Key Themes And Implications In The Ethnonationalism Philosophy Of Education

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Ethnonationalism is an ideological belief that people are part of unique groups who are united because they descended from a collective past or through blood relationships. The core of the ideology is that nations are distinguished by a shared heritage, which usually includes a common language, religion, and ethnic ancestry ("Nationalism and Ethnicity," 2000). Ethnonationalism is very strong type of political mobilization when compared to other forms such as class and ideology. The strength stems from group's faith in the existence of a national family. In many cases, it is similar to an extended family in that they may address each other as brothers or sisters.

Ethnonationalism can trace its roots back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this timeframe, a majority of central, eastern and southeastern Europe was comprised of empires containing several ethnic groups (Muller, 2008). These groups were not multinational in the sense that they granted equal status to the different people that made up their population. In fact, most of the ruling class spoke different languages and had different ethnic origins than the working class. At the time, political, social, and economic hierarchies usually corresponded with an individual's ethnicity and most people did not expect to change their stations in life. Additionally, since people with the same religion, language, or culture were often spread out across several countries and empires, there were never really any major problems or conflicts.

Life was good, until military competition between nations created a requirement for additional resources and increased economic growth. On the other hand, economic growth depended upon mass literacy and ability to communicate which created a need for a strategy to push for education and a common language. Many of these ethnic groups who were mostly impoverished and laborers, such as the Czechs, Poles, Slovaks, and Ukrainians, discovered that job opportunities and key government positions were already taken. Unfortunately, this often led to conflicts over language and shared opportunities. Speakers of the same language began to share a sense of togetherness and define themselves with each other instead of with other communities. After the breakup of some of the world's empires, a multitude of new countries emerged. Former Czechoslovaks became Slovaks and Czechs; Yugoslavs split into Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, and Muslims; Nigerians into Ibos, Yorubas, Hausa, etc. Many Belgian citizens think of themselves more as Flemish or Walonnes than as Belgians, and many Catalans or Basques identify more with their ethnic community than with the Spanish state nation (Riggs, 1994). More recently, within the past 20 years, there has been a resurgence of ethnic identity which has increased awareness of ethnic and cultural diversity throughout the world, but unfortunately this has also increased the number of ethnic conflicts. Ethnic groups in several countries have begun to protest against their inferior status and are demanding the right to receive education in their own cultures and languages. Most importantly, many are now demanding nations of their own ("Ethno-Nationalism," 2003).

Ethnonationalism's view of the nature of reality isn't the scientifically correct description of the group, but what the group believes it was and is as it answers the questions, "who am I and who are we"? What was our origin and what is our destiny? (Gutek, 1997) To use Dr. Kukeya's example of the chair; ethnonationalists try to answer the question, "where did the chair come from and what is its future?" An ethnonationalist would take a primordialistic point of view when it comes to understanding ethnicity as a component in human life and society. This perspective holds that "ethnicity has always existed in human history and that modern ethnic groups have historical roots into the far past" (Riggs, 1994). For them, the ideal of ethnicity is closely related to the concept of nations and is split into early existing groups tied together by kinship and biological heritage.

The practicians of ethnonationalism believe their common ancestry is rooted in myths that may or may not be based on factual or historical accounts, but they are still reference points for their shared identities. These various myths often convey stories about the group's origins, culture and heritage. The passing down of these folk tales from generation to generation are an informal but highly powerful means of education (Gutek, 1997).

The concept of human nature to an ethnonationalist would be wide and varied because of the diverse nature of ethnic groups. However Critical Theory, a recent development in educational thought, seems to have surfaced at a time when the concept of ethnonationalism is resurging in the contemporary world. Critical Theory could be an opportunity to unite ethnonationalists and governments because they have a mutual interest in boundary protection as well as a need to overcome chaotic violence. Critical Theory views schools as arenas in which groups contend for power and control over curriculum, and advocates the beliefs of disempowered and subordinated groups such as the ethnonationalists (Muller, 2008). Furthermore, Critical Theorists state schools are segregated into social-economic levels and reproduce the dominant status quo, (nationalism) which is the same fight for the ethnonationalists. Critical Theorists and Ethnonationalists also share common issues such as civil rights, women's rights, equal rights, environmental and social issues, and racial integration. They also agree that teachers should encourage students to voice their beliefs and concerns, and understand how their peers feel about what is right and wrong. Finally, they both support teacher empowerment to ensure the values of the ruling class are not imposed on subordinate groups.

One of the major values for ethnonationalists is individual autonomy. However, there is some concern that ethnonational culture duties can interfere with rights to autonomy ("Ethnic-Nationalism," 2000). For example, telling authors, artists, or scholars they have a specific duty to promote national heritage could interfere with the freedom of creation. These individuals may have a right to promote their heritage, but the question is whether they have a duty to do so. Other characteristics of value to ethnonationalists are promotion of their culture and diversity within the community which can sometimes be impeded by homogeneity of a central national culture.

Organizing an ethnonationalist society is a precarious task to say the least. In the developing world, where states have been recently established, borders often cut across ethnic boundaries. This creates ethnic separation and communal conflict. According to Jerry Muller (2008), "partition may be the most humane lasting solution to such intense communal conflicts." Partitioning may result in more refugees, but at least it is addressing the issue. The challenge for the international community will be to separate and organize communities in the most humane and equitable manner possible. Perhaps the world's superpowers can aid in transporting people and property and help establish citizenship rights in the new homeland. Additionally, these new communities will need financial aid for resettlement, living allowances and jobs. The economic cost will be huge, but it should be less than sending another U.N. peacekeeping mission to police the rival ethnic combatants.

The ethnonationalist's major goal of education is to create a cultural identity for each member ("Nationalism and Ethnicity," 2000). It accomplishes this by preserving and extending the tangible ethnic characteristics of the group. This is necessary because ethnonationalists understand the importance of the preservation and development of their culture, also in the context of formal education in the schools. However, they attempt to seek a balance between self-aspirations and wishes of the broader community. This is a major source of conflict as both the nation-state and ethnonationalist groups battle over control of schools, curriculum, and language of instruction.

The educational method that would be most effective for ethnonationalists would be the learner-center classroom. Per M.L. Combs (1972), three characteristics are needed to create an effective learning condition in the classroom. First, the learning environment should facilitate the study of meaning. Learners must feel safe and accepted which is important for ethnic minorities who have experienced less than favorable treatment from the dominant culture. The classroom must include student involvement, interaction, and socialization, along with a focused approach to task accomplishment. Second, learners must be given frequent opportunities to interact with and face new information, challenges, and experiences in the learning process. However, rather than just take in information; students need to have an opportunity to confront new challenges on their own without teacher control. Third, learning should be acquired through what Combs considers the process of personal discovery. The processes used to support personal discovery must be highly individualized and adapted to the student's style and pace. Moreover, since the learner-center classroom is modeled after Dewey's Pragmatism and Experimentalism principles, it is more conducive to multiculturalism because the learning process is facilitated by social interactions and communication with others in flexible, diverse (age, culture, family background, etc.) and adaptive learning environment. Learner-centers also recognize individual differences in learning.  Although the basic principles of learning, motivation, and effective instruction apply to all students, (regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, religion, etc.) learners have different capabilities, motivation, and preferences for learning methods and strategies.  These differences are a function of the students' cultural or social group's environment and their heredity. For these reasons, the learner-center educational method is the best fit for ethnonationalism.

If advocates of ethnonationalism took over education in the U.S., the first thing they would do is establish the right to use the native language of the ethnic region as the medium of instruction rather than English. So you could possibly have Spanish as language of instruction in the Southwestern U.S. or perhaps Creole-French in some Southern Louisiana districts. Secondly, Ethnonationalists would include the ethnic group's literature, history, and traditions in the curriculum to create and maintain a sense of group identity. So Native Americans would be allowed to teach students their perspective on U.S. history and bring back some of their customs, traditions, and early languages. Additionally, the Hispanics in southern Texas may learn the story about the Alamo from the Mexican point of view instead of what they are learning today. Finally, the Ethnonationalists may use hidden curriculum to reinforce a sense of "we feeling" by cultivating a group response to ethnonational symbols.

I would propose the following mission statement for an ethnonationalist school: "Effective education for our students requires that everyone gets involved-students, faculty, administrators and parents. Discipline must be fair, the state should provide financial support to the institution, and every stakeholder must do their part to advance educational opportunities for their children. Above all, the protection of the rights of individuals and groups, as well as the continuation of the culture is of the utmost importance. Any individual or member belonging to a minority group must never, ever perceive that the culture of the dominant group is a threat to their culture or existence."

The curriculum would be completely opposite of a nationalist society in which students are forced to learn all subjects in a language that is foreign to them. First of all, the teaching of reading and writing would be through the medium of the mother tongue, especially in the elementary classes. As they progress to secondary education, the curriculum should facilitate the selection of a career choice for the student, to include a choice of a secondary language. This would include courses in economic development, management, business, science and technology. The program of study must also be applicable and appropriately meet the educational goals of the indigenous people. Finally, it must meet national requirements as established by the nation-state and prepare the students to compete academically at the international level.

The most effective teaching methods for these subjects would be classroom discussion, small group discussion, and role playing. Most of the lectures could be conducted in classroom discussions in which students can pools ideas and experiences from the entire group. Furthermore, this method would allow everyone to participate in an active process. The small group discussions could be used to allow everyone to participate. Additionally, since students are more comfortable in small groups, they are more apt to reach group consensus. Finally, role playing will provide opportunities for people to assume roles of others and thus appreciate other viewpoints. Role playing, by far, would be the most important of these approaches in that it prepares the student to play a more dominant role in society as these ethnic groups come into power. Also, it will allow for exploration of solutions and opportunities to practice skills.

As far as student evaluations, standardized assessments and testing is definitely not a viable solution. Standardization goes against the grain of ethnonationalism because of its effort to compare all students on a similar scale, when in fact they come from completely different backgrounds. Instead, an alternative method, such as performance assessment, would be a more effective means for teachers to measure students' understanding of the material. Measurements such as dialectic questions, written and oral compositions, experiments, projects, etc., would allow the teacher to match the content of the assessment to the content of the instruction (Combs, 1977). Effective assessments will provide feedback on how well students understand the facts and what they need to work harder on. Additionally, they allow teachers to review and improve the design instruction. I would even take it a step further and involve students in their own assessments. If students participate in developing the scoring criteria, self-evaluation, and goal setting, it is possible they will consider the assessment as a factual measure of their progress.

There are certainly special qualities teacher have to embody in an ethnonational society. Educators must be fair and objective and their primary focus must always be on the student's success. They also need to implement the vision of the institution to ensure a high level of quality is maintained in the education process. Additionally, teachers must be well qualified and, if possible, from the same cultural background as the learners (Mochwanaesi and Van Der Walt, 2005). If not, at a minimum, they must fully understand the culture of the learners. Finally, there must be mutual respect between the educator and the learner at all times. At the end of the day, the focus must always remain on the student, but it is the teacher who will ultimately reap the intrinsic rewards from the teaching experience.

If an ethnic group received the right to education provided in their own institution, taught in their native language, and managed by their own people, the social structure in ethnonationalist classrooms would change immensely. Teachers will be able to ensure classrooms remain responsive to their own history, heritage, life experiences, cultural value systems, and day-to-day life situations. However, they also need to make sure they keep focus on mainstream national standards to ensure their students can compete with the majority group for higher education and jobs.

Ethnonationalist curriculum needs to provide an education that responds to the requirements of the multidimensional, real-world national and global alliances. Failure to meet these vital learning objectives will hinder students' academic and cultural growth, keep them from engaging with the driving forces of globalization, and prevent the creation of a new generation of responsive education.

In summary, ethnonationalism is a powerful form of ideology that can mobilize an ethnic group into a national movement. The strength stems from a group's shared heritage, common language, common faith, and common ethnic ancestry. Conflicts have arisen as ethnic groups have begun to protest against their inferior status and now want to receive education in their own cultures and languages. Many of them are now demanding nations of their own.

Ethnonationalism's view of nature of reality is what the group believes it was and is, and attempts to answer the questions, "who are we, what was our origin and what is our destiny?" Critical Theory, a recent development in educational thought, shares many attributes with the ethnonationalism philosophy. If adopted, it could unite ethnonationalists and governments because of their mutual interest in boundary protection and need to overcome anarchic violence.

The main values for ethnonationalists are individual autonomy, promotion of culture, and diversity. There is some concern however, that cultural duties can interfere with rights to autonomy. Their major goal of education is to create a cultural identity for each member. This is important because they understand the importance of the preservation and development of their culture. They attempt to seek a balance between self-aspiration and wishes of the broader community. This is another source of conflict as both nation-state and ethnonationalist groups battle over control of schools, curriculum, and the language of instruction.

The educational method that would be most effective would be the learner-center classroom. Adopting some of Dewey's Pragmatism and Experimentalism principles would facilitate the learning process because of social interactions and communication in a diverse learning environment. Additionally, this method recognizes the fact that learners have different capabilities motivation and preferences for learning methods and strategies. Ethnonationalists would advocate the use of their native language as the medium of instruction, especially with basic courses in primary school. As they progress to secondary, the curriculum would facilitate the selection of a career choice for the student, to include a selection of a secondary language.

The most effective teaching methods for ethnonationalists would be classroom discussions, small group discussions, and role playing. Role playing by far would be the most important of these approaches in that it prepares the student to play a more dominant role in society as these ethnic groups come into power. As far as student evaluations, standardized assessments would not work because it goes again everything ethnonationalism stands for. Instead, performance assessment would be an effective means for teachers to measure students' understanding of the material. Teachers must be well qualified and either must be from the same cultural background as the students or at least be familiar with the culture. The social structure in the ethnonationalist classrooms would change immensely. Teachers will be able to ensure classrooms remain responsive to their own history, heritage, life experiences, cultural value systems, and day-to-day life situations. However, they must never lose focus on national standards to ensure their students are able to compete with the majority group for higher education and jobs. Finally, ethnonationalism curriculum needs to provide an education that responds to the needs of the multi-dimensional, real-world national and global partnerships.

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