We Are All Multiculturalists Now

In This Review

We Are All Multiculturalists Now

By Nathan Glazer
Harvard University Press, 1997
173 pp. $19.95
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The kind of multiculturalism represented by the Appiah-Gates dictionary poses interesting problems for American identity. If American or Western values are not potentially universal ones but merely cultural byproducts of a certain type of northern European Christian culture, then a foreign or human rights policy based on spreading them to other parts of the world becomes questionable. Samuel Huntington has made this argument in The Clash of Civilizations, and it is the premise of the multicultural curricula now taught in American public schools. Nathan Glazer notes that while fights over "political correctness" have focused on higher education, multiculturalism has won an almost complete victory in primary and secondary schools. He notes that the downplaying of Europe in favor of non-Western histories and cultures in the public school curriculum is inevitable, hence the book's title, though he is not happy with the more extreme versions of multiculturalism. His 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.