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When Cultures Collide: The Moral Challenge in Cultural Migration

Posted on April 10, 2012

On April 5, the Schubert Center, the Department of Anthropology and the Phi Beta Kappa Society hosted Richard A. Shweder, PhD, cultural anthropologist and the William Claude Reavis Distinguished Service Professor of Human Development at the University of Chicago. Dr. Shweder gave a lecture titled, “When Cultures Collide: The Moral Challenge in Cultural Migration,” which addressed the challenges liberal democracies face in their increasingly multicultural societies. Dr. Shweder’s recent books include Thinking Through Cultures: Expeditions in Cultural Psychology and Why Do Men Barbecue? Recipes for Cultural Psychology.

Dr. Shweder spoke about Wisconsin v. Yoder, a 1972 Supreme Court case on whether compulsory school attendance laws violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The case involved a group of Amish families who argued that Wisconsin laws requiring children to attend school through high school violated their right free exercise of religion. The Court found that compulsory secondary education did infringe upon the Amish parents’ sincere religious beliefs and that Amish children continued their education after leaving school though vocational training in their communities. The decision also formed the basis for the legality of homeschooling. Dr. Shweder used the case as an example of how cultural pluralism can come into conflict with the policies of liberal democracies. In an world with increasing migration and multicultural states, many governments are challenged with finding a legal and moral balance between respect for cultural practices and what they regard as universal human rights.

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