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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912


VAN DER WALT, Johannes L  and  STEYN, Hendrik Johannes. Recognition of minority groups, their general and educational ideals: Is there another way out?. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2014, vol.54, n.4, pp. 820-834. ISSN 2224-7912.

The history of most countries, including those regarded as relatively culturally homogeneous, has demonstrated that practically all of them are composed ofminority groups and that many of these groups struggle for survival. "Cultural" groups, such as age, interest, socio-economic and gender groups, provide their own quota ofproblems for educational planners, but are not as politically encumbered as others, such as ethnic and religious groups. In a social democracy as in South Africa where the rule of law reigns supreme, the interest and future existence ofminority groups are often overlooked by the majority. In some cases, their cultural and linguistic needs and interests are symbolically entrenched in the Constitution, but these measures are often nullified, for instance through Constitutional Court decisions. Such actions on the part of the powers that be explain why minority groups in South Africa and elsewhere are displeased with the ways in which they are being hampered in their efforts to develop their unique identities. Tensions of this nature are clearly observable in South Africa and elsewhere. The recent referendum in Scotland, the tensions in Catalonia and the treatment of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, at the hands of South African authorities attest to the topicality of the problem. On the one hand, we have the various minority groups with a number of legitimate claims, among others for a measure of independence and self-assertion, grounded in a unique interpretation of social justice and in an appeal to the Constitution of the country. On the other hand, they form part of a larger community structure in which equality and non-discrimination reign as supreme national values. The national government, as representative of the larger community, also appeals to social justice, as embodied in the Constitution. The end result is a conflict of opinions and ideals, each based on an interpretation of social justice. The onus to find a solution for the resolution of the tension lies with the various minority groups, and not with the government as representative of the majority. In fact, many governments find the constant complaints ofminority groups rather irritating. The irritation is intensified where a minority group is able to provide in its own needs, and hence can refuse to align itself with the general value system of the majority community. The question therefore arises: What can minority communities do in these circumstances? How can they take charge of their own interests, needs and future existence? The fact that minority rights have been entrenched in international treatises such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) ofthe United Nations, and the European Union's Charter of Paris for a New Europe (1990) does not really help because their stipulations are regularlyflouted by majorities. A minority group is described in these documents as a numerical minority which aims at preserving and developing its unique characteristics in its country. The rights of minorities can be summarised as "respect for human dignity as individuals and communities" which leads to "treating equals equally and unequals unequally". The educational rights of minorities are likewise entrenched in two documents, namely the Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960) of Unesco, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990). These documents stipulate that minorities are entitled to education equivalent to that of majority groups, that the erection of separate educational institutions may not be regarded as discriminatory, and that parents / guardians have the right to determine what is best for their children. The same rights are entrenched in the South African Constitution. As stated above, minorities have to assume responsibility for protecting their own rights. The central claim of this article is that a recent epistemological development, namely post-post-foundationalism, can assist them in this regard. After a brief discussion of foundationalism in the form ofRationalism and of the post-foundationalism that has risen in response to foundationalism, it is concluded that neither of these orientations provides a suitable vantage point for the protection of minority rights. A foundationalist orientation seems to be too imperialistic and deterministic to be of any value to a minority group and also to the entire community ofwhich a minority group forms part. Such a group tends to control and dominate because it supposes itself to be the voice of reason. The post-foundationalistic orientation, on the other hand, is shot through with indeterministic views and is relativistic as far as its view of values is concerned. It is also inconsistent in that it avoids any universalistic statements, except its own claim that all values are relative. Because neither of these orientations can successfully serve as a basis for a minority group to work towards the recognition and actualisation of its values and aspirations, a third way had to be found. Such a third way has surfaced since the 1990s in the form of post-post-foundationalism, i.e. an orientation that follows after post-foundationalism. The key feature ofpost-post-foundationalism is that it attempts to steer through between the extremes offoundationalism and post-foundationalism. The latter tends to overlook the need for a minority group to occasionally make justifiable and firm universally legitimate claims (which may be refuted, of course). Post-post-foundationalism does not regard a foundation as absolutely, reasonably, finally and universally true. While it rejects the notion of working with grand narratives, it is prepared to recognise the need to resort to firm values, which it assumes can also change with time, as life-concepts tend to do. Put differently, foundations are not so much in the foreground as playing a role in the back of the minds of individuals and groups. Since post-post-foundationalism is a common sense approach, it enables minority group strategic planners to find a way for a minority group to remain true to its value foundation while remaining flexible and adaptable in order to find a niche for itself in the broader community of which the group is a part. In doing so, a minority group can remain true to its own ideals and aspirations and also become and remain a valuable part of the larger community.

Keywords : foundationalism; post-foundationalism; post-modernism; post-post-foundationalism; minority groups; education; rights; values; strategy.

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