Teaching diversity is the way to prevent terrorism, says lecturer

4th April 2008 at 01:00

Teachers should encourage pupils to embrace their differences in order to prevent terrorist attacks.

Richard Race, a senior lecturer in education at Roehampton University, argues that pupils are encouraged to focus too much on their similarities rather than their differences. While well-meaning, this approach can breed resentment.

Dr Race believes that the July 7, 2005, London bombings revealed that such integrationist measures merely result in minorities feeling that their culture of origin is not respected: the bombers, while raised in Britain, felt marginalised by mainstream culture.

Dr Race's views contrast with those of Trevor Phillips, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who has warned that multiculturalism is causing Britain to "sleepwalk into segregation".

Dr Race said that liberal approaches to teaching citizenship needed to recognise and acknowledge differences between cultures.

"Multiculturalism is perhaps even more important after 911 and 77 than it was before," he said.

And resentment is not just building within Muslim communities. The many Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants now moving to Britain are also likely to feel alienated by a focus on shared Britishness, rather than multicultural diversity.

Rather than promoting a single British "us", teachers should acknowledge that "us" can be diverse and plural, he said.

Dr Race cites the example of Muslim pupils who are not allowed to wear headscarves to school in France. In fact, pupils should be encouraged to explore differences in appearance, history and religion.

"Inform students and people of cultural diversity and you advance multiculturalism, thereby reducing social and educational fear," he said.

r.race@roehampton.ac.uk.

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