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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 2, no. 2 (January 14, 1994).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c January 14, 1994
Dealing with diversity : some propositions from Canadian education / Benjamin Levin [and] J. Anthony Riffel.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
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1 of 13 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 2 Number 2January 14, 1994ISSN 1068-2341A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal. Editor: Gene V Glass, Glass@ASU.EDU. College of Edu cation, Arizona State University,Tempe AZ 85287-2411 Copyright 1993, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES.Permission is hereby granted to copy any a rticle provided that EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES is credited and copies are not sold.Dealing with Diversity: Some Propositions from Cana dian EducationBenjamin Levin J. Anthony Riffel University of Manitoba email@example.com Abstract: Increasing diversity in the population is a major issue for educators in North America, presenting political as well as educational challen ges. This paper examines Canadian educational policy responses to four kinds of diversity bilin gualism (French/English), multiculturalism, the situation of aboriginal peoples, and the problem of poverty. A description of each issue leads to some speculations or propositions on the nature of diversity and appropriate educational responses to it.Issues of diversity and the schools' response to th em are now a central part of debate about educational policy and practice. However, on the wh ole we find the treatment of diversity in the literature on educational administration to be spar se, assuming that the phenomenon is a simple one and that relatively straight-forward solutions are available. More illuminating discussions of the nature and impact of diversity can be found in other disciplines. Among the writers who have influenced our thinking about these issues are Freeman Dyson (1988) in physics and biology, Peter Berger (1976) in sociology, and Richard Rorty (1989) in philosophy. Dyson provides an illuminating discussi on of the role of diversity in biology and of the need for diversity in human enterprises, includ ing science. Berger, in discussing contrasting ideological systems, warns of the dangers of elevat ing our own view of the world over that of others even though he also recognizes the likelihoo d of our doing so. Rorty, too, takes up these dangers, but he is hopeful that diverse peoples can find solidarity with each other as they become more aware of, and moved by, the corrosive effects of powerlessness and intentional or unwitting cruelty.
2 of 13Moreover, much of the contemporary discussion is na ively utopian, taking the position that diversity is a good thing to be encouraged. We shar e some of this excitement: diversity is a potential source of vitality, creativity and growth At the same time, diversity can be a source of conflict which educators and others have difficulty channelling in constructive directions. Educational administrators will need to have a shar p sense of the various aspects of diversity in order to benefit from its potential contribution.The Meaning of DiversityPeople are different in many ways, but not all of t hose ways matter at any given time. Gregory Bateson spoke of information as "a difference that makes a difference" (Bateson, 1972, p. 451). Human variety can also make a difference -can mat ter -in different ways. In relation to education, some differences are the subject of a gr eat deal of public and political attention (race, language, religion), while others receive much less attention, even though they may be equally important in terms of outcomes (social class).Differences may also be considered as lying between individuals or between groups. Groups are not homogeneous, and in many cases the variance wit hin groups is larger than the variance between groups. For example, there are as many diff erences among people of any given ethnic background as there are between people of one backg round and people of another. Nonetheless, for purposes of this paper we are concerned with di fferences between groups because these are often the subject of political attention in educati on. This paper explores the nature and meaning of dive rsity in education using four examples from Canada: language, ethnicity and multiculturali sm, the unique situation of Aboriginal people, and poverty. Other important issues of dive rsity, such as religion, are not taken up here. While the discussion bears mainly on implications f or education policy, we also consider diversity more generally, as a social and political matter. A Primer on Canada Education in Canada is a constitutional responsibil ity of the provinces which they guard carefully. There is no federal office or department of education; the federal government does have various important involvements in education, b ut these are spread among many government ministries, usually without a direct link to what o ccurs in schools. Questions of separate identity are fundamental to C anada's basic nature, and have always been central threads in its political and social hi story. Can ada is officially a bilingual country (English and French) with a multicultural populatio n. A third element, involving a distinct status for Aboriginal Canadians, is being added to this de scription. About one quarter of the population, largely though by no means entirely in the province of Quebec, has French as a mother tongue. There is a sizeable anglophone minority in Quebec, just as there are francophone minorities in other parts of the country. At the same time, Canad a has a large population, living in all parts of the country, with other mother tongues and cultural backgrounds. Almost forty percent of the population lists an ethnic background other than Br itish or French, and ma ny have neither French nor English as a first language, especially in the larger cities. The approximately one million people of Aboriginal origin create yet a th ird element in our ethnic make-up, since these original residents of Canada quite properly do not see themselves as being "just another ethnic group".Fundamental differences in the way Canadians see th eir country are at the heart of ongoing
3 of 13constitutional debates, and have much to do with th e friction between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Francophone Quebecers particularly tend to see the country as being made up of two equal founding partners, the French and the English Quebec is regarded in this view as having a special role and status in Canada half the countr y rather than one province out of ten. However, in parts of Canada where the francophone population is small and various immigrant groups large, the dominant view is of a country made up of many equal nationalities and of ten equal provinces. Aside from the debate about English and French, Aboriginal people everywhere in Canada have their own claims for constitutional rec ognition and autonomy. Official BilingualismEuropean Canada was French until 1763, when it was ceded to Britain after the Seven Years War. However, the new British governors agreed to m aintain French civil law and religion, and to a certain extent French language and other insti tutions in Quebec. In 1867, Canada was created by the voluntary merge r of four British colonies. The Constitution they adopted specified that the rights of both French and English linguistic and Catholic and Protestant religious communities as th ey existed at the time of Confederation would be preserved and protected in the new country. In 1 867 religion was more important than language (although the two largely overlapped, with Catholic francophones and Protestant anglophones) As a result, in several Canadian provinces (Quebec Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta) there have been two sets of school boards, separate (usually meaning Catholic) and public, supported from public funds, and in one province, N ewfoundland, the system is organized along denominational lines. Despite many challenges and s ome violent political disputes, the educational status quo of 1867 is still substantial ly intact. In practice the constitutional rights of minority l anguage groups have not always been respected. The anglophone community in Quebec, because it was large and economically powerful, was able to develop its own schools and universities wi th public financing. New Brunswick, with a substantial francophone minority, also maintained p ublic schools in both languages. But in other parts of Canada French schools were not so fortunat e. Manitoba, for example, eliminated francophone Catholic schools in 1890. Although the decision led to a national political crisis, it remained in force, and it is only in the last twent y years that francophone Manitobans have once again been able to have their schooling in French.In 1982, a new Constitution and the associated Char ter of Rights and Freedoms reaffirmed and strengthened the guarantees made in 1867 to officia l minority language groups (that is, French or English). Unlike the U.S. Bill of Rights, the Canad ian Charter explicitly includes both individual freedoms and collective rights. In the latter categ ory are recognition both of the educational rights of minority language groups and of the unique statu s of Aboriginal peoples. Also unlike the United States, the Canadian Charter is applicable o nly to governments and their agencies (such as school boards), but does not apply to private indiv iduals or corporations. There is debate about the impact that the Charter w ill have on education. A broad reading of its provisions on such matters as equality rights would have large effects on many aspects of schooling. However Canadian courts have, in the fir st decade of the Charter, been quite cautious about its interpretation. Even when courts have rul ed that existing provisions are contrary to the Charter, they have tended to refer the issues back to legislative bodies for resolution rather than providing clear direction.In the decade since the Charter was adopted, franco phone minorities across Canada have been
4 of 13working to extend French-language schools in many p arts of the country and to secure their communities' management and control of francais sch ools (that is, schools for students whose family's first language is French; the term 'franca is school' is used to distinguish them from French immersion schools, in which instruction is a lso in French, but the students do not come from francophone backgrounds).In most provinces, the extension of francophone edu cational rights has been far from popular. Religious and linguistic educational issues have ha d tremendous force in Canada from its inception to the present. In Manitoba the provincia l government almost fell from power in 1983 and 1984 because of its proposals to extend rights and services to francophones. Most of the developments in francophone schooling h ave come as the result of court decisions, primarily using The Charter. Canadian courts have t ended not to be prescriptive in dealing with constitutional compliance. Typically, court decisio ns which have ruled existing arrangements as illegal have then thrown the issue back to the poli tical arena to come up with a new solution. However, with court rulings in hand governments hav e felt somewhat more able to confront hostile electors since they can argue that they are being forced to make changes by the judiciary. Current arrangements for minority language schoolin g in Canada vary across provinces. New Brunswick is the only province which maintains a fu lly bilingual school system. In Quebec there have been several efforts over the past twenty year s to increase the importance of French in the schools. These steps have been seen as part of the larger debate about the status of Quebec and the changing patterns of economic and social power in the province. There can be no doubt that the situation of anglophones in Quebec is less adva ntageous than it was twenty years ago, and many have left the province as a result. Some of th e educational measures taken by Quebec government for example the requirement that child ren of immigrants attend school in French regardless of their parents' wishes have received an angry reaction both from anglophone Quebecers and from Canadians outside Quebec (for a good discussion of this history see Milner, 1986). The fact remains, however, that anglophones in Quebec are still better off educationally than are francophones elsewhere in the country.In other provinces, provisions for francophone educ ation are emerging only slowly. For example, Ontario, which has the largest number of francophon es outside Quebec, first took the step less than a decade ago of adding francophone-only seats on its school boards in districts where there was a significant francophone population. From one to three additional board members were elected by francophone electors only, and this grou p had sole control over all school board matters having to do with francophone programs. In parts of the province with large francophone populations -notably the Ottawa area, eastern Ont ario and Toronto -separate school boards have been created to govern francophone schools.The federal government has played a major role in l anguage education in several ways. It has for the last twenty-five years been a consistent propon ent of official minority language education all across the country. Federal ministers have spoken o ut about the importance of the issue, and the need for respect for minority rights. The federal g overnment has also channelled financial support to minority language education through agre ements with provinces in which it reimburses the province for expenditures in this ar ea. In Canada, official minority language education is a matter of legal right, not simply of educational practice. Language questions are among the most powerful political issues Canadians face. Despite the divisiveness which the issue has created, one result of linguistic duality in Canada has been an awareness (if not always an appr eciation) that there are important differences
5 of 13among Canadians, and that these differences will ha ve to be respected in some form. Even Canadians who are least tolerant of minority langua ge rights recognize that the country could be irrevocably divided by the issue.Immigration and MulticulturalismMost Canadians are of European ancestry. The charac ter of immigration to Canada has changed over time Anglo-Saxons, Germans and Irish in the mi d-nineteenth century; Slavs, Jews, Mennonites and Icelanders early in this century; It alians, Portuguese, Germans and Poles after World War II, and, more recently, a predominance of immigrants from Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Canada has a significant population whose mother tongue (defined as the language first learned and still understood) is not English, and an increasing proportion of visible minorities (about 6% in 1986). Moreover, large numb ers of people who are not recent immigrants still identify strongly with their earli er ethnic origins. For most of their history, Canadian schools were es sentially agents of cultural and linguistic assimilation. Indeed, one rationale for the develop ment of public schooling was assimilating immigrants, a purpose which remained strong until q uite recently. Typical is this comment from an inspector of schools in Saskatchewan, in 1918: The people of foreign countries who come to Canada after having reached maturity...will never become 'true Canadians'...but there is an important duty to perform in seeing that the children of these newcom ers are given every opportunity to receive proper training for intelligent citizens hip...[the] public school...is the great melting-pot into which must be placed these divers racial groups, and from which will eventually emerge the pure gold of Canadian ci tizenship. (Cited in Lawr and Gidney, 1973, 134,137). In 1971, the federal government promulgated the pol icy of Canada as a multicultural as well as a bilingual country. Since then, schools have struggl ed with provisions which should be made in response to the multitude of language and ethnic gr oups in the country. Across the country and especially in cities, where most of the recent immigrant population lives, there has been an increasing, though still by no me ans universal tendency to recognize cultural diversity in the schools; to be more accepting of d ifferent ways of living which Canadians of different origins may have. The accommodation has t aken several forms. First, schools have begun to offer programs in the languages of immigra nt communities (called heritage languages). These programs are primarily offered outside of reg ular school hours, and in many cases are taught by people from the communities who do not ha ve teaching certificates. In some areas, however, schools offer bilingual programs in langua ges such as German and Ukrainian. Some schools have also tried to reach out to ethnic and minority populations by, for example, translating school communications into various othe r languages. The Toronto Board of Education recognizes more than 40 languages being s poken by sizeable numbers of its students' parents.Second, schools have taken on the task of embodying cultural diversity as something to be promoted through the curriculum. Officially, assimi lation has been replaced by cultural diversity. All provinces now have units in various parts of th e curriculum which are aimed at pointing out to students the multiple origins and cultural backg rounds of Canadians, and promoting appreciation of cultural differences.
6 of 13But the picture is not just one of steady progress in recognizing diversity. Several commentators have suggested that much of the schools' response i s superficial (Cummins, 1988). There is recognition of non-official languages and minority cultures as long as these pose no real challenge to the status quo, either in the school o r more generally. But different cultures may have highly divergent views of how to live, posing serious difficulties for schools. For example, parents from some cultures will want stricter stand ards of behaviour than Canadian schools typically enforce. Or parents may be very critical of school materials which promote views different from theirs. Schools have not generally b een accommodating of these differences. Ethnic communities have become increasingly well or ganized in Canada, and have developed considerable political influence in some areas. The federal government has played a major role in this development. After the 1971 policy pronounceme nt, the government created a series of multiculturalism programs, providing financial and other supports to ethnic groups and cultural activities across Canada. Many provincial governmen ts have followed suit, developing their own policies and programs to support multiculturalism.Still, many controversies over culture continue to occur in schools, oft en over symbolic things. Ethnic groups have used legal as well as political mechanisms to advance their claims for what they see as equitable treatment. Cases have been br ought before human rights commissions in many provinces and, less frequently, before the cou rts. For example, the Peel Board of Education, a very large district in Ontario, lost a prolonged court battle to prevent a Sikh student from wearing a kirpan (a religious dagger) to schoo l. Aboriginal EducationIn the 1986 Census, some 700,000 people identified themselves as partly or wholly Aboriginal. However, these numbers underrepresent significantly the number of Metis, non-treaty and non-status Aboriginal people in Canada. Aboriginal people are a small part of the population in much of Canada, but reach about 8% of the populatio n in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and constitute about half the population in The Yukon a nd the Northwest Territories. Speaking of First Nations, as they are now called in Canada, as a single group is itself misleading; they are distinguished by the diversity of their languages, cultures, religions, local economic opportunities, community laws and local systems of political organization. Over half of Aboriginals now live in urban centres, which presen ts an entirely different set of issues and challenges for education (McDonald,1991).Despite their diversity, the Aboriginal people of C anada have experienced several common problems, including repressive or assimilationist g overnment policies and programs, geographic isolation from the political and economic centres o f an increasingly urban society, and, until recently, lack of a unified political identity. In the name of what Canadian historians term "Anglo-conformity", Aboriginal people have been dem eaned and devalued, with consequences that can only be described as disgraceful. Although the language seems harsh, it is warranted by the evidence (for example, Frideres, 1983).The historic relationship of Aboriginal people in C anada is with the federal government through treaties. The Indian Act has regulated the way in w hich status Indians (as defined in the Act) have been treated by government. In 1969 the push to Ang lo-conformity reached its peak when the federal government of the day released a White Pape r on Indian Policy. The Indian Act was to be repealed; the special relationships that Indian peo ple had with the Government of Canada would be eliminated; Indians would become full members of Canadian society, but as individuals without historic group recognition or rights. The d ouble meaning of the phrase "White Paper"
7 of 13was lost on the politicians and civil servants of t he time, and can be seen as an indication of the insensitivity to Aboriginal people which then exist ed. The understandable outrage of the Aboriginal leader ship at these proposals, which were never adopted, has proved to be a marker event in the rel ationships between First Nations and all levels of government in Canada. It was the immediate impet us behind the movement toward the Indian control of Indian education, and First Nations self -government generally. This movement has been under way for two decades, w ith changes occurring unevenly. The first Indian Bands to assume control of their educational systems did so in the mid-1970s. It seems safe to predict that nearly all of Canada's 600 Ind ian Bands will have taken control of their educational systems by the end of the century. The process has certainly had its difficulties; Aboriginal communities have had to develop for them selves the infrastructure necessary to operate schools and other social systems, all withi n the context of societies that are caught between their traditional ways of life and current North American practices (Hull, 1990; Henley & Young, 1990).One of the outcomes of the movement to Aboriginal c ontrol of education will be a resurgence of the historic diversity of Canada's First Nations. T he re are now, for example, about 100 different languages in use in Aboriginal communities. Similar ly, different forms for the political organization of education are likely to emerge. In Manitoba, for example, some Bands have elected school boards, others have boards appointed by the local Chief and Council, some have boards made up of clan representatives and others h ave no school boards at all. Some Bands operate their own schools directly; others have ent ered into agreements with schools in the provincial system or with the federal government, a chieving a level of influence over general educational policy but no direct control over the d ay-to-day operations of schools. The historic tendencies toward diversity are likely to be accentuated by the small population and relative isolation of many Aboriginal communities. Education in small Indian and Inuit communities is affected by community processes to a degree that is markedly different from large urban centres; over time it seems reasonable to exp ect that differences among communities will be reflected in their schools as well.This also implies that there is likely to be more d iversity outside of urban centres than within them. Within urban centres professional controls on schools are strong. Even where urban Aboriginal populations are very substantial, contro l over the schools is likely to remain with the existing political and bureaucratic structures. Thi s has led urban Aboriginals to press for the creation of separate Aboriginal schools, with exten sive Aboriginal involvement in governance; the first such schools now exist in cities such as Calgary and Winnipeg. The trend toward diversity in Aboriginal education seems to have widespread support, although specific policies are not always as helpful as they might be. Certainly, governments have been anxious to find ways of relating to Aboriginal comm unities that are less dominating, or at least seen to be less so. The primary drive for change, h owever, has clearly come from the First Nations political leadership. Concepts such as dece ntralization and empowerment are currently fashionable in education, and will lend theoretical credibility to the practical aspirations of Aboriginal communities.If current trends are any indication, diversity is likely to become more apparent in some aspects of Aboriginal education than in others. Languages o f instruction, special programs and systems of governance will probably be the most varied, whi le curriculum and teaching methods will
8 of 13change least. In curricular terms, few Aboriginal c ommunities have been willing to move away from the official curriculum of the province in whi ch they are located (for example, the Inuit of Baffin Island use the curriculum of Alberta, 4,000 miles away). The attempt to create independent curricula is fraught with political con troversy if only because such a move could place the educational credentials of Aboriginal stu dents in doubt. Social Class and PovertyFamily income has been and continues to be a very s trong predictor of how well Canadian children do in school. A great deal of research sho ws that poverty is related to lower achievement in school, to greater risk of dropping out, and to lower eventual occupational status and income. These relationships are at least as strong as is th e relationship between measured ability and achievement.It should be noted that the tie between poverty and educational outcomes is not uniform across countries. As Richard Jaeger has shown, the link be tween poverty indicators and school achievement is stronger in North America than it is in Japan or in some European countries (Jaeger, 1992). Low economic status may predict sch ool success more strongly in countries where the disparities between rich and poor are gre ater. This is a form of double jeopardy; not only are people relatively poorer, but their povert y has more impact on their life chances. That the proportion of poor people in North America has remained significant seems paradoxical in light of the North American reluctance to speak in terms of established social classes. European countries, where class is an integral part of the s ocial and economic vocabulary, have actually been more successful in reducing the degree of econ omic inequality. It appears that the recognition of one's own class identity may be nece ssary to find a legitimate role in the society. Perhaps Canada would do well to give more overt att ention to the concept of social class and its enduring role, rather than continuing a mythology i n which everyone is, or will soon be, in the middle class (except, of course, for the very wealt hy). Given both the very clear link of poverty to later social costs and the considerable documentation on poverty in Canada, it is remarkable that so litt le policy attention in education has been given to the issue. The federal government has not played a major role in this area. Provincial governments have taken few initiatives to address t he impact of poverty on schools and children. Individual schools and school districts are left to grapple with the issue as best they can, which is often not very well.Nor have schools and districts been particularly im aginative in their approach to poverty. The kinds of efforts which have been made essentially i nvolve tinkering at the margins of the system providing breakfast and lunch, creating special cla sses for students who change schools very frequently, strengthening remedial programs, and so on. The substance of curriculum and teaching have not been altered on any significant s cale. Maynes (1990) has pointed out in his study of Edmonton schools that administrators and s chool trustess did not see poverty as an issue that was their responsibility, or over which they h ad very much influence. This may be partly because poverty is a different k ind of identity issue than ethnicity or language. People may attach different meanings to their lingu istic or ethnic background; they are, at least potentially, a source of strength and pride, and ar e increasingly seen as such. Poverty, on the other hand, is often seen as a sign of weakness. Fo rtunately, the historic stigmas associated with race and language have been diminishing, and negati ve stereotypes have begun to give way to positive images. The same is not true of poverty, w hich may carry even more negative implications today than used to be the case.
9 of 13There is a danger that poverty becomes a rationaliz ation for the failure of schools to help students. Ironically, efforts to recognize the part icular problems of poverty by, for example, avoiding testing, can serve to hide the extent of t he problem and excuse the failure to educate students properly. Educators and policy-makers may make the assumption that students from poor families cannot learn, so that failure is to b e expected, and accepted. However, this is clearly a false and dangerous assumption. As has been noted the association between poverty and school outcomes is much weaker in other countries. Moreove r, there is convincing evidence from many places, especially in the United States, that educa tion programs which address directly problems of poverty can result in dramatically increased suc cess rates for students (for example, Slavin, 1991; Means & Knapp, 1991). In particular, success has come from efforts such as pre-school programs which help parents provide educational sup port to their children, and from school programs which stress high expectations while provi ding high levels of support. Canadian post-secondary institutions, although their overall contribution to promoting equal access has not been large, do have some notable success stories wh ich show what can be done where there is a will to assist (Unruh & Levin, 1990).An important difference between poverty as an issue and the others discussed earlier is that there are no strong educational lobbies focused on the po verty issue. There may be several reasons why this is so. Because poverty is seen as a transient status, people may be less willing to organize around it. Linguistic or ethnic pride have been maj or factors in the surge of politics in these areas; it is hard to envisage a movement based on p ride in being poor. Indeed, poverty is still frequently viewed as a condition to be ashamed of, and which is one's own fault. Not only does this view limit political work around the issue, it also limits the respect or sympathy with which lobbying efforts will be met. The poor also tend to lack the resources to organize. For all these reasons, poverty is largely a forgotten issue in Ca nadian education policy-making. Some Propositions about DiversityDiversity is itself diverse. Each of the issues dis cussed has a different history, a different set of influences, different policy proposals and politic al implications. Each issue demands its own strategies and solutions. The "same issue will va ry from setting to setting. Ethnicity and language are major issues in some schools or distri cts, but hardly noticeable in others. Some groups want inclusion, while others want separation or distinctiveness. Nonetheless, educators are constantly faced with very real issues of how t o respond. In the remaining part of this paper, we attempt to lay out some ways of thinking about d iversity, which we characterize as "propositions" rather than "conclusions" in the hop e that they might be helpful in framing our responses.1. Diversity is likely to be of increasing importance in education. The Canadian population is becoming more diverse in various ways. More signifi cantly, groups of people are more willing to organize themselves around what they see as their c ommon interests, and to use judicial, legislative and political vehicles to advance those interests, rather than assuming that they will be looked after by the powers that be. Some may decry what is sometimes called the "rise of special interest groups" and the decline of concern for the common good. However it may be at least as appropriate to see such organization as the reasona ble response of people to economic and political systems which have not given them suffici ent opportunity. For most of our history, the common good has in practice meant the good of those who already enjoy income, power and social status.Insofar as education has as one of its goals making people more aware of their situation and more
10 of 13conscious of themselves as actors able to affect th e world, we should perhaps see the increasing pressure on schools (and other institutions) as a p ositive outcome of education. People are more aware of what they think they want and more willing to work to obtain it. That is, on the whole, a positive development.2. Diversity is not new, but our understanding of it and policy approaches to it have changed significantly. For much of Canadian history the dom inant policy has been to limit or suppress diversity in the interests of a presumed commonalit y. The change in recent years is to think that perhaps some degree of diversity should be promoted or encouraged. Encouraging diversity has the potential to bring important benefits, but it a lso raises a whole new set of problems which we really haven't thought through. An essential questi on is how far the "tolerance" (a word which minorities dread) of diversity will extend. As Tinder (1991) has pointed out, There must be tolerance for beliefs we consider er roneous and actions we deem immoral. Tolerance must extend far enough to b e dangerous. Otherwise it is a more formality...and not a policy that accepts impo rtant disagreements...in an effort to make room for abounding life and serious communi cation. (p.180) So far in Canada we have been more inclined to do t he easy thing, and to recognize differences that do not change the status quo very much. Having multicultural festivals in schools with ethnic foods and costumes is a recognition of diversity, b ut hardly one that threatens the status quo. Giving political control of schools to various ethn ic groups is much more significant and equally much more contentious.3. The "successful" response to diversity may lead to less diversity, not more. Historically, language, ethnicity and social class have been link ed, so that a particular ethnic identity also brought with it a particular economic and social st atus. An important accomplishment of the rights movements of the past few decades has been t o begin to remove these links. As groups see their needs for identity, recognition, and success being met, their demands are likely to decline, or to become the same as anyone else's demands. The ability to participate fully in the economic and social life of the country is, we believe, more an issue of class than of ethnicity or religion (though class and ethnicity may be connected), and will increasingly be seen as such as there is more responsiveness to other aspects of ethnic or l inguistic identity. However there is far to go to achieve this state. S o far, some groups have been far more successful in obtaining political recognition than they have in improving their economic conditions and social status. For example, Aborigin al people are now consulted all the time about policy measures that affect them, but they continue to have very high rates of poverty and unemployment.4. The essential tension facing schools is how to com bine diversity with solidarity in an appropriate way. The very notion of a society or co untry implies some degree of agreement about issues in laws, institutions, values. Yet these are precisely the items which diversity brings into the spotlight of debate and dissent. Individual sch ools and entire societies will face issues of diversity and will have to develop ways of dealing with them. Whether we can be successful at this task is unknow n; diversity may ultimately not be manageable in any real sense. The fact is that we d on't really know what to do whether to accommodate differences to a greater degree within common settings, to push conformity more,
11 of 13to create separate settings for different groups, o r to find some other approach altogether. Each strategy is controversial and seems to be problem-l aden. Diversity appears to fit well with the idea of a "wicked problem", one which is ongoing an d has not evident solution (Rittell & Webber, 1973).5. Despite the rhetoric, schools are not well adapted to dealing with issues of diversity. Their history is one of acting as integrating (some might say homogenizing) institutions, designed to reduce differences. Whether they can take on a very different role is at best an open question; it is always a difficult undertaking to shift an institut ion from one purpose to a very different one. Schools' current responses to diversity are being d riven primarily by external political pressures. Those constituencies which have been able to mobili ze have had a response, with French Immersion being a case in point. This is quite diff erent from a response based on a coherent view of educational purposes and needs. The adjustments which have been made are primarily marginal or token, involving increments to the curr iculum, or additional programs for particular groups. Where attempts are made to alter basic stru ctures, such as the abolition of primary grades in British Columbia or destreaming secondary school s in Ontario, they typically do not succeed, and often end up being reversed. The essential aspe cts of classroom and school organization remain largely unchanged and make it very difficult to do anything else, even if the will existed. A particularly difficult problem is the issue of "s tandards." It is one thing to say that there will b e curricular differences to meet the needs of differe nt subpopulations; schools have always made these kinds of adjustments. But it could be argued that the critical function of schools is providing credentials. Is it possible to have diffe ring credentials? Experience suggests that credentials created to accommodate differences, suc h as vocational diplomas, quickly take on inferior status. The continuing dominance of the un iversity entrance qualification in Canadian schools, despite fifty years of efforts to change i t, testifies to the powerful effect of certificatio n standards on schools.Yet to respond to pressures of diversity, schools w ill have to rethink many basic assumptions; business as usual may not be possible. Diversity po ses fundamental challenges. Students cannot all be treated "the same"; profession al authority is thrown into question; the legitimacy of governing structures such as school boards will be argued. Full recognition of diversity suggests not only changes in curricula, but also in basic in structional approaches and in school organization. We are nowhere near achieving this.ReferencesArnoti, B. (1986). Children in low-income families Canadian Social Trends, 1, 18-19. Bateson, G. (1972). Steps to an Ecology of Mind New York: Chandler. Berger, P. (1976). Pyramids of Sacrifice New York: Vintage. Cummins, J. (1988). From multicultural to anti-raci st education. In J. Cummins and T. Skutnab-Kangas (Eds.), Minority Education: From Shame to Struggle Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Dyson, F. (1988). Infinite in All Directions New York: Harper & Row. Frideres, J. (1983). Native People in Canada: Contemporary Conflicts 2nd edn Scarborough,
12 of 13 ON: Prentice-Hall.Henley, R., & Young, J. (1990). Indian education in Canada: Contemporary issues. In Y.J. Lam (ed.), Canadian Public Education System: Issues and Prosp ects Calgary: Detselig. 193-214. Hull, J. (1990). Socioeconomic status and native ed ucation in Canada. Canadian Journal of Native Education 17/1 1-14. Jaeger, R. (1992). 'World class' standards, choice, and privatization: Weak measurement serving presumptive policy. Paper presented to the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.Lawr, D., & Gidney, R. (eds.) (1973). Educating Canadians Toronto: Van Nostrand Reinhold. Levin, B. (1990) Tuition fees and university access ibility. Canadian Public Policy 16 51-59. Maynes, W. (1990). The Education of Edmonton's Urba n Poor: A Policy Perspective. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Alber ta, Edmonton. McDonald, R. (1991). Canada's off reserve aborigina l population. Canadian Social Trends 23 2-7.Means, B. & Knapp, M. (1991). Cognitive approaches to teaching advanced skills to educationally disadvantaged students. Phi Delta Kappan 73/4 282-289 Milner, H. (1986). The Long Road to Reform: Restructuring Public Educa tion in Quebec Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Pr ess. Osberg, L. (1981). Economic Inequality in Canada Toronto: Butterworths. Rorty, R. (1989). Contingency, Irony and Solidarity Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Slavin, R. (1991). Chapter 1: A vision for the next quarter century. Phi Delta Kappan 72/8 586-592.Statistics Canada. (1979). Income Distributions by Size in Canada Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services.Tinder, G. (1991). Political Thinking: The Perennial Questions (5th ed.). New York: Harper Collins.Unruh, D., & Levin, B. (1990). Equality of access a nd equality of condition: Second chance programming for success. In D. Inbar (ed.), Second Chance in Education London: Falmer Press. Wilson, J. (1991). Bureaucracy New York: Basic Books.Copyright 1994 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesEPAA can be accessed either by visiting one of its seve ral archived forms or by subscribing to the LISTSERV known as EPAA at LISTSERV@asu.edu. (To sub scribe, send an email letter to LISTSERV@asu.edu whose sole contents are SUB EPAA y our-name.) As articles are published by the
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