With budget-cutting fervor sweeping the country, colleges and public schools are scrimping for books and classroom space. Will this new parsimony spell doom for state-supported radical multiculturalism? Unlikely. The last-minute reprieve of the New Jersey Project by Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman illustrates just how ineradicable the multicultural bureaucracy has become.
Since 1986 the New Jersey Project, based at William Paterson College in Wayne, New Jersey, has led the national movement for "curriculum transformation"—the infusion of race, sex, and class into every aspect of the humanities curriculum. The project supports local efforts to revamp teaching materials and provides guidance to educators throughout the country on how to remove "white male bias" from the classroom. The director of the New Jersey Project, Paula Rothenberg, who describes herself as a Marxist-feminist, argues that the traditional humanities curriculum builds "racism, sexism, heterosexism, and class privilege into its very definition of 'reality.'"
The project has received millions of state tax dollars. But when the New Jersey Legislature abolished the Department of Higher Education last year, funding for the project vanished with it. Rothenberg, however, immediately mobilized supporters to lobby legislators and Governor Whitman. At the 11th hour, the governor found $100,000 for it in her discretionary fund, reserved for emergencies. Whitman's actions may merely reflect ignorance of Rothenberg's aims, but they also suggest how powerful the multiculturalism industry now is.
The New Jersey Project's budget for 1996 is again in dispute. But Rothenberg and her allies have managed to define their divisive work as part of the basics, on an equal if not superior footing with algebra and history. It's time for political leaders, educators, and parents to take a far more skeptical look at multiculturalism.