Education

Ethnicity and Race in Teaching and Learning

Today’s Diverse Classrooms

In this text we take a broad interpretation of cultural diversity, so we will examine social class, race, ethnicity, and gender as aspects of diversity. We begin with a look at the meaning of culture. Many people associate this concept with the “cultural events” section of the newspaper—art galleries, museums, Shakespeare festivals, classical music concerts, and so on. Culture has a much broader meaning; it embraces the whole way of life of a group of people.

American Cultural Diversity

There are many definitions of culture. Most include some or all of the following: the knowledge, skills, rules, norms, practices, traditions, self-definitions, institutions, language, and values that shape and guide beliefs and behavior in a particular group of people as well as the art, literature, folklore, and artifacts produced and passed down to the next generation. The group constructs a culture— a program for living—and communicates the program to members. Groups can be defined along regional, ethnic, religious, racial, gender, social class, or other lines.

Each of us is a member of many groups, so we all are influenced by many different cultures. Sometimes, the influences are incompatible or even contradictory. For example, if you are a feminist but also a Roman Catholic, you may have trouble reconciling the two different cultures’ beliefs about the ordination of women as priests. Your personal belief will be based, in part, on how strongly you identify with each group.

Economic and social class differences

Even though most researchers would agree that social class is one of the most meaningful cultural dimensions in people’s lives, those same researchers have great difficulty defining social class. Different terms are used—social class, socioeconomic status, economic background, wealth, poverty, or privilege. Some people consider only economic differences; others add considerations of power, influence, mobility, control over resources, and prestige

Social Class and Socioeconomic Status

In modern societies, levels of wealth, power, and prestige are not always consistent. Some people— for instance, university professors—are members of professions that are reasonably high in terms of social status but provide little wealth or power (believe me). Other people have political power even though they are not wealthy, or they may be members of the elite social register in a town, even though their family money is long gone. Most people are generally aware of their social class: that is, they perceive that some groups are above them in social class and some are below. They may even show a kind of “classism” (like racism or sexism), believing that they are “better” than members of lower social classes and avoiding association with them.

Beware of either/or

In some classes, using a mixed-ability structure seems to hinder the achievement of all students. For example, students in heterogeneous algebra classes don’t learn as much as students in tracked classes—whatever the ability level of the students. And a meta-analysis of student self-esteem found that students in low-track classes did not have lower self-esteem than students in heterogeneous classes.

Last word

This will help her gain confidence in befriending her peers. While the teacher attempts to focus on positive aspects of educating her students, she should make the administration aware of the “White Girls Club” situation. Administrators should intervene and bring attention to the situation if the troubling behaviors of the other girls continue

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