America’s student populations are increasingly reflective of an ethnically diverse society. However, we recognize that there are several major variables for improving the multicultural accommodation apparent in a school. Bruner and Vytgotsky lend this discussion some useful insight concerning such variables. Chief among them, the diversity of faculty, of learning content and of learning media all are directly relevant to the school’s embrace of difference.
As the immigrant population continues not only to rise but to diversify in the United States, our educational system, and indeed, our nation has in many contexts attempted to enforce a degree of cultural uniformity inclined to either assimilate or exclude incoming cultures. Standardized testing, rigid curriculum design and poor representation amongst teachers and administrators of a diverse student population have all had the impact of white-washing American education.
In the urban setting such as the case at hand, this can be especially problematic, with such failures of institution causing vulnerable students to disengage. Vytgotsky contributes an important idea to this discussion, referring us to the relevance of effective pedagogy in engaging such students. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through group activity. We have a core understanding of the fact that diversity implies not just a diversity of ethnicity or culture but also of potential learning styles or strategy.
Vytgotsky offers an effective way to use this diversity to the advantage of the classroom. Group activity is always an effective way to help distill strategies and strengths for individuals. By strategically grouping students according to aptitude and academic strength, we enable stronger learners to directly engage weaker learners in a way that helps to effectively communicate concepts and ideas in play. Vytgotsky essentially contends that there is value to the less effective student of being partnered with a more skilled learner.
This interaction can be beneficial to the aptitude of the former and can help the latter develop innate leadership skills. The focus of such legislation as No Child Left Behind does not leave a great deal of freedom or latitude for the urban school to engage in such activities however. There seems at present to be an impulse of standardization directly opposite the need for diversity celebration. Some of the root causes of the failure of our educational system to accommodate diversity as it cuts across multiple demographic lines are resultant of the instruments used to promote student aptitude measurements.
(McCarty, 1) Primarily, the ability or interest of teachers to accommodate diversity is stunted by the entrenched presence of institutional prejudices that shape testing standards, curricular design and instructional method in a way that embraces standardization, legislative mandate and procedural uniformity. (McCarty, 1) One of the most heavily-recognized and persistent of such conflicts may be observed still today in the genuine lack of equality in the cultural standards applied to teaching African Americans.
Particularly, there is a fundamental failure in the content choices which shape curricula such as those concerning literacy, history, policy and even the natural As part of a cyclical pattern which institutionally prevents our minority populations from being loosed of such a negative spiral, students beholden thereto are either locked into curricula which are given a financial short-shrift and are thus, armed with fewer qualified teachers, or are committed to districts where their cultural and ethnic perspectives are not being accounted for.
This is a circumstance which regrettably continues today, with the current presidential administration’s No Child Left Behind initiative imposing further dependence upon the diagnostic testing and grade-evaluation policies which have long been an appendage of established educational patterns. The new education standards are given over to a “fundamentally punitive law that uses flawed standardized tests to label schools as failures and punish them with counterproductive sanctions. ” (Neill, 1) This is also a sharp diversion in focus from that which Bruner argues is a priority for the diverse student bodies in our urban schools.
The social impact of the educational experience is, according to Bruner, a fundamental aspect of its quality. The student’s engagement in class will often be a function of his socialization. This provides a firm rationale for the critique of diversity standards in our educational system. Indeed, there is an inherent danger by way of this administrative approach of the loss of pragmatism, which often incorrectly attributes the challenges related to diversity as products of learning deficiencies.
This constitutes a fundamental disservice to the student and, it is worth asserting, basic intellectual prejudice which generally stigmatizing the future opportunities availed to those of ethnic minority or immigrant status. In Bruner’s understanding, the socialization of a diverse student body will actually promote learning rather than obstruct it. Therefore, as the ultimate resolution on the subject, our discussion inclines us to acknowledge as a basis of assumption that greater multicultural sensitivity is needed in the teaching of literacy, of the social sciences and of all disciplines on the individual level.
Moreover, we resolve that both Bruner and Vytgotsky would find fault with the rigid and disruptive patterns of No Child Left Behind. Ultimately, the two provide theories which merge to suggest that diversity can be managed through flexible management of the classroom and educational experiences.
McCarty, Teresa. (2005). Language, Literacy and Power In Schooling. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Neill, Monty. (2003). Don’t Mourn, Organize! Rethinking Schools. Online at http://www. rethinkingschools. org/special_reports/bushplan/nclb181. shtml
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