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In his latest book, Professor Emeritus of Education and Sociology Nathan Glazer, a pre-eminent neoconservative scholar, significantly restated his position on multiculturalism and affirmative action, coming to support them in certain cases.
In the introductory chapter of We Are All Multiculturalists Now, Glazer wrote, "multiculturalism in education...has, in a word, won. I do not assert this either to sound an alarm over this victory or to celebrate it."
Instead, Glazer cautiously lent his support to the recent movement toward incorporating the histories and cultures of other ethnic groups into elementary and high school curricula.
While Glazer said that within the multiculturalist movement there "undoubtedly are excesses," he also "embraces the movement wholeheartedly as an inevitable development."
In past books, such as his 1963 Beyond the Melting Pot, written with Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan '66 (D-NY) and his 1975 Affirmative Discrimination, Glazer argued tirelessly for a strong presentation of "distinctly American culture" in school and for the assimilation of different ethnic groups into American society.
While he still maintains a devotion to the ideal of the melting pot, Glazer says that he now acknowledges certain "realities" in education, particularly among African-Americans.
He points to a failure of the American educational system "to incorporate blacks fully, or at least to the same degree as other ethnic groups."
Glazer recently criticized the Califonia Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), a referendum which garnered 54 percent of the Californian vote last November and has since been upheld by the California Supreme Court. He said he feels that the initiative, which would make racial preferences illegal, "would undermine the pattern of American adaptation to social change by introducing a complete ban on the use of race in college admissions."
Fellow conservatives, such as Thomas Sowell '58, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, have in turn criticized Glazer for his opposition to the CCRI, most notably in a recent article in The Weekly Standard.
Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. '53, however, comes to Glazer's defense in the area of affirmative action for African-Americans. Mansfield said that "while racial injustice is in good part gone, it nevertheless lingers."
Mansfield said he believes the United States should "retain a good part of the idea of affirmative action" but added that he prefers moderate preferences to government-imposed quotas.
Glazer qualified his views, writing that when he says "'we are all multiculturalists now", he means that "we all now accept a greater degree of attention to minorities and women and their role in American history...classes in school."
"Educational aims are more than simply information; they involve cultural transmission as well," he said.
Glazer also restricted his new-found support for multiculturalism to elementary and high schools but did not apply its demands as heavily to institutions of higher education.
When asked to comment on the creation of a department of ethnic studies at Harvard, Glazer carefully distinguished between the African-American studies department, which "has justified itself and is now shaping the 'American' conception of past and future," and other ethnic groups around whom he saw "no virtue in making departments."
Glazer said he strongly encourages the ability of and need for students of different ethnic backgrounds to interact, though he said he doesn't see a significant need for a multicultural student center at Harvard, since the present channels for social interaction already promote diversity.
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