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Thread: Another view on multiculturalism

  1. #1
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Cultural Heritages
    By Thomas Sowell
    Tuesday, June 26, 2007


    Among the interesting people encountered by my wife and me, during some recent vacation travel, were a small group of adolescent boys from a Navajo reservation. They were being led on a bicycle tour by a couple of white men, one of whom was apparently their teacher on the reservation.

    The Navajo youngsters were bright and cheerful lads, so I was surprised when someone asked them in what state Pittsburgh was located and none of them knew. Then they were offered a clue that it was in the same state as Philadelphia but they didn't know where Philadelphia was either.

    These Navajo boys seemed too bright not to have learned such things if they had been taught the basics. They also seemed too positive to be the kinds of kids who refused to learn.

    The most likely explanation was that they were being taught other things, things considered "relevant" to their life and culture on the reservation.

    These youngsters are not just members of the tribe on the reservation. They are also citizens of the United States of America, and have a right to be anywhere in this country, from Florida to Alaska.

    Whether they want to stay on the reservation when they are grown or to take advantage of the many opportunities in the wider world beyond the reservation is a decision that should be theirs to make when they reach adulthood.

    But those opportunities will be gone, for all practical purposes, if their education does not equip them with the knowledge that is needed to bring their natural abilities to the point where they are capable of doing all sorts of things in all sorts of places.

    One of the men who was with these boys expressed great respect for the Navajo culture and there is no reason to doubt that he has good reasons for that conclusion.

    But any culture -- whether in or out of the mainstream -- is not just a badge of identity or a museum piece to be admired by others.

    A culture is a tool for serving the many practical purposes of life, from making a living to curing diseases. As a tool, it has to change with the ever changing tasks that confront every culture as time goes on.

    Although we speak English today, we would have a hard time trying to understand things written in Old English from centuries ago. Languages, like every other aspect of culture, change over time.

    Wind-driven sailing ships were a great advance over ships propelled by oars but the sailing ships were in turn superseded by steamships and today we have diesel-powered ships.

    No culture can stand still.

    Among the Navajo heroes of World War II were men who served in American armed forces in the Pacific and broadcast secret military messages in the Navajo language, which the Japanese were unable to translate.

    This required the Navajo code-talkers to come up with new words for things like battleships and airplanes, which had never been part of traditional Navajo culture.

    Some of these men were too old to be in the military, or too young, but they volunteered to serve anyway. This was an era when people from every background considered themselves Americans and wanted to help defend this country.

    We can only hope that there are many more such people now, ready to serve both their country and their people, and that they will see to it that those promising young Navajo boys end up knowing all they need to know in order to be all that they can be.

    Unfortunately, in this age of "multiculturalism," there are too many outsiders who want all sorts of cultures to be frozen where they are, preserved like museum exhibits.

    Worse yet, too many multiculturalists want many groups to cling to their historic grievances, if not be defined by them.

    But among the many ways that various groups around the world have advanced from poverty to prosperity, nursing historic grievances does not have a promising track record -- except for those who make a career out of keeping grievances alive.

    The youngsters we saw deserve better than that.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
    vidcc's Avatar there is no god
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    Unfortunately, in this age of "multiculturalism," there are too many outsiders who want all sorts of cultures to be frozen where they are, preserved like museum exhibits.
    Kind of ironic then that Sowell and "conservatives" are bemoaning that the USA culture (or at least their version of what it should be) is being lost to the influence of other cultures.

    In this case Sowell is taking another "everyone needs to assimilate" stance, but he is after all talking about Native Americans, and the immigrant forefathers didn't assimilate with them, instead............ well that's all history.
    Why didn't Sowell ask how come US citizens learn little of Native American culture? After all history goes beyond the pilgrims.

    With the Native Americans there is an interesting point with pride of heritage and identity. We often here an argument about slave decedents that "if they feel they are more African than American then why don't they just move there?"
    Try making that argument with native Americans.

    Now I agree that todays populace is not the ones that suffered the outrages, however pride in ancestry is not a bad thing.

    Sowell seems to think that the only pride of identity that is acceptable is that which relates to the USA........A land mass that was here long before the country was formed.
    Last edited by vidcc; 07-11-2007 at 05:23 PM.

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  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Quote Originally Posted by vidcc View Post
    Unfortunately, in this age of "multiculturalism," there are too many outsiders who want all sorts of cultures to be frozen where they are, preserved like museum exhibits.
    Kind of ironic then that Sowell and "conservatives" are bemoaning that the USA culture (or at least their version of what it should be) is being lost to the influence of other cultures.

    In this case Sowell is taking another "everyone needs to assimilate" stance, but he is after all talking about Native Americans, and the immigrant forefathers didn't assimilate with them, instead............ well that's all history.
    Why didn't Sowell ask how come US citizens learn little of Native American culture? After all history goes beyond the pilgrims.

    With the Native Americans there is an interesting point with pride of heritage and identity. We often here an argument about slave decedents that "if they feel they are more African than American then why don't they just move there?"
    Try making that argument with native Americans.

    Now I agree that todays populace is not the ones that suffered the outrages, however pride in ancestry is not a bad thing.

    Sowell seems to think that the only pride of identity that is acceptable is that which relates to the USA........A land mass that was here long before the country was formed.
    That is quite possibly the wildest misapprehension of an opinion piece I have ever read, even laying aside the fact your of your willful and compulsory bias.
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    Busyman™'s Avatar Use Logic Or STFU!
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    Quote Originally Posted by j2k4 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by vidcc View Post

    Kind of ironic then that Sowell and "conservatives" are bemoaning that the USA culture (or at least their version of what it should be) is being lost to the influence of other cultures.

    In this case Sowell is taking another "everyone needs to assimilate" stance, but he is after all talking about Native Americans, and the immigrant forefathers didn't assimilate with them, instead............ well that's all history.
    Why didn't Sowell ask how come US citizens learn little of Native American culture? After all history goes beyond the pilgrims.

    With the Native Americans there is an interesting point with pride of heritage and identity. We often here an argument about slave decedents that "if they feel they are more African than American then why don't they just move there?"
    Try making that argument with native Americans.

    Now I agree that todays populace is not the ones that suffered the outrages, however pride in ancestry is not a bad thing.

    Sowell seems to think that the only pride of identity that is acceptable is that which relates to the USA........A land mass that was here long before the country was formed.
    That is quite possibly the wildest misapprehension of an opinion piece I have ever read, even laying aside the fact your of your willful and compulsory bias.
    Interesting point though.

    I learned next to squat about Native American history. I'm sure the powers that be or have been wanted it somewhat buried.

    If the Navajo culture hadn't been strong back in WWII, there might not have been any Windtalkers.

    Apparently, all Americans should become clones of white America....the powers that be.

    Everyone doesn't want to become that.

    As far as holding on to grievances, one should not forget them.

    There sure are folks out there that still want commit those grievances.

    In my lifetime, I can't recall meeting one Native American. It is quite possible their population has been decimated.

    I think a mix of them branching out and staying strong in their culture is great thing.
    Last edited by Busyman™; 07-12-2007 at 02:10 PM.

  5. The Drawing Room   -   #5
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    I happen to be fairly well-versed as to matters involving Native Americans (the ones I know - and I know hundreds - have no trouble being referred to as "tribal" or merely "indians"), and while I have no problem whatsoever with them keeping their culture alive, unless they want to stay on the rez forever, they should know about places such as Sowell mentions, don't you think?
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  6. The Drawing Room   -   #6
    Busyman™'s Avatar Use Logic Or STFU!
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    Quote Originally Posted by j2k4 View Post
    I happen to be fairly well-versed as to matters involving Native Americans (the ones I know - and I know hundreds - have no trouble being referred to as "tribal" or merely "indians"), and while I have no problem whatsoever with them keeping their culture alive, unless they want to stay on the rez forever, they should know about places such as Sowell mentions, don't you think?
    Ya know that's probably why I have never seen one in person.

    It must be that they all are on reservations.

    Ain't it sumthin? Native Americans have been dwindled down to reservationists exclusively.

  7. The Drawing Room   -   #7
    Snee's Avatar Error xɐʇuʎs BT Rep: +1
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    So, to sum things up: The author of the piece is saying that navajo children get dodgy education, and he's basing that on the fact that a small group of them didn't know in which state two major cities are located. And he calls knowing such things "the basics".

    Is he senile at all?

    First of all, a "small group" probably doesn't constitute a reliable basis for blanket statements, meaning that it may just be a fluke that they in particular didn't know it.

    Furthermore, I bet that if he went out asking people out in the streets of any major city in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world in which state those cities were in, he'd probably be able to find a small cohesive group of people who didn't know it, possibly even including in the very cities in question.

    And last, learning geography by memorizing major cities and the states they are in must be one of the more pointless exercises people may go through. Maybe whoever tended to the education of those navajo boys had the brains to spend more time on learning them how to read maps properly instead.

    Knowing the locations of tens or hundreds of places many of which you'll probably never visit is useless. And I'm sure there must be better things you can learn instead in the same period of time.

    Geography was one of my least favourite subjects in school just because it was useless. I'm positive that I'd be able to plan any trip I could possibly want without knowing where I wanted to go was. All I'd need to do would be to check it up in an atlas, since I do know how to read a map, and to, you know, read period. Give me a map and a compass instead lots of memorized information most of which doesn't concern my current trip, and I'll get there sure enough.

  8. The Drawing Room   -   #8
    bigboab's Avatar Poster BT Rep: +1
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    I agree Snny. Since I was at school a lot of the countries have changed names and borders. Some of them changing names more than once. Even The USA has went from 48 states to 51. The last one being the UK under Mr Blair.
    The best way to keep a secret:- Tell everyone not to tell anyone.

  9. The Drawing Room   -   #9
    j2k4's Avatar en(un)lightened
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    Snee-

    You really seem to have no idea how insular American Indian culture can be, much less the other cultures represented here.

    Perhaps I should have told you that I live on the reservation myself; my children are tribal, in fact.

    Besides which, the phenomenon Sowell speaks of extends far beyond simple geography, all due respect to your distaste for that particular subject.

    Boab-

    Are you feeling cynical at all (at all).

    Perhaps your G.B. will move to secede, and we can have another civil war, though, as I'm sure you are aware, this means the U.K. would have to provide the slaves...
    “Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that.” -George Carlin

  10. The Drawing Room   -   #10
    Busyman™'s Avatar Use Logic Or STFU!
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigboab View Post
    I agree Snny. Since I was at school a lot of the countries have changed names and borders. Some of them changing names more than once. Even The USA has went from 48 states to 51. The last one being the UK under Mr Blair.

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