The Place of History in Multicultural Education, pp. 7 of 15

Raising the Drawbridges and Circling the Wagons

History is interpretation and with that selection (Carr, 1961). The late Eric Hobsbawm accurately noted that “we have now become far more aware than any previous generation of how narrow the selection usually is” (Hobsbawm, 1997) of who, what, why and when of a selected historical narrative. However, even with the presumed normalcy of myriad, diverse historical themes, the intertwined history education and multicultural education has still, not unexpectedly, been subjected to the overarching issue of the subjects still as a political, power embedment tool at national, regional and global levels.

Indeed, this paper contends further that instead of heightened awareness of difference and respect for diversity, some dominant groups have raised drawbridges and circled the wagons to counteract amplified questioning of the legitimacy of entrenched power especially in the classrooms. Amidst hyper-globalisation, increasing global inequity and an inherently and normalised racist Islamophobic framework in the “global war on terror” narratives, interpretative contestations of old have intensified in efforts to either sustain and replicate existing institutionalised powers. Dubiously, multiculturalism has been declared to have “failed’ (Connolly, 2010; Anonymous, 2011). The so-called “curriculum wars” fought most contentiously with the reform efforts in such subjects as History, Social Studies and even Sciences are outcomes to addressing major national and global education blind spots.

Accused of being victims of political correctness rather than advocates of multicultural education and with that social justice, multicultural education advocates are accused of being radical and out-of-touch with mainstream society and in some cases, unpatriotic and therefore automatically suspect as inherently ‘dangerous’. Criticised as intellectually weak and lacking recognisable standards, multicultural curriculum’s components of race and colour are critiqued as divisive, unhelpful, academically irrelevant and unpatriotic. Here citing patriotism, unlike Dr. Johnson’s celebrated comment, is not the “last refuge of a scoundrel”. Claims to “patriotism” or lack of are effectively reductionist and uncritically automated: a dog-whistle political form of debate of coded phrases, scare mongering tactics of proud privilege.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

Newsletter Subscription

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up-to-date with new journal issues!