Change Issues in Curriculum and Instruction/Curriculum and instruction reform: Making America competitive in a "flat" world
By Stephanie Sugioka and Frank Stonier, June 2007
Introduction: A Flat New World
In their collaborative work, Multiliteracies, the New London Group, which was composed of scholars from four different nations, attempts to formulate a pedagogy that will accommodate a rapidly changing world—a world in the process of being radically reshaped by the forces of globalism, multimodalism, and multiculturalism. The first sentence of Chapter 1 reads: "If it were possible to define generally the mission of education, it could be said that its fundamental purpose is to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community, and economic life" (New London Group, 2000). As a result of a number of social and economic forces, the old hierarchical systems are gradually crumbling and being replaced by a network of horizontal connections; or, as Friedman has said in his book by this title, "The world is flat" (2005). How, then, can we ensure that our students are competitive in this new flat world? Not surprisingly, just as the old vertical arrangements are collapsing in the economic, and to some extent the political, world, so the outdated hierarchical structures of our educational system are faltering and ultimately failing to prepare our children to participate fully in the social and economic life of our country and the inter-connected global community to which we all belong. The "top-down" reforms of the last twenty years have simply not worked—neither to narrow the achievement gap between higher and lower socioeconomic student populations nor to improve our students' performance in science and math relative to that of students in other nations. Clearly, sweeping reforms are needed to improve student achievement—reforms that will connect our children laterally to a larger world that is freely available to them as a result of new, multimodal technologies. Outdated curricula must give way to content that speaks directly to our students and that they can actively apply to their lives. Ineffective teacher-centered instruction must yield to methods that allow students to take charge of their own learning and generate their own knowledge. These new methods and materials must take into account both the global nature of our economy and the increasing diversity of our student population. As Florin and Hall note, "The world is changing, and so must education" (2007).
Globalism and Its Implications for Education Reform
The culture of our planet has been evolving and changing dramatically in the past few decades. We haven’t moved toward a single world government or found a universal religion or language to follow, but globalization is taking place. Wikipedia tells us that “Globalization refers to increasing global connectivity, integration and interdependence in the economic, social, technological, cultural, political, and ecological spheres.” Our world is becoming more interconnected on a daily basis. One of the key components of any industrialized nation is its economy. The world economies have had a long history of utilizing (and often exploiting) other nations as their workforce. The shift we are seeing now is a movement away from exploitation toward interdependence. Thomas Friedman (2005) takes the view that the world economies have essentially become a level playing field where any nation may now compete. In his book he describes 10 major events that have served to flatten the global playing field. These so called “flatteners” have been pivotal global events and major surges in technology innovation and availability. Friedman has also coined the Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention. He explains how wars are being prevented because of the interdependence of a global supply chain. Countries like China and Taiwan or India and Pakistan have been able to forgo the use of military action at least in part because of their strong economic interdependences.
Globalization has been a topic of growing interest throughout American media. In the past few years, outsourcing has become a buzzword that has inspired fear and concern for many Americans. Morgan Spurlock, in his television documentary series, "30 Days," highlighted outsourcing in an episode. The story followed an American who had lost his job due to outsourcing to an Indian company named Tata. He lived with an Indian family where both the husband and wife worked for a call center. The episode showed how life has changed for many Indian citizens and how they have become an integral part of the American economy. Several news organizations have run pieces on globalization and outsourcing. ABC News addressed this issue of outsourcing in a two-part segment in 2006. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwwgXCOEYks&mode=related&search= http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXulLCkDf8Q&mode=related&search= The segments dealt mainly with modern Indian life and the new revolution that has taken place. They discuss the changes that are allowing a large number of Indian citizens to become trained and become an integral part of the global economy. The segments also highlighted aspects of outsourcing beyond simply call centers. Because of the new flattening, surgeries and even education are now being outsourced. Even shows such as The Simpsons and Conan O’Brien have humorously treated the new global trends. Globalization and the flattening of the world are trends that will have an effect on generations to come. The real question is whether globalization will function primarily as a modified form of exploitation for corporate profit or whether it will result in true economic partnerships that will catapult nations into brighter futures.
Clearly, our current school system is not promoting and fostering the skills future generations will need to become successful in an increasingly competitive job market. Both low- and high-skill jobs are being outsourced to other countries by corporations. Among other things America has been known for its innovations, creativity, and productivity. Our current school reform plan, the No Child Left Behind Act, is essentially stifling our nation's creativity by forcing schools to heavily promote teaching to the test. Tested areas in the educational system are given priority, while areas such as art and drama are often overlooked or even cut from the curriculum. Robert Lynch (2007), in his summary of Arts and Economic Prosperity III, came to the conclusion that in this high-stakes society, funding the arts makes economic sense. Besides being a powerful outlet for creativity and expression, arts and culture are a multi-billion dollar industry. Little is being done in our schools to promote our students' creativity, innovation, or production. How will our children compete with millions of other applicants who have the same or greater skills and can afford to work for far less money? We need to generate a nation of workers with unique and marketable skills. It seems unlikely that meeting the state's minimum requirements will help them to achieve this.
In addition, students need to understand the global implications of environmental issues. Global warming, ozone depletion, disease prevention, and disease containment can not be invesigated without taking on a global perspective. Students do not know geography. Many of the places they talk about, or read about, are abstract in their mind. Indeed there is an increasing divide between children and the natural world. Educators must take the time to refer to geographic locations as they bring up global issues. But they also need to get kids outside. They need to understand the natural world around them in order to appreciate the connection of global warming, ozone depletion, and deforestation to their own lives and immediate surroundings. This must not be limited to geography class. Just as the world is becoming more and more connected and inter-related, so must educational curriculum. By building bridges between disciplines, referring to global issues in all classes, and giving kids opportunities to experience nature, learning connections will be developed as well. How can we expect our students to care about other geographic locations and cultures when they know nothing about them? How can we expect them to be stewards of the environment when they are disconnected from the natural world in their own community?
Multimodalism and Its Potential for Instruction Reform
Our students have changed radically. Today's students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach -- Prensky (2001).
Marc Prensky made this bold statement when he made his case for digital natives and digital immigrants. Essentially, he was saying that individuals who have been raised in the digital age (digital natives) have a different view and, often, ability when it comes to using technology. To digital natives, technology is second nature and generally non-threatening. The internet, cell phones, text messaging, and computer games are part of their daily lives. Digital immigrants, as the term implies, are individuals trying to learn this new technology, and it is often a struggle. Prensky maintains that there is not only a divide in how these digital individuals relate to and interact with modern technology but also a great difference in their learning and thinking processes.
The advent of the computer age has been an enormous global flattener. In order for our students to succeed in this ever-changing world, the way teachers disseminate information must also change. Elizabeth Simpson makes this clear when she discusses the utility that video games can have in the classroom. In her 2005 article about the video game generation, she discusses the great digital divide that can exist in the average classroom between teachers and students. The video game has been a training tool for students whether they realize they are learning from it or not. Games generally deal with a problem and a solution, and in turn they foster problem-solving skills in students. Video games often provide varied outcomes and allow for multiple methods of solving problems. The modern classroom should acknowledge the power of video games and find ways to harness that power beyond using it for simple drill and practice.
|"Encouraging students to examine critically their own and others' customs and traditions is a necessary element for an education that enables them to discern what is of value and what ought to be cherished and retained." (IB, 2007).|
Multiculturalism and Education Reform
Another sign of a flattening world is the diversification of America's population. In addition to the high numbers of other minorities in our schools, the Hispanic population now accounts for over 15 percent of school-age children, just under that of African American students, and this number is expected to increase considerably by the year 2030 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001; Hernandez, 2006). In addition, by 2030 children of families of European origin will make up less than 50 percent of the population of children under the age of five (National Research Council, 1998). Clearly, if over 30 percent of its children are not well educated, America has little chance of competing in a global economy in the years to come. However, despite numerous efforts at school reform from the federal and state levels, including Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind, the achievement gap between economically disadvantaged minority students and white middle-class students has widened rather than narrowed over the past twenty years (Kozol, 2005; Florin & Hall, 2007; Waks, 2005). Clearly these top-down reforms are not working for this culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse population. If the needs of these students are to be met, educators, administrators, and government officials must adopt a multicultural approach that functions horizontally rather than vertically, democratically rather than hierarchically, and locally rather than nationally. Moreover, reforms must take place at all levels: instructional, curricular, and institutional.
At the instructional level, teachers must develop what Richards, Browne, and Ford (2007) call "a culturally responsive pedagogy" (p. 64). A teacher population that is proportionately largely white and middle class must develop a "cultural competence" that allows teachers to understand and effectively instruct students whose values may not only differ from but even clash with their own (Ming & Dukes, 2006, p. 42). The student/teacher relationship is perhaps the greatest influence on student success. Yet, students in teacher education programs receive little to no training and have little, if any, experience interacting with racially and culturally diverse students (Fashola, 2005). America's largely white, middle class teaching force is often ill equipped to take full advantage of students' cultural histories. This is not to suggest that a teacher from the minority culture is better prepared to teach minority students. The quality of the teacher is of greater importance than race; however, the quality of all teachers would be tremendously improved if all teacher education programs included diversity education and methods courses focusing on the infusion of multicultural education into the curriculum. Moreover, teacher education programs must require the completion of practicum experiences at schools with high populations of minority students. Teachers must make an effort to reach out to minority students by developing a deep understanding of the physical conditions and cultural influences that have shaped these students' psyches and lives. In these efforts, teachers should be supported by teacher-training and professional development programs that prepare them to meet their students' widely divergent needs.
Unfortunately, teachers are more often hindered than helped by an outdated curriculum that requires an English teacher, for example, to teach Charles Dickens's Great Expectations to a class of students with more ties to Africa and Latin America than to England. The English curriculum should be reformed to include multicultural and cross-cultural literature that relates directly to the lives of minority students (Ming & Dukes, 2006). Not only would this practice result in more effective instruction for these students, but it would also enrich and broaden the learning experience of students in the mainstream.
On an institutional level, it is crucial that schools develop and maintain ties with the communities from which these minority students come. Moreover, school counselors and administrators should make a concerted effort to establish contact with the various agencies such as Social Services, public health clinics, and police departments that serve these communities (Epstein, 2005). In short, schools must develop horizontal networks of the kind already prevalent in the economic sphere in order to solve the wide array of problems that arise with a highly diverse student population. Another problem that has arisen in schools with high percentages of minority students is that on average the teachers are less qualified and less effective than their counterparts in predominantly Caucasian schools. This situation exacerbates the ongoing problem of the achievement gap. In order for students at these minority schools to rise up to the achievement level of their Caucasian peers, we need to place qualified and effective teachers in these schools (Haycock & Peske, 2006).
|"Educators [must] show a new willingness to experiment with the radically new technological and organizational means, addressing racial and ethnic inequalities not merely in education but across the institutional spectrum, if they hope to make education an effective tool for equal citizenship" (Waks, 2005, p. 128).|
Perhaps the most pressing question with respect to education reform is this: How can we expect our children to be academically competitive if their most fundamental physical, emotional, and social needs remain unmet? When considered in this light, the topdown federal and state reforms for promoting academic standards by means of high-stakes testing seem almost laughable. In a 1999 poll, one agency identified three major concerns of the parents of public school students: lack of parental involvement, drug abuse, and lack of discipline; academic achievement never entered the picture (Epstein, 2005). As a result of shifting social, economic, and demographic forces, children no longer receive the kind of support from family and community they once did. By and large, schools have taken over the roles formerly performed by family and community; many schools provide psychological counseling, free meals, driver training, sex education, drug and alcohol awareness programs, and before-school and after-school programs. In short, they function in loco parentis as a result of the vacuum created by divorce, poverty, and crumbling community networks. Because of underfunding and poor policymaking, many schools are not equipped to handle these massive responsibilities, which inevitably devolve upon the shoulders of teachers already overburdened by heavy teaching loads and administrative duties. It is small wonder that the rates of teacher burnout are so high (Esteve, 2000). Moreover when teachers must act as parents, therapists, and babysitters, the quality of education suffers.
Clearly the current situation calls for sweeping reforms at all levels of school governance. For an overall solution, we can do no better than to turn to economic model of Tom Friedman's flat world (2005). Given the forces of globalism, multimodalism, and multiculturalism, a hierarchical system of school governance can only be outmoded and ineffectual. As has been said earlier, a one-size-fits-all system of tests and standards has no chance of success in the current highly diversified demographic landscape. Given this situation, the federal and state government would do well to dismantle this ineffective system and concentrate their efforts on providing funds so that the schools can handle their problems locally with the help of community service agencies already in place. In their book American schools: The 100 billion dollar challenge (2000), Allen and Cosby propose that the federal government increase its spending by almost 100 percent so that the schools will have the funds they need for school reform; the one hundred billion per year this would require is a small fraction of the more than four hundred billion spent so far just to finance the Iraq War (Iraq War, 2007).
This increase in funding would allow schools to improve infrastructure, raise teacher salaries, expand technology, and serve the many extracurricular needs of their students. In fact, a number of schools have already become "hybrid institutions that are raising many of our children, not just educating them" (Epstein, 2005, p. J6). Some 3,000 to 5,000 schools act as community centers that are open year round from early morning until 9 P.M. and that provide a full range of academic, health, and crisis-intervention services (p. J6). Several reformers suggest, with considerable justification, that, under the circumstances, our best hope is to make all schools community schools (Allen and Cosby, 2000; Epstein, 2004; Waks, 2005). The problem then becomes "how to manage these hybrid institutions so that both nonacademic and academic programs get a fair shake" (Epstein, 2005, p. J6). Clearly, teachers cannot be expected to take the responsibility for all aspects of their students' (often troubled) lives. These services should come from professionals hired by schools for these particular services and community agencies with appropriate resources already in place. Epstein suggests that because of their power to commandeer local resources, mayors may be the most likely candidates for coordinating these nonacademic services (2005). In any event, the schools need to establish lateral connections within the community to ensure that their students' needs are met. This practice would have the added advantage of breaking through the isolation that often separates and alienates the school from the surrounding community (Horne & Hotchkiss, 2007). As Epstein notes, "The foremost requirement is to ensure that others tend to the many nonacademic responsibilities of the communal child-rearing institutions while school superintendents, principals and teachers concentrate on imparting academic skills. That's the only way we'll have a fighting chance of improving student achievement while also working to improve children's lives" (Epstein, 2005, J6).
Only with such major reforms can we hope to give our students the competitive academic edge they need to compete in a flat world.
ABC News. India rising (part 1 and 2) retrieved June 10, 2007, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwwgXCOEYks&mode=related&search= http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXulLCkDf8Q&mode=related&search=
Allen, D & Cosby, W. H. (2000). American schools: The 100 billion dollar challenge. New York: Time Warner Books.
Epstein, N. (2004). The American kibbutz? Managing the school's family role. In Epstein, N. (Ed.), Who's in charge here? The tangled web of school governance and policy, (pp. 256-287). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Epstein, N. (2005). Reading, writing and raising the children. (2005, December 4). The Virginian-Pilot, pp. J1, J6.
Esteve, Jose M. (2000). The transformation of the teachers' role at the end of the twentieth century: New challenges for the future. Educational Review, 52(2), 197-207.
Fashola, O. (2005). Educating African American males. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Florin, L., and Hall, T. (2007). Reform proposals. In Change issues in curriculum and instruction. Retrieved June 10, 2007, from http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Change_Issues_in_Curriculum_and_Instruction/Reform_Proposals
Friedman, T. L. (2005) The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Globalization. (2007). Retrieved June 11, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globalization
Haycock, K & Peske, H. G. (2006). Teaching inequality: How poor and minority students are shortchanged on teaching quality. Washington, DC: The Education Trust.
Hernandez, D. (2006). Young Hispanic children in the U.S.: A demographic portrait based on Census 2000. National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics. New York: Foundation for Child Development. Retrieved June 10, 2007, from http://www.fcd-us.org/usr_doc/YoungHispanicDemographicProfile.pdf
Horne, P. and Hotchkiss, R. (2007). (2007) Isolation in education. In Change issues in curriculum and instruction. Retrieved June 10, 2007, from http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Change_Issues_in_Curriculum_and_Instruction/Isolation
IB World, (2007). Ethics in Education. Retrieved June 12, 2007, from http://www.richmond.ac.uk
Iraq War. (2007). Wikipedia. Retrieved June 10, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_war
Kozol, J. (2005). The shame of the nation: The restoration of apartheid schooling in America. New York: Crown Publishers.
Lynch, R. L. (2007) Arts and economic prosperity III: The economic impact of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and their audiences. Retrieved June 11, 2007, from http://www.keepartsinschools.org/Research/Materials/afta_artsandeconomicprosperity_May2007.pdf
Ming, K., & Dukes, C. (2006, Fall). Fostering cultural competence through school-based routines. Multicultural Education, 42-48.
National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (1998). From generation to generation: The health and wellbeing of children in immigrant families. Washington DC: National Academy Press.
New London Group. (2000). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. In Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (Eds.), Multiliteracies: Literacy learning and the design of social futures (pp. 9-37). London: Routledge.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon. NCB University Press, 9(5).
Simpson, E. (2005). Evolution in the classroom: What teachers need to know about the video. game generation. Tech Trends, 49(5), 17-22.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. (2001). School enrollment in the United States—Social and economic characteristics of students. Retrieved June 10, 2007, from http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/p20-533.pdf
Waks, L. (2005). Brown v. Board, common citizenship, and the limits of curriculum. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 20 (2), 94-128.
What can teachers do to promote the curricular and instructional reforms most likely to foster the competencies in students that will empower them to function effectively in a flat world?
First Response to Question #1
Currently, teachers have very little input into school governance policies made at the federal and state levels. This must change. Teachers should have the power to determine policies that will affect them and their students directly. In the 1920s, university professors joined forces to gain power over their working conditions; as a result they now have considerable influence on almost all aspects of their professional lives, including the power to hire and fire and to speak freely without fear of serious repercussions. Elementary and secondary school teachers must follow their lead. To be effective, teachers must work at all levels to acquire more power over their professions and their lives—in their classrooms, institutions, communities, and the political arena.
Most immediately, teachers must fight for the working conditions that will allow them the time and energy they need to be politically and professionally active. When I recently taught English at a local high school, I was assigned six classes on a block schedule. Since I had three classes in a row on alternate days, I had to teach continuously for four-and-a-half hours. My four honors courses required me to assign and grade extra papers, and my two regular courses had many students with special needs that demanded extra time and attention. I barely had time for the administrative tasks that were piled onto the class preparation and grading I already had. With the very best of intentions, I had no extra time to work for the institutional and political reforms about which I felt so strongly. I voted with my feet by leaving after only a semester, but I couldn't help wondering: If all the teachers in this district had asserted themselves by protesting against this inhuman schedule and set of working conditions, might those in authority have possibly listened and even worked to improve them? This is not the time for teachers to be passive and submissive. We must speak loudly and with one voice to assert our needs and demand the changes necessary to ensure they are met.
Once we have the time and energy to do so, we must become more politically active at all levels, local to national. We must carefully research the positions of and vote for the administrators, legislators, school board members, and mayors most likely to support educational reform and the appropriation of the necessary funds to effect it. Teachers belonging to unions must make full use of their services, and those of us who are unable to unionize must simply unite our efforts and voices with those of other teachers to bring about the changes we need. Technology affords us many ways of communicating and cooperating with each other to reach our common goals; wikis, blogs, email, and listservs are just a few of the means we can use to collaborate with each other and make our wishes known to the public. Whenever possible, we must reach out to the members of our local communities—most immediately through the parents of our students—to make sure they are well informed on the issues and to enlist their help, if possible, in promoting needed reforms.
Within our institutions, we must work for curricular reform so that the materials we use directly speak to the students' interests and real-world needs. For example, given a choice between teaching Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to African American inner-city students, the English teacher should not think twice before deciding on the latter. We must work to integrate technology into our teaching and in our students' experience so that they can use it responsibly and effectively to increase their knowledge of academic subjects and of the "real" world. We must promote active, student-centered learning in our classrooms and foster the metacognitive critical thinking skills that will help students to achieve economic and personal success in the rapidly changing world of the twenty-first century. We must reach out to our minority students and engage them in meaningful learning that directly relates to their experience. We must instill a sense of social justice in all our students, helping them to work together to improve their lives and the world around them.
Second Response to Question #1
Assuming no vast US school reform is on the horizon the challenge of preparing students to be able to compete in this ever flattening working falls squarely on the shoulders of the classroom teacher. I believe that creativity, innovation, exploration, expression, and knowledge are key factors in a person's future success. How many of these traits are our schools designed to foster on a regular basis? On a good day two, three? Teachers are responsible for addressing the state standards and seeing that students perform up to par on state exams. However, the underlying challenge for the teacher really isn't teaching to the test, it's teaching to the student's potential. Educators need to educate the public on what the standardized tests really tell us. For some reason the public seems to lose site of the fact that these tests are minimum competence tests. So what if the scores are going up? Is it good enough to be minimally competent? In addition, teachers must maintain the mind set, in spite of all of the test pressure, that the SOLs are meant to be the floor, not the ceiling of what gets taught in the classroom. Too often educators pass up valuable educational moments because "it's not going to be on the test." I have observed first hand teachers choosing which standards to teach and which ones to skip in a calculated gamble to get the most bang for the buck on end of year tests. In one case, teachers collectively chose not to teach third graders multiplication because prior end of year tests only had a couple of such questions on them. This is not the only disturbing part of the story. The same teachers achieved incredible end of year scores, one even got a 100% pass rate. Yes, the students could pass without knowing multiplication. But guess what nightmares the fourth grade teachers inherited when their students had no idea what multiplication was? Does the public see this side of what high stakes tests are doing to the curriculum? There is something inherently wrong with a system that rewards a teacher (high pass rates) for cutting vital content out of instruction time. As an educator, I try to look at each child as my own. What would I want them to get from the experience? Education has to be personal. The teacher has to take the initiative to push the envelope when it comes to what is taught and how it is taught in his/her classroom. In the same way, it is up to the teacher to provide outlets for student's to explore and be creative even if it is within the scope of the state standards. Teachers aren't able to change the state requirements but they still have some freedom in how the material is presented. This means offering open ended questions and scenarios. This often means giving up the reins for a bit to allow for some student driven learning. Present the situations and see what your kids can do. As Ms. Frizzle says: " Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!" In the classroom you are the captain of the ship so guide it where it needs to go. Just make sure the admiral's on board with what your doing.
How should classroom teachers successfully interact with students and families that hold cultural values that differ and even conflict with their own?
First Response to Question #2
Well there's no easy answer to this question but it definitely deserves attention. Certainly in some cases the teacher may have already had some previous cultural experience outside their normal comfort zone. However, let's assume we have a student originally from another country and a teacher who has never left the east coast of the US. Let's even have our student speak English so everythings looking pretty good right? Not necessarily... Some households view education as a top priority, some secondary or even less. In some cases a family may view work (as in jobs) as a top priority so schoolwork or even attending school may not happen. Populations can also be transient which can make for additional challenges. So how are teachers supposed to deal with this? Developing one's "cultural competence" may not come naturally. Perhaps cultural awareness should become a regular part of teacher training. If nothing else a serious effort should be made by the teacher to communicate with the household early on. Opening those lines of communication can be helpful but how do you overcome those cultural barriers? Honestly, I just don't have the answer to this question. I have had a few experiences with this situation but beyond making an effort to communicate with the household and trying to make everyone feel welcome in the classroom; I was at a loss as how to make the students and the parents make education a high priority. One time was my first year and I muddled through but just recently when I saw things weren't working as well as I'd like and I was pursuing some advice/help from other sources the family moved. I'm sure I'm not the only teacher concerned with this issue and my limited knowledge on how to successfully combat it. With the ever changing face of education it is more important than ever to promote cultural awareness.
Second Response to Question #2
Clearly, the teacher needs to do his/her best to find some common ground with the student and his/her family. Sometimes, of course, this is virtually impossible. For example, if both student and family see education as a means by which they as minority members are oppressed by the powers that be (represented by the teacher), winning them over could be quite hard. Sometimes in these cases, education is seen as "uncool" and resistance to it as a sign of heroic cultural resistance. Fortunately, most parents do value education and do equate it with professional and economic success for their children. This is, for example, especially true of many Asian immigrants, who come from countries where education and educators are held in high esteem. In such cases, the teacher's best bet is simply to convince the parents that he or she has the child's best interests at heart. Of course, it helps for the teacher to try to honor the cultural identity of the family by showing an interest in it. A social studies teacher covering Latin American history might, for example, want to invite the parents of a Hispanic student to the class to talk about their native diet or customs. Of course, it also really helps for the teacher to know something about different cultures. For example, my background in Chinese literature helped me enormously when I taught ESL composition to college freshmen, many of whom were of Asian extraction. Finally, I think it important for the teacher to model an attitude of acceptance and social justice with regard to minority students. He or she should try to impress on all the students in the class how important it is to treat others fairly and respectfully regardless of gender, race, or socioeconmic status.