We Are All Multiculturalists Now (Revised)
The melting pot is no more. Where not very long ago we sought assimilation, we now pursue multiculturalism. Nowhere has this transformation been more evident than in the public schools, where a traditional Eurocentric curriculum has yielded to diversity--and, often, to confrontation and confusion. In a book that brings clarity and reason to this highly charged issue, Nathan Glazer explores these sweeping changes. He offers an incisive account of why we all--advocates and skeptics alike--have become multiculturalists, and what this means for national unity, civil society, and the education of our youth.
Focusing particularly on the impact in public schools, Glazer dissects the four issues uppermost in the minds of people on both sides of the multicultural fence: Whose "truth" do we recognize in the curriculum? Will an emphasis on ethnic roots undermine or strengthen our national unity in the face of international disorder? Will attention to social injustice, past and present, increase or decrease civil disharmony and strife? Does a multicultural curriculum enhance learning, by engaging students' interest and by raising students' self-esteem, or does it teach irrelevance at best and fantasy at worst?
Glazer argues cogently that multiculturalism arose from the failure of mainstream society to assimilate African Americans; anger and frustration at their continuing separation gave black Americans the impetus for rejecting traditions that excluded them. But, willingly or not, "we are all multiculturalists now," Glazer asserts, and his book gives us the clearest picture yet of what there is to know, to fear, and to ask of ourselves in this new identity.
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About the Author
[Glazer] is aware of the complexity of the issues, of the many forms of and motives for multiculturalism, and of the multiple forces and dynamics affecting ethnic relations. Just as he doubts that multiculturalism is the solution to ethnic problems, so too he doubts that multiculturalism is the cause of America's ethnic tensions. Indeed, he is quite dismissive of those who have blown multiculturalism out of proportion, and turned it into the 'trojan horse' destroying American culture and society...This sober, even-handed approach is unlikely to satisfy either defenders or critics of multiculturalism, but many readers will find his balanced tome a welcome relief in what is an overheated and overpoliticised debate. It is certainly an easy book to read: well-written, full of interesting and revealing anecdotes, and mercifully devoid of political jargon or esoteric terminology.--Will Kymlicka "Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development "
Though troubling and significant issues remain in the struggles of women, gays and lesbians, and Hispanics, they pale by contrast with the far greater separateness, weight of grievances, and suffering of American blacks. This remains 'the American dilemma, ' and Glazer has performed a useful service by reminding us of this fact.--Dwight St. John "Southern Humanities Review "
[Glazer's] latest book is provocative, readable and occasionally disturbing, but should be read by anyone interested in this topic.--Martin Morse Wooster "Washington Times "
The usefulness of the first half of the book is...in its common-sensical questions about the practical significance of educational ideologies--and the doubts Glazer expresses about the efficacy of difference curricula. His tone here is chastened and tentative--perfectly appropriate...there can be little argument that Glazer's reconsideration advances the current debate. This is a wise book.--Todd Gitlin "Contemporary Sociology "
[A] welcome addition to the growing canon [on multiculturalism]...a kind of battlefield primer for spectators and participants alike...[T]his is a sober, lucid and fair-minded book.--Michael Posner "Globe & Mail "
In this short but important book, Nathan Glazer addresses one of the most controversial issues in American education--and outside of it, for that matter...[It is] a wise and temperate book.--William L. O'Neill "The New Leader "
In this elegantly written book, Nathan Glazer provides a historically rich account of the rise of multiculturalism and explicates its political significance. He argues that the diffusion of multiculturalism has been driven by the singeing fault-line of 20th-century America, the position of African Americans. In the book's best chapter, on assimilation, Glazer explains how the discussion of this topic elided and ignored the position of black Americans--it was the assimilation of eastern and southern Europeans which exercised the assimilationists in the 1910s and 1920s; African Americans, if thought of at all, were considered unassimilable...This is a timely and thoughtful book. Glazer's historical sensitivity and, above all, his appreciation of the need to place African Americans at the centre of any engagement with multiculturalism, enables him to dissect and explain this phenomenon far more cogently than most commentators.--Desmond King "Times Higher Education Supplement "
We Are All Multiculturalists Now is a reasoned and discerning analysis of an issue that has generated intense controversy... [Glazer's] account of the history of America's responses to immigration offers an invaluable context for assessing contemporary racial and ethnic issues.--William Hogan "Times Union [Albany, NY] "
Since it is already deeply entrenched in the schools, Glazer devoted much of his attention to multiculturalism in education. He provides a thoughtful analysis of four concerns raised by its influence there: to wit, whether it does or does not distort truth, imperil national unity, and undermine social harmony, and whether it affects students' learning positively or negatively. He also gives us something of an insider's view of the curricular and textbook wars in New York and California, and of the controversy over 'national standards' in history. Glazer is quite sensitive to the danger that the 'strongest' versions of multiculturalism could 'undermine what is still, on balance, a success in world history, a diverse society that continues to welcome further diversity, with a distinctive and common culture of some merit.' Be he does not think this will happen, because what the multiculturalists are really demanding is not separation, but inclusion under terms of equality.--Philip Gleason "Books & Culture "
Glazer begins with a straightforward account of how, in a few short years, teachers in public elementary, middle, and secondary schools have come to take for granted something called 'multicultural education'...[He] suggests helpfully that what multiculturalism's enthusiasts share is an approach to education and to public culture that seeks to sustain hitherto derogated identities...We Are All Multiculturalists Now offers an insider's account of the debate over New York State's attempts at curriculum reform in the early Nineties, a process in which Mr. Glazer was intimately involved. It includes a reasonable discussion of what the guiding principles of curriculum reform should be, and it reflects temperately on the debate about national history standards.--K. Anthony Appiah "New York Review of Books "
Nathan Glazer...understands the present situation...clearly, and with an admirable sensitivity to what certain multiculturalists are trying to achieve...As Mr. Glazer shows in a fascinating chapter, the educational theorists (including John Dewey) who spoke of the American `melting pot' were thinking almost exclusively of the European immigrants to this country; race, in their vocabulary, meant what we now call ethnicity. European-Americans could and would in time disconnect themselves from their country of origin and cease to be known as 'hyphenated' Americans. African-Americans were never included in this vision and were often treated by the theorists as if they simply were not there.--Mary Lefkowitz "Wall Street Journal "
A wry statement of reluctant resignation to America's prevailing cultural realities, by Glazer, a Harvard sociologist and education/social-policy expert...Multiculturalism, [Glazer] asserts, is now an unavoidable element of American life, and one that we must come to grips with. This book is remarkable for the plainspoken grace of its concessions, and Glazer also maintains an eloquent honesty about his reservations regarding government-imposed remedies, and about his unaccustomed position of being stymied for answers. One of the culture wars' quietly dedicated establishmentarian soldiers has laid down his rhetorical arms to prepare for a more civil and salutary engagement.--Kirkus Reviews
A generation ago, Nathan Glazer made a reputation of being one of the strongest critics of affirmative action policies, arguing that the melting pot of the market would suffice to overcome ethnic inequality. Glazer's present qualified support for multicultural policies indicates how far assimilation has been supplanted as the goal and reality of US society. In this book Glazer charts the relatively recent rise of the word, discusses several debates evoked by multiculturalism, explains why it has been such a preoccupation of the last two decades, and mounts a moderate defence of it.--Ethnic & Racial Studies
Glazer...is a distinguished social scientist and social critic...[This is a] densely packed book, the essential argument of which is that multiculturalism `is the price America is paying for its inability or unwillingness to incorporate into its society African Americans, in the same way and to the same degree it has incorporated so many groups.'--Jonathan Yardley "Washington Post Book World "
So many reams of paper, so many gallons of ink have been devoted to books dealing with our ongoing culture wars in general, and with multiculturalism in particular, that it is difficult to comprehend an end to it all... The esteemed social scientist Nathan Glazer's book is so thorough and reasoned in its analysis and prognosis that one can only hope that it will be treated as definitive... Mr. Glazer's account seeks to place our current round of multiculturalism in historical perspective... Given [his] impressive marshaling of historical, economic and sociological evidence, it is hard to argue with him... [This book] offers a clear, if imposing, path out of the present impasse.--Washington Times
[Glazer's] analysis of the relative failure of the United States to assimilate its black population, despite his own early optimism, is sobering, and goes a long way toward explaining the drive for multicultural studies in American classrooms.--Foreign Affairs