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VALUES AND INTERNATIONALISM: THE LIMITS OF TOLERATION IN MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION Mark MASON Faculty of Education University of Hong Kong International.

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Presentation on theme: "VALUES AND INTERNATIONALISM: THE LIMITS OF TOLERATION IN MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION Mark MASON Faculty of Education University of Hong Kong International."— Presentation transcript:

1 VALUES AND INTERNATIONALISM: THE LIMITS OF TOLERATION IN MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION Mark MASON Faculty of Education University of Hong Kong International Baccalaureate Asia Pacific 21st Annual Regional Conference: Values and Internationalism 6-9 October 2006 Hanoi

2 INTRODUCTION The mission statement of the International Baccalaureate Organization focuses substantially on the laudable educational aims of fostering intercultural understanding and respect across cultures, and of encouraging respect for difference, and more specifically, respect for the fact that other cultures practices, which might be different to those of the learner, can also be right: The International Baccalaureate Organization aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. … [IBO] programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right (emphasis added).

3 The IBO is at its core motivated by aims that are universal in nature: most notable is its belief in the efficacy of education to create a better world. Implicit in the IBOs aims are the universalist and liberal notions of toleration, understanding and acceptance. Arising inevitably from these aims is a question about the limits of toleration of and respect for the practices of other cultures – and indeed also about the limits of toleration of and respect for the practices of the learners own culture.

4 Are there limits to the moral injunction to accept the rightness of cultural practices different to those of the learner? Does the very fact of cultural difference, which is all too often accompanied by marginalization and exploitation, imply rightness? When, in other words, should we not respect the practices of other cultures, or indeed those of our own culture? When might we be justified in claiming that a particular practice of a particular culture is morally wrong?

5 in the schools of a culture that denied girls the right to education, or in schools that were ethnically or racially segregated such as those of apartheid South Africa. The IBO would not, after all, allow the implementation of its curricula Do the core values and principles of multiculturalism oblige us to accept these practices, to respect them because they reflect the beliefs and values of cultures different to ours? Are we (the IBO) justified in implementing programmes founded in principles of equal respect and dignity in cultures that reject the ways in which we give expression to these principles? This judgement of the wrongness of these cultural practices appears to conflict with the IBOs curricular aims of respect, toleration and understanding.

6 Are there any ethical principles and educational ideals that can be justified as applicable to all cultures, whether or not those cultures reject such principles and ideals? If there are, how might we defend them? In other words, My thesis is that there are principles and ideals that are transcultural, that are universal. My conclusion in this paper is that there is no conflict here, and that the IBO would be right in its decision.

7 My arguments here are intended to show that there are indeed limits to the aims of toleration and respect. More particularly, I argue that we are not obliged to respect cultural practices that are inconsistent with the ethics associated with the principle of multiculturalism, at the heart of which lies the injunction to respect others, and particularly those who are different. Practices that violate the principle of multiculturalism, and which themselves violate the principle of respect for the rights of persons – such as the denial of the right of girls to education – should indeed not be tolerated. In examining what lies at the very heart of the IBOs curricular aims, the paper thus draws some controversial conclusions. But the arguments in support of those conclusions serve to clarify and strengthen the aims to which the IBO is committed.

8 Literature, theoretical field, and argument I draw on the literature of postmodern ethics – in particular, on the work of the leading social theorist, Zygmunt Bauman – to show its relevance for understanding the nature of moral comportment in contemporary society. I aim both to challenge some aspects of the postmodern moral perspective and to build on the intuitionist ethics underlying it. I argue against strong postmodernisms unqualified celebration of difference. I conclude the paper with a justification of moral principles, which I have elsewhere defended as the ethics of integrity (Mason, 2001), that might underpin universally the adjudication of acceptable educational and other practices from the unacceptable.

9 Prior to those conclusions I engage with the principles and issues associated with multiculturalism, drawing on the arguments of an eminent contemporary philosopher of education, Harvey Siegel, to conclude that contained within the principle of multiculturalism itself is the obligation to respect the dignity of each other, and especially of those who are different, as persons. Such a principle is, as Siegel shows, universally applicable to all cultures. What this means is that cultural practices that are disrespectful of the rights of, for example, women and girls, other ethnic groups, lower castes, the poor, or children, may justifiably be understood as morally illegitimate.

10 THE VALUES LANDSCAPE OF INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION The contemporary international values landscape is best understood in terms of the postmodern perspective on values and ethics. The postmodern perspective is best situated and explained in the context of a major consequence of an increasingly globalized world: increasingly multicultural, plural societies, characterized by a plurality of (sometimes irreconcilable) moral and value perspectives. Following the postmodern turn and the concomitant denial of the possibility of universal ethics, strong multiculturalist positions hold that imposing our principles, which are in their view culturally specific, on other cultures that reject those principles, is morally illegitimate. Against these claims, I show in this paper why some universal ethical principles are indeed applicable to all cultures.

11 VALUES AND ETHICS IN AN INCREASINGLY GLOBALIZED AND MULTICULTURAL WORLD Our concern here is with: the nature of values, ethics and morality in todays world; why our world has been described as postmodern; and what the postmodern perspective on contemporary ethics entails. My aim here is: to understand why we have so much less faith today in what we used to be certain was right, good and true; to understand why phrases such as the celebration of diversity and respect for difference are so popular today; and why the problems associated with moral relativism loom large.

12 Baumans four moral characteristics of late modernity: In a complex and increasingly inter-connected world, our actions have consequences far beyond what we could ever imagine – and we just do not have the ethical rules to guide actions whose consequences cannot be foreseen. Without being able to claim sole authorship for outcomes, we do not easily accept responsibility for their consequences. We are often just bit players in the production of outcomes. There is no necessary consistency or moral responsibility that flows evenly through all of our actions: we occupy diverse roles, and are constituted by multiple and flexible identities, and the moral positions we associate with each might not be consistent with the others. The postmodern moral crisis: the realization that sources of moral authority to which we might have traditionally turned are contested, and there is consequently no given source of right action.

13 The essence of the postmodern approach to ethics lies in the rejection of … the philosophical search for absolutes, universals and foundations in theory. This is a consequence of the multicultural spaces we now inhabit in an increasingly globalized world: that ours is a plural world, with a diversity of perspectives and claims to truth, beauty, and goodness. Hence the celebration of diversity and plurality in the postmodern perspective. Hence the abandonment of coercive and regulatory ethical codes. Postmodern ethics is morality without ethical code (Bauman). While the moral thought and practice of modernity may have been animated by the belief in the possibility of a non-ambivalent, non-aporetic ethical code, what is postmodern is the disbelief in such a possibility.

14 what (in part) defines us as human is our moral capacity, but humans are morally ambivalent: they are neither essentially good nor essentially bad. moral phenomena have nothing to do with the rational consideration of purpose [or] the calculation of gains and losses. morality is always fraught with irreconcilable contradictions, since few choices produce unambiguously good consequences. morality cannot be universalised. postmodern morality is non-foundational: there exist no foundations of morality on which universal ethical codes can be built. Some characteristics of the moral condition from a postmodern perspective:

15 Values and ethics in todays increasingly globalized and multicultural world (late modernity) understood from a postmodern perspective – in summary The postmodern view of morality is that in an era when the range of our moral choices and the consequences of our actions are more far-reaching than ever before, we are unable to rely on a universal ethical code that would yield unambiguously good solutions. This is why we have so little faith in what we used to be certain was right, good and true. In our humility that followed our own collapse of faith, we have learned to become more sensitive to different ways of doing things. And if we now have so little faith in what we used to know to be the right thing to do, how much less faith do we have in the applicability of our (now more tenuously held) beliefs and practices in other cultures? In such a world, is it possible that we might still be able to defend principles that have normative reach across cultures?

16 MULTICULTURALISM AND THE POSSIBILITY OF TRANSCULTURAL EDUCATIONAL IDEALS celebrates cultural differences; insists upon the just, respectful treatment of members of all cultures, especially those which have historically been the victims of domination and oppression; and emphasizes the integrity of historically marginalized cultures. A definition of multiculturalism (based on Siegels synthesis from the literature): A movement in contemporary social / political / educational thought – and the claims, theses and values which characterize it – which:

17 The justification by multiculturalists of their position: 1.Educational / philosophical ideals are meaningful, applicable, or relevant only within the particular cultures which acknowledge and embrace them. 2.Therefore, there can be no absolute, universal, or transcultural ideals. 3.There can be no culture-neutral standpoint – none is philosophically available – from which fairly and impartially to evaluate alternative, culturally-relative ideals. 4.Therefore, the imposition or hegemony of culturally specific ideals upon other cultures which do not recognize the legitimacy of those ideals cannot be morally justified. 5.Reason therefore requires that cultures tolerate, and recognize the culture-specific legitimacy of, the ideals of other cultures. This commitment to multiculturalism demands that all cultures accept the legitimacy of all other cultures living in accordance with their own, culturally- specific ideals.

18 5. Reason therefore requires that cultures tolerate, and recognize the culture-specific legitimacy of, the ideals of other cultures. This commitment to multiculturalism demands that all cultures accept the legitimacy of all other cultures living in accordance with their own, culturally-specific ideals. Problem: the conclusion equivocates on two senses of legitimacy: a culture-specific sense, and a transcultural or universal sense (Siegel). It is one thing to say that educational and philosophical ideals are necessarily culture-specific – legitimate only intra-culturally – in that the legitimacy or force of such ideals does not extend beyond the bounds of the cultures which embrace them (a culture-specific sense of legitimacy). But is quite another to say that all cultures must accept the legitimacy of all other cultures living in accordance with their own, culturally-specific ideals (a transcultural or universal sense of legitimacy). The first denies the possibility of transcultural legitimacy, while the second propounds the transcultural duty to accept every cultures right to live in accordance with its own ideals.

19 5. Reason therefore requires that cultures tolerate, and recognize the culture-specific legitimacy of, the ideals of other cultures. This commitment to multiculturalism demands that all cultures accept the legitimacy of all other cultures living in accordance with their own, culturally-specific ideals. Despite this equivocation, the multiculturalist would obviously be keen to hold to both senses of legitimacy: Her argument would commit her to the first sense that educational and philosophical ideals are legitimate only within the bounds of a particular culture, because she would reject any cultures attempts to establish hegemony over another by unjustifiably dictating the terms of cultural adequacy to other cultures. But her argument would necessarily also commit her to the second, transcultural sense of legitimacy, that we all have a duty to respect the right of every culture to live according to its own ideals and values.

20 5. Reason therefore requires that cultures tolerate, and recognize the culture-specific legitimacy of, the ideals of other cultures. This commitment to multiculturalism demands that all cultures accept the legitimacy of all other cultures living in accordance with their own, culturally-specific ideals. She obviously cannot embrace both a culture-specific and a transcultural sense of the term. But giving up both would mean giving up her commitment to multiculturalism. So shes got to give up one. But it cannot be the second, transcultural sense, that she foregoes, for if she does, then there is nothing to underwrite the multiculturalists sense of moral outrage over what she perceives to be the patent injustices perpetrated by an indefensible cultural hegemony.

21 Conclusion: Therefore, if we accept the principle of multiculturalism, and if we accept the principle of rational consistency (the probative force of reasons), we must accept this principle transculturally or universally: that is, that we all have a duty to respect the right of every culture to live according to its own ideals and values. Note that this obligation (as Siegel reminds us) to treat other cultures with respect cannot simply be a culturally-relative truth, one that is true only from the perspective of a particular culture: If it were regarded thus, the monoculturalist would simply claim that while you may hold this principle, its not true from his cultural perspective. The multiculturalist has no response to this unless she sees the principle of multiculturalism, with its attendant moral principles of justice and respect, as universal moral truths, applicable to all cultures, including those that do not recognize them as moral truths.

22 To return to the justification of the multiculturalist position and, in particular, the equivocation on legitimacy in Point 5, its last sentence needs to be modified thus: In other words, the advocate of multiculturalism need not and in fact should not regard as legitimate all culturally-specific ideals and practices, but only those which do not violate the multiculturalist ideal itself, and which do not violate the principles of justice and respect that are contained within this ideal. The multiculturalist must, in other words, reject the idea that cultural values and ideals have legitimacy only within cultures. Here are grounds then to reject practices in our own and in other cultures that violate the principle of multiculturalism and its associated principles. all cultures must accept the legitimacy of all other cultures living in accordance with their own, culturally-specific ideals, in so far as those culturally-specific ideals and attendant practices are consistent with the moral imperatives of multiculturalism itself.

23 Potential objections to the moral principles associated with multiculturalism The objection based on the dichotomy of local versus universal The objection based on the absence of a Gods eye view Further questions about the warrant of the premises What of those who reject the probative force of reasons outright in favour of, say, truth as revealed by their god? Why should the moral premises even be recognized and honoured in the first place? What of those who reject the principle of multiculturalism in the first place?

24 A response to the question why the moral premises should be honoured, by way of a justification from the ethics of integrity (Mason, 2001) why it is morally required that we treat others with justice and respect, in ways which do not demean, marginalize, or silence them. Bauman as a moral intuitionist: if in doubt – consult your conscience. Postmodern ethics as an intuitionist deontology. Deontology: Ethics based on the obligation or duty to uphold the principle of what is right. (As opposed to) Consequentialism: Ethics based on the obligation to do that which will maximize the good.

25 That we respect the dignity of our and each others being as a prerequisite for the confidence we place in our and in others moral positions. Acceptance of this obligation implies a willingness to take responsibility for the moral choices we make. The ethics of integrity (to address a potential objection), ctd: It is by recourse to our basic convictions, to our intuitions of conscience, that we know which duty to honour first. (W.D. Ross) However, underlying an intuitionist position is an assumed principle: respect for the dignity of our and each others being, and responsibility for moral our choices. These constitute what I have defended elsewhere as the ethics of integrity, which imply

26 It means that the answer to our main question, Are there any ethical principles and educational ideals that can be justified as applicable to all cultures, whether or not those cultures reject such principles and ideals? Thus, from moral principles that originated locally we are led inexorably to their normative reach across all cultures. is yes, even if such moves challenge the beliefs and practices of other cultures.

27 A powerful conclusion that is both frightful and frightening? Can we not use similar arguments to claim universal applicability for other principles that could be quite objectionable? Could somebody not make parallel moves to defend as universally true and good the view that men deserve more life chances than women? No. The arguments presented here are based ultimately on three concepts that are both essential to the justification of the conclusion and uniquely able to justify that conclusion.

28 It is not, in other words, just a case of if we accept the moral principle of respect, and if we accept the probative force of reasons, then we are committed to the principle of multiculturalism, which requires that all are committed to respecting only those practices that are consistent with multiculturalism. It is a case of if, and only if, we accept the moral principle of respect, and if, and only if, we accept the probative force of reasons, then …. The premises may be accepted as sufficient, but are they indeed necessary as I have claimed here?

29 To show the necessity of the premise in if, and only if, we accept the moral principle of respect, then we are committed to the principle of multiculturalism, we need to show that a commitment to multiculturalism implies a commitment to respect for others. Now, having no respect for others certainly implies having no respect for others with different cultural practices. Thus, by the truth of the contrapositive, the first premise is established as necessary.

30 But its more than just that the moral principle of respect and the probative force of reasons are necessary and sufficient conditions for a commitment to multiculturalism. Its also that multiculturalism is a particular moral position that is uniquely able to provide the bridge in this argument from local to transcultural normative reach. It is both the principle that enjoys transcultural normative reach, and itself the bridge that enables the transcultural move. Its not just any moral principle, but the fulcrum about which such arguments turn. For the person who believes that men deserve more life chances than women to make parallel moves to defend his views as universally true and good, he would have to identify a moral principle able to do just that. So the conclusion we have reached is not as frightening or as frightful as might have been thought. It is, with its justification, the only way, as far as I can see, of reaching a conclusion with such significant consequences of transcultural normative reach.

31 CONCLUSION There are indeed limits to the principle of toleration in an internationalist perspective on values and ethics in education in multicultural societies characterized by a diversity of claims to truth and goodness. We are bound to respect the right of all cultures to live in accordance with their own beliefs and practices, but only in so far as these beliefs and practices are consistent with the principles associated with multiculturalism itself, primary among which is the principle of respect for the rights of others. And we are committed to rejecting practices that violate this and its associated principles. There are, in other words, ethical principles and educational ideals that can be justified as applicable to all cultures, whether or not those cultures reject such principles and ideals.

32 This conclusion requires that we reject the disrespectful treatment in our and in other cultures of women and girls, members of other ethnic groups and of lower castes, the poor, children. But it requires that we tread very carefully and sensitively. We might in some cases be challenging some aspects of what may have been held dear for centuries. But at least we are challenging these practices with the aim of maximizing the life chances of all, and in terms of the rights of every person to respect and human dignity.


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