F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
July 2, 2000
Multiculturalism Misleads Minorities

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

How will minority students ever enter the mainstream of American society if their teachers deny that it's possible for them to do so?

"Economic opportunity is meaningful only if individuals are culturally equipped to seize it," asserts Myron Magnet of the Manhattan Institute. "Cultural values such as neatness, punctuality, thoroughness, and dependability are the causes, not the results of economic mobility," Magnet contends. "The same is even more true," he says, "of such cultural traits as ambition, entrepreneurialism, respect for education, or pushing one's children to succeed."

In the newly released paperback edition of his 1993 book, The Dream and the Nightmare, Myron Magnet stresses the importance of posing the ultimate question of social policy, "What is society for? Why do we need it? Without this large question as a beacon, how is it possible to judge whether policies are aimed in the right direction, directed to producing the good society?" he demands. "Without nurture and cultivation in society -- starting with nurture in that elemental social unit, the family -- the human potentialities that are latent in individuals at birth are doomed to be withered or stunted," Magnet declares. "Each person," he explains, "undergoes in childhood a development analogous to the evolution of civilization: his upbringing provides him with the cultural inheritance that turns little more than a wild animal into a fully human being. . . ."

The ultimate goal of society, Magnet maintains, is to establish "a social order that nurtures the fullest development in individuals of the qualities that define humanity -- reason, conscience, selfhood, individuality, creativity, judgment, the ability to impose order upon the world and meaning upon life." He emphasizes that society is "more than a matter of free institutions alone; the crucial element is the intangible cultural spirit, the values and ideals, animating the whole and nourishing each individual."

Magnet worries that "the cultural inheritance essential to generate fully developed, fully humanized, fully individualized selves is not getting transmitted adequately" to members of the underclass. "They are deprived," he says, "of the basic socialization in early childhood that awakens and develops the conscience and fosters the beliefs, values, and habits of thought and feeling that constitute civility and that impose meaning and direction on individual life. Because of this deprivation, they are also poor in basic knowledge and in the skills of reasoning, analysis, and judgment needed to master the world."

Magnet argues that multiculturalism has made "the main current of the nation's history -- the bringing of European culture to the New World, the birth of a new social order based on the individual's freedom of conscience, the founding and expansion of a free, democratic nation on the principles of the European Enlightenment -- problematic, especially for minority pupils. Therefore, such pupils are hindered from learning that they live in a uniquely free and open society offering unprecedented opportunity to anyone who will seize it, that they can claim the supraethnic identity of an American and participate in an American community without being false to themselves. Instead," he laments, "students are taught resentment, along with a militant certainty that they neither can nor should transcend their own ethnicity."

Duplantier is the author of the new book Politickles: Limericks Lampooning the Lunatic Left (Merril Press, 2000), available at Amazon.com and other online locations.

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