Beyond Socialization and Multiculturalism:Rethinking the Task of Citizenship Education in a Pluralistic Society

Bruce Grelle and Devon Metzger

Most contemporary social studies educators view their educational role as passing on or transmitting to their students the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are shaped and determined by the status quo (Leming 1989). As Sears and Parson (1991) have observed, "Most teachers view social studies as a vehicle to promote socialization and to prepare students to conform to the existing social structure, both in the school and society" (48). This standard socialization approach to social studies education-defined as "citizenship transmission" by Barr, Barth, and Shermis (1977)-is the generally accepted and historical practice that has, for more than seventy-five years, dominated social studies classrooms throughout our nation's schools.
The following summary, based on Leming's research, offers a description of the different aspects of the socialization role played by many social studies teachers (Leming 1989, 404-405):

The prevalence of this traditional socialization approach among social studies teachers should not be surprising. After all, human communities throughout history have sought to reproduce their central institutions and patterns of life from generation to generation through the initiation of their youth into accepted beliefs, values, and behaviors (Barth 1993, 57). Leming (1992) states the same point more dramatically: "No successful society in the history of the world has failed to recognize the necessary connection between cultural survival and cultural transmission. Consistent with a respect for basic human rights, educational institutions have always had a major responsibility in all societies to pass on the existing culture to the young" ( 310). The greatest single strength of the traditional socialization approach is that it recognizes the important contribution that social studies can make to the task of education for citizenship in American society.

However, a growing number of critics have expressed concern about some of the curricular, pedagogical, and ethical-political implications of the standard socialization approach to social studies education. More specifically, these critics have argued that the standard socialization approach is grounded in and perpetuates (1) an overly narrow and "Eurocentric" definition of the curriculum, (2) an overly instrumental view of teachers as technicians (along with an excessively homogeneous view of students as passive recipients of predetermined knowledge), and (3) an overly narrow and uncritical conception of American citizenship. These criticisms of the standard socialization approach to social studies education have often been gathered together under the banner of "multiculturalism."

"Multiculturalism" is a term that means different things in different settings. For present purposes, it may be defined very generally as an educational reform movement that seeks both to restructure the social studies curriculum and classroom and to rethink the task of citizenship education in a pluralistic society. Although advocates of multiculturalism are fairly united and clear in their critique of the standard socialization approach, we will see that the movement actually encompasses a range of competing perspectives and agendas when it comes to addressing the central issue of citizenship education.

In what follows, we will survey the main features of the multicultural critique of the standard socialization approach to social studies education. We will set multiculturalism in a broader historical and intellectual context so that we can better assess both the contributions and the limitations of this new philosophy and practice of teaching and learning. Finally, we will distinguish which aspects of multiculturalism are more helpful, and which are less so, for rethinking the task of citizenship education in a pluralistic society.

The Multicultural Critique of the Standard Socialization Approach to Social Studies Education
Curricular Issues
It has become commonplace to charge that the standard socialization approach to social studies education has been characterized by a Eurocentric point of view. Until quite recently, the curriculum has given pride of place to the European (and more specifically, to the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male) origins of and contributions to American history, culture, religion, and politics. The "canon"-the authoritative collection of texts, artifacts, experiences, and events that is regarded as important enough to be worthy of study in the public schools-has been defined almost exclusively in terms of western civilization. The Eurocentric curriculum has very self-consciously served to perpetuate distinctive norms of truth, beauty, and goodness that conform to the values and inculcate the virtues of the dominant social groups in America.

Critics of Eurocentrism do not deny the importance of European origins and contributions. What critics do assert is that European origins and contributions are neither identical with nor definitive of American culture as a whole. Essentially, critics of the standard socialization approach to social studies education argue that America is not now and never has been a nation with a homogeneous people or culture. Rather, the United States has always been a pluralistic nation consisting of many different religious, racial, ethnic, and cultural groups. Advocates of multiculturalism insist that every level of the social studies curriculum should reflect this pluralistic reality. It is argued that a failure to reflect the realities of our pluralistic society in the social studies curriculum not only distorts our understanding of American history and society, it also has the damaging effect of excluding students (as well as parents and entire communities) who are not from the traditional mainstream culture. Some of the more troubling implications of this exclusion are suggested by Takaki (1993) when he asks,

What happens when historians leave out many of America's peoples? What happens, to borrow the words of Adrienne Rich, "When someone of the authority of a teacher" describes our society, and "you are not in it"? Such an experience can be disorienting- "a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing." (16)
The primary concern, which critics of the standard philosophy and practice of social studies education share, is that the traditional social studies curriculum has simply failed to adequately encompass or address the histories, experiences, and contributions of the diverse communities to which our students themselves belong. Issues of personal and historical identity are profound in the life of the student, in the classroom learning environment, in the larger school environment, and in society in general. The lack of a sense of personal identity, through the formal subtraction of a student's history, often translates into student alienation, which, in turn, can lead to isolation or arbitrary social attachments. As Cummins (1989) explains, "Transmission models exclude, and therefore, effectively suppress, students' experiences" (65).

Recent calls for rethinking the canon and restructuring the social studies curriculum are, in part, an effort to include the history and culture of all American students. In contrast to the traditional socialization or transmission approach to social studies education, multicultural education is considered a culturally additive process, a process that strives to encompass within the curriculum the diverse and often complex perspectives representing the reality of the American experience. Restructuring the curriculum so that it more adequately reflects the complexities of American history and society as well as the experiences of all Americans can make an important contribution toward providing the identity a student is seeking. However, changing the social studies curriculum may not by itself provide the remedy that is needed, according to advocates of a multicultural approach. This brings us to a consideration of the perceived pedagogical limitations of the traditional socialization approach to social studies education.

Pedagogical Issues
In addition to the problem of a narrowly interpreted curriculum, critics have claimed that the standard socialization approach is rooted in and encourages an overly instrumental conception of the role of teachers, and a passive rather than active conception of student learning. The traditional socialization or citizenship transmission approach to social studies education encourages teachers to adopt the view of "teachers-as-technicians" (Giroux 1988) whose task is to impose a predetermined body of knowledge upon passive and unsuspecting students. The classroom practice of teacher-technicians is typically more oriented toward the textbook than it is toward students. Such teaching is characterized by a never-ending race to cover content, by a willingness to allow externally developed tests to dictate curriculum, and by the imposition upon students of singular and oversimplified perspectives on what are often complex theories, concepts, and historical events. Summarizing research on textbooks, Banks (1992) concludes that

. . . textbooks present a highly selective view of social reality and give students the idea that knowledge is static rather than dynamic, and encourage students to master isolated facts rather than to develop complex understandings of social reality. These studies also indicate that textbooks reinforce the dominant social, economic, and power arrangements within society. Students are encouraged to accept rather than to question these arrangements. (11)
Concerned about the limitations of the traditional socialization approach, Engle and Ochoa (1989) suggest a very different role for social studies teachers, a role that is consistent and compatible with the instructional goals of multiculturalism:

Advocates of multiculturalism propose that social studies teachers can better provide the identity a student is seeking by developing a classroom learning environment that allows, invites, and encourages all students to see themselves as active participants in history and society. It is argued that by encouraging all students to more fully and actively participate in the learning process, students are given the important opportunity to empower themselves. "In short, pedagogical approaches that empower students encourage them to assume greater control over setting their own learning goals and to collaborate actively with each other in achieving these goals" (Cummins 1989, 64).

It is also important to note that teachers who do not work toward student empowerment may themselves feel invisible or disempowered. Consequently, some teachers become unwitting conspirators against students. As Cummins (1989) states, "In reality, teachers are themselves being controlled and disempowered by the highest levels of educational hierarchy. They have little or no input into the content of the curriculum, nor into alternative means of achieving curricular objectives" (71). Teachers who feel disenfranchised or embittered by the educational bureaucracy or educational establishment may intentionally and actively work against using or developing instructional approaches that provide opportunities for students to empower themselves, thereby illustrating the old adage, "the pettiness of the powerless."

Ethical-Political Issues
Multiculturalism's critique of the standard socialization approach to education has been viewed by some as part of a larger "culture war" that is taking place in the United States (Hunter 1991). It is certainly true that the standard socialization approach and multiculturalism are caught up in an ongoing debate about the meaning and destiny of our life together as Americans. Who are we? What do we stand for? Where have we come from? Where are we going? How are we to tell the story of our lives as a people? Answers to these fundamental ethical and political questions have a direct bearing on our conceptions of social studies and the tasks of citizenship education.

Throughout our history, the idea of "America" has not simply designated a place, a country, or a continent. It has also been associated with a set of ideals and values and with a myth or story that is charged with moral meaning and religious-political significance. This epic story that we tell about ourselves consists of a variety of themes, some of which are in tension with one another.

In its unstated assumptions, the standard socialization approach continues to be rooted in the story of America as a melting pot. As described by Israel Zangwill in his 1909 play "The Melting Pot,"

America is God's great Crucible, the great Melting Pot where all races of Europe are melting and reforming! Here you stand, good folk, think I, when I see them at Ellis Island, here you stand in your fifty groups with your fifty hatreds and rivalries, but you won't be long like that, brothers, for these are the fires of God. A fig for your feuds and vendettas! Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians-into the Crucible with you all! God is making the American . . . The real American has not yet arrived. He is only in the Crucible, I tell you-he will be the fusion of all races, the coming superman. (Zangwill 1909, 37, quoted in Gollnick and Chinn 1983, 23-24)
There are some obvious reasons why the story of America as a melting pot has proven to be so attractive to so many Americans over the years. It seems to set forth a vision that seeks to move us beyond our differences and antagonisms by fusing people from various new and old immigrant groups into a new common and unified American society that is unlike any other the world has ever seen. Such an ideal has not only appealed to America's WASP establishment, it has also been embraced by many immigrants themselves as a viable means for becoming integrated into the mainstream of American society. Although social pressure to conform and even coercion have been constant features of the immigrant and minority experience, it must also be acknowledged that many immigrants willingly anglicized their names, strived to learn English and rid themselves of their accents, and modified or abandoned various customs and styles of dress so that they might more readily "melt" into the American mainstream (ibid., 24). Such an attitude is still frequently expressed in a colloquial fashion by any number of Americans from a variety of different backgrounds who express impatience with "hyphenated" Americanism (Irish-American, African-American, Asian-American, Mexican-American) and assert the sufficiency of a single homogenous definition of what it means to be an American.

The story of the melting pot has historically been linked to an assimilationist agenda that has sought to conform all American citizens to norms that are derived from the Western European traditions of the dominant social groups. This is why some have argued that the melting pot theory of American society is more accurately described as the Anglo-conformity theory. For as Gollnick and Chinn have explained, distinct cultural groups were never really expected to contribute equally to the making of the new and true American as idealized in the story of the melting pot. Rather, they were expected to adopt the WASP culture that historically had shaped most of the political and social institutions of the country. Compulsory school attendance helped to inculcate the language, values, traits, dress, and customs of the dominant culture (ibid., 24, 25).

Yet the story of America as a melting pot that would create the real American-a model American-has never conformed to the multiracial, multiethnic, and religiously diverse reality of America. Although some members of immigrant and minority communities chose to adopt the dominant WASP culture as their own, many others either refused or were denied the opportunity to do so. Members of some minority groups (including such religious minorities as the Amish) have been unwilling to abandon their traditions and identities in order to conform to the values, norms, and styles of mainstream American culture. Instead, they developed the institutions, agencies, services, and power structures that would enable them to maintain their own ethnic communities, enclaves, and identities within the larger society. Across America there are any number of communities-ranging from Harlem to the Little Italys, Chinatowns, and Greektowns of America's major urban areas-that reflect and help to preserve the ethnic identities of their inhabitants. Still other groups were never invited to enter the crucible of the melting pot in the first place. In Zangwill's speech, for example, there is no mention of adding American Indians, Blacks, Hispanics (other than immigrants from Spain), or Asians to the American melting pot (ibid.). Although the unmeltable groups might anglicize their names and show no signs of an accent, they were unable to rid themselves of their skin color or physical characteristics that marked them as different from the idealized model American who was supposed to emerge from the melting pot. Even when these unmeltable groups chose to be the fused American, they were not accepted, primarily because they were not white (ibid.). Thus, an irreducible cultural pluralism has always characterized the American experience.

According to its critics, it is precisely this fact of cultural pluralism that the standard socialization approach to social studies education has failed to address adequately. Rather, it has oversimplified the story of America and has ignored experiences and events that do not conform to an idealized monocultural image of American history and society. Such oversimplification not only presents an ideal that conflicts with reality (Engle and Ochoa 1989), it has also often contributed to the transmission of an overly narrow, uncritical, and chauvinistic conception of citizenship that tends to equate being a good citizen with the acceptance and defense of the status quo-a conception of what it means to be a good citizen that amounts to "my country right or wrong, love it or leave it!"

By way of contrast, multiculturalism insists that the story we tell ourselves about ourselves as Americans must take the fact of cultural pluralism as its starting point. In contrast to the story of America as a melting pot, multiculturalism has offered an alternative story of America as a patchwork of disparate and often conflicting experiences and perspectives. As Breitborde states, "Majority and minority students, mainstream and non-mainstream students, all need to develop the ability to see the world from more than one point of view, because that is the reality in which they live; there is more than one point of view in the world, in the United States, in the cities, and in the schools we share" (1993, 108).

Advocates of multiculturalism also endorse a more self-critical conception of citizenship that fosters and cultivates the student's ability to examine ideas, events, or values from a variety of perspectives. Such a conception of citizenship encourages students to ask questions about whether the status quo measures up to such professed American ideals and values as liberty, equality, and justice for all. In this respect, multiculturalism is correctly viewed by proponents and critics alike as a part of the wave of revisionism that began to sweep through American life and thought in the 1960s.

The single most outstanding feature of the revisionist project has been its focus on the gaps that exist between professed American ideals and values on the one hand, and actual American institutions and social realities on the other hand.

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, this spirit of revisionism found expression in a variety of social reform movements that were seeking to transform some aspect of American society. Among the most significant of these was the African American liberation movement, which focused the country's attention on the issue of race in a more direct and sustained fashion than at any other time in our history since the Civil War. Both the civil rights movement, with its struggle for political empowerment, and the black power movement, with its stress on cultural self-determination and issues of cultural pride and self-esteem, played a major role in shaping the ethical-political agenda of what would later come to be known as multiculturalism.

Similarly, the women's movement, and its theoretical expression in the form of feminism, introduced the category of gender as an analytical tool for the reinterpretation of history and society, thereby calling our attention to the variety of ideological and institutional factors that have contributed to the subordination of women in America and around the world. For its part, the student movement of the 1960s questioned the balance of power between older and younger generations in American schools and universities and agitated for a greater voice in the process of decision making and institution building. And finally, the peace movement, in its opposition to the war in Vietnam, and subsequently in its opposition to the nuclear arms race and to military intervention in Latin America and elsewhere, sought to expose the contradictions between the militarism and imperialism of American foreign policy on the one hand, and America's professed commitment to peace, democracy, and the self-determination of peoples on the other hand.

These social reform movements not only had an impact on American society, law, and politics, they also had an impact on American education. One indication of this impact was the growth of such new programs as Black or African American studies, Chicano studies, and Women's studies in the 1960s and 1970s. But the full impact of the revisionist project on American education did not begin to be felt until the emergence of multiculturalism in the 1980s. Indeed, the revisionist preoccupation with issues of race and gender, liberation and empowerment, along with such additional and related issues as ethnicity, language, religion, and culture, are at the very heart of multiculturalism.

Beyond Socialization and Multiculturalism
Multiculturalism's attention to diverse experiences and perspectives and to critical questions about the status quo are clearly among its most controversial features. Liberals such as Arthur Schlesinger (1992) have accused multiculturalism of sowing seeds of division between Americans by concentrating too much on what divides them rather than on what unites them. And conservatives like William Bennett (1992) have accused multiculturalism of undermining the task of citizenship education by concentrating too much on the shortcomings rather than the accomplishments of traditional American values, virtues, and institutions. On the other hand, such figures as Gerald Graff (1992) have argued that what has led to social divisiveness and an increasingly widespread cynicism about American ideals and institutions is not multiculturalism, but rather the inequitable distribution of power and resources along the lines of class, race, gender, and ethnicity that multiculturalism has in part sought to address. Indeed, as we have argued above, multiculturalism itself is best viewed as part of a broader movement that is seeking to remedy these inequities through the intellectual and moral reformation of society.

However, one of the main challenges facing any movement for social change is the task of fashioning a discursive strategy that successfully balances the language of critique with the language of appreciation and possibility (Giroux 1988, 128). Up to this point, multiculturalism has not risen to this challenge. On the contrary, proponents of multiculturalism have too often employed a quasi-revolutionary rhetoric that seems to repudiate all traditional American ideals and institutions as morally bankrupt and devoid of the resources necessary for solving the problems of racism, poverty, and injustice. Thus, although the socialization approach has been too uncritical in its presentation and appraisal of American history, society, and culture, the discourse of multiculturalism has often been too extreme in its condemnation. We are thus forced to admit that there is much truth in the claims by such otherwise diverse critics of multiculturalism as Schlesinger and Bennett.

Up to this point, despite its own best intentions, the discourse of multiculturalism does seem to have done as much to "disunite" America as it has done to mobilize a popular movement for social justice. And it seems often to have encouraged a premature abandonment of traditional American ideals, values, and institutions without having identified or created any clear or practical alternatives. Although the need for the intellectual and moral reformation of American schools and society remains great, it is time to rethink the strategy and discourse that is most appropriate for such a project.

We believe that a growing number of social studies educators are already, or will soon become, dissatisfied with the either/or alternative presented to them by the socialization versus multiculturalism debate. Either they support the status quo in order to defend the United States and its schools against dangerous revolutionaries, or they join in an assault upon traditional American ideals, values, and institutions. Although there remain die-hard proponents of socialization and hard-core advocates of multiculturalism who are unable to see anything of value in their opponents' positions, we believe that there are many teachers who recognize that both approaches have strengths and weaknesses.

We believe a more balanced approach is warranted, an approach that preserves what is valuable while moving beyond the limitations of both socialization and multiculturalism. This alternative must recognize that both socialization and multiculturalism, despite their obvious and very real differences, are vital to education for citizenship in a democratic society.

Social studies educators must work to instill in their students a commitment and allegiance to our democratic ideals, but also teach the skills that enable students intelligently to examine those same democratic ideals within the context of their daily lives. Both the transmission of values and knowledge and the critical examination of multiple perspectives are essential parts of education for citizenship in a pluralistic democracy.

Finding a balance between socialization and multicultural education can help to discourage polarization while encouraging critical discourse about the aims and purposes of social studies education. Only such a balanced perspective can move us beyond the socialization versus multiculturalism debate to a position that embraces both commitment and critique.

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Bruce Grelle is Associate Professor and Director of the Religion and Public Education Resource Center in the Department of Religious Studies at California State University, Chico. Devon Metzger is Professor of Education at California State University, Chico.