Characteristics of Diversity
Characteristics of Diversity
Of the many countries in the word, USA is one of those countries which are home to not only its natives but also to people from all over the world. According to U. S. Census Bureau, one third of the population consists of the minorities but within ten years, the number will be more than half of the total population. The country offers many opportunities to earn money improve lifestyle, get better education and the like; consequently, people from different parts of the world come here to take advantage of the available opportunities and find a way to make their lives better.
In search of greener pastures, large numbers of people migrate to USA and the country welcomes them as they offer human resources for doing various jobs at cheaper rates than the local citizens. Sometime in the late 19th century, USA was facing a shortage of professionals like doctors and technicians within its own local citizens and therefore at that time people from other countries came over in large numbers to fulfill the vacancy and reap the benefits.
In the USA, there are many citizens but there is such an integration of different nations that the aboriginal population is called “native American” so as to differentiate it from the others. The country is a successful amalgamation of many nations (Chaiklin, 2008) and the people, who come to this land on a long term basis through emigration, bring with them, their origin, their culture, their values and their families. Because of the presence of so many immigrants, the schools look like a cultural centre for their offspring.
All the children have equal rights to education whether they are Americans, Asians or Africans and schools are the place from where they initiate their education and when they go to schools, they carry their individual identities with them. Consequently, there is a visible presence of diverse students in the schools and the schools are not only witness to different cultures, races, religions etc. but are also affected by these factors. Not only the schools but the teachers, students and their relationship are also affected.
This report explores diversity, its impact on schools in USA, how it can affects the relationship between the teachers and the students with disabilities and the student’s families and what should a teacher understand about other cultures to have a good understanding of them and respect them. Diversity in schools America is host to many diverse and rich cultures; the change in demographics is visible in schools where the education process has to be reached with a revised approach to adjust for the diversity.
The population trend of increasing diversity is evident from a research, according to which, 27% of all the schools in USA represent minorities and a minority majority is present in each of the nation’s 24 largest city school systems. With the schools having culturally diverse students, the classrooms are becoming a mirror of the multiracial and multiethnic society that America is home to. According to Hodgkinson (1986), “The schools of tomorrow may have to be more sensitive to minority differences.
Many blacks resent being lumped into a single racial grouping without regard for social and economic status. Similarly, Puerto Ricans do not necessarily enjoy being labeled with Cubans and Mexicans as Hispanics. It is clear that Asian immigrants from Japan, Korea, and Vietnam are very different. All of these groups and subgroups want to retain as much of their culture as possible, which is one reason California provides instructions for connecting a gas stove in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese”.
This means that even though diversity issues are being handled with care in schools these days but in the future, because of even greater number of diverse students and possibly new issues related to diversity, the schools will have to be even more sensitive towards them in the future. It is quite apparent that the different groups of minority have different cultures, languages, values and beliefs which identify them and the minorities do not want to lose their identity but instead maintain their uniqueness and this will have to be respected by others of the dominant group.
There is a positive relationship between social opportunities and educational opportunities in Western societies (Dekkers, Bosker & Driessen, 2000). The more options one has available with him/her along with opportunity in the form of resources, the more chances one can have of availing higher education. The system is thus, not fair and uses social opportunities as the criteria of providing admissions. Types of diversity There are many classes of diversity existing in today’s schools where students come from very different and varied backgrounds.
Instead pf covering all the aspects of the different classes of diversity, we chose ethnicity, race, color, religion and socio economic characteristics to have a better understanding of the phenomenon. Ethnicity Ethnicity is characterized by a group of people who differ from the majority of the population in race, color, religion or cultural origin. The different identity of an ethnic minority may be visible in their peculiar lifestyle, customs, language, values, dress or believes (Chaiklin, 2008).
One of the main characteristics of ethnicity is that it does not follow the local lifestyle of the Native American but maintain that of their own Another one of the ethnic characteristic is that it is usually escorted by prejudice and discrimination, reason being that they differ from the practiced norms in most of the situations. The most significant aspect that can provoke prejudice is the skin color, for instance, some of the minorities are easily identifiable from their tan complexion.
The degree of similarity to the major population is important in determining how the ethnics are treated. Acceptance of this minority group is also facilitated by the economics resources that they possess to achieve their goals, especially in the United States, as economic success defines different classes is largely defined by economic success. This also includes having the economic resources to obtain education (Chaiklin, 2008).
The presence of many ethnic minorities, made USA adopt the idea of multiculturalism which emphasizes the importance of integrating the different cultures but on the other extreme it may also promote individual identity of the minority by maintaining their uniqueness. This concept of multiculturism, initiated formal programs for bringing respect for diversity in pubic schools by providing bilingual education to immigrant children. This acted as a cornerstone for laying foundation of a friendlier environment for the ethnic minority.
Later similar actions were also adopted by colleges and universities because of pressures from the minority groups but such steps were met with criticism (Chaiklin, 2008). Patterns of ethnic differences have shown that in primary schools, the ethnic minority performed at a lower level than other pupils but by the time of secondary education, this pattern was vice versa, controlling for socio -economic differences (Dekkers et al, 2000). Thus, if observed over a period of time, ethnicity does not affect the academic achievements of the diverse students.
Gender The two genders are not similar; they differ not only in their biological characteristics but also in their psychological characteristics and behaviors. The genders bring with them diversity wherever they go. In the context of schools, there is evidence of growing disparity in academic evaluation of both genders. The gender differences also have an impact on performance in difference subjects for instance it has been observed that girls’ excel boys in reading and writing during primary school, but later these differences disappear.
On the other hand, boys perform better than girls in mathematics and science, but this difference doesn’t goes away with time and instead keeps on increasing. The difference is evident in the choice of examination subjects where girls were more interested and took up art and language subjects whereas boys took more technical and science subjects (Dekkers et al, 2000). Other studies on the basis of periodic achievement assessments demonstrate gender differences related to achievements in science subjects.
In most countries (12 out of 15), by the age of 17, boys exceed girls by much higher scale especially in mathematics and science. As a result of choosing subject other than math and science, the careers of girls stay limited to a certain pay and status. One of the major problems that schools face is the behavior of boys which often implicates wider social context of male violence (Heward, 2000). The more complex issues in schools are: • Disruption, mostly by boys, is one of the most intransigent issues in the day-to-day management of classrooms and schools; it is part of the gender characteristic of power relations.
disruption can be kept under control by getting the boys involved in various activities of different types that may be constructive (Heward, 2000) • Literacy is another issue which is of particular importance with respect to boys because of the gap in test results of both the genders. Even before entering school, young boys believe learning to be a domain of girls. If given moral training of reading emotions, boys consider it a direct challenge to their masculinities and resist it (Heward, 2000)
Teachers should focus on building constructive relationship with boys, promote friendliness among them and try to erase the various misconceptions regarding masculinity and femininity. Religion There is a challenging and closely related link between religion and public schools. Diversity in class rooms also includes the diversity of religions and some of the teachers think that religion has become the most controversial subject. There are students from different religions studying in USA schools including Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs; the school curriculum also includes material on religion (Kunzman, 2006).
Schools are the breeding ground for the future actions of children and they should focus, among other things, making students understand the diversity of the fellow students specially when conflicts may erupt as a result of the differences and religion is one such sensitive aspect that can result in disagreements about our way of living in the society and our behaviors. USA is still dominated by Christianity but religious pluralism is increasing in the country and it has been found that “The United States has become the most religiously diverse nation on earth” (cited in Kunzman, 2006).
The importance of religious diversity is evident from the fact that a religious diversity must be carefully analyzed and made a part of school curriculum if we want to live without conflicting religions together. ” (Kilman, 2007). Following are some guidelines that should be kept in mind while educating religiously diverse classes: Students should not only be equipped with the basic knowledge of different religions but they should also be made to understand and appreciate the other religions and respect the differences, this is done to value diversity and not to change the individual believes (Kunzman, 2006).
Students should be clearly taught that religion is a private affair and has nothing to do with how we socially interact with each or make friends. There is absolutely no reason to have disagreements with fellow students over religious practices or values. Learning about other religions and cultures in a respectful environment doesn’t imply the loss of the child’s unique cultural or religious identity (Kirmani & Laster, 1999). There is a lack of commitment in public schools towards developing students’ cognitive understanding of religion.
Some studies point out the inattention towards religion in textbooks while others give evidence of a lack of confidence on behalf of the teachers’ lack of confidence in addressing current religious standards (Kunzman, 2006). As long as the schools are not serious about imparting religious education or understand how important they are to managing diversity, no step can be taken at the level of individual teachers or students. Without the necessary steps, appreciating other religions’ diversity is not possible. Socio economic class
Another one of the many several ways to mark diversity is socio economic class. Some of the school that have been limited by a recent U. S. Supreme Court ruling from using race as a criteria for diversifying schools can use socio economic diversification as an alternative mean; as a result of such adoption, school populations are expected to go through certain changes (editorial, 2007). Social status has a link with gender. It has been explained through a study that often the result of differences in achievements are linked to these factors.
In disadvantaged societies where there are low resources, inequality in education takes place and girls are the one who are at a disadvantage, thus unfair and unequal distribution of social and economic resources takes place and the gender to which the opportunity available, usually male students reap the benefits (Dekkers et al, 2000). Other than the disadvantage faced by the gender, no such difference in academic progress occurs because of the socio economic diversity (Dekkers et al, 2000). Race
Students from many different races come to schools these days including Hispanics, African American and Asians. In the earlier days, the children of the minority race were not welcomed in playgrounds and schools and were a victim of discrimination but now the trend has changed and as a result, children from all races are not only welcomed but considered important for the prestige of the schools as greater number of students from the different minority races show that minorities are celebrated at this place.. There is little encounter to prejudice or biasness on behalf of the students nowadays.
Many of the teachers believe that racism has been long gone. The affirmative action programs have resulted in reverse discrimination Most of the children of different races, it has been observed, are better at academics than their white friends but in the long run, this difference doesn’t really count. Teachers and diversity Because of the rapidly changing demographics, teachers have to deal with a mixture of students and this poses a great challenge for them. The challenges should be used to increase co operation and understanding between the different students.
All the people associated with the students like parents and administrators serve an important role in assuring a meaningful experience for the students at school, but teachers are the main source of learning and character formation as they are the ones who create the learning environment (Drake, 1993). In order to be effective in classes with diversity, teachers must be aware of and develop sensitivity towards the same. Following are given some points that may be helpful for teachers who are willing to improve their relationship with students:
• The values of people from diverse backgrounds are different from those of the dominant population, therefore, teachers dealing with diverse learners must realize that differences exist in underlying attributes or inferences about the causes of behavior and that in a certain situation the meaning of a particular behavior may differ because of different norms, values or experiences (Casbon et al, 1997) . • To provide relief to students from other cultures, assessment practices should be included in literacy instruction so as to allow adeptness in language, other than Standard English.
This is important because the acceptance of dialects allow students to make better use of language (Casbon et al, 1997). • Teachers should also consider get involved with community activities as this will help them to learn more about the students and their communities. They should also try working closely with parents to improve their own sensitivity towards students (Casbon et al, 1997). • It is imperative for teachers to develop “sympathy toward others, an appreciation of difference, an ability to imagine one’s otherness” (cited in Casbon et al, 1997).
• Teachers should learn how to be open to other cultures as this promotes excitement and enthusiasm and a feeling of connectedness among the students beyond their immediate groups and schools can act as vital cultural centers where students become aware of learn of differences between their primary culture and the dominant culture (Casbon et al, 1997). • In enhancing literacy among multicultural students, teachers are required to be more caring and to affirm diversity. Caring is very important and requires three activities 1. Being receptive to other’s perspective 2. Responding to the aware ness that is obtained from other’s perspective
3. Remaining committed to the involved party and to the relationship (Casbon et al, 1997). This means that teachers should get to know about the values and cultures of the students, try making use of the attained knowledge for improvements and be willing and strive to remain committed to the students and to the improvement of teacher-student relationship. Teachers should create such an environment that value and foster cultural differences. The difference between languages, dresses, attitudes and like should be valued as they are important to dealing with diversity in a supportive and understanding manner (Drake, 1993).
Teacher’s education programs To achieve equity and excellence, reforms are being introduced in public schools of the United States (cited in Trent, Kea and Oh, 2008). Different legislations like No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) and Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004(IDEA) are on of the reasons for the continued focus on equity but even then many of the special students fail in school at higher rates than their White fellows. The legislations like NCLB and IDEA are being adopted at a time when schools are becoming more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, language and socio economic characteristics.
As compared to the increased diversity among students, the demographic characteristics of the teachers are turning out to be more in proportion of white, female, and middle class (cited in Trent, Kea and Oh, 2008). Because of this, teacher education programs should call for measures like increasing diversity among the faculty as individuals of diverse backgrounds have a better understanding of how more diverse clients (student) make use of the environments at home and outside home (Pluviose,2007).
Another measure is to provide the teachers with White pre service and in service teachets to make them culturally responsive (Trent, Kea and Oh, 2008). Teachers must be taught to develop “sympathy toward others, an appreciation of difference, and an ability to imagine one’s otherness”. a teacher may deal with many things within a single day or with many small things over a period of time but the real test of professional maturity lies in his/her ability to link data and then analyze it both individually and collectively, but to the context and environment which is different from one’s own self.
The core piece of cross-cultural code breakers is the ability to relate collectively and individually to realities other than one’s own (Casbon et al, 1997). Another one of the many different methods to handle diversity is by creatively working in three areas: infusing the curriculum, making instruction relevant, and having meaningful programs. Infusing the curriculum: the teachers should ensure that the curriculum is flexible, bias-free, and relevant. Teachers should try to be aware of student’s cultural heritage, political and economic development and problems faced by the minority groups.
Making instruction relevant: teachers should know about their attitudes towards the diverse group of students as this will be reflected in the instructional process. What teachers need to do is develop a mindset that allows them to be accepting of student differences. Having meaningful programs: a teacher should portray himself as role models by accepting and valuing diversity. The teacher’s belief about the value of cultural differences is reflected in such verbal and nonverbal communications (Drake, 1993) Schools as centre of social reform
An educational institution, with students from different diverse classes must face different complexities and account for the voices of those think along the same lines and those who don’t. schools have a very special relationship with social reform where doing just the right thing is not enough but also required is obtaining the right balance between all classes, cultures and minorities. Schools, as leaders and the beginning place of education should respond to the need for social reform (cited in McClellan and Dominguez, 2006), they must consider themselves as agents of social justice.
All the students in a school, no matter what type of diversity they symbolize, deserve equitable treatment. To meet the need for a social justice, students should be taught with respect, openness, and accountability for diversity (McClellan and Dominguez, 2006). Students with disabilities Students with some disability are also a part of the class rooms and are considered a part of the diverse mixture of students. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act aims at decreasing the achievement gaps that are present between students of specific subgroups including those with disabilities.
Another act called Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) seek to align the responsibilities for learners with disabilities with NCLN principles and these two acts have influenced education and changed the perceptions of the teachers and the general public towards children with special needs. Historically, students with disabilities were not expected to perform as well as the normal students and because of this the prevalent point of view is that those with severe disabilities should not be evaluated at the same standards.
A survey of teachers who taught students with disabilities showed they didn’t believe in students with disabilities to perform as good and therefore considered the access to general curriculum inappropriate (Bowen and Rude, 2006). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires students with disabilities to take part in regular assessments so that progress on their Individual Education Plan (IEP) goals may be measured. In cases where regular assessments cannot be used, state-approved alternative assessment is available for use.
The purpose behind this assessment is to make sure that progress on IEP goals is succeeding at meeting the highest expectations (Bowen and Rude, 2006). Students with disabilities are a part of school and classrooms and they should be dealt with care. The different Acts mentioned above are an attempt to normalize the life of the special students and lower the amount of discrimination or biasness that they might otherwise have to face. The students should co operate with the teachers and can achieve high results in the academics with a little hard work.
The teachers should also be sensitive towards these children and deal with them in a special way that not only values their deviation from the normal but also encourages and helps to get the best out of them Involvement of parents as a part of diversity management It is important to involve parents, besides the teachers and the students, as a part of managing diversity at schools. As much as understanding the needs of the students is important, it is also equally important to understand the need of the parents, who are not part of the mainstream culture.
Awareness to diverse parents should also be increased about the various dilemmas that they might face within the mainstream school system (Kirmani & Laster, 1999). Involvement of parents and teachers both is vital in the school life of a child. Teachers are meant to impart academic knowledge and guide towards higher education and intellectual growth whereas parents are guardians for children’s emotion and ensure their emotional and physical well being.
Studies show that high school teachers are often concerned about the lack of response and support from the parents of students, which is especially important in case of diverse students (Attanucci, 2004). Parental involvement can help teachers better understand different issues clearly and mark out the difference from the norm much more easily than if the teacher has to do so alone by himself. Parents can help identify subtle problems with their children about which the teacher might not be aware of other wise.
Besides, when parents are involved in the education, it makes the learning process much easier for the students. Therefore, it is important for both teachers and parents to maintain a harmonious relationship and work together for the better future of the children Significance of diversity to classrooms Some of the benefits of a diverse classroom are: • Diversity brings with it new ideas, people and activities. This gives the students sufficient opportunities to expand their scope of experience. • From spending time together with diverse cultures, the students get to have a taste of a real life.
The different problems faced by students and the different approaches used to find the solution from the point of view of different cultures gives student an insight (Greene, 2007). • The diverse culture develops cultural sensitivity in the students which later help them resolve multi cultural issues and look at things from a different perspective and avoid conflicts. • In case the diverse cultures are not taught to be appreciated in schools and sharing of knowledge, there are chances that later on the unresolved feelings may change to practical conflicts.
• Cross-cultural engagement helps in discovering our hidden assumptions and differences. Knowledge is important, the more knowledge that we gain of culture and the more we try to understand it and interpret it according to different perspectives, the more aware we become of so many different things that we were previously unable to understand. In this, interpreting human experiences is important and is required to help us discover something that may prove liberal and beneficial for us (Casbon et al, 1997) Conclusion The population of USA is a melting pot of many different cultures and this cultural diversity is yet to increase.
Therefore, it implies that the public schools are also going to face some issues in one way or another related to diversity. There are many classes of diversity like gender, socio economic, religion etc and each has its own characteristics by which it is defined. The schools must teach students how to value diversity and make the best use of it so as to avoid any conflicts in the future. Teachers and parents together have an important part to play in managing diversity. Sensitivity to the minority and understanding them lies at the core of a successful teacher- student relationship.
Parents can help the teachers in adjusting to diversity by being more co operative and supportive. The best should be taken out of diversity and it should be celebrated and welcomed by all. References Chaiklin, H. (2008). Ethnic minorities. Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 23, 2008, from Grolier Online http://gme. grolier. com/cgi-bin/article? assetid=0099910-0 Casbon, J. Schirmer, B. R. & Twiss, L. L. (1997). Acceptance and caring are at the heart of engaging classroom diversity. The Reading Teacher. Vol. 50, Iss. 7. Retrieved April 23, 2008, from http://proquest. umi. com.
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