Recent years have seen American public schools experience an influx of students from all cultural heritages and social background. Diversity in the public education system is at the highest level. A modern-day classroom is comprised of students belonging to different social group defined by ethnicity religion, gender sexual orientation and so on. This increased diversity has prompted many schools to re-adjust their structure and functioning in order to accommodate each every culture and therefore affirm diversity. Affirming diversity means rejecting bigotry and stereotypes based on race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, ability, lifestyle, and religion (Nieto, 1992). It means accepting that inclusion and diversity are components of excellence that facilitate intellectual enrichment, justice, personal growth and freedom (Nieto, 1992).
Diversity is greatly affirmed in my school. This has been principally done through the fostering of a spirit of inclusion as well as enacting school rules that prohibiting any activity or process that is discriminatory towards the members of a certain social group. The affirming of diversity in my school starts at the classroom level. Each lesson plan is comprehensively reviewed to ensure that it incorporates diversity-sensitive elements and that it does not favor or discriminate against members of a certain social group.
The school has a well-defined process and avenue through which students who feel discriminated against can report. Each report is investigated, and appropriate action is taken. The affirmation of diversity is also exhibited in the school admission process. Admission is not based on one’s membership to a certain group but is rather based on one’s ability.
My school is continuously reviewing its policies to see how it can become even more sensitive to matters of diversity. Recently, it has organized for teachers and other stakeholders in the school to attend seminars and workshops that teach on embracing and affirming diversity.
Affirmation of diversity paves way for the achievement of multicultural education. Multicultural education essentially encompasses practices and theories that attempt to promote not only equitable access to education but also great achievement of students from all social groups so that they can essentially work towards social change (Banks and Banks, 2009).
Multicultural education starts by recognizing and embracing the idea that the needs of every social group groups matters and must be considered in every aspect. This is then followed by the expansion of the curriculum to ensure it is inclusive and considerate of the needs of each and every social group. Therefore, affirming diversity and multicultural education usually go hand in hand. Both are accompanied by the teaching of students to be considerate of the needs and the welfare of members of each and every social group in the society (Banks and Banks, 2009).
In the process, students are taught how to be good citizens and how to live peacefully with every member of the society without exhibiting any stereotype or bigotry (Banks and Banks, 2009). My school has been at the forefront of affirming diversity and this has consequently led to the achievement of multicultural education in the school and consequently, students from diverse groups have been given a chance to benefit equally from education.
Another aspect that has been witnessed within the American public school system is the influx of students whose first language is not English. High rates of immigration from all countries across the world has forced American schools to admit more and more students whose first language is not English. Part of affirming diversity means not discriminating against these students and helping them to learn English as quickly as possible and constantly supporting them as they strive towards learning English (Banks, 2006). Teachers and schools in general are tasked with this role.
The first step towards supporting them is being increasing the understanding of who they are, where they are from and their past education experiences (Banks, 2006). This will enable the teacher to be aware of their education needs. The teacher also needs to increase their understanding of the native and second language understanding. This calls for understanding the theories about the acquisition of language as well as the variables that might contribute to language teaching (Banks, 2006).
It has been found that using visuals can enhance student’s understanding of complex or difficult concepts. In addition, teachers should adjust their lesson plans to ensure that even non-native speakers take part in classroom sessions.
Working privately with a non-native speaker has also been found to accelerate their understanding of the English language and their progressive mastery of concepts expressed in the English language. For instance, the teacher can remain behind with such a student after class and go through some concepts that are meant to increase the student’s understanding of English.
However, caution should be taken not to alienate these students from their peers. In fact, it is only when they feel included in the classroom that their motivation to master English will be accentuated. Schools have the responsibility to ensure that teachers have all the resources required to teach the non-native speakers.
The incorporation of arts programs in a public school setting is a very expensive venture. Art programs require expensive resources, some of which a school may be unable to acquire from its own budget. Sometimes, parents may be asked to chip in, in terms of money in order to maintain arts programs in schools because the funds provided by the government may not be enough. Schools serving economically deprived and culturally marginalized students are likely to witness the cutting of arts programs because not only are the school’s budgets not enough to sustain the arts programs but parents are unable to contribute any money to such a venture since they are economically deprived.
In addition, in such a setting, there is no presence of well-wishers who may contribute to keeping the arts programs in place. Therefore, schools serving economically deprived and culturally marginalized students are forced to cut on arts programs and concentrate on more prioritized programs.
Alternatively schools serving well to do students with relatively rich backgrounds are not likely to witness their arts programs cut because even if the school budget does not allow the funding of these programs, parents may decide to contribute from their own pockets in order to sustain the programs.
In addition, such a setting is likely to be characterized by many donors and well-wishers who may provide the required funding. Researchers are worried about this trend of cutting arts programs as it limits the chances of economically deprived students. Some students may be more skilled and talented in the arts and removing the programs inadvertently denies these students a chance to succeed in something that would have potentially defined their whole life. The cutting of arts programs, therefore, affects student achievement negatively.
Involvement in arts programs is associated with considerable gains in critical thinking, reading, cognitive ability as well as verbal skills. In addition, arts can improve student’s concentration motivation, teamwork, and confidence, and when they are removed, overall student achievement is negatively affected.
Although there has been increased emphasis on affirmation in recent years, assimilation is still a reality and many people and students are striving to assimilate to the local culture and not waiting to be affirmed. The Jewish society is one of the social groups that has particularly been the victim of assimilation. The funny thing is that this has continued to persist even 100 years later after Jews started arriving into the nation via Elis Island in New York. At this time, many enrolled in evening classes not only to learn English but also to learn the customs and values of the American people. There have been talks of “the vanishing American Jew’.
Although many schools encourage affirmation which calls for embracing and recognizing diversity without necessarily requiring people to change, there are still some aspects of assimilation. However, the choice is greater than it was 100 years ago. In the past, many had no choice but to assimilate because the American education system and in indeed the public system was very non-tolerant to diversity. This has changed, and diversity is more tolerated. These are just some of the reasons why assimilation is not as limiting as it was previously.
The affirmation of diversity in PK-12 settings can be enhanced by adjusting the structure and functioning of schools. This relates to elements including teaching material, teachers, and classrooms and on. Schools serving diverse students should be characterized by a teaching staff that is similarly diverse. There should be the incorporation of role models from each social groups into the school’s curriculum. In addition, instructional material, methods and procedures should be designed to ensure that they are inclusive of all cultural and social groups. In addition, effective channels of reporting discrimination should be instituted.
Banks, J. A., & Banks, C. A. M. (Eds.). (2009). Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives. John Wiley & Sons.
Banks, J. A. (2006). Cultural diversity and education (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Nieto, S. (1992). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education. Longman, 10 Bank Street, White Plains, NY 10606.