Sociological Issues and Diversity in Education

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Throughout history, teachers have dealt with many questions that remain unsolved today. These important queries address the nature of knowledge, education, schooling, teaching and learning. They deal with such issues as personal and group rights to participate in schooling, and how educational opportunities were often limited by gender, race, and socioeconomic class biases.

Different Ways of Learning

For many years, the special needs of children with disabilities have been neglected in the society and have been excluded from schools. Today, Federal laws and courts of law have required that their special needs be considered to ensure an adequate education (Sadker, Sadker & Zittleman, 2008). Most prominent is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which requires that children with disabilities education programs be as close as possible to the mainstream programs thus inclusion. Whereas inclusion has been noted to have a positive impact on the classroom environment, it is challenging for the teacher and thus more support for the teacher is necessary.

Inclusion poses various challenges to the teacher in the classroom. First, majority of teachers are not trained to handle the needs of special students and are usually ill-prepared resulting to frustration. A study carried out by Daane and Berne-Smith (2000) report that teachers feel "…ill equipped, fear and frustrated…" in inclusion. Second, as reported by Daane and Berne-Smith (2000) specialist items of equipment and the general school design does not always allow disabled access. Some disabled students will require special facilities which the ordinary schools do not normally provide or special facilities that mainstream schools did not incorporate in their design. Such tools as wheel chair access, Braille, and other special equipments may not be available for the students. Finally, teachers do not usually get the necessary support from the school administrators, the parents, and the society in general (Daane & Berne-Smith, 2000).

Whereas inclusion has received both support and criticism, one thing remains clear, that it has posed a special challenge for the teacher in the classroom. The lack of adequate training and necessary resources leaves the teacher ill-prepared to cope with the needs of the special children. It is important that necessary support is accorded to the teacher in terms of adequate resources and training to enable meet the special child in order for inclusion to achieve its full objectives. First, offering this support would create an enabling environment to enable the teacher to impart knowledge more effectively. Second this benefit extends to the students including the disabled as they will gain more knowledge. Finally, this would result to motivated teachers and better improved teacher retention, savings in recruitment and training and improved quality in education.

Student Diversity

The American society is increasingly getting diversified in terms of race, color, culture, ethnicity, language, and sex (Sadker, Sadker & Zittleman, 2008). The rising diversity is expected to continue in the future. In the classroom, and in order to meet the needs of the increasingly diversified population, an effective approach needs to be adopted. Thus to be responsive to the society needs, America needs to promote cultural diversity by introducing culturally responsive teaching.

The issue of Cultural diversity is relevant in the society and needs to be addressed. This is because first, there is a rising cultural diversity in the American population. It is estimated that by 2030, 50% of students in schools will be of color Sadker, Sadker & Zittleman, 2008. Second, there is need to address the growing inequality between various groups. Whites and Asians score higher on average than Hispanic and African American students. In addition, 50% of these under resourced groups drop out of school (Sadker, Sadker & Zittleman, 2008). This results to a rise in social crimes and a general deterioration in the society. Finally, there is likely to be a persistent increase in cultural diversity in terms of races and ethnicity.

One way of achieving the benefits of cultural diversity as suggested by Unruh and McCord (2001) is through influencing teachers' attitudes is important in order to enhance the rising diversity in American schools. Whereas existing teachers' education programs insist on multicultural sensitivity and teaching methodologies, individual dispositions and attitudes towards diversity may affect the effectiveness of the education system. To achieve effectiveness and expectations of the rising diversity trends, it is important not only to focus on fixed programs but to also focus on influencing individual teacher's attitudes. An environment that accommodates cultural diversification would result to a more conducive environment for learning. First, to the individual student, it would result to a sense of worth and thus chances for better achievement. In the general school environment, it would result to a culturally rich and complimenting environment. Finally, a culturally diversified school environment would be reflected in the society creating a condition of respect and general society well being. To meet the needs to the increasingly diversified population, it is important that proper steps are taken to promote cultural diversity in the education setting.

Financing and Governing American Schools

Governing and financing of American schools has been an issue of interest. Local and state governments have faced challenges on governing and raising adequate finances for education. In the endeavor to provide adequate and affordable education, governing of schools has been a central issue. Despite being an integral part in a school, teachers have for long been relegated to the classrooms with minimal contribution in governing their schools (Sadker, Sadker & Zittleman, 2008). This essay argues that for effective governing of schools, teachers need to be more involved in decision making.

This is an important issue in the society for several reasons. First, as reported by Morehead (2003) the major problems that teachers face in the school environment are "low pay, central direction and too much bureaucracy" thus undermining their active participation (86). Too much bureaucracy and central direction undermines teachers' sense of value, affects morale and increases turnover. Second, it results to less job satisfaction and a sense of low worth which results to high turnovers in the school and in the profession in general. Finally, less teacher involvement in the school management results to low creativity and untapped resources for development.

In the quest to provide adequate and affordable education, proper governing is important. Presently, teachers have little contribution to the governing in their schools despite their active involvement in the education environment. As reported by Morehead (2003), an environment that allows teachers participation in management of schools result to professionally fulfilled and dedicated staff that has positive contribution to education. Teachers need to be actively involved in order to enhance positive education outcomes. It is important that policies are designed with contributions from every stakeholder and in the education setting, it remains that for more effective governing and positive outcomes, teachers should be more involved in decision making.

Exceptional, Gifted and Talented Learners

Whereas the society may generally consider the gifted students to be the lucky ones, a closer look may reveal that they might actually be disadvantaged. Despite their endless curiosity, creativity and energy, when put into the regular classrooms, these children may suffer from negative peer pressure, boredom and may actually drop out of school (Sadker, Sadker & Zittleman, 2008). To enable these students to achieve their potentials in life and to tap their exceptional knowledge, it is important that special programs are put in place in order to enhance their learning.

This issue is important for the various reasons. First, failure to create an enhanced environment for these students might waste their potential. Gilson (2009) argues that learners in general need to be constantly challenged failure to which they not only become bored but they also "lose their willingness to challenge themselves to do better things" (36). Most learners need proper support in order to meet their goals and gifted students are no exception. They would experience boredom and negative pressure when placed in regular classes and this may be a recipe for dropping out instead of excelling. This would especially be remarkable if they come from minority groups. The end result is that the exceptionally bright student experience neglect and apathy and less chances of success in school. Second, deterioration of these students when put in regular classes represents is a failure by the society to tap their potential and hence a loss to the society at large. Research indicates that gifted students under such disciplines as Science, technology, Engineering, and mathematics have high chances of moving from abilities to competencies and eventually to expertise (Olszwski-Kubilius, 2010).

By providing special programs for the gifted students would result to several benefits. First, it would offer them an enabling environment that would enable them reach their individual potentials. Second, it would allow effective tapping of their skills for the potential benefits to the whole society. When the special qualities of gifted students are indentified and properly developed through appropriate programs, they can make important contributions to the society. Finally, allowing special programs would present a chance for development of; exemplary artwork, medical breakthroughs, and remarkable inventions which may otherwise be lost if they were not allowed to exploit their full potentials.

Is gender a learning style?

Generally, the society divides people into genders assigning various roles and expectations to specific gender. This has led to suggestions that females may prefer to learn one way while males may prefer a different one. Some believe that this should call for building of education institutions for the different gender (Sadker, Sadker & Zittleman, 2008). While some consider this stereotypic, some have advanced that this is a generalization that can be harnessed to provide improved outcomes in education. This essay argues that Gender is a learning style and should be utilized for positive learning outcomes.

This issue is important for various reasons. First, its understanding and utilization would facilitate improvements in impacting knowledge more effectively for the two genders. Second, males and females exhibit different cognitive learning styles and thus might require different approaches in order to learn effectively. Males are more intuitive learners while females were more sensing learners (Alumran, 2008). In a related study Miller et al. (as quoted in Alurman, 2008) established that males are more "kinesthetic, tactual, visual, and were more mobile whereas females where more conforming, more self, parent or teacher motivated than males" (305). Intuitive learners, who were predominantly male are more imaginative and innovative and have a better uptake at abstraction venturing into possibilities and relationships. Conversely sensing learners, who are predominantly females are good at memorizing, better uptake of facts, apply well known procedures to solve problems, emphasize on detail, and prefer routine and predictable aspects.

Females and males exhibit different preferences for social and conceptual learning styles. Females show more "concern for others", prefer hands on experience and practical aspects with more orientation towards affective and doing. Conversely, males exhibited "concern for self" prefer abstractive and reflective learning, learned better when thinking and watching and opted for abstract and sequential styles (Keri as quoted in Alarman, 2008).

Research indicates that males and females prefer different learning styles, that - gender is a learning style. Whereas advocacy may not be made for exclusive gender learning institutions, it is important that teachers in the classroom are aware of the different learning styles that specific gender prefers. Various benefits would be achieved by an understanding of this issue. First, it would allow devising appropriate programs for the genders which would enhance learning for the individual student. Further, it would act to improve the quality of education generally. It would further allow the pursuit of effective and economical approaches to learning between genders. One of the major aspects of successful universities is the ability to advance learning by understanding the way students learn.

Student Life in School and At Home

The American society has seen a gradual transition in past years. Previously there was communal involvement to bringing up of children and women were left at home to rear the children. Today's economic pressures requires cases where both parents are working, resulting to less childcare. School life greatly influences the child growth and social activities and teachers are therefore more involved in bringing up the children (Sadker, Sadker & Zittleman, 2008). Changing family lives are negatively impacting school life and teachers have a major role to play in ameliorating the situation.

The situation results to various negative impacts. First, there has been a dramatic change in the social and economic factors in the family unit and these have extended to affect school life. In the past communities communally took the responsibility of raising children but this has changed due to changing work patterns, less childcare facilities and economic factors (Sadker, Sadker & Zittleman, 2008). In the previous times, the social fabric was strong and communities approached issues communally. Today in the face of rising economic pressures, poverty, changing work patterns where a substantial proportion of children are raised by single parents or both parents go to work supervision of the child is waning. This has in great part contributed to challenges of drop outs, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, pregnancy and weight concerns.

To reduce the impacts of changing family lives to education; teachers need to create favorable classroom environments. It is only through creating a favorable environment where bias and hatred are replaced with trust, self-worth, positive relationship and informed sexuality that the situation can be improved (Abbot, 2006). Students will perform dismally in environments where negative effects are rife. These effects are damaging as they affect the psychological aspects of the student and will more often than not result to drop outs or low performances. In the classroom setting, developing curriculums need to recognize changing family life. The curriculum needs to emphasize community involvement, health issues. By student involvement in social services, reduce tracking and focusing affective developments of students, teachers can reduce the negative impacts.

Do Teachers Like Teaching?

Teaching is one of the careers that employ the largest number of people. Despite this, there have been suggestions that teachers may not be very happy in their career especially due to the relatively low pay as compared to other professions and the bureaucratic system. This might be supported by the high turn-over in this career. Some teachers have however reported that they actually do love their career mainly due to its intrinsic rewards. This essay argues that despite the high turnovers in teaching, most teachers like to teach. Understanding whether teachers like teaching has several implications. First, it would allow an understating of teacher's behaviors and perceptions this providing an explanation for their conduct. Second, an understanding would provide a framework in devising ways of influencing their behavior and conduct. It would for example explain why there are high turnover in the profession.

Most teachers are satisfied with what they do and the teaching environment. A NEA survey reported that 80% of the teachers were comfortable with their job, the job security and the related autonomy (Sadker, Sadker & Zittleman, 2008). Most teachers express their satisfaction with teaching. Teachers like their job despite reports of low pay because they are motivated by other factors apart from pay. A study by Chan (2005) reported that the most influential factors affecting motives and commitment to teaching were "altruistic motives, job conditions and influence from others" (14). Teachers state that they take up teaching positions mainly because they liked working with children and adolescents; they wanted to be of assistance to others, they perceived the work to be meaningful and challenging and it was in correspondence to their personality. Factors extrinsic factors as material rewards do not influence the choice of a teaching career as much as these other factors. It is important that the intrinsic factors that induce motivation and commitment in teachers are enhanced with extrinsic factors.

Most teachers love their career especially due to its intrinsic rewards which include satisfaction, the challenge, job security and the autonomy in the class room. The relatively low pay, bureaucracies in the system and other unfavorable conditions might explain the high turnover in the career. This understating that teachers like their career suggests that focus should be on providing better work conditions, better pay, job stability which would greatly enhance teachers' commitment and motivation resulting to better education outcomes. This will in addition promote positive learning outcomes for the students and enhance the level of education in the society in general.

Conclusion

Education forms an important aspect of human life by equipping the individual with necessary capability to meet future challenges and better life. The school environment has various interactions which despite the intention to achieve efficiency do not always do this. Among other issues, it important that teachers are well equipped to deal with inclusion of disabled students in the classroom, to understand how changing lifestyles are affecting the student environment, and to promote cultural diversity in the schools. In addition, it is important to; involve the teacher more in school governing, to consider the needs to gifted students, to utilize gender effectively as a learning style, and to improve on conditions that negatively impact teacher's perceptions of teaching. Such efforts may go a long way in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the learning and the teaching environment.

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