Nieto's prescription to work.

What, specifically, is Professor Nieto prescribing for our schools? She advocates "Affirming Diversity." What does that imply? She says it, "... implies that cultural, linguistic, and other differences can and should be accepted, respected, and used as a basis for learning and teaching."

But the values of other cultures can be completely at odds with the very tolerance Nieto's prescription requires. Consider, for example, the dogmatism of the Wahhabi Islamic sect that dominates Saudi Arabia. These chaps divide the world into good guy true believers — those who subscribe to their version of the Sunni school of Islam, of course — and bad guy unbelievers whose beliefs must be suppressed or, preferably, eliminated.

Think this is an exaggeration? Well the Saudi's themselves don't think so. In 2004 a Saudi royal study group found that the kingdom's religious studies curriculum "encourages violence toward others, and misguides the pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the 'other.' Embarrassed when in enlightened company, Saudi education authorities promised to extirpate this intolerant dogmatism from their curriculum. But when the Washington Post analyzed recent Saudi religion texts they found them to be as hate filled and intolerant as ever.

How is this pertinent to Professor Nieto's recommendation that we affirm diversity? Well let's consider how enthusiastically she wants to affirm it by imagining her teaching in Saudi Arabia. And lets further imagine that as she does so she not only accepts and respects other religious points of view, but makes them a basis for learning and teaching. What do you think her fate would be? But before answering consider that in 2005, a Saudi teacher who merely suggested Jews and the New Testament could be viewed positively was fired, sentenced to 750 lashes and given a prison term. (He was eventually pardoned, but only following international protests.)

Since Professor Nieto doubled down on this Saudi teacher's minor league tolerance, it seems reasonable to conclude that she would suffer a worse fate. How enthusiastically would she accept and respect Saudi culture then?

There is also the matter of gender. Even though Professor Nieto is a woman, her prescription for America's schools blithely ignores the fact that many cultures are profoundly misogynistic. The consequences are female infanticide, genital mutilation, selling daughters into prostitution, wife beating, honor killings, leaving widows out of wills, excluding girls from school, counting a woman's court testimony as having half the value of a man's, and so forth. These and similar unenlightened behaviors, such as stoning homosexuals or hating whomever is on your tribe's shit list, all are rooted in culture. Yet Professor Nieto recommends that we not only unselectively accept and respect cultural differences, but use them as a basis for learning and teaching.

One can imagine the ludicrous consequences of such a policy. "Look class, Conner is spitting on Maureen and trying to kill her! That's because he is a Catholic from Ulster and Maureen's parents are Ulster Protestants. This must be unpleasant for Maureen, but she and the rest of us must accept and respect the fact that in Conner's culture she needs killing."

That this dreamy nonsense is considered an educational classic offers sad commentary on the state of the art.

For more on the limits of multiculturalism see: www.newfoundations.com/Clabaugh/CuttingEdge/Multiculturalism.html

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