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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Affirming Diversity in Education

Affirming Diversity in Multiculturalism

In the lecture given by Sonla Nieto, she led a very inspirational speech regarding multicultural issues that are affecting us all in schools today. She stressed the fact that many teachers are not very comfortable with certain issues within the students’ background and such. With affirming diversity in multiculturalism, there is a sociopolitical context that goes along with it. Students overall, have an identity that needs to be taken into account and their personal differences are what makes them, them. It is also essential to bring in their cultures into the learning and acknowledge it, because teachers sometimes ignore this aspect of the students. A quote that she read said, “I don’t see color, all my students are the same to me”. This quote may be commonly said by teachers, in an attempt to not discriminate any students. On the other hand, it may be seen as a way to deflect focusing on the students’ differences that make them special and may define their personalities, characteristics, etc. Among these differences, this diversity brings all the students and teacher together. 


Another aspect of the speech regarded challenging the “post-racial” society myth, which provides a currently rising concept of educational inequality. The dropout rate in high school that is in between 50-80% in some places, due to various occurrences (Africans, Latinos, Asians, American Indians); some are because testing is strenuous and amounts to pressure that the students cannot take, and the teachers may not necessarily make it easier for them. We need to explore multi-cultural education, inclusive of many differences, including language, ethnicity, religion, race, etc. Identity, differences, power, and privilege are all intertwined. The question of who benefits and who loses affects the given situation. The policy or curriculum is the rule that everyone must follow, thus it affects everyone involved. There is a gift of power that must not be underestimated. It is a real influence and consistently impacts people’s lives. 

Sonla Nieto also introduced a framework for promoting quality education for all students. The first part includes the sociopolitical context of the schools and the society(institutional and ideological, including accents that may or may not affect how people perceive that certain person according to his/her way of communicating with an accent). The second part is the socio-cultural knowledge and understandings. This incorporates the ultimate acceptance of peoples’ differences and unique qualities resembling symbols representing their communities and neighborhoods. The third one is personal values and commitments. People need to acknowledge the fact that morals differ from household to household, and these differences should be noticed, and appreciated. In an environment where teachers are new and confused, it is always wise to make a friend and participate in meetings, events, etc., to be more comfortable. It is a huge transition, and may not be easy at first. Companions ease the tension at the beginning.

Overall, this session was extremely informative and interesting. We have come to know how to think on a deeper level and not be closed minded, as future teachers, or educators, or simply as people and individuals. We need to ask questions and students should do the same. By asking questions, there will be a better understanding and appreciation of our diverse and beautiful environment. Let us lean to accept and embrace our unique and special differences!