20.1 C
New York
Monday, May 20, 2024

Shaping the American Culture: A Daunting Task

This article was part of a Dr. Isma’s keynote speech last September before the Association of the “Friends of The Library” in Plantation, Florida.One of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world, the United States, has always been on a desperate search for a unique cultural identity—an umbrella culture, strong enough to accommodate or even swallow the real essence of what makes diversity or multiculturalism the main theme in finding common grounds among people of different ethnic and cultural origins. Experts, like Kants and Iberg, believe that “this kaleidoscope of culture is what makes us so important and cherished by many. Therefore, this mosaic must remain the core value by which we all should dwell on.” These intellectuals are not inventing anything new. They are, in fact, relaying something that has been an irrefutable fact since early on.However, despite such utterly obvious reality, there are others who are down right determined to achieve what seems to be an all but doomed dream: creating or imposing a unique culture rooted in the beliefs of those who have been at the driver seat of this country since its creation. Trying hard, they did. For over one hundred years, the protagonists of this movement have been very consistent in working to find a magic formula for the establishment of a “dominant culture.”In the early nineteen hundreds, they introduced the “melting pot” formula, which had to be removed quickly after facing tough opposition and, most importantly, after assembling devastating results. In the nineteen-twenties, they came up with the idea of tolerating differences, but only with the tacit of understanding that these differences MUST fall within the framework of “acceptable behavior.” That too failed terribly, for the changes were cosmetic, at best. Segregation was in full force in many parts of the country, and the immigrant population, except for those who were arriving from Western Europe, was left to live in the fringe of society, and was bitterly contested at every attempt to reach the mainstream. Obviously, cheap labor was, and still is, an unwanted necessity in urban America; and the immigrant population has always been the biggest source from which the monopolists draw to fill the bulk of their inner-city factories and other manufacturing jobs.During the sixties and the seventies, the proponents of cross-cultural awareness seemed to be getting the upper hand. Thanks to the civil rights movement and many scientific studies done by academics, several legislations were passed to help those who were at the forefront struggling for a genuine awareness of cultural differences in our society. Pioneers, like Banks and Moore, since early on, predicted, “America will only overcome its cultural and racial biases when, and only when, the word ‘multiculturalism’ ceases to be a preferred sobriquet to coping with cultural diversity.” The solution to achieving tolerable behavior toward cultural diversity, Albert Cooper says, “will depend on the government unequivocal desire to introduce fair legislations that will encourage school districts around the country to undertake major reforms within the education system to better educate our multiethnic and multicultural population.”Cooper does not specifically state what these reforms could be. However, if one wants to take the risk of giving a subjective interpretation to Cooper’s statement, he or she would conclude that what Cooper is referring to grounds on reforms that would attack current policies regulating the public school system: from cafeteria lunches through standardized testing and classroom curricula. Would this be enough to achieve genuine cross-cultural awareness? It is very doubtful. In the long run, it might have a positive impact since children of today represent tomorrow’s future. But many experts agree that only a broad concerted and sustained effort by all institutions in our society can stall the drive to imposing on us the will of a “dominant culture” and, henceforth, bring the dazzling kaleidoscope that so many of us dream of finally to bear.

Related Articles

Latest Articles