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“Will American’s growing diversity undermine democracy, or is it instead a cornerstone of democracy? The Great Diversity Debate is essential reading for anyone who has thought about this question. Koppelman gives us a fascinating, detailed, and evenhanded account of the long historical roots of contemporary controversies surrounding flashpoint issues like affirmative action, multicultural education, and globalization. This well-researched and optimistic book will make you think about, and maybe even re-think, such issues.” 

Christine Sleeter, Professor Emerita, California State University Monterey Bay and President, National Association for Multicultural Education

Based on research from multiple disciplines, The Great Diversity Debate describes the presence and growth of diversity in the United States from its earliest years to the present. The author describes the evolution of the concept of pluralism from a philosophical term to a concept used in many disciplines and with global significance. Rather than assuming that diversity is a benefit, Koppelman investigates the ways in which diversity is actually experienced and debated across critical sectors of social experience, including immigration, affirmative action, education, and national identity, among others. Koppelman takes the sometimes complicated arguments for and against diversity in school and in society and lays out the benefits with great clarity and simplicity making this book accessible to a large audience.

Book Features:

  • A broad view of diversity in the United States based on research from philosophy, psychology, sociology, political science, economics, and more.

  • Cogent arguments from both advocates and critics concerning whether pluralism represents an appropriate response to diversity in a democratic society.

  • An overview of multicultural education, including its origins and its current emphasis on strategies such as culturally responsive teaching.


  1. The Diversity Debate

  2. The Growth of Diversity and Pluralism: The Impact of Immigration

  3. Pluralism and Democracy: Complementary or Contradictory?

  4. Diversity and Discrimination: The Argument over Affirmative Action

  5. The Struggle for Identity: What Does It Mean to Be an American?

  6. Multicultural Education in K12 Schools: Preparing Children and Youth to Function Effectively in a Diverse, Democratic Society

  7. Globalization, Diversity, and Pluralism: Finding the Common Ground

Kent Koppelman is professor emeritus of teacher education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

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