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Published in Print: September 25, 1991, as Worth Noting

Worth Noting

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"For all or our differences over ideology, politics, and ethnicity, most Americans are not as far apart on the dry substance of multicultural education as many in the current debate imply. Between the extreme of using our educational system to foster an 'ethnicity first' identity and the opposite extreme of denying any diversity, is a wide area of generally accepted common ground and common sense. Most Americans can understand both the need to recognize and encourage an enriched diversity as well as the need to ensure that such a broadened multicultural perspective leads to unity and an enriched sense of what being an American is, and not to a destructive factionalism that would tear us apart.

To conduct a positive and constructive dialogue on multicultural education, we need to be vigilant in reminding ourselves that what is at stake here is not ideology or politics but the educational well-being of our children. If we let the issue break down into a battle between those seeking to impose their vision of some ideal curriculum and political hitmen looking more for a hot-button issue than a way to promote both diversity and unity in our educational system, the losers will be our children and the larger community as well ....

My concern is that the worthy aims of multicultural education are being pushed to such extremes that the casualty is common sense. For example, while all students will gain from inclusion of different ethnic perspectives, this ought not to become a rationale for denying the European influence on many of our fundamental and enduring institutions. And, while our teachers should seek to challenge our young people intellectually by forcing them to confront history from various perspectives, we ought not allow this goal to lead to a value-free orthodoxy which discourages our educators from striving for shared understandings of fundamental moments in our history. Nor should teaching our young people greater adaptive and analytical skills be at the expense of learning basic facts about our history or society."

--Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York, in a statement July 10, 1991, following the release of the report of the New York State Social Studies Review and Development Committee on multicultural education.

Vol. 11, Issue 04, Page 1

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