Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Multiculturalism/Minorities

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How should we think about minorities?

The term minority doesn’t apply to one particular group or class of children. In other words, minority doesn’t always pertain to Hispanics, African Americans or females. Who are the minorities? Webster’s Dictionary defined minority as being lesser in size, amount or importance. Minorities in a classroom setting can be classified as the group of children who are smaller in size or amount than all other groups in a classroom. If the majority of the students in a particular class have no psychological disorders then the child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the minority. If most of the children in the class come from homes in which the parents are heterosexual and married then the child whose parents are homosexual will be considered the minority. If one child out of a class of thirty-five children has behavior issues then the child with the behavior issues becomes the minority. Therefore, the term minority can be applied to ethnic, academic, gender, and social disparities. Although minorities can be categorized as lesser in size or amount, minorities should never be thought of as being lesser in importance. Nonproductive thoughts regarding the significance or importance of minorities must be suppressed for teaching to be effective. Suppressing negative thoughts involves laying down invisible barriers (Rodriguez & Zozkiewicz, 2007). Invisible barriers are thoughts that lead to a reluctance to teach, being judgmental, being fearful, being prejudicial, creating stereotypes, discriminatory acts, etc. Three specific ways to lay down invisible barriers involve educating teachers, faculty and administrators on how to teach minorities, making allowances for the training’s application or intervention and rendering continual support at the district level to schools as the schools make the necessary strides to incorporate the strategies necessary for diversification.

Ways to Cope with Minorities[edit]

Education should target two major factors: 1) teachers need to be prepared to meet the needs of a wide variety of diverse learners and 2) teachers need to create an environment for the children that builds a stronger transition from school to university or school to the workforce (Rodriguez & Zozkiewicz, 2007). Both factors are vital in establishing intrinsic values in the children which can be carried through primary and into secondary education. Many children around the world drop out of school because they believe that on the job training is more important than a formal education (Wikibooks, 2007). The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislature adopted a strategy to ensure all students successfully completed primary and secondary education. NCLB pushed schools to develop curriculums for their students which contained “hands-on, minds-on activities that [were] socio-culturally relevant and tied into the everyday life of the learner” (Rodriguez & Zozkiewicz, 2007). Apparently, the orators of the NCLB legislature realized when children adopt healthy intrinsic values towards their own education then high retention rates are theoretically obtainable. For this cause, many schools are creating multicultural workshops and diversity training for their teachers. Attendance is generally mandatory and the courses are usually offered annually (Bremerton School District Community Forum, 2007).

Application and Implementation of Strategies Learned[edit]

So let's end all this "English first" nonsense and embrace Spanish as our second language, since that's what it is. Let's learn more about those 5,000 years of Chinese history. Let's have the dates of Ramadan and Eid on our calendars. Let's remind ourselves of a big, important lesson that we've already learned, and that we can teach the world: Multiculturalism works.

—Eugene Robinson, Accepting Diversity is Hard but Necessary; Final Edition. The Washington Post. Washington D.C.: Nov 11, 2005. pg. A.25

Meeting the needs of a wide variety of diverse learners or minorities does create “challenges, tensions, and risks” (Rodriguez & Zozkiewicz, 2007) for the school. Newly appointed Principal Scott O’Neill relates some of the challenges he encountered during the early phase of diversification. Lincoln Elementary School experienced an increase in Hispanics over a period of six years. The Hispanic community was now equivalent to the Caucasian community. English speaking Hispanics did not create a challenge for Principle O’Neill, as a matter of fact, in the academic year of 2003-2004, 82% of Hispanic third graders passed the state’s test for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in mathematics. In comparison their Caucasian counter parts AYP score in mathematics was 85%. The achievement gap remained considerably close in other academic areas of study, not to mention, the achievement gap remained considerably close for all other ethnicities enrolled at Lincoln Elementary School (Salmonowicz, 2007). Hispanics were no longer the minority; however, English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) became the new minority. Principle O’Neill felt the tension from parents and teachers regarding the school’s non-English speaking students. The parents were fearful that the lesson plans would be tailored to meet the learning needs of ESOL; therefore, objectives for the state’s standard of learning (SOL) requirements would never be met. He recounts a concerned parent inquiring whether or not to disenroll her child from Lincoln Elementary because she feared the school would slide from “good to worse” (Salmonowicz, 2007). He had to constantly reassure all parents, including ESOL parents that standards for learning would not be compromised. Principle O’Neill discovered many of his staff were even far less supportive of the new plans towards diversification, statements were made like, “They don’t need to be here,” “I can’t teach them,” and “I’ve got Hispanic kids and they don’t speak English” (Salmonowicz, 2007). Unquestionably, the teachers perceived the school district had set them up for failure. The teachers, faculty and administrators of Lincoln Elementary soon found themselves putting into practice the diversity training they had acquired. Principal O’Neill used the text book lectures to some degree but he desired to look to the larger municipalities, like Chicago, Boston, and New York City for real time solutions (Salmonowicz, 2007 ).

Support at the District Level[edit]

The district must continue to provide training to educators, as well as, to parents on diversification. The training for parents can be as simple as forwarding an advertisement about a scheduled community event built around a socio-cultural theme, like Asian Heritage or Ramadan. Additionally, school districts can afford the schools the latitude for hosting speakers during family night or PTA meetings to address socio-cultural topics of Rap music, homosexuality, My Space, etc. The training parents receive prevents students from being prematurely dis-enrolled from a school because certain misnomers have generated throughout the community regarding a particular minority group. School districts can also sponsor community forums to educate parents and family members about programs geared to assist minorities. Understandably, the district must provide a considerable support through appropriations. Mansfield School District demonstrated through its foreign language program the kind of financial support needed for diversification to work. In Mansfield all grades from second through fifth learn Spanish; sixth graders have the option of learning Spanish, French, German, or Latin; what’s more important Mansfield committed a substantial amount of funding for the recruitment of minorities in their school system (Braccidiferro, 2005). The school district of Mansfield, Connecticut demographics contains an overwhelmingly stable population of white middle-class Christians, yet the citizens of Mansfield realized the importance of maintaining an environment where those with dissimilarities feel appreciated.

Conclusion[edit]

While growing up in northern New Jersey, Shamim Patwa recalls how isolated she felt as the only family from India (Braccidiferro, 2005). How should we think about minorities? Consider, the isolation felt by Ms. Patwa, the child with ADHD, the child with homosexual parents, the bully, or the ESOL students. “Since, the concept of education is a global constant, a global right and a global need” (Wikibooks, 2007). The job of teachers should be to care for all students, yet recognize students are individuals, as individuals the assistance offered must be tailored to each child’s specific need. Teachers’ attitudes regarding meeting the specific needs of all children, including minorities is not a new equal opportunity concept. If parents, teachers, faculty, administrators all work together then meeting the specific needs can be accomplished because “we shared the responsibility” and “made it happen” (Salmonowicz, 2007).

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

A child in your classroom wants to perform rap during the school’s talent competition, what should be your response as an educator?
A. Tell the child rap music is evil, encourage the child to sing country music instead.
B. Become the child’s adviser, inform him of the school’s policy for good conduct and review the lyrics to ensure the lyrics are appropriate.
C. Allow the child to make the entry without any advisement.
D. All of the above.

B. Become the child’s adviser, inform him of the school’s policy for good conduct and review the lyrics to ensure the lyrics are appropriate.

You notice some African American students are taking turns prodding a Caucasian student with pencils, what should be your response as an educator?
A. Suggest that the parents send him to a predominantly white school.
B. Ignore the African Americans, after all someone has to pay for the injustices made on African Americans throughout history.
C. Counsel the African Americans on their inappropriate behavior.
D. None of the above.

C. Counsel the African Americans on their inappropriate behavior.

You have a student in your gym class who is confined to a wheelchair because of muscular sclerosis, what should be your response as an educator?
A. Leave the child parked off to the side to observe.
B. Assign the child a buddy, so he may participate in the activities to some degree.
C. Remove him from the enrollment.
D. Make him the permanent score keeper.

B. Assign the child a buddy, so he may participate in the activities to some degree.

Which child would be considered an ESOL student?
A. Hispanic student who speaks English.
B. Mexican student who speaks no English.
C. Thailand student who speaks very little English.
D. Both B and C.

D. Both B and C.

Parents in your school district are in an uproar because a child will be attending your school whose father is a registered pedophile, as an educator what should be your response?
A. Seek legal and professional advice on how to handle this manner.
B. Encourage parents to dis-enroll their children.
C. Provide psychological support for the child.
D. Both A and C.

D. Both A and C.

Statistics show that racial minorities score lower academically. How should you respond to this in the classroom as an educator?
A. Assume that the minority children will not do as well academically and focus on the other children
B. Treat all of your students with equity and provide as much assistance as possible to account for students individual learning needs.
C. Focus only on the minority children because they need the most help.
D. Give the minority children easier work so they will score higher.

B. Treat all of your students with equity and provide as much assistance as possible to account for students individual learning needs.

Mrs. Proud teaches at a predominantly black high school. Her students disrespect her and never do as they are told because she is of Chinese Heritage. What can the school do to help this situation?
A. Host a hands-on assembly about the importance of acceptance.
B. Show the students examples of how they could be treated simply because of the way they look.
C. Have a special speaker come tell the children ways they have been hurt by prejudice.
D. All of the above.

D. All of the above.

Mr. Jones teaches a fifth grade math class. He has never had a child with learning disabilities until this year. He has no idea how to get through to the student so the students grade begins to drop. What could help this from happening in school systems.
A. Put any child with any disability into a separate classroom.
B. Require teachers learn about learning disabilities and how to deal with them.
C. Provide classes, work shops, and meetings for teachers to help them learn about classroom diversity
D. Both B and C.

D. Both B and C.

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal a sample response.

The information technology (IT) classes in your high school are typically enrolled with young Caucasian males. What strategies would you suggest to make the IT courses more appealing to African-American students?

First, I realize high school students are granted the privilege of selecting elective courses that meet their own intrinsic values. However, the perception of an all white male class might cause others to question whether or not blacks belong in the IT class. I agree fully with the statement that, “the education process is a global constant, a global right, and a global need.” Since, technology is becoming a major part of education. African Americans, whom comprise the global content of your school, must be assured that they do belong in an IT class. Some students don’t sign up for certain courses because they lack confidence in the benefits that may arise from taking the course. Others decline their enrollment in a particular course because they lack confidence in their own abilities to successfully complete the course. Still others avoid admittance because they “don’t want to be the only one.” For this cause, intervention has to come from educators and parents to prompt African American students to enroll in other classes outside of the classes selected by their immediate peer group. Furthermore, realizing that knowledge gives a child “the power to change his own circumstances,” the school’s administration must render front line support to the effort of making the IT courses more appealing to African Americans. Administrators can sponsor projects that lead to the recruitment of other genders and ethnicities for employment in their IT department. Additionally, the administrator can schedule student led IT fairs, competitions and assemblies that allow African American students to view some of the projects created by their own peers. In other words, the IT department should receive just as much hype as the athletic division. Intervention from parents appears to be the greatest challenge, especially since many African Americans come from single parent homes. Most of these homes consist of a young mother who is working two jobs or long hours (in some cases trying to further her own education) to support her children financially. However, during scheduled parent/teacher conferences educators must impress upon parents to influence their children to enroll in IT courses. If administrators, teachers, and parents exhibit more interest and support for enrolling African Americans in the IT courses, quite possibly African Americans might realize they belong in the IT classes offered by at your high school.

References[edit]

  • Braccidiferro, G., (2005, May 1). A roll call around the world in Mansfield School District. The New York Times, 14CN.15. Retrieved June 6, 2007, from http://www.proquest.umicom/pqdweb?index
  • Cho, S. & Cicchelli, T., (2007). Teacher multicultural attitudes: intern/teaching fellows in New York City. Education and Urban Society, 39, 370-380. Retrieved June 6, 2007 from http://online.sagepub.com
  • Robinson, E., (2005, May 11). Accepting diversity is hard; but necessary. The Washington Post, A.25 Retrieved June 6, 2007, from http://www.proquest.umicom/pqdweb?index
  • Rodriguez, A.J. & Zozakiewwicz, C., (2007). Using sociotransformative constructivism to create multicultural and gender-inclusive classrooms: an intervention project for teacher professional development. Educational Policy. 21, 397-425. Retrieved june 6, 2007 from http://online.sagepub.com
  • Salmonowicz, M., (2007). Scott O'Niell and Lincoln Elementary School: preventing a slide from good to worse. Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership. 10, 28-37. Retrieved June 6, 2007 from http://online.sagepub.com