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“The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural S

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Erin Salvado

on 19 October 2013

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Transcript of “The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural S

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. & Multiculturalism, by Greg Leitao and Erin Salvado
Let's Connect!...
What does Schlesinger think?
Main Ideas from the excerpt from “The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society”
“The point of America was not to preserve old cultures, but to forge a new American culture.” (13)
“The militants of ethnicity now contend that a main objective of public education should be the protection, strengthening, celebration, and perpetuation of ethnic origins and identities. Separatism, however, nourishes prejudices, magnifies differences, and stirs antagonism.” (17)
“The curse of racism was the great failure of the American experiment, the glaring contradiction of American ideals and the still crippling disease of American life.” (14)
“So far as I can find out, there is no scientific study showing any correlation between ethnic-studies programs and the self-esteem of ethnic groups.” (89)
The Point of Public Education
“But would it not be more appropriate for students to be “continually” encouraged to understand the American culture in which they are growing up and to prepare for an active role in shaping that culture? Should public education strengthen and perpetuate separate ethnic and racial subcultures? Or should it not seek to make our young boys and girls contributors to a common American culture?” (90)
Ethnic Studies?
"America the Melting Pot"
Probably one of the most interesting points. Schlesinger questions WHY public schools should nurture other ethnic cultures if, ultimately, they live in America and should be trained to survive in the country they live in.
What do you think? Is there a point in nurturing other ethnic cultures? How could you argue against Schlesinger's claim here?
Racism, and slavery itself, led to the idea that America exerted its power over others, that not everyone was equal, and that not everyone was allowed into the pot. There were certain ingridients thought to be better than others, and this, argues Schlesinger, has been America's greatest mistake and downfall.
This contributes to the idea that there’s not too much of a point in nourishing ethnic groups. We should aim to have ONE American culture, not many cultures as part of America.
Many believed that America was a place to start anew, not a place to celebrate other cultures. They believed it was a melting pot, not a buffet where each food (or culture) is celebrated separately.
This idea is the perfect example of a double edged sword. Schlesinger disagrees with this idea of Separatism. The American culture should be a melting American pot.
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. lived from October 15, 1917 -- February 28, 2007
Schlesinger seems to agree with this point, especially with his claim that public education should prepare students to be AMERICAN citizens. He doesn't argue that education is an end to itself, but rather a tool for survival.
In Ravitch's radio interview with Terry Gross, Ravitch talks about the "sanitation" of cultures. She says that even when textbooks talk about Mayans and Aztecs, they often don't talk about the human sacrifices that were committed within those cultures. By doing so, she says, you're not telling the whole story, or the whole truth, because you're only telling the pretty parts. Both Schlesinger and Ravitch seem to agree that ethnic pride should not be at the forefront of teaching history, but they believe this for different reasons.
Schlesinger: “How much would a full account of African despotism, massacre, and slavery increase the self-esteem of black students? Yet what kind of history do you have if you leave out all the bad things?” (93)
Ravitch (In "The Disuniting of America): “Once ethnic pride and self-esteem become the criterion for teaching history…certain things cannot be taught.” (96)
Ravitch: “…educational policymakers have tended to view schooling as an instrument to achieve some other goal, only rarely as an end to itself.” (102)
...to Diane Ravitch!
What reasons do Schlesinger and Ravitch have for not wanting ethnic pride to be the center of teaching history? Why they do they differ? Are their ultimate goals the same, or different?
Take a minute and think.
"America the Melting Pot"
Ethnic Studies?
Take a minute to think about this.
Education: He attended Philips Exeter Academy, He later graduated from Harvard in 1938 (at age 20).
He served in the Office of War Information and the Office of Strategic Services during WWII, during which he published The Age of Jackson (his first Pulitzer Prize winner) in 1946.
Afterward, he worked as a professor of history at Harvard from 1946-1961 (although he never received a PhD)
He founded Americans for Democratic Action with Eleanor Roosevelt, Hubert Humphrey and John Kenneth Galbraith in 1947.
He Was an adviser and speechwriter for Adlai Stevenson and JFK during their respective campaigns, and was later appointed Special Assistant to the President (JFK) where he primarily worked on Latin American affairs and speech writing. He won a 2nd Pultizer for "A Thousand Days", an account of the Kennedy administration.
After JFK's assassination, he taught as the Albert Schweitzer Professor of the Humanities at the Graduate Center of City University of NY.
References Used
Heath, S. B. (1995). Ethnography in communities: Learning the everyday life of america. In J. Banks (Ed.), Handbook on research of multicultural education (pp. 114-127). Retrieved from http://www.shirleybriceheath.net/pdfs/ETH_HBKRsrchOnMulticultEd.pdf

Swartz, E. (1992). Multicultural education: From a compensatory to a scholarly foundation. In C. Grant (Ed.), Research and multicultural education: From the margins to the mainstreamLondon: Falmer Press.

Schlesinger's multicultural dissent. (1992, June 12). The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved from http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1992-06-12/news/1992164166_1_schlesinger-melting-pot-disunited

Arthur M. Schlesinger jr.. (2008, November 17). Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/527608/Arthur-M-Schlesinger-Jr

Schlesinger, Arthur M. The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998. Print.

Ravitch, Diane. "Forgetting the Questions: The Problem of Educational Reform." (n.d.): n. pag. Print.

Schlesinger argued that "ethnicity is the cause of the breaking of nations," and that the United States is being split in the way minorities are demanding and achieving school curricula that focus on the achievements of each group.

Nowadays the "escape from origins" that created America has yielded to "the search for roots" and due to this "a cult of ethnicity has arisen both among non-Anglo whites and among nonwhite minorities to denounce the idea of a melting pot, to challenge the concept of 'one people,' and to protect, promote, and perpetuate separate ethnic and racial communities."

Notes the pros of ethnic pride (Americans acknowledging a world outside of Europe and recognizing the achievement of different races that beforehand had been ignored) but focuses on the cons (the "rejection of a unifying vision" and the change from America being a nation of individuals to a nation of groups.)
America: A Nation of Groups?
Impact on Classrooms
Schlesinger felt that "the purpose of history in the school is essentially therapeutic," meaning that a type of "underdog history" was preferred to comfort the oppressed or abused, but has little positive effects on those it presumes to help.
"Black Americans, after generations of psychological and cultural evisceration have every right to seek an affirmative definition of their past [however] history as a weapon is an abuse of history. The high purpose of history is not the presentation of self nor the vindication of identity."
He marveled at the fact that schools encourage classes and extracurriculars that promote a "segregation of races," seeing these as "source[s] of the fragmentation of America" and believing that "the cult of ethnicity exaggerates differences, intensifies resentments and antagonisms, and drives ever deeper the awful wedges between races and nationalities".
Others' thoughts on Multiculturalism in Schools
Schools are moving towards making it unnecessary for there to be separate groups or discussions about specific races. However, "if classrooms use materials that do not portray diverse groups realistically, students are likely to develop, maintain, and strengthen the stereotypes and distortions in the traditional curriculum. Text analysis (a common form of multicultural research) indicates that textbook images and representations exclude, distort, and marginalize women, people of color, and people from lower socioeconomic echelons. A growing proportion of textbooks do include diversity, but their images and representations tend to be superficial and incorrect." - E. Swartz
Take a minute and think.
In Ravitch's interview about "The Language Police", she talks a lot about images of specific cultures in stereotypical settings being banned from being included in textboks. Swartz talks about his worry that textbook images marginalize and stereotype cultures and genders, while Ravitch worries that by NOT portraying those stereotypes, we "sanitize" students and don't give them the whole truth.
Where do you think the balance is here? How much should we censor (if anything)? Do you feel as if you agree more with Ravitch or Schlesinger on this point of textbook sanitation? And if you've studied with a textbook, or currently teach with one now, what are your own experiences with them?
An Interview with Schlesinger! Sorry it's not YouTube...
In this interview, Schlesinger touches on the importance of using history to lead the country. Schlesinger says that leaders who do not know enough history will "duplicate the stupidity" of past events. How does this connect to his beliefs towards teaching "therapeutic" history to students?
A Parody on Cultural (Asian) Stereotypes...
How can this parody relate to Schlesinger's idea about public education about other cultures? How might the girl's behavior speak towards Schlesinger's warnings of America being broken into a nation of groups?
Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls these findings "a wake-up call to educators [...] to work together to address educational inequities." How might this be reminiscent to Schlesinger's call to teach more multicultural curricula in schools?
An Article on Educational Disparity in OUR time
Article link: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/new-data-us-department-education-highlights-educational-inequities-around-teache
Full transcript