M. Ruben, B.A., M. Ed.
Think about tomato sauce. In kitchens around the world, each chef mixes and heats crushed tomatoes. Every batch tastes the same except, perhaps, for the variables of heating time and temperature. Now, think about your grandmother’s sauce, with her special blend of basil, parsley, and pepper added to the tomatoes. Then, imagine your mother uses this recipe and adds garlic to the mix. Then, the daughter adds salt … and on it goes. My guess is that if most people ate the original sauce every day, they’d get bored by the sameness of the taste. But, then again, I’m not a fan of vanilla ice cream.
The metaphor of society as a mixing pot, also referred to as multiculturalism, has countless indisputable benefits. Multiple cultures can thrive together, each one learning from the other and resulting in significant change for the better. Embracing diversity rather than clinging to monocultural values may not always be a smooth linear process, but it’s worth the effort.
Examples of the benefits to society of the mixing pot concept abound in politics, law, business, technology, academic scholarship, etc., and demonstrate conclusively that diverse opinions and perspectives have value. A jury of peers or a supreme court bench with an uneven number of judges, who consider multiple viewpoints, can reach a consensus that serves to stabilize society at-large. Meetings of businessmen or technology experts generate new ideas problem-solving strategies by “brainstorming” together. And, then there is a plethora of academic endeavors where research discoveries by different individuals yield new and better understandings in fields as varied as speech pathology and product safety.
Additionally, let’s think about a classroom as a societal microcosm. There is considerable research in the field of education, which documents how inclusion benefits both the lowest and highest achieving students. Similarly, theories of multiple intelligences confirm that one student will learn better and deeper from a teacher who presents both video and audio information, while another depends on tangible models. Perhaps most importantly, societal kindness grows from tolerance and acceptance of individual differences.
Finally, let’s confront the most volatile debates in the sphere of today’s global world. It is replete with countless examples of the dangers of despots, the damages by neighboring countries with warring religions, and the frightening products of propaganda. Protest by those who disagree with the United States’ treatment of women and races – and immigrants – deserve, at the very least, to have their voices heard. Proponents of monoculturalism will argue that homogeneity and agreement promote a smoothly functioning, healthy and productive business, classroom and/or society. I disagree respectfully. As a United States resident, I am a fan of democracy, so I acknowledge a bias. However, I claim that any reasonable person can not dispute the value of the simple act of questioning and suggesting regardless of the outcome.
Of course, you may disagree and say that I’m the unreasonable one. I respect that. But then, I’d ask you to taste my adaptation of my mother’s acclaimed tomato sauce.