Rick Hess: Multicultural Guru Hess on Multiculturalism

If you’re interested in the politics of education, be sure to check out Frederick Hess’ article “Inclusive Ambiguity:  Multicultural Conflict in an Era of Accountability” in the January – March Educational Policy


Hess writes that, “Today, hardly any prominent educators or academics explicitly oppose the principal of diversity in the curriculum…The debate is really about the appropriate extent of such efforts.” 


He notes that seeking to stave off conflict an “augmentative” approach is often used to include additional content in a curriculum.  But, if for no other reason than time, this approach is at odds with high stakes accountability requiring students to master certain material at different points in their schooling. 


Hess concludes that,


“The challenge for policy makers is that high-stakes accountability requires tough-minded choices regarding what students will be expected to master.  Useful curricular guidelines must be coherent, reasonable, and concrete.  However, the checks and balances of the American system, with its plentiful veto points, and permeable democracy, tend to promote grandiose ambiguity.  Faced with intensely concerned particular constituencies and a largely apathetic public, policy makers tend to seek compromise when faced with sympathetic demands.  Policy makers add material to the standards to placate irate constituencies or make standards vague enough to alleviate complainant concerns that their preferred content is being marginalized.  Public officials find it easy to face down such pressure only when the complainants lack legitimacy, make demands that contradict authoritative scholarly principles, or run afoul of the constitutional regime.”


There is plenty more. It doesn’t uncover new information but it’s a terrific analysis of an important issue and worth checking out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.