To many, race is political. It’s something to re-blog or debate in Facebook comments. The sad truth, though, is that race is still an enormous issue in our society. Race is a part of our identity, and whether or not we are aware, it affects each and every one of us. Racial issues are particularly important in education because schools and teachers play a significant role in the socialization of children. In the field of education, a person’s race can play a bigger role than they may realize.
Disparities in the field of education amongst lower-income school districts are particularly commonplace. In an effort to put the issue into context and provide some hard data on the topic, one study used critical dialogue within a teacher preparation program to address the dilemma of preparing pre-service teachers for classrooms in which they will work with students who are socially and economically disadvantaged. The study found, in the state of Oregon, that almost 1 in 4 children live in poverty. Broken down by ethnicity, 9. 2% of Asians, 29. % of Native Americans, 29. 8% of Latinos(as), 29. 7% of African Americans, and 36. 2% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders live in poverty compared to 14. 8% of Whites (Oregon Center for Public Policy, 2011).
They discovered a clear link between the quality of education being received and the socioeconomic status of the receivers – America’s children. In fact, according to the Canadian Journal of Education, “several researchers have noted imbalanced educational outcomes among different socioeconomic, linguistic, ethnic, and racial groups. The link between race and poverty continues to widen as strain on our economy has disproportionately affected communities of color. The disparities found in Oregon can be applied to many other states, which makes this study relevant for all teachers who are committed to fair and equal education. ” Taking this into consideration, the true question is why are certain races affected so adversely, and how can we fix it?
In Different Perceptions of Race in Education: Racial Minority and White Teachers, research on the topic revealed “a number of factors can explain the low educational outcomes or underperformance of some groups in schools: the formal – as well as the hidden – curriculum, involvement of parents, teacher effectiveness, beliefs of minority groups, and school culture. ” One prominent explanation, which encompasses all of these factors, is the ‘social construction’ thesis. According to this critical race theory, race, or at least racial identity, is a product of social thought and relationships.
It is “not objective, inherent, or fixed, they correspond to no biological or genetic reality; rather, races are categories that society invents, manipulates, or retires when convenient. People with common origins share certain physical traits such as skin color, physique, and hair texture. But these traits are extremely small when comparing what human beings have in common. The small amount of difference has nothing to do with personality, intelligence, and moral behavior.
That society frequently chooses to ignore these scientific facts, creates races, and endows them with pseudo-permanent characteristics. ” It’s worth noting the researchers responsible for the study in Oregon came to recognize that they might have unintentionally taken part in the vicious cycle of the privileged and the oppressed. They also grew in awareness to the fact that as they read, studied, and worked towards equality, they were (and still are) simultaneously working against it. Racial disparity is not limited to societal influence, however.
The study by the Canadian Journal of Education revealed, “individuals, groups, and institutions have often manipulated the concept of race to create or reinforce political and ideological regimes and myths. ” If the concept of race and racial identity has been indoctrinated into us from the time we are born, be it by our families, politicians, corporations, or pop-culture; how can we possibly find an effective way to combat it? There is a clear-and-present need to fundamentally change a system that puts so many of our countries children at a disadvantage.
We should, instead, cast aside the idea that nothing can be done. We must be aware of the existence of prejudice. Even if we can do nothing to change them, we have to keep in mind the ways affect our students and how the idea of race is still pertinent from a social standpoint. By first admitting there is a problem, we can open a line of dialogue to hopefully work towards a system which offers equal opportunities to all young people, rather than those in certain tax brackets or skin colors.
The aim of antiracist education is to change institutional structures, validate the lived experiences of an increasingly diverse student body, and alter inequitable power relations,” said Paul Carr, contributing author of Different Perceptions of Race in Education. Significant change will not come without an overhaul of the American educational system as a whole, and it is important to remember these changes won’t only benefit certain groups. Carr went on to say, “We contend that the validation of lived experiences around race is key to enhancing the educational experiences of all students.
Making equalopportunity education the norm will arguably put our country ‘back in the game’ when compared to the global standards of education. Currently, the United States rank fifth on the Human Development Index. Well below Australia, New Zealand, and Norway. Once we are ready to admit the problem and are prepared to make meaningful changes to improve the situation, teachers will be our greatest weapons. The educators are our soldiers on the front lines of the educational battlefield.
Without good teachers, dedicated to improving the quality of the education they provide, we would truly be lost. We have to find a way to guide future teachers to look at poverty and how it affects students critically. Education may prove to be a powerful tool for equality amongst all races and all socioeconomic statuses. I truly believe teachers want to be empathetic and compassionate. As a country, we need to raise awareness of how current educational practices put people of color, as well as the poor, at a significant disadvantage.