Male, young African-Americans are one of the disadvantaged sectors in the American educational system because they are confronted with very limited opportunities at succeeding in academic and social endeavors as in the case with underprivileged populations. Statistics showed that approximately 17% of students in a school are African-Americans yet they account for the cases of suspensions and expulsions at 32% and 30% respectively. This is the figure in regular classes while these rates rise up to three times among African-American males in special education or remedial classes as opposed to their white male counterparts. Less than 10% (8.4%) of African-Americans are enrolled in the gifted and talented classes. All in all, results revealed that the odds that African-American males complete college is one against 12 while only one against four in dropping out of high school (Bailey & Paisley, n.d.).
It is the belief that reversing the trend of academic underachievement among African American youngsters is possible for schools to undertake. Considerable evidence pointed out that low economic standing is an important factor for inferior schooling in inner cities where several basic needs remain unaddressed. While schools serve as the bastion of opportunity and hope, young black males still fall victims of discrimination, marginalization, and stigmatization. In this setting, African American males are perceived to be stupid or misbehaving and are given harsher punishments when caught violating minor rules and regulations in school. Welfare of these students are rarely explored and described. Young black African Americans are more likely to be excluded in competitive classes and other educational opportunities that would have supported or encouraged them (Noguera, 2002).
But why is the male gender over-represented? The Report to Congress cited possible reasons for such a high number among males but are "not straightforward" (p. 11). There are three hypotheses that help explain the dominance of males in special education. First is biology owing to the fact that boys exhibit higher vulnerability to genetic disorders andÂ greater disposition to possess particular learning disabilities. Research has established that females present more biological advances over males such more rapid rate of maturation and less birth anomalies (Harmon, Stockton, & Contrucci, 1992). Second, since boys are more physically active and more likely misbehave or act out in the classroom, it is suggested that the overrepresentation is attributed to behavioral problems. Though genetic, biological or neuropsysiological differences could be attributed to physical activity for males, behavioral problems on the basis of early learning may likewise influence decisions made during referral and placement. Kedar-Voivodas (1983) revealed that child rearing practice, sex role modelling,Â imitation,Â socialization, and a student's individual reaction to school are influential in the repertoire of behavior of girls and boys in classroom situations. Males may take advantage of early learning that that adults are more tolerant towards their active behavior while girls on the other hand are expected to behave in a more inhibited fashion; passive, quiet, obedient, and pleasant (Wagner,1976). Third, investigators in gender equity proposed that the over-representation of males is due to the effect of gender bias in referral, classification, and placement. Bias is referred to as the inclinationÂ of taking a position or formulating conclusions pertaining to a person on the basis of gender or sex. It was suggested by Kratovil and Bailey (1986) that gender bias in identifying special education services emanates from gender stereotypes which dictate expected behaviors of females in society, which result in teachers who have high expectations while tolerating poor academic achievement among female students. Little is done to study gender bias or discrimination being a contributing factor in the over-representation of males in the special education sector (Anderson, 1997; Kratovil & Bailey, 1986; Karlen, 1985; Phipps, 1982).Â
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 2004 was aimed at ensuring that students with special needs receive Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). In order to achieve its objective, schools should have interventions that determine whether the child that is referred to is a special child who needs special education and other related services to appropriately progress in school (Willie, Garibaldi, & Reed, 1991). Several instances have erroneously referred and inappropriately determined children with special needs to enroll in special education and other related services when they should not have. Recurrence of this practice to a particular group of students in a district which in this case male African American students result in the disproportionate overrepresentation of these students in special education (Willie, et. al., 1991). This troubling phenomenon in the special education system has received a great amount of attention in research as documented by Agbenyega and Jiggets (1999), MacMillian and Reschly (1998), Oswald, Best and Countinho (1999), Patton (1998), U.S. Department of Education (2002) and Zhang and Katsiyannis (2002).
Within the past 30 years, studies have continued to demonstrate the pattern of overrepresentation of African Americans in SPED classes catering to those with speech impairments, behavioral disorders, mental retardation, learning disabilities, and physical impairments (Watkins & Kurtz, 2001). This overrepresentation happens when the frequency of students in the special education programs is considerably close to the total number of students enrolled. For instance, the percentage of African American enrollees ages three to 21 who are receiving services under IDEA in 2000 is 14.9% (US Department of Education NCES, 2000). It should also noted that African American students comprised 16.6% of the total school population in the same year (US Department of Commerce, 1972-2000). Annually, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) submits the Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of IDEA. Contained in this report is the population of students served in special education and the cultural background of these students. Data in the 2000 report showed that the problem of over-representation of male African American students in special education has undermined efforts towards the equitable provision of educational opportunities throughout the country. In the SY 1998-1999, the likelihood of negatively labeling African American students were as follows: 2.9 times as mentally retarded; 1.9 times, emotionally disturbed; and 1.3 times, having a learning disability. In addition, African American students less likely than White American students to return to general education classrooms after special education.
The definitive cause of this problem is the topic of much debate. Some authors lay the blame on White American teachers who fear teaching African American male students especially the youth. In the US, African-American traditions are debased and society is constantly spreading fearful as well as negative stereotypes of African-Americans (Schwartz, 2001). Consequently, educators endorse these stereotypical images and usually do not accept teaching assignments if students are African Americans or impose stricter punishments due to the preconceived notion of the lack of discipline in their homes. This behavior and practices by school teachers, personnel and administrators do not consider circumstances on their inborn knowledge, cognitive abilities, culture and values of African American students leading to their deprivation in school. Data on demographics revealed that more than one third of students in the elementary and high school levels are African Americans (Weinstein, Tomlinson-Clarke & Curran, 2004). In striking contrast is the predominance of White, middle-class female teachers in the US teaching force (Ladson-Billings, 2001; US Department of Education, 1998). Further compounding the problem is that majority of White American teachers reside in White American neighborhoods and graduated from White colleges. In addition, teacher education programs do not sufficiently address this racial imbalance which is pervasive in American classrooms.
Johnson (2006) stated that the way individuals view African American men is influential in how individuals respond to them. He furthered that majority of what is mentioned in educational and psychological literature about the male African American youth is that they are not intelligent, drug addicts, and sexual predators who may be unemployed or incarcerated. Consequently, this judgmental description of male African American students leads to naturally denying these individuals opportunities to develop their intellectual, intentional and creative qualities which are typical of a "good student". It is noteworthy that research outcomes revealed a number of teachers deciding on special education referrals on the level in which the child is "teachable" or non-threatening (Harry & Anderson, 1994; Hale-Benson, 1982 and Kunjufu, 1985).
Another cause that may have contributed to the overrepresentation of male African American males in special education is the subjectivity and unreliability of identification procedures. Primarily, testing and teacher referrals are mechanisms in which a student may be assessed whether he or she should receive special education services. Each of these procedures presents unique challenges to this phenomenon of overrepresentation of male African Americans in special education. Both of these methods are being questioned in terms of its reliability and utility. For instance, the Executive Committee of the Council for Child Behavior Disorders (1989) suggested problems in the referral system since the initial phase of screening is not sensitive enough in diagnosing students having internalizing problems. Furthermore, the Council for Child Behavior Disorders, Hilliard (1990) and Cummins (1986) held that impartial referrals as well as erroneous diagnosis occur in the "judgmental" categories of special education classifications which are among the severe emotional disturbed (SED) and mild mentally retarded (MMR).
Harry and Anderson (1994) said that in the assessment of these disabilities, subjective clinical judgment is relied upon rather than verifiable biological criteria. It should be necessary to underscore that there are two most common used types of tests in identifying behavioral as well as learning disabilities namely: behavioral assessments and intelligence tests. Critics have observed that IQ tests reflect baseline information of cultural knowledge, cognitive ability of the creator(s) and the sample the tests were standardized, the language skills of students are assessed based on the language of the majority, and that professionals in education need to be proficient in the interpretation of language and speech examinations. Therefore, the process of testing is in itself entirely biased and students who have not culturally and social experiences reflected in the tests are at a disadvantage (Harry & Anderson, 1994). This is the reason why the Board of Assessment and Testing (BOTA) came to the conclusion that there should be a reevaluation on the usefulness of the IQ tests in making special education decisions (Morrison, White, & Fever, 1996).
When IDEA was reauthorized in 1997, US Congress investigated research regarding the general demographic profile and academic performance of students with special needs. IDEA 1997 clearly stipulated the requirement for states to collect and examine data in order to ascertain whether the significant disproportionality in special educational programs is attributed to race as mentioned in 34 C.F.R. Â§300.755. So there is comparison between states, Congress listed five race/ethnicity clusters that all states must employ during the collection and reporting of data as follows: American Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black (non-Hispanic), Hispanic, White (non-Hispanic). Through the creation of a reporting mechanism that considers race or ethnicity data, Congress are able to efficiently monitor this issue. Furthermore, the reporting scheme provided a way in which states and districts investigate over-representation concerns. Whether or not the belong to a different cultural background, IDEA '97 pointed out that special education is not a place but a set of services in support of children with special needs to be academically successful. To determine individualized education program (IEP) for a child lacking English facility, IEP teams should take into consider the language needs of the child as stated in 34 C.F.R. Â§300.346(a)(2)(ii). IDEA also provides that schools should have access to non-biased tests and evaluation procedures in order to accurately identify whether the child has a disability (34 C.F.R. Â§300.532). Lastly, IDEA specified that when a child's eligibility is based on English proficiency, the child should not be eligible for special education (34 C.F.R. Â§300.534) and if child is found to be ineligible for special education if the determining factor is lack of instruction in reading or math (34 C.F.R. Â§300.534).
As early as 1965, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has monitored data on the enrolment of African American students in special education programs. OCR has made a tracking of school districts as well as required compliance activities should problems surface. For instance in two districts, compliance activities resulted in the creation of pre-referral intervention processes which allowed practitioners to better address behavioral and learning problems under the context of providing instructional interventions and support in general education settings. The OCR is tasted to enforce a number of laws affecting school practices in relation to the over-representation of African American students. The following are the laws: First, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) which calls for the prohibition of discrimination against individual with special needs. Protection applies to individuals considered possessing but do not actually have the disability for instance those who were misclassified. Second is Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also imposes the same sanction as Section 504 0f the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Third, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (Title VI) which sanctions against discrimination based on national origin, race, or color. Administrators were advised to use these laws as reference when discussion issues regarding over-representation.
What would happen if the data provides a clear indication of over-representation in a school district and no actions were taken to alleviate the problem? Because of the seriousness of this phenomenon, the district may be involved in legal sanctions. Moreover, the school district may be cited by OCR and should this happen, the OCR will instruct the district to enter into a corrective action plan. For more than 30 years, over-representation data have become prominent subjects of court cases and in various educational forums that tackle measures to combat inequities in the educational system. School administrators can benefit from their knowledge of landmark cases on over-representation of African Americans in special education such as Diana v. the California State Board of Education (1970), Johnson v. the San Francisco Unified School District (1971), and Larry P. v. Riles, California (1979). These cases generally shed light on the discriminatory assessment practices in public schools. The assessments have erroneously labeled a significant number of minority students as needing special educational services leading to their becoming segregated in special education classes. The above cases were extremely instrumental in shaping the requirements in IDEA Part B calling for nondiscriminatory testing and classification, and the procedural safeguards that prevent misclassification.
The study will be conducted in XISD located at the northeastern section of Dallas county, north Texas and explore over-representation of male African Americans in special education program in the school district concerned. The results of the study will examine the perceptions and biases of teachers related to African American male, as well as the educational systems and structures that may lead to the overrepresentation of African American males in special education, and contribute to the growing research related to the overrepresentation of African American males in special education.
Statement of the Problem
The table below presents the data regarding the most recent Annual Report which was the content of the 22nd Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Specific Learning Disabilities
Speech and Language Impairments
Other Health Impairments
Traumatic Brain Injury
Looking at the table above, African Americans between six to 21 years of age account close to 15 percent (14.8%) of the total population; yet 20.2% of the population in special education are composed of this group. Moreover, out of 13 disability categories, the percentage of African Americans is equal to or greater than the percentage in the resident population in 10 disability classes. African American representation in mental retardation and developmental delay is two times more than the national estimates.
Despite a plethora of research focused on equating the educational experience of African American males in education, overrepresentation of this population in special education persists (Artiles & Harry, 2005; Artiles & Trent, 1994; Bondy & Ross,1998; Ford, 2004; Hillard, 1992; Losen & Orfield, 2002; MacMillan & Reschley, 1998; Noguera, 2003; Reschley, 2002; Webb-Johnson, Artiles, Trent, Jackson, & Velox, 1998). Despite the fact that studies on overrepresentation varied in the research design, the findings were found to be consistent and for over 25 years of paying attention to this educational predicament, coming up with solutions and answers to this problem is imperative. Instead of documenting patterns of over-representation, the focus of scientific undertaking should be on taking the courses of action and generating solutions. Most scientists have proposed providing the preventive and appropriate interventions for students who are at risk for underachievement and enhancing the capability of teachers in working with studies coming from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Though these interventions and solutions are desirable, the problem lies in their development based on present body of knowledge regarding overrepresentation. Majority of the investigations on overrepresentation centers on general patterns. Oftentimes, the missing part of the puzzle is the analysis of variables that are potentially predictors of overrepresentation patterns (MacMillan & Reschly, 1998). So that the efficient and effective strategies are identified, there should be a considerable amount of depth in the understanding of these variables as demonstrated in the studies of Artiles, Aguirre-Munoz, & Abedi (1998), Coutinho & Oswald (1998), Finn (1982), and Hosp & Reschly (2002). The data analyzed were state- and individual-level and zeroing on particular disabilities like mental retardation or learning disability. In 1999, Oswald and colleagues comprehensively conducted an analysis utilizing the level most commonly employed in the examination of representation patterns which are obtained at the district level
Over-representation has been found to be detrimental to numerous African American youngsters across the country. They could not gain access to the curriculum for general education, highly likely become recipient of services not suited to their needs, and the risk of being labelled inappropriately or misclassified. When a student is erroneously labelled, perceptions of low academic expectation are pervasive. The student may also succumb to both social and emotional problems and achievement-related outcomes are seriously compromised. The impact of mislabelling on students is similar to those who actually are special children such as disparities in educational opportunities, differences in graduation rates and earning power during graduation and enrolment in tertiary institutions (NABSE, 2002)
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this proposed study is to explore the phenomenon of overrepresentation of male African Americans in XISD located at the northeastern section of Dallas county. Specifically it will first determine the factors that contribute to the overrepresentation of African American males in special education programs and suggest solutions and strategies to reduce disproportionality.
Significance of the Study
The problem of over-representation of male African American students in special education programs is a reality often blamed to biased assessment and referral procedures widely reported in literature (Cummins, 1986; Hilliard, 1990). Unfortunately, the probability of being assigned to a special education program substantially increases once the process of referral is initiated (Artiles & Trent, 1994). When a student is referred, he or she is subjected to psychological testing and the outcome of the tests will determine his or her placement (Bahr et al. 1991). Conversely, to be a young male and African American is high-risk for placement.
Social workers in school play a key position in intervening the referral process and directly work with the population. When efforts in social work are conducted earlier on, concerns during referral are addressed by averting improper and gratuitous referral, testing, and placement. Early intervention measures provide opportunities for examining the abilities and strengths of students and further explore alternative courses of action in placement therefore mitigating the problem. The information obtained during this phase will be valuable in ascertaining whether or not the referral to special education services is warranted and rule out other problems for instance the bias of the teacher before a comprehensive psychological evaluation is mandated. Social workers can implement a solution-focused approach in early intervention for young male African Americans who are considered for special education services. In this intervention, school social workers perform student assessment carefully taking into account the student's school environment along with short-term interventions aimed to determine whether additional assessment or placement is deemed necessary. This step can aid in ensuring that the referral is appropriate According to Bruce (1995), brief solution-focused intervention is effective when addressing problems among special education students in the constrained time school social workers have worked with them. However, activities that form part of this intervention must be age-appropriate in producing optimal results.
Artiles (2002) recommended a five-step guideline to effectively monitor over-representation in special education classrooms. First is to have a broad knowledge pertaining to the history of the problem. Despite changes in the categories and patterns over the past three decades, there are patterns that appear to be predictable and consistent to random fluctuations. Therefore it is essential to collect information regarding the history of over-representation using national and local statistics. In other words, the roots of the problem will be traced from when it started as well as the causes that contributed to the patterns of over-representation. Artiles and Trent (1994), Artiles and Trent (2000), and Reschly (1997) showed that size of the school district, programs on special education, and proportion of a minority group in the district influence the problem. There is a possibility that the district may have previous instances of over-representation of English learners though this trend is not reflected in both state and national statistics. When school administrators are aware of the history, it will result in the identification of categories or groups that are over-represented and efficient monitoring of programs. The second step is the identification of reliable and useful indicators. School administrators need to clearly define the problem and utilize sound indicators; generally its definition is the "extent to which membership in a given group affects the probability of being placed in a disability category" (Oswald et al. 1999). There should be at least two indicators to be measured in better understanding the problem: indices of composition and risk. Composition index is computed by "contrasting the group in general education with the percentage of the same group of students enrolled in a special education program" (Artiles & Trent, 2000). Over-representation is evident in a school when the percentage is greater than 10% of the "percentage expected on the basis of the school-age population" (Chinn & Hughes, 1987). To illustrate this an example will be provided. The reported total EL enrolment in the districts targeted is 42%. Basing on the 10% criterion, the EL is over-represented if the enrolment has exceeded 46.2% 42+4.2), the data revealed that 45% of students with disabilities were ELs; therefore there is no over-representation in the district. In contrast, risk index represents the number of individuals in a group labeled to be in need of special education services (Reschly, 1997). In the research of Artiles and Trent (2002), though 45% of students in special education comprise ELs, roughly 8% of the entire ELs were in these programs. The typical scenario is that the composition index is always greater than the risk index. The third is definition of target groups. History has seen that over-representation is influenced by ethnic minorities; however, it could also be apparent in other subgroups such as low socio-economic status of which very little is known. Therefore it is important to zero in on specific groups within the population that is targeted for the intervention. For instance the study of Aristiles and Trent (2002) found that the EL subgroup showed a higher likelihood of a special education placement compared to their counterparts who are proficient in English-ELs stand a 27% chance to being placed in elementary special education classes and almost twice at the secondary levels. The scenario in secondary classes with enrollees who are mentally retarded was dramatic as ELs were more than thrice likely to be assigned in this particular program and 38% in secondary classes for those possessing impairment in language and speech. The authors found a certain subgroup in the EL population demonstrating a higher chance of being over-represented. Unless this analysis is performed, significant patterns are masked. The fourth step involves the examination of patterns of placement in a multi-stage or level approach. A tracking system should aim various locations and multiple levels in which analysis proceeds from aggregate to disaggregate levels. Data on placement can be analyzed according to service options (self-contained classroom against resource room), disability type and programs. Conduct of these analyses is at the state down to the district then finally the grade level. The study of Aristiles and Trent (2002) mentioned that though data at the district level did not represent EL over-representation, a distinctive trend was noted in the grade level- ELs were not over-represented in grades K-4, however emerged in grade 5 and remained clearly visible until grade 12. Furthermore, the index on risk consistently increased from Kindergarten up to grade 6 from 2% to 16% and plateau from grades 7-12 (range=11-16%). The last step is the development of short- and long-term agenda in tackling the problems. Over-representation is merely an indicator, but not the primary problem. Donovan and Cross (2002) emphasized the influence of various factors like poverty, low birth weight, less access to well-trained teachers, and bias in assessment. This phenomenon should be a warning for school administrators to address basic problems rather than treating it as the only problem requiring undivided attention. The school administrators should consider the needs for instructional and educational services, quality of instruction and academic and life outcomes. There is a need for close monitoring of these factors along with focusing on student demographics. Solutions in the past have dwelt on balancing statistics or attempting to develop a more precise method of assessment. These measures have in reality sidestepped the major objective of education, which is the provision of equal opportunities for education and more importantly, equal educational outcomes.
Nature of the Study
In order to provide evidence on the over-representation of male African Americans in special education programs in XISD, this study will establish the factors that contribute to the overrepresentation of male African Americans in special education, the influence of cultural bias, multi-cultural and/or diversity training, White/female privilege and gender on the over-representation of male African Americans in special education. Study implementation will employ the descriptive, qualitative, and cross-sectional design.
The complex nature of the problem will be approached using a qualitative research design because the researcher has deemed this method appropriate in determining the nature of over-representation in a school district in Dallas county. Creswell (1994) said "A qualitative study is defined as an inquiry process of understanding a social or human problem, based on building a complex, holistic picture, formed with words, reporting detailed views of informants, and conducted in a natural setting. Alternatively a quantitative study, consistent with the quantitative paradigm, is an inquiry into a social or human problem, based on testing a theory composed of variables, measured with numbers, and analyzed with statistical procedures, in order to determine whether the predictive generalizations of the theory hold true."
In a qualitative design, respondents in the study will be asked to relate their experiences so the phenomenon will be interpreted. The strength of this method lies in its ability to "provide complex textual descriptions of how people experience a given research issue". Through this method, the human side of a research problem is highlighted which could include emotions, views, opinions, beliefs, and behaviors. An advantage of qualitative research is its use of open-ended questions that provides opportunity for key informants to freely express their responses in their own terms rather than having them encircle from fixed choices as is the case of quantitative research. The use of open-ended questions ensure that the answers have meaning and culturally relevant. Likewise the results are unforeseen by the researcher and provides a richer and explanatory perspective. In qualitative research, collection and analysis of data are done simultaneously and do not proceed in a linear fashion (Merriam, 1998). Methods of analyzing data entailed transcription, coding and categorization of interviews and field notes (Sells & Smith, 1997). The data reduction methods of Miles and Huberman (1994) will be used in the analysis of data which will start with categorizing and pattern matching, displaying data in the form of matrices, and drawing conclusions and verifying. Ryan and Bernard (2000) presented a coding scheme which involved abbreviations, key words, and numbers that mark passages in the data set. Codes that share in relationship and content are combined forming larger clusters or categories. Once coding is applied, concepts begin to emerge which will then be further analyzed in terms of how it is linked to the theoretical framework. Because the study will analyze multiple case studies, within- and cross-case analyses will be carried out (Merriam, 1998) to determine the themes that are common among all the cases considered. In the within-case analysis, each case will be treated as comprehensive case in and of itself. Data will be coded and themes will be identified. Once analysis of each case is completed, a cross-case analysis will be employed to determine the common themes in all the cases. Those to be interviewed in the study include teachers, students with disabilities, parents, school psychologists, and facilitators. The researcher will also review the records of students to determine whether their referral into the special education program followed IDEA.
The study will be purposefully conducted in order to provide answers to the following questions:
What factors contribute to the overrepresentation of African American males in special education?
How does cultural bias influence the overrepresentation of African American males in special education?
What impact does multicultural and/or diversity training (pre-service and/or professional development) have on the overrepresentation of African American males in special education?
How does White/female privilege influence the overrepresentation of African American males in special education?
How does gender impact the overrepresentation of African American males in special education?
The study will based its theoretical analysis on three theories namely: Classical View Theory, Social Dominance Theory (SDT), Critical Race Theory (CRT), Instructional Leadership and Transformational Leadership Theory.
Classical View Theory
Classical View Theory refers to the traditional way, and most common reason, African American males are referred to Special Education. The usual method of identifying a student for placement in a Special Education program begins primarily with the recommendation of the regular classroom teacher; occasionally, parents are the initiatorsââ‚¬Â¦students are then assessed. However, students of culturally diverse backgrounds may not benefit from mainstream assessment instruments. Nationwide, Black children are three times as likely as White children to be placed in classes for the mentally retarded (Kozol, 1991, p. 119). Teachers' cultural attitudes and perspectives may influence referral process and support personal biases. Delpit (2006) suggested that a misunderstanding exists between teachers and minority students in adjusting between holistic and traditional instruction. Teachers do not understand the learning potential of minority students; furthermore, Delpit contended that teachers have the tendency to place limits on their instructional delivery. Deficit thinking, causes many teachers to view minority students as liabilities rather than assets instead of capturing and engaging the wealth of knowledge all children bring to the classroom (Landsman & Lewis, 2006). Russell (2005) emphasized that African American parents must become familiar with strategies on how to maneuver successfully among school and district policies and practices as well as the system as a whole to advocate more effectively for their children.
Social Dominance Theory
The social dominance theory (SDT) has become a powerful influence in linking groups to the socio-political arena of the power relations across gender and various societal strata (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). This theory argues the presence of group-based hierarchies in all human societies where the dominant groups obtain more benefits and have a higher access to resources as opposed to the subordinate groups. The theory presents the mechanism that enable the dominant groups to retain their place or position in society, and hypothesizes the invariant relationship existing between gender and group-based inequality with the men at a greater advantage since they consistently benefit from the gender inequality (Sidanius, Pratto, & Bobo, 1994). Dissimilar to most intergroup relations theories, SDT considers prejudice as functional rather than irrational (Sidanius, 1993). It is sensible for men to be in favor of the inequality since they draw from the females, material advantage from society by holding these ideologies and attitudes. This also holds for other groups. Several authors have verified the basic premises of SDT like Pratto et al. (2000), Pratto et al. (1994), Pratto, Stallworth, & Sidanius (1997) Sidanius et al. (2000), Sidanius et al. (1994), Sidanius, Pratto, & Brief (1995), Sidanius, Pratto, & Rabinowitz (1994), but there remains doubt regarding whether the theory can be generalized. SDT is being criticized for its being homeostatic; in other words, all the premises are geared towards maintaining inequality in society. What will happen if a society undergoes a significant change where previously dominant groups become the subordinate to those who were previously the minority group? At present, SDT does not extend to this case. The SDT stated that social stratification occurs on the basis of gender, age, and "arbitrary set" which could be ethnic background, class or race. Its theoretical predictions commence by assuming the stability and fixity of these three systems. In the event that the actual political power in one of the social stratification systems reverses meaning a previously subjugated group becomes the ruling class, will this reversal of power be instantaneously mirrored psychologically? Will those oppressed in the past support inequality in society? And when there is power reversal in one system, how will be other two be affected psychologically? Will they be upset or not? How about the mechanisms that govern maintenance of inequality and hierarchy in society?
There are three basic assumptions in the SDT:
1. "While age- and gender-based hierarchies will tend to exist within all systems, arbitrary-set systems of social hierarchy will invariably emerge within social systems producing sustainable economic surplus".
2. Most forms of group conflict and oppression (racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, nationalism, classis, regionalism) can be regarded as different manifestations of the same basic human predisposition to form group-based social hierarchies. The second assumption tackles the difference between SDT and SIT. Though SIT recognizes and accommodates the phenomenon of social hierarchy as well as the power relations of social groups, SDT focuses on group-based social hierarchy. It is SIT that developed the explanation for favoritism within groups under the context of groups that are defined arbitrarily. However, SDT is the conceived to be the framework that explain the existence of social hierarchy. Because of this, the SDT's focal point is on the impact of social discourses and the behavior of the individual and institutions on the type and level of group-based hierarchy. In scenarios where relations in hierarchical groups cannot be identified, the SDT offers little explanation and one might be contented to explain prejudice and discrimination using earlier models like the SIT, realistic group conflict theory, and authoritarian personality theory. The SDT states not only will group-based social hierarchy ubiquitous but also most if not all prejudices, ideologies, and stereotypes pertaining to superiority and inferiority among groups as well as the nature of individual and institutional discrimination both contribute and reflect group-based social hierarchy. Simply put, phenomena such as discrimination, stereotypes, racism cannot be explained outside the framework of group-based social hierarchy, especially within the social systems of economic surplus.
3. "Human social systems are subject to the counterbalancing influences of hierarchy-enhancing forces, producing and maintaining ever higher levels of group-based social inequality, and hierarchy-attenuating forces producing greater levels of group-based social equality". As one reads historical accounts in societies that are non-hunter-gatherer, there are testaments to the extreme group-based social inequality. A relatively recent example is the chattel slavery in the US which is one of the most gruesome illustrations of inequality in human history. Because social value either positive or negative is not equally distributed across the population, group-based social inequality results. Through the use of social beliefs, doctrines, and myths, uneven distribution of social value is given justification. Simultaneously, historical records would suggest attempts were made to consistently create more inclusive and egalitarian social systems. Evidence from history would reveal that HA forces are apparent in the early Christian discourse to the sociopolitical discourses stemming from Marxist, socialist, and social democratic movements in the 19th century to the human and civil rights activists in the middle and late 20th century. The HA forces however have appeared to moderate the extent of inequality in non-hunter-gatherer societies.