Trampling the sacred: multicultural education as pedagogical racism
In this statement, Jurgen Habermas was referring to the events of 9/11, but the violence to which he refers can be experienced at all levels in our society. The “distortion of communication” begins with the ﬁrst step into a classroom. The violence that occurred on this day has highlighted the need for cultural understanding and dialog in order to possibly avoid similar future events. For those who teach in areas of higher education, it also brought to light the need to increase the focus on investigating non-Western knowledge systems. The unfortunate academic result of 9/11 is that much of the effort has remained focused on Arab and Muslim cultures. While these certainly deserve exploration, there are cultures beyond these that are experiencing generations of violence that continue to be ignored. The creation of multicultural pedagogical programs has been put in place largely because of the events of the 1960s and 1970s. These early programs focused largely on black and African-American interaction with white and European American communities. The limited focus of multicultural programs seems to be a result of media and political agendas. Such myopic approaches relegate other racial and ethnic groups to the
Lavonna Lea Lovern
sidelines. There is little time left for Hispanic, Hawaiian, Inuit, or Native American cultural study. These cultures are often only given a day of study and only when other subjects have been completed. The relegation to “as time allows” is an indicator of just how little importance is given to these groups of people. Habermas’ concern is that this perpetual neglect of classes of people opens the door to various levels of violence. When a group of people is ignored or becomes invisible, the consequences for them and for the surrounding groups may easily escalate into violence. According to Habermas, one way to help head off violence is to bring the forgotten and ignored into dialog. For the purposes of this paper, the dialog will involve cultural competency in the pedagogical practices of multicultural programs. The focus will be on Native American and Indigenous cultures as these groups continue to suffer the violence of neglect and invisibility. The violence to generations of children has continued since the boarding school era. It can be found in the often well-meaning multicultural programs which hide the underlying racist curriculum. The paper will begin by looking at the idea of multiculturalism and the usages of sacred aspects and rituals of Indigenous cultures as pedagogical practices of racism. The paper will then focus on how these acts of pedagogical praxis are the current beard for the earlier ideas of Manifest Destiny and Social Darwinism. Finally, the paper will give some discussion of Indigenous responses to these practices through acts of revitalization and resistance.