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Nomadic and sedentary citizens. The culture of Roma and the world of education

by Livia Plaks and Andreas Mirga

The new political situation in Europe displays a growing hostility toward Jews, immi­grants and asylum seekers, Roma/Gypsies, and other minorities. Stereotypes are being dragged out and internal boundaries erected against foreigners. Both Western and Eastern Europe have witnessed episodes of ethnic conflict and 'ethnic cleansing.' Deteriorating economic conditions and weakening social cohesion arouse a fear of the future, and 'fundamentalist' religious groups exploit this fear to preach their 'truth', which often includes an intolerance of others. Extreme rightist, even neo-Fascist, parties and movements propagate nationalism, violence, and intolerance, and they have won electoral successes. Minorities and people who 'look different' are made into scapegoats. The media sometimes contribute to these tenden­cies by making headline stories out of common prejudices. This is happening even while the level of education is rising to its highest level. Perhaps intolerance is a result not of ignorance but rather of the loss of such values as pluralism, democracy, and human rights. Indeed, all over Europe these values seem to have taken sec­ond place to knowledge and technical skills. In East Europe, furthermore, they were long stifled by totalitarian regimes. Nevertheless, education must play a major role in combating the ideologies and practices that constitute ethnic and racial discrimination.

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