ED7014-Leading Diverse Schools
Dr. Traci Smith
How are new patterns of immigration, residence, and family structure reshaping the nation's demographics and those of local schools and communities? What do "culturally proficient" schools and classrooms look like in this shifting context? In an institute designed for teachers, administrators, and other school staff, I’ll discuss cultural proficiency and diversity within the education setting.
Diversity and Cultural Proficiency Theories
According to Robinson and Diaz (2006) children have diverse needs and belong to different cultures and social groups which results in children participating in early childhood environments differently. Children’s access to quality early childhood programmes which address issues of equity and social justice are crucial in maximizing children’s participation in the learning experiences. Robinson and Diaz (2006) writing about early childhood education suggest that feminist post-structuralism can be helpful in supporting student teachers to ‘negotiate and construct their own identities, to challenge normalizing discourses that operate on micro and macro levels in their lives, and to demonstrate how individual subjects are instrumental in the perpetuation of social inequalities’ (p17).
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel explains that “educators with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to value the diversity among students will contribute to an educational system designed to serve all students well. Our nation can no longer be satisfied with success for some students; instead we must cultivate the strengths of all” (National Education Association, 2008). Today’s students are far more diverse—by race, culture, ethnicity, and language—than any other generation the United States has known (Sadker and Zittleman 2007). As a result, many teachers are struggling to better serve students from cultures other than their own (National Education Association 2008). Failing to understand some of the cultural differences of students can result in a poorer learning environment for them. Conversely, appreciating cultural differences can enable teachers to select appropriate children’s books, plan a culturally responsive curriculum, and provide a classroom environment that is welcoming to all children and their families.
Social scientists John Ogbu and Signithia Fordham, attempting to understand the race gap in academic achievement, hypothesized that many African-American students choose not to engage in school because they perceive high academic achievement as "acting white." Their thesis was discussed at a Division of U.S. Studies program in April, 2004. As a follow-up to that conversation, the Division scheduled a discussion of Prudence Carter's Keepin' it Real: School Success Beyond Black and White. Carter's book critiques the Ogbu-Fordham "oppositional cultural theory" thesis.
Carter found that the majority of the young African-American and Latino students (ages 13-20) she interviewed in Yonkers, New York believed education was the key to success, jobs and mobility. What these young people resisted, however, was the assumption that to succeed in school one must assimilate into mainstream society to the exclusion of one's own culture. Not wanting to adopt the linguistic and clothing styles of the majority, Carter reported, these young people "struggled with how to maintain culturally authentic selves, while, at the same time, achieve." They responded to this challenge, Carter discovered, in three different ways. One group ("cultural mainstreamers") fully adopted the cultural dictates of mainstream society; the second ("cultural stragglers") managed to maintain the cultural practices of both their community and the dominant society; the third ("non-compliant believers") shared educational values but refused to comply with dominant cultural expectations.
Similarities of Theories