I’ll continue the discussion of multiculturalism and try to work some reviews in between blogs. Here’s more on the discussion.

Assimilation was gradually replaced at about the mid-20th century by the policy of multiculturalism, which also became popular in Europe and Australia. The aim of multiculturalism is to maintain different cultural traditions within a particular society. An example of this is Canada, where French and English-speaking Canadians co-exist.

There’s a lot of variation in what constitutes a multicultural policy. Some versions only advocate equal respect or equal treatment for different groups while others may actively promote diversity as measured by ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Support for maintaining separate groups is clearly different from assimilation, but it’s not considered the same as segregation. Instead, multiculturalism is meant to respect the customs, beliefs and value systems of groups that want to maintain their own separate cultural traditions. It’s often called a “salad bowl” or a “cultural mosaic” instead of a “melting pot.”

Multiculturalism offers several benefits. First, it recognizes that culture is important to people. It also recognizes that ethnic minorities have a right to follow their own values and belief systems and still be valued in society. Once this policy is instituted, then education shifts to highlighting the value of diversity and a diverse world culture in solving social problems. Textbooks are rewritten to show the value that different cultural groups contribute to society. Conflicts are analyzed by differences in culture and participants asked to respect the other person’s viewpoint. Native American children are removed from boarding schools and returned to their parents.

Drawbacks? For one thing, all this respect for diversity reduces the ability of immigrants to assimilate into the dominant culture. It results in immigrant communities where individuals have no need to deal with the larger society. It has also spawned a culture that pushes political correctness. Efforts to promote certain minorities have pitted them against the majority, and also against other minorities. This has resulted in dissatisfaction and/or backlash from other groups.