Diversity and Intercultural Education through the prism of Critical Theory: the School of Integration

Issue 9

“Diversity and Intercultural Education through the prism of Critical Theory: the School of Integration”

Giorgos Nikolaou



In the introduction of our paper the notions of culture and cultural identity and diversity are explained. The contemporary societies are characterized by multiculturalism and cultural diversity, especially due to the increased immigration patterns. The causes of this situation are found in the political, cultural and economic changes of the past decades. In this framework, education is the basic mechanism of the state for the formation of the population in a homogeneous nation. Culture is not hereditary but it is transferred through the procedure of tuition and learning. There are several interpretations of the notion of culture but it is generally accepted that it consists of knowledge, beliefs, arts, moral rules, languages, norms and customs. These are the factors that form the context of cultural identity and/or diversity. As Campbell supports it is possible for a person to belong to more than one cultural group, the limits of which are the differences as far as religious, language, nation an social class is concerned.

In the next part of our paper, multiculturalism is explained through the different scientific interpretations that were given. Thus, according to Grand, Sleeter and Anderson for the educational community multicultural education is the education which is provided to all those who are culturally different, the creation of positive relations between students who have different cultural traditions, the efforts aiming at the increase of the knowledge in relation to the education of special groups, the education which reform the school schedule so as to respond to the needs of all the cultural groups and the education which suggests a future way of social action. Of course, there are similar efforts aiming at determining the notion of multicultural education which increase the confusion around this subject.

Moreover, multiculturalism is compared with cultural relativism. At this point it is created the dilemma whether to insist on the preserving of the national state or dismantle it following the demand of the cultural relativism. The answer to this dilemma is that the last suffers from an excessive simplicity and that it can have perversional consequences such as the increase of the intolerance and the inequality for the immigrants and the members of minority groups.

In contrast, the representatives of the critical theory define multicultural education in a different way. National identity orients itself more to the participation, the responsibility and access more than nationality. Multiculturalism concerns all the educational system and does not depend from the existence of culturally different students. School should be a place where communication is favored and not the opposite. In this framework Helmut Essinger has defined as the principles of multicultural education the education for empathy, for solidarity, for multicultural respect and education against national-centered way of thinking. Moreover, as far as the principles of multicultural education are concerned, according to Nieke multiculturalism is necessary to mainstream all the lessons that are being taught in school.

As a conclusion, it is argued that a school which categorizes the students according to their cultural background is not acceptable. ´´A School for All´´ where the students will not face any discrimination and they will learn to live all together is the type of school that is suggested. This school is interested in preparing all the students for their integration in the society without bearing in mind their nationality. This school is multicultural because it respects all the civilizations without ignoring them. It takes advantage of them so as to fulfill its mission accepting important facts such as the recognition of diversity, social cohesion, equality and justice.