Example Of Cultural Diversity And Education Research Paper
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Many factors affect the delivery and provision of education services. Factors change over time due to circumstances and trends. One of the factors that affect education is cultural. In “The American School: A Global Context from the Puritans to the Obama Era”, Spring (2011) explored the effect of diversity in education, as well as the challenges brought about by this phenomenon in the classroom and the school setting. Spring also raised the problems of cultural diversity, particularly in developing a curriculum that addresses the diverse needs of learners. One of the most compelling discussions in Spring’s work include the historical origins of cultural diversity in education, which relate to social issues such as slavery and white privilege.
Considering the abovementioned concern regarding education, the primary goal of the research is to look into diversity and cultural issues that affect education provision in the United States. Hence, the succeeding discussion explores diversity in education within the American context. Furthermore, since the other objective is to discuss the selected issue within the context of advocacy, the discussion will then transition to the development of advocacy programs and projects in education to address the identified issues or concerns related to Education and cultural diversity.
History of Cultural Diversity in the United States
Afolayan (1994) conducted research to determine the implications of cultural diversity in American schools. Afolayan analyzed the factors that contribute to cultural diversity in the US. Furthermore, Afolayan also sought to analyze the factors that contributed to cultural diversity. One of the main factors was immigration. Immigration in the US began even during the colonial period. European colonialism led to immigration of individuals to American soil. When European colonizers came, they brought with them their families (Bodvarsson & Van den Berg, 2009; Davison & Muppidi, 2009). Consequently, they established their colonies in the US. Development during the European colonization brought about opportunities in America, particularly in terms of employment (Jones, 1992; Utter, 2009). Due to increasing opportunities in the country, many individuals migrated to the US to look for jobs, many of them from Europe and Asia. Black immigrants were brought to America as slaves (Lehning, 2013; Rodriguez, 2008). Immigration pattern during this time and decades after led to cultural diversity in the US (Huntington, 2004; Janssens, 2010).
The Impact of Cultural Diversity: Widening Gap
One of the main problems with cultural diversity is that it has engendered a divide between populations (Benjamin, 1996; Schultz, 2003). Culture, in itself, creates a sort of division among populations due to cultural differences. Race or ethnicity divide people into groups that share the same culture and experiences. Division, within this context, is acceptable because people experience different cultures and would more likely have different worldviews and perspectives about people, things, and phenomena. Cultural diversity, however, brought about detrimental outcomes on different aspects of society including education (Morgan, 2001; Shaw, 2007). According to King, one of the problems brought about by cultural diversity is the emergence of dominant cultures. The culture of slavery that prevailed during the colonial period in America created a society dominated by white people. Many white people were slave owners. Slave owners then established the master-slave dynamic between themselves and black slaves. Black slaves were treated unfairly. Years of slavery seemed to have established white dominance as well as privilege (Fredrickson, 1981; Hall, 2010).
Racism and discrimination were evident in the establishment of segregationist schools. Segregationist schools refer to schools, colleges, and universities that accept students based on race and ethnicity (Brown & Webb, 2007; Kiap & McGuire, 2009). In the past, most schools, particularly prestigious schools merited due to excellence only accepted white students. It was only in 1954 that the US Supreme Court banned segregation after the case Brown v. Board of Education. The decision, however, did not fully abolish segregation. The Court’s decision in the case “forbade state-imposed racial segregation but not the spontaneous segregation that results from the way the housing market works” (Gilbert, 2008, p. 19).
Furthermore, segregation in American schools in the past also contributed to other problems such as poverty (Hutmacher, Cochrane, & Bottani, 2001; Seefeldt & Graham, 2013). It is important to remember that history proves racism and discrimination go hand in hand with poverty. This phenomenon also started due to slavery. Slave owners deprived their slaves from all opportunities – the right to education, own a property or house, among others. Some slave owners also failed to pay their slaves because they believe that the slaves owe them and their repay their masters through their servitude. Due to widespread deprivation among black slaves, this carried over to their lives post-slavery. Racism and discrimination prevented them from gaining access to opportunities, particularly in employment and education (Conrad, 2005; Schmidt, Shelley & Bardes, 2013).
The impact of slavery carried over decades after. Black Americans remain disadvantaged. Majority of Black Americans in the US live in abject poverty. As a result, Black families cannot send their children to school (Jones & Wilson, 1996; Paige & Witty, 2009). Adolescents who dropped out of high school join gangs while others commit crime. Statistics also show that majority of incarcerated males in the US are blacks. Research studies suggest that the crime rate was brought about by widespread poverty. Black Americans’ lack of access to education perpetuates poverty. It appears to be a cycle wherein poverty prevents Black Americans from accessing various opportunities including education. As a result of inadequacy in education, Black Americans do not acquire necessary credentials or requisites to become employed. Due to unemployment, they are unable to support themselves and their family (Jones & Wilson, 1996; Paige & Witty, 2009).
The foregoing issue may relate to poverty, which veers away from the topic of cultural diversity in education. Nonetheless, discussions about slavery and poverty are important when studying cultural diversity in education because both have exacerbated the impact of cultural diversity on gaps in education (Jones & Wilson, 1996; Paige & Witty, 2009). Slavery in American history marginalized people of color and plunged this population into poverty. Consequently, poverty prevents minorities from attending school or finishing education, and later on gaining employment.
Advocacy to Address Cultural Diversity in the Classroom
Considering the abovementioned issues pertaining to cultural diversity in education, it is therefore important to address the impact of cultural diversity. As educators, however, teachers can only do so much. Addressing education gap that adversely affect minority populations necessitate policy development and implementation. The effort and initiative to address this must come from the government in the form of policies that address education gap such as the identification of shortcomings in the school system as well as sources or factors that contribute to gap. Consequently, the government may address this issue by developing and implementing policies to address this gap.
In the classroom setting, however, educators may address cultural diversity by integrating the issue in the curriculum. As formerly noted, one of the major issues that needs to be addressed is white privilege. Another issue that should be addressed include the idea of dominant culture. One way of addressing this problem in the classroom is to expose students to cultural diversity. The classroom may be diverse with students from different cultural backgrounds but it is important, as a teacher, to provide them with opportunities to confront the issue among themselves through a guided discussion. Scholars recommend the use of literature to introduce the classroom to cultural diversity (Rogers & Wetzel, 2013). Rogers and Wetzel recommended the use of different texts that tackle cultural diversity by introducing a range of different cultural backgrounds. Teachers may ask their students to read these texts and then to facilitate activities in the classroom that allow the learners to engage with the texts. Activities such as peer group discussion and debates allow learners to immerse themselves in texts about cultural diversity and to make sense of the issue amongst themselves through peer discourse (Rogers & Wetzel).
Another strategy to teach cultural awareness in the classroom is to influence the values and behavior of learners through the development of a culture that embraces diversity. This strategy, however, takes time and is therefore a long-term strategy to accomplish this objective. ‘Attitude change’ is a strategy that teachers employ in the classroom setting to influence behavioral change and management in the classroom. Within this context, the objective of ‘attitude change’ would be to influence the behavior of learners to initially acknowledge diversity as a normal or standard part of life. Following this exercise, the teacher should introduce the students to different cultures. The learners must be involved in representing their own culture. Despite differences in culture, however, it is important that the teacher and the learners acknowledge the similarities among themselves as human beings. In doing so, learners would realize that despite differences in culture, they are similar because they are all human beings who share the same rights and privileges. Behavior modification, in this case, allows the teacher to help learners develop values as well as openness when it comes to dealing with culture as an issue in the classroom (Emmer & Sabornie, 2014; Snowman & McCown, 2011).
Aside from behavior modification and the application of psychology to influence the views and attitudes of learners toward race, another strategy is to illustrate how racism and discrimination affects the learners in their daily lives. It is important that learners realize how racism and discrimination leads to marginalization. Integrating lessons to the learners’ everyday and lived experiences is necessary to help them grasp the far-reaching impact of racism and discrimination. Part of this is to teach the learners how to identify racism or discrimination as they happen. Lessons in teaching students must focus on racial tolerance (Burkholder, 2011). To recreate lived experiences, teachers should apply socialization practices where learners interact with other students as they would in real life. Social experiences allow them to learn more about other learners and to understand social dilemma experienced by others due to the detrimental outcomes of racism and discrimination (Saracho, 2010).
One of the ways to address racism in the classroom is to expose teachers, as well as pre-service teachers to race and diversity issues. According to Cross, students in teacher education programs are rarely exposed to classroom situations that would help them understand the issues pertaining to race. “White future teachers who believe themselves to be free of racism may be sent to observe in diverse classrooms without being challenged to critically examine race” (Halley, Eshlemen, & Vijaya, 2011, p. 122). The inadequacy of teacher education programs in introducing future teachers to various issues they will be facing in the classroom leads to their lack of awareness about race and diversity. Hence, the solution for this is to establish awareness among pre-service and professional teachers so they would be able to understand race and diversity and how these phenomenon impact learning.
Addressing the foregoing problem necessitates improvement in teacher education programs in the US. Higher education institutions must look into ways to improve their teacher education programs by integrating race and diversity in the curriculum. Pre-service teachers must not merely understand race and diversity but also develop a grasp of the impact of race and diversity in classroom interactions and the issues or problems that may arise due to cultural diversity. Furthermore, pre-service teachers must also be trained to develop and adopt strategies to address problems and concerns pertaining to cultural diversity in the classroom. In this way, higher education institutions can prepare them for their services in the classroom. In the same way, schools must also train professional teachers to observe sound strategies in the classroom to both teach cultural awareness and deal with a culturally diverse classroom (Murrell & Foster, 2003).
Another solution is for the government to promote the employment of minority teachers. As formerly noted, majority of teachers in the US are white. If we are to promote a cultural in the education system that embraces diversity, then schools should be able to adopt strategies that illustrate acceptance of diversity. One of way of achieving this is to hire a multicultural staff in the school setting. Furthermore, schools must also adopt or implement strategies to help teachers, including minority teachers, prepare for the challenges and difficulties of a multicultural classroom. “It is important to not underestimate the importance of alternative teacher preparation and professional development settings where White people are not in the majority” (Murrell & Foster, 2003, p. 60).
The foregoing discussion based on existing literature about the topic illustrates the problems brought about by cultural diversity in the classroom. Cultural diversity, in itself, is not a problem. Difference in cultural backgrounds create unique experiences not only for people sharing the same culture but also for other populations who can learn something from other cultures. Nonetheless, cultural diversity brought about several problems and issues due to cultural divide. Due to a decades-long history of slavery and injustice, cultural diversity brought about gap in America, including in education. Slavery led to the marginalization of minorities in America and engendered white privilege and a dominant culture. Consequently, these brought about injustice and inequality in society. Blacks as well as those in minority populations remain poor due to continuous lack of access to opportunities in education and employment.
White privilege and racism or discrimination also manifest in the classroom setting. As formerly noted, research studies reveal that some teachers are racist and discriminatory in the classroom while other teachers acknowledge that existing education policies promote racism in the classroom setting. To address this problem, the government needs to take a stand in eradicating racism and discrimination. Part of conflict resolution involves the development and implementation of policies to close the education gap brought about by cultural diversity as well as poverty.
Schools and universities also play an important role in addressing the problem. Schools need to stay committed to providing efficient services. Schools may be able to accomplish this goal or objective by developing programs to prepare teachers and enhance their skills and competencies in teaching so they would be able to address cultural diversity in the classroom more efficiently. Part of this challenge includes the development of activities and projects to train teachers. Seminars or workshops will help teachers learn more about cultural diversity as well as strategies to promote multiculturalism in the classroom and tackle difficult issues with the learners such as racism and discrimination.
Universities and colleges, on the other hand, may also address the situation by helping pre-service teachers learn more about cultural diversity. Colleges or universities may design teacher education programs to assist pre-service teachers and expose them to culturally diverse classrooms. Research studies previously discussed prove that teacher education programs in the US do not provide opportunities for teachers to understand cultural diversity. For this reason, universities and colleges must take on the responsibility or preparing pre-service teachers become culturally aware and competent in tackling racism and diversity.
Finally, the issue of cultural diversity may be addressed in the classroom. Teachers are responsible for instilling values among learners and handling issues that arise due to cultural diversity in the classroom setting. One of the ways to accomplish this is to adopt strategies that allow learners to understand and rationalize culture and diversity. Strategies include the use of literature to introduce cultural issues to the learners or facilitating activities in the classroom to establish discourse.
Overall, cultural diversity affects education because its outcomes – white privilege, racism, and discrimination – affect education. Cultural diversity has created an education gap that marginalizes minorities. Many minorities do not have access to education, which then perpetuates the cycle of poverty in the US. Addressing this issue, however, necessitates a systemic approach. The government, schools, colleges, and universities, as well as teachers must all work together to raise awareness about cultural diversity and eradicate racism and discrimination in society.
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