Multiculturalism In Canada

Is multiculturalism a disruptive or an integrative force in Canadian society?

In terms of education, multiculturalism is becoming increasingly disruptive in Canadian society. It seems that there is a new issue in the media focus regarding education on a weekly basis. It\'s becoming increasingly apparent that most, if not all issues in recent years stem from the debate of whether to centralize or decentralize our current system of education. Proponents of centralization argue that a standard national system of education will provide all people with access to the same quality of education. On the other hand, proponent’s of decentralization claim that individual educational institutions will provide a level of education that is sensitive to the differing cultures and economic status within a particular area. Both sides contend that their system will provide a higher standard of education while improving the educational opportunities for minorities.

Due to the recent investigation by the UN into Ontario\'s education system, it is appropriate to define what Canadians are entitled to as far as educational rights. The UN proclaims universally that, "Everyone has the right to education" and that "education shall be free," [UN, 1948,Article 26 (1)]. These definitions are very broad and far-reaching, and are rarely adhered to as fundamental human rights. "Many governments are inclined to define human rights in the manner most convenient to suiting their own political interests." (Boutros Butros Ghali, 1993). Essentially, there is no benchmark that compels any government education system to provide for a multicultural society. It should be interesting to see what the UN will say about the Canadian education system and whether or not they will set standard in education for a multicultural society such as ours. With no hard and fast guidelines how should the education system in Canada operate in order to become an integrative force in Canada.

The most prevailing school of though in Canada regarding education is its standardization and centralization. The provincial Government is responsible for developing and implementing of public education policy as long as they are in power. The Harris government has implemented and proposed many ideas for the centralization and standardization of education in the province of Ontario. These policies are aimed at conserving tax dollars and the elimination of the wasteful bureaucracies infecting our education system. Also the provincial government is taking steps to standardize the level of education received by students in Ontario. Programs like standardized testing for teachers and students as well as the standardization of the curriculum were implemented. These programs are intended to provide all students regardless of race or economic standing in any area of the province and equal opportunity to succeed. These initiatives are part and parcel of increased demand by the Federal government to have Canadian students rise to "levels equivalent to those achieved by students in Asia and Europe." (Lightbody, pg. 265) These steps however pay little heed to other cultures in the education system. All courses on history or culture at the high school level are aimed to familiarize students with the traditions, philosophy, literature and history of the western world. Proponents argue that this action is appropriate since our country is based on a democracy founded in European ideals of government. It is also claimed that there would not be enough time in the current school year to educate students on every culture that has contributed to the construction of our society. Proponents for centralization seem to prefer the "middle of the road approach" when making decisions on curriculum. It is argued that trying to push the subject of multiculturalism too far would actually be a hindrance. Over emphasis of multiculturalism may interfere with a student’s participation in other groups, or worse, hold a child back from expressing his or her individuality. (Ryan 137) In other words, an education system that is equal is equal for all that use it. An all-encompassing education system provides the same level of education for all involved, and should not pay preference to any one individual culture. This type of system has come under fire from groups such as: Natives, isolated communities, minorities, and women’s groups since the system is incapable of attending to their particular needs. For example, the Oakland California School Board\'s introduction of a controversial Ebonics policy. This