Presentation: Multiculturalism and Cosmopolitanism in Education

The Context:

Chapter 11 of Noddings' Philosophy of Education outlines the elements currently under debate in consideration of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism in classrooms. This is conducted to a lesser extent in a theoretical framework of multiculturalism itself in general, and to a greater extent the specific implementation of multiculturalism and the challenges inherent when applied to the education system in the United States.

The Argument:

While Noddings makes compelling arguments for the challenges in forming a truly multicultural classroom in American society, many of these challenges are due to attitudes inherent in American society rather than inherent globally in humanity. As such, the limitations imposed are not necessarily indicative of human or global challenges with the creation of multicultural or cosmopolitan classrooms themselves, but rather with the implementation and integration of such classrooms within the United States. That is not to say that these challenges are uniquely American, but rather would be shared by any nation with similar perspectives to the United States.

Multiculturalism and the American Classroom:

Noddings describes the purpose of multiculturalism in education is “to reduce the achievement gap between white and minority students” (p.207) while indicating that the intent of this is to provide “a more hopeful approach” (p. 207). What is telling that this is a particularly American approach is that rather than being concerned with an idealistic form of integration is that it is specifically trying to negate a negative relative achievement pattern already in place. While this approach may be successful in bridging the achievement gap mentioned, to do so requires that there be an achievement gap to bridge.

On that point, Noddings will also claim that multicultural classrooms are “an education for all students, and its purpose is to bring us together, not to separate us and cause divisiveness” (p. 208) Here the emphasis on ‘all’ indicates a comparison with a previous way of conducting education wherein education was not for all students suggesting some form of either covert or overt exclusion, or both. While this can also represent a contrasting reform in other countries or cultures where the system of education has enacted forms of exclusion, it is not necessarily a problem indicative of multiculturalism itself. A multicultural system of education can be a result of a new and welcome form of integration without necessarily having had a previous conflicting system of exclusion preceding it.

Noddings indicates, according to Spring (p. 208), that four of the goals of multiculturalism in education are to: build tolerance of other cultures, eliminate racism, teach about different cultures, and view the world from different perspectives. While three of these goals are primarily additive in that they teach or promote a positive change, one of them is subtractive in that it seeks to remove a negative attribute. While being a noble goal, the elimination of racism does require racism to have existed in the first place. This is not to say that other nations do not have extant problems with racism but does affirm that this is a goal of multiculturalism in education due to the prevalence of racism in the United States rather than being a necessary component to be implemented in all multiculturalism schemes. Should a culture that has little to no racism imbedded already be considered, it would not require such a provision.

However, Noddings issues a kind of warning to those that wish to create a multicultural educational environment and this warning is not necessarily limited to the problems inherent within American society and societies with similar problems, but potentially to all societies. “Without careful implementation and continuous reflection, it might indeed have a divisive effect.” (p. 208) This is indeed a potential danger as, if it is the case, as the history of American society has shown, that great division can be formed then it would stand to reason that it could form again. What complicates matters is that Noddings also says, “[i]t does not aim simply at bringing people together under one common culture.” (p. 208) Here, Noddings starts to introduce a greater complexity, and while he will use the American classroom again as an example to illustrate the challenges of cosmopolitanism, these challenges will become more generalized. Despite this, the challenges of cosmopolitanism that he will put forth will depend of ideas prominent in, though not exclusive to, American society, so although useful and applicable in many cases will not necessarily be inherent problems for all of humanity.


Noddings devotes a significant yet smaller section of the chapter on cosmopolitanism, which itself is an indication that the concept can be heavily tied in with the idea of multicultural education. Noddings' definition is, “Cosmopolitanism – a perspective that regards the whole world as a focus for citizenship and mutual concern.” (p. 212). What is important here in relation to multiculturalism is that it effectively tackles the same issue, clashes between differing cultures when integration is forced, but from the opposite perspective. It could be argued that the main difference between participants in multicultural education and cosmopolitan education is that where multiculturalism has a dominant culture that is tasked with integrating new minority languages and cultures, cosmopolitanism puts the diversity of culture as the first mode of participant identity.

To understand cosmopolitanism more clearly, Noddings' uses the idea of an individual’s national identity, in this case American. Although he defines “[t]o be “at home” anywhere in the world is the mark of a cosmopolitan” (p.212) in simplest terms will also address the potential clash between national identity and this global perspective. “However, when the cosmopolitan attitude displaces national identity and allegiance, society’s judgement often turns from admiration to disdain or even condemnation” (p. 212). This is where Noddings' interpretation of cosmopolitan, though not inaccurate, relies on a dominantly American perspective, that of fierce nationalism, and a nationalism that cannot live alongside a global perspective. Though there may be other forms of nationalism that display themselves in such a way there is no clear and established consensus that this is a common attribute indicative of all cultures and nations.

In fact there exist many nations and cultures that already meet a multicultural identity, “Israeli society, not unlike many other countries in the world, is characterized by multiple cultures” (Paul-Binyamin & al, p.47, 2014). Even in the face of overt regional tensions there is still recognition of “the need for policies that can be adapted to suit Israel’s complex and ever-changing reality.” (Paul-Binyamin & al, p.48, 2014) Indeed as recognised by Peterson “[a] core tenet of cosmopolitan theories is an acceptance of the ‘fact’ of globalisation and a desire to understand and define citizenship identities as transcending rootedness in the nation-state.” (Peterson, p.227, 2012) As such, although Nodding’s analysis of multicultural education seems to be capable of addressing some of the core issues present with its adoption within the American school system, it does not necessarily represent a global attitude towards multiculturalism.


Noddings, N. (2016). Philosophy of Education. New York: Routledge,

Peterson, A. (2012). The Educational Limits of Ethical Cosmopolitanism: Towards the Importance of Virtue in Cosmopolitan Education and Communities. British Journal of Educational Studies, 60(3), 227-242.

Paul-Binyamin, Ilana, & Reingold, Roni. (2014). Multiculturalism in teacher education institutes - The relationship between formulated official policies and grassroots initiatives. Teaching and Teacher Education, 42, 47.


Bethany Pilgrim juillet 10, 2019, 13:52

**Commentary ** Hi Jesse, I think you did a good job summarizing Noddings’ (2016) arguments regarding multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism, and education. I often find that texts discussing these concepts can be tricky, but you were able to pull the important points out and formulate a good presentation. I am a big supporter of multiculturalism in education, more specifically the concept of culturally relevant pedagogy, where teachers learn about their students various interests, cultures, and values, and use that knowledge to inform their teaching practice. In my teaching experience, as well as my research on the subject, I have seen significant success when teachers use this method. However, as you pointed out, Noddings (2016) argued that if schools do not implement multiculturalism carefully in classrooms and are not continuously reflecting on the process, it can actually be divisive. As you said, without this caution, history could repeat itself. Perhaps this fear stems from the inevitability of recognizing that we are all different. This is a necessary component of multicultural education, but *appreciating* our differences has not always been a strength of the Western world. Looking back on our history, we see many examples of people who were persecuted because of their differences. This could be the root of many people’s hesitancy to embrace multicultural education. Even today, the news consistently features stories of immigrants and refugees who are being persecuted for coming into “our” countries and being different than us. We love to believe that our society has progressed and is able to be proudly multicultural, but evidence suggests otherwise. In your argument, you stated that many challenges of multiculturalism are not uniquely American, but rather would be shared by any nation with similar perspectives. Do you think that Canada shares similar perspectives to the United States when it comes to multiculturalism? Many argue that Canada is very multicultural and accepting of other cultures, and I have heard others argue that the United States is just the opposite. I wonder what implications this could have for multiculturalism in Canada? Do Noddings’ (2016) arguments still apply in the same way? One thing that I found very interesting was your argument that if we say multicultural education is for all students, we are implying that there was some previous form of exclusion. I agree, and I would argue that, yes, in many cases there has been exclusion in the past. You stated that “a multicultural system of education can be a result of a new and welcome form of integration without necessarily having had a previous conflicting system of exclusion preceding it”. I think this is true, but I believe that exclusion is ultimately the driving force behind most pushes for multicultural education. Studies have shown achievement gaps in the learning of culturally and linguistically diverse learners, which is a result of the school system’s failure to meet their needs (Faircloth, 2013). Multicultural education seems like the perfect way to address those discrepancies. However, as you argued, multiculturalism is not always helpful. In my Internationalization of Curriculum Studies course, we just finished discussing this very topic. Many efforts to be multicultural are unsuccessful, and can even be harmful to students. This is because many do not understand how to effectively implement these strategies into the classroom. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, because, as you said, challenges in American society are not necessarily indicative of a global issue. We cannot assume that what works in one place will work in another, because the issues they face will be different. An effective multicultural education requires getting to know your student population as individuals, and creating strategies that work for them. Otherwise, as you said, it can easily become divisive. Have you seen or heard of any recent controversies in education that demonstrate this? I would be interested to hear how this is being perceived within the education system (beyond my own experiences). References Faircloth, S. (2013). Culturally Responsive Pedagogies. New York: Oxford University Press. Noddings, N. (2016). Philosophy of Education. New York: Routledge,

Anna Khansa juillet 14, 2019, 00:25

Hello Jesse, Thank you for your insightful post! I enjoyed reading your post about Noddings’ (2016) points of views towards multiculturalism, cosmopolitan, and their impact on the educational discipline. Throughout my studies, whenever the concept of multiculturalism is presented, I used to consider it as the perfect notion that should be adopted and implemented in all regions around the world. In other words, I used to see it as the notion that combined crucial aspects that should be found in societies worldwide, such as inclusion, equity, acceptance of diversity, and equality. However, upon encountering this concept through the readings in this course, I started to have new perceptions and considerations towards the notion of multiculturalism. I came to realize the other impacts that multiculturalism may have in some areas, such as the United States. I am inclined to agree with you on the challenges that American society has due to the attitudes inherent within that society. I believe that these challenges are due to the superiority behavior that this particular society has over other cultures. Regardless of the governmental, political, or economic power that this country may possess, it is not a reason or excuse to prevent the real implementation of a multicultural surrounding and behavior, nor to have a kind of shallow surface of diversity. The American multiculturalism, in reality, adopts a dominant ideology of multiculturalism that fosters the myth of diversity, and it does not resist the hegemony of the dominant class of American society. Would the history of “comparison” or “discrimination” revisits the American society due to the behavior of superiority? The myth of diversity can be seen, for example, in having individuals from minority groups in powerful, influential positions. Is that the kind of multiculturalism that American schools want to implement, regardless of the real hidden mindset? One thing that I noticed is the vocabulary that is used when claims are made about multicultural classrooms. The words used to highlight the comparison and gaps that are still found between the dominant groups and minority groups in American society. In such cases, differences and diversity are not treated as assets to the community that would aid the nation to advance and flourish. A piece of interesting information that I read about and learned throughout my courses is that policymakers and curriculum designers are trying to resolve the historical issues in the new curricula. Would it be possible to reshape the mentality of the new generations in American society towards people from different cultures? Would resolutions in the curricula support treaty education in the Canadian society, so that multiculturalism would be implemented to its vast extent? References Noddings, N. (2016). Philosophy of Education. New York: Routledge,

Louis-Marc Robitaille juillet 17, 2019, 00:32

Great presentation Jesse. One of my favourite classes while I was in my B.Ed. was about multicultural education. My professor was constantly creating debates about the notion of white privilege. She made us realize that we need to be open-minded because not everyone has the same background and shares the same values. The following link includes an activity we did related to white privilege : Furthermore, our professor constantly talked about implementing multicultural perspectives in our classrooms. I think it is more challenging in some communities where there are not a lot of students who come from minorities. I was wondering if you found some ways to incorporate multicultural education in a class where there is no minority? It could be interesting for those of us who live in rural areas. Louis

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