Culture, Heritage and Diversity

 

A handbook on Tolerance and Cultural Diversity in Europe

 

Complete, comprehensive and responsive are certainly the best adjectives to describe the "Handbook on Tolerance and Cultural Diversity in Europe". It was recently published by the European University Institute, Robert Schuman Centre For Advanced Studies, Florence and prepared under the auspices of the Accept Pluralism research project "Tolerance, Pluralism and Social Cohesion: Responding to the Challenges of the 21st Century in Europe". This is a priority for the European Commission which funded the project, as well as the jointly managed Council of Europe/ European Commission Intercultural Cities program.

 

Geared toward teacher trainers, it is intended primarily for use in programs that prepare teachers to serve in high schools throughout Europe. While it could be beneficial for teachers of any subject, it is specifically targeted at those preparing to deliver courses in the fields of European civic and citizenship education.

 

It target readers who are youths between 17 and 23 years old and are attending secondary or tertiary education. But where is the confusion?

 

Nationality, national identity or citizenship have different meanings in different languages and people regularly talk about them with knowing exactly what they mean. Similarly, integration, multiculturalism and intercultural dialogue are also concepts which people often get into a muddle over. In a nutshell, by providing definitions of these terms and clarifications over the concepts it seeks to equip adolescents with the necessary tools in order to better understand the reality that surrounds them.

 

Helping adolescents understand the nature of negative behaviours towards diversity, the handbook enables them to distinguish between beliefs and actions that are xenophobic and those that are generally racist. Through clarifications as well as appropriate examples the book tries to foster an understanding of why xenophobia, racism and prejudice have more to do with our own fears rather than differences of others. To cut a long story short, it introduces the concepts and phenomena underpinning fear of diversity.

 

Finally the handbook proposes answers to the challenges of ethnic and religious diversity in everyday life. Yet again, terms like integration are often employed to describe very different things. Integrating into the labour market, going to school, learning the language of a country, adapting to a lifestyle or code of dress or voting at elections are amongst those situations which people may be referring to in daily situations, but who knows exactly which one?

 

A kitchen scale with equal weights, a cookery book on tolerance and cultural diversity may perhaps be the best way to describe it. The handbook, rich in content, utilizes both theory and practical examples drawn from throughout Europe and seeks to help students grasp the terms and definitions in the context of real life problems. In a nutshell, it aims at preparing the citizens of tomorrow.

 

Thomas Pavan-Woolfe