Political ideals have shaped the history of America more than any other element. This factor has had an influence on the multi-cultural outlook of America and subsequently educational disciplines have struggled with balancing multiculturalism and Americanism within the educational realm. Providing expansive definitions for both Americanism and multiculturalism will help elaborate how Americanism and multiculturalism can be incorporated in education while not divorcing any one of them from the field of education.
Educators can communicate Americanism and embrace multiculturalism in education by synthesizing the theoretical perspective and purpose of both the concepts whilst not disregarding true tenets of ideological foundations of both Americanism and multiculturalism. Having elaborately defined the theoretical perspective of Americanism and multiculturalism, it can state that both the ideological concepts are not mutually exclusive but mutually inclusive. The pursuit and adoption of one concept is not destined to the divorce of other if investigated and adopted from the evolutionary point-of-view.
Definition of the concepts
Americanism can be defined as the ideology that incorporates beliefs of equality, equal opportunity, freedom of speech and association, devotion and allegiance to America as a united entity with all of its constituting states, respect of sub-cultures that form entire culture, respect for prevalent symbols and institutions, and right of self-government as enshrined in the declaration of independence. Although, the era of revolution and civil war have played an important role in defining the foundational tenets of Americanism, today Americanism has much more expansive meaning. However, it is the jealously guarded individual liberty and freedom of opportunity that are most visible aspects of Americanism that sets Americans apart from rest of the nationalities. Americanism is therefore incorporates much broader foundational aspects as compared to being just another nation state based on principles of nationalism. In fact, the concept of Americanism is more than the collective culture of America. Americanism is also the cultural, political, and phyletic complex that has come to be known as the United States of America. Thus, Americanism is the collective ideology of individual liberty, socio-cultural freedom, social exhibitionism, American polity, and capitalism, all giving rise to a distinct and complex outlook. It is the individual that is more important than the collective and this principle travels throughout Americanism as distinct ideology (Kazin, 2006)
Multiculturalism is the concept that sub-cultures and sub-identities can effectively and peacefully co-exist in a society without having to adopt a national culture. The concept acknowledges and safeguards the diversity within a society, however the use of the term 'multiculturalism', either descriptively or normatively may define the contextual meaning more clearly. Discussing multiculturalism from a normative perspective, it is the promotion of diversity within the society by maintaining the cultural identity of each sub-culture, may it be rooted in religion, ethnicity, race, or color. In multiculturalism, sub-cultures are not subjugated by the national culture and government institutions do not coerce subcultures to dissolve their individual cultural identities in favor of the dominant culture.
Strategies for synthesizing
Differences between right wing and left wing
In the U.S., there has been much debate regarding the role of left wing and right wing intellectuals and politicians in shaping the role played by Americanism. Many researchers have argued that Americanism is more than nationalism and political left, prior to 1970s has played a role in keeping the country home to multicultural groups of people. The political and intellectual left wing has also condemned the U.S. policy of engagement in wars and dominion of other weaker nation states. While all the foreign and state policy of last few decades have been carried out on the premise of strengthening the nation state and promote the individual liberty of Americans, the policy is said to have distanced the U.S. from true tenets of Americanism as enshrined in the sustained struggle of our forefathers.
The right wing has been accused of religious conservatism and that the ideological divide that has been created between Americanism and multiculturalism is alleged to have originated from the policy of religious nationalism being furthered by the right wing. Republicans have been ideological bearers of right wing intellect and thus given rise to academic centers, policies, and actions that were more nationalistic and dominating in nature than could have been allowed by the original developers of Americanism (Kintz, 1997).
Militarization of popular culture and reclaiming of Christ by the religious right has also had impact on maintaining harmony within the multicultural groups living in the U.S. Since far right and right wing have usually appealed to the Native Americans and populations with strong military affiliations to liberate America from threats of onslaught from extremists outside the U.S., the ethnic and religious as well as racial minorities have associated themselves to the left wing in order to sustain a more individually guarded sub-culture for their identity. Thus, having reviewed some ideological divide within the American society regarding what it means when speaking of Americanism and how best to achieve and live it, following section will elaborate the role of educationists to rid the education system from polarizing the American society within Americanism and multiculturalism, posing both these concepts as averse to each other.
Education and Multiculturalism
Multiculturalism got initiated in the U.S. As the country faced sharp influx of immigrants and populations from rest of the world that migrated in the wake of oppression, hunger, and bad political and economic situation elsewhere in the world. The ideological theories of an egalitarian society built on the principles of multicultural society were developed by Charles Sanders Peirce, George Santayana, William James, Horace Kallen, W.E.B. Du Bois John Dewey and Alain Locke. A pluralist culture was envisioned by these writers as they professed for sustaining a multi-ethnic and multicultural society as a way forward for the human civilization.
In order to sustain a more tolerant and forbearing society, multiculturalism has been introduced in the American education system since early classes. The grade schools in order to develop a multicultural society in which immigrants and ethnicities are not alienated, introduced the diversity and accommodation of differing beliefs and traditions within the society. Abraham Lincoln's inaugural address is part of the curriculum. Cross cultural understanding and promotion of respect within the diverse base of students, some belonging from ethnic groups and others from same land, is the main outcome desired from the educational system.
Education and Americanism
In recent decades, the focus has shifted to encouraging multiculturalism in the U.S. education system and to achieve such end, the educationists have further polarized the concepts of Americanism and multiculturalism. In fact in 1994, it was in Tavares, Florida that the local school council mandated by the state government to include multicultural topics in the curriculum, issued the statement that read " this instruction in our students shall include and instill in our students an appreciation of our American Heritage and culture such as: our republican form of governments, capitalism, a free-enterprise system, patriotism, freedom of religion and other values that are superior to other foreign or historic cultures" (Glazer, 1997). This false theoretical underpinning about Americanism that is rooted in the ignorance of right wing intellects and the politicians is the mindset that gives rise to the concept of exclusivity to Americanism and multiculturalism.
In fact it was conceived by the torchbearers of early revolution and civil war era that multiculturalism is what is implied by the term Americanism as the then leaders did not want a divide among people on the basis of cultures or to grant superiority complex to one or two sections of the society on the basis of cultural dominion of the subcultures. The aforementioned remarks of a school council in Florida are not an isolated response to the state led intervention to introduce multiculturalism but depicts a widely held false perspective regarding Americanism. In order to enable the educationists to pave way for the introduction and inclusion of 'baseline' Americanism in the educational curriculum, the divide and gap between widely held perception about Americanism and multiculturalism shall be narrowed down. Only then can the concept of Americanism be adjusted within the educational setup along with multiculturalism.
Role of intelligentsia
In order to address the issue of non-inclusion of baseline Americanism in the educational contents within the U.S., the role of intellectuals and leading scholars assumes much importance. While Americanism was much more and all-inclusive concept when initially it was in evolutionary phase, the current use of term Americanism and the concepts associated to the term also needs to be revisited. The idea that a nation or culture is intrinsically superior to the other shall also be contested by the scholars to bridge the huge divide between multiculturalism and Americanism. Without sacrificing the essential tenets of individualism, the Americanism should be more about the relationship to a blending of cultures while not foregoing or having or forgo the individual or group…
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