America, as the land of opportunity, is open to people from other nationalities to improve what the country has to offer. This has developed a broad and diverse range of cultures prevalent within the US, and therefore a contrasting nature of religious and religious beliefs. While this is beneficial to the long term prosperity of global peace and social union, the question posed is whether the US and western society is adequately educated and prepared for the feats of multiculturalism.
This is not a slur on western culture, but more a realization of the magnitude of melding numerous cultural and religious bodies into a weave of similar communities. It requires a certain level of tolerance, knowledge and understanding, and also vast amounts of interaction and communication to make the transition smooth and effective. The danger is that by merging different entities together without the requisite foundation being laid could lead to ignorance, resentment and ultimately conflict.
Teaching the Values of Different Religions
There are two major issues with religious teaching in general education facilities. Firstly, it is not considered a primary or compulsory subject, and therefore either abandoned or simply ignored by students who do not see the value in such education. Secondly, where specialist religious education bodies exist, they often teach only a single religious or cultural theme that does not encompass alternative or external influences. While this at least teaches at some religious values in depth, it creates a closed minded attitude towards the notions of other belief systems.
In an existing culture where its inhabitants are either uneducated in religious concepts or particularly insular to their own religious beliefs, then multiculturalism can cause cynicism and confusion. It is simply no good allowing diverse cultures and faiths to merge in a single society and then relying on the majority of open minded citizens to affect its purpose, as such a majority cannot police the minor factions who are against a multicultural society. Put simply, knowledge must be used as the tool with which to dispel cultural and religious intolerance.
This can only be effective in schools and as compulsory teachings to children in their formative educational years. Children, when aged between the ages of 4 and 11, are at their most susceptible to learning through word and witnessed conduct. For multiculturalism to prosper, then the concept of different cultures existing and their individual features must be taught in order that they can be understood. In terms of teaching this age bracket, the education needs to be simple, fun and easy to comprehend, and act as a foundation for further and dialogue.
Cynicism and Misconceptions
There are some that would argue that US society and western culture has adapted well to multiculturalism, and this is true is the vast majority of cases. However, given the volatile nature of the world and the subsequent conflicts fought between different cultures and in the name of alternative religious bodies, it is wrong to assume that the meld of these ideals and belief systems can fit comfortably. Until it is a concept shared and accepted by everyone, then government agencies and teaching bodies must continue to fight to ensure that people from diverse walks of life can life together in a single community.
Cynicism and misconception both play a huge part in the human psyche, especially in adults who have experienced specific hardships and mistake their resentment for knowledge. There are citizens who, although fair minded and reasonable in their day to day affairs, respond irrationally to conduct committed in the name of God or faith. They then subsequently affiliate rogue members of a religious faction with all decent, hard working examples in everyday life, and draw unfair conclusions as to the values of an alternative religion.
This insular and singularly unfair attitude can benefit nobody, and actually encourage conflict and dispute between co-existing religions. It is understandable, for fair minded practitioners of a particular religion are just as likely to be appalled by extreme acts committed in the name of their faith as everyone else, only they have to suffer the added indignity of being considered guilty of the act themselves through association. There can be no doubt that adequate and diverse religious teaching could help assuage such issues within a young adults mind.
Good vs. Evil
What any citizen needs to consider when playing a part in integrating different cultures is that a person’s religion or faith does not make them evil. They also have a duty to understand that core differences in values and belief systems should not just be tolerated, but also understood as beneficial to society and each member’s level of knowledge. This ethos is something that can be cultivated by teaching, and by educating people the differences in cultures and their affiliated faiths.
Such education would ensure also that people, when confronted with extreme acts of violence committed in a particular religious name, would not apportion blame to the entire faith and its people but understand it as being perpetrated by anarchists or self serving terrorists. Through a clear and concise understanding of these acts, the levels of suspicion between different religions and cultural concepts will decrease, meaning that mutual trust could be allowed to develop and create a harmonious multicultural society.