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Queen's University
 

Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies


United States

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TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 3 3 3


1. Constitutional, legislative or parliamentary affirmation of multiculturalism at the central and / or regional and municipal levels and the existence of a government ministry, secretariat or advisory board to implement this policy in consultation with ethnic communities

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • The United States makes no affirmation of multiculturalism, although the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS) does act as a “‘peacemaker’ for community conflicts and tensions arising from differences of race, color, and national origin” (United States Department of Justice 2010). The Department of Justice notes that the CRS, which was created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is “the only Federal agency dedicated to assist[ing] State and local units of government, private and public organizations, and community groups with preventing and resolving racial and ethnic tensions, incidents, and civil disorders, and in restoring racial stability and harmony.” The CRS is not explicitly tasked with furthering or promoting multiculturalism but acts, in effect, as a conciliator among various cultural communities. Initially, Black-white relations were the focus, but this has shifted somewhat to also include relations between white and Arab and Muslim Americans.

2. The adoption of multiculturalism in school curriculum

   Weak and varies by state. No evidence of a federal policy, mandate or guidelines.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0.5 0.5 0.5

Evidence:

  • School curriculum is a state jurisdiction, although the federal government, through the U.S. Department of Education, does set national standards, collect data, and establish policies related to financial aid.
  • Multicultural principles have been adopted in school curricula of most states (Mitchell and Salsbury 1996; Mitchell and Salsbury 2000), and particularly in those states with higher levels of diversity or larger immigrant populations (e.g., California, New York, Texas, Florida).
  • However, at the federal level, no evidence could be found to suggest that there is a national framework or federal “push” for such programming. The U.S. Department of Education (2010a) does list, as one of its responsibilities, “prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education,” but guidelines in this area relate exclusively to civil rights and the prevention of discrimination on the basis of race, age, sex or disability.
  • Moreover, as Johnson (2007, 28) notes, “The present policy context looks bleak for the promotion of educational opportunity and multicultural curriculum in local school districts. A push toward ‘educational accountability’ over the last decade has resulted in largely top-down educational policy-making processes that have mandated high-stakes assessments for students, centralized decision making, narrowed curriculum offerings, and employed punitive sanctions for teachers, administrators and schools that fail to meet the arbitrary benchmarks imposed by state and federal officials.” It is a “high-risk, low-trust environment” and thus, programs related to multiculturalism, bilingual education and employment equity have been given less priority.
  • It is also instructive that much of the literature in the area of multicultural education in the United States looks not so much at school curriculum, but rather at what colleges and universities are doing to prepare pre-service teachers to work in increasingly diverse classrooms (Gorski 2009). The policy approach thus appears to be geared toward teacher pedagogy and less so toward actual curriculum.


3. The inclusion of ethnic representation / sensitivity in the mandate of public media or media licensing

   Partially. Support given to public broadcasters, but not a part of licensing requirements for private broadcasters.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0.5 0.5 0.5

Evidence:

  • The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 (as amended) notes that “it is in the public interest to encourage the development of programming that involves creative risks and that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved audiences, particularly children and minorities.” In line with this, the act created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which works with non-commercial broadcast licensees to “facilitate the development of, and ensure universal access to, non-commercial high-quality programming and telecommunications services”; it does this through the provision of grants and various support programs (Corporation for Public Broadcasting 2010a). In addition, the CPB supports the National Minority Consortia, which selects and funds programming targeted at African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders (Corporation for Public Broadcasting 2010b). The CPB also helps support more than 1,000 local radio and television stations.
  • The Public Telecommunications Act of 1988 requires the CPB to report annually on “the provision of services to minority and diverse audiences by public broadcasting and public telecommunications entities” (Corporation for Public Broadcasting 2009, 1). This includes an accounting of programs targeted at minorities and diverse communities, initiatives to increase diversity in the media profession, and the development of services for audiences with particular needs.
  • Still, some observers have critiqued the American approach, noting that competition from private, for-profit broadcasters essentially shuts out the educational and non-profit broadcasters that are most likely to include more diverse programming (Zolf 1989). While the Federal Communications Commission does require licensees to take steps to prevent employment discrimination through the establishment of an Equal Employment Opportunity Policy, there is no evidence that licensees must commit to producing programs that reflect the United State’s cultural make-up (Federal Communications Commission 2010). In other words, the emphasis is on workplace diversity, as opposed to programming diversity.


4. Exemptions from dress codes (either by statute or court cases)

   Rare.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0.5 0 0

Evidence:

  • Until 1984, Sikhs in the United States armed forces were permitted to wear turbans and maintain a beard; that provision was rescinded, however. In 2009 and 2010, exemptions were granted to two Sikhs—a doctor and a dentist—who were recruited to the Army through a scholarship program for health professionals. In the ruling on one of the cases, the Army noted that "this accommodation is based solely on the facts and circumstances of your case. … [It] does not constitute a blanket accommodation for any other individual” (CNN 2009; see also Taipei Times 2010).
  • A 1986 ruling by the Supreme Court supported the prohibition of religious dress in the armed forces, and a Department of Defense Directive notes that while religious accommodations are permissible, they may be denied in the case of religious apparel if it is deemed that the dress may interfere with the performance of military duties, poses a safety risk, or interferes with the operation or function of weapons and other equipment (Department of Defense 2009).


5. Allows dual citizenship

   Partially. Not technically permitted, but occurs in practice.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0.5 0.5

Evidence:

  • Although citizens of the United States may have more than one nationality, American law does not specifically mention dual nationality. Indeed, the U.S. Department of State (2010) notes that the “Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause.” Requirements for naturalization do not explicitly require applicants to give up foreign citizenships, but they do require a renunciation of allegiances to foreign states (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 2010). Moreover, the U.S. Department of State (2010) notes that U.S. citizens who acquire a foreign citizenship by choice may lose their U.S. citizenship.


6. The funding of ethnic group organizations or activities

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • In her comparison of state support for immigrant civic associations in Canada and the United States, Bloemraad (2005, 867) notes that “the Canadian government thus offers migrant organisations both financial and symbolic support. In the United States, the state favours more distant, neutral relations with immigrants, ethnic organisations and community advocates.” She characterizes the US approach toward immigrant minorities as “laissez-faire,” although she points out that various non-governmental organizations—known as Mutual Assistance Associations—are given funds for refugee resettlement. This is to support integration, however, rather than cultural maintenance or preservation.


7. The funding of bilingual education or mother-tongue instruction

   Varies. Available in many states, although often targeted specifically at Spanish-speaking students. Evidence as well of anti-multiculturalism policies, with half of all states having English-only laws.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0.5 0.5 0.5

Evidence:

  • In the state of New York, the Office for Bilingual Education and Foreign Language Studies has been in operation since 1969 and has a mandate to provide support to schools and other educational institutions in the area of second-language study (New York State Education Department 2010a). School districts are required to identify limited English proficient (LEP) students, adopt policies and provide services related to their education, and evaluate and report on their academic outcomes. LEP instructional programs are funded primarily by local governments, but support is also provided through State LEP Aid in the form of State Bilingual Categorical Funds (New York State Education Department 2010b). In New York, there are more than 520 districts with programs for the 220,000 limited English proficient (LEP) students who come from 170 language backgrounds (ibid.).
  • In the state of Texas, bilingual education programs are targeted at LEP students, but also native English speakers who may wish to learn a second language (Texas Education Agency 2010b). There are also seven districts that offer two-way dual language programs, in which instruction is provided to native English- and native Spanish-speaking students in both mother tongues (Texas Education Agency 2010a). The emphasis in bilingual education is on Spanish, however, and there is little evidence that such programs are targeted at non-native English speakers with other language profiles.
  • Florida has programs that assist approximately 227,000 LEP students in learning English (Florida Department of Education 2010). School boards are required to prepare and submit a plan for services to English Language Learners, which includes a survey of students’ home language; immigrants and refugees are specifically targeted in these plans. One-way Developmental Bilingual Education and Dual Language programs are among the available curriculum streams (ibid.). The Department of Education’s Bureau of Student Achievement Through Language Acquisition further notes that foreign and home language instruction is available in many elementary and secondary schools, although the goal of these programs is “exposure” not proficiency; two credits of foreign language instruction at the secondary school level are required for admission into Florida state colleges and universities (ibid.).
  • The California Department of Education administers the English Language Acquisition Program, which was authorized by Assembly Bill 1116 in 1999. It provides funds to support the acquisition of English for non-native speakers in grades four through eight (California Department of Education 2010).
  • At the same time, Hero and Preuhs (2006) note that English-only laws exist in 50 percent of all states; since their study, Idaho, Kansas and Arizona have also passed English-only laws. These laws mandate that English be used in state government documents and communications, and they could be taken as evidence of an anti-multiculturalism sentiment. The United States Senate has twice voted on an amendment to establish an official English language policy at the national level; the motions have never passed. Importantly, however, the amendments were proposed as part of an immigration reform package, signalling a linkage between immigration and language policy agendas.
  • It should be noted, moreover, that where bilingual education or mother tongue language instruction is offered, it appears to be positioned more as a transitional measure that will help non-native English speakers more quickly acquire English language skills and/or provide native English speakers with some exposure to foreign languages, a skill that is deemed to be desirable. Indeed, the federal Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition, (under Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001) which provides funding and support to schools administering programs for non-native English speakers, notes that its mandate is to “help ensure that English language learners and immigrant students attain English proficiency and achieve academically” and to “assist in building the nation’s capacity in critical foreign languages” (U.S. Department of Education 2010b). The goal, in other words, does not appear to be cultural maintenance.


8. Affirmative action for disadvantaged immigrant groups

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 1 1 1

Evidence:

  • Federal contractors and sub-contractors are required to implement affirmative action policies for women, persons with disabilities, covered veterans and qualified minorities. The United States Department of Labour (2002) writes that “affirmative action refers to the aggressive recruitment programs, mentoring, training, and family programs that work to recruit and retain qualified individuals.” Affirmative action procedures should be documented and included in the employers’ personnel policies.
  • In addition to this, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it an offence for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion and national origin (EEOC 2010). The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has the authority to investigate cases of discrimination and enforce relevant federal laws.
  • Although affirmative action policies were initially adopted in the United States in response to discrimination against African Americans, they apply equally to all individuals and are bolst

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