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Historically, colonial establishments have always produced a culture of alienation amongst people on the lower end of the social strata which has been derived from the deliberate use of education as a weapon of mass domination. The use of this pedagogy over time has lead to the demise of political authority and has created a strong distrust of dominant education at large by the general minority student population, and inspired calls for incorporating new curriculum and pedagogy to combat and counter the systemic ideology of urban education. History has shown that when oppressed and subordinated groups become inspired to improve their condition they often seek to enhance their condition through the creation of better pedagogy. In the United States a prevailing body of thought in Black Studies has be asking for the intellectual recognition and cultural legitimacy of the historical and cultural heritage of blacks (Hine, Darlene Clark. 1986; Meier, August & Rudwick, Elliott. 1986, Hall, Perry A., 1999). The emergence of intellectual tradition in both the United States and Africa has served to correct the misconceptions of a dominant tradition, and assisted in movement toward creating a body of knowledge that can more accurately depict and represent the historical experiences of indigenous people.
Paulo Freire gives a detailed description of a situation where oppressed people often end up adapting values and strategies of their oppressor, becoming themselves oppressors or sub-oppressors for the purpose of being accepted by the dominate society. Though they may not be completely aware of their domination, "their perception of themselves as opposites of their oppressor does not yet signify engagement in a struggle to overcome the contradiction; the one pole aspires not to liberation, but to identification with its opposite pole." (Freire, Paulo, 2000). In America, there was a strong movement by the culturally astute members of the minority population to create a pedagogy that would reject the logic of the oppressor. Unfortunately this movement has done little more than to affirm what Freire hypothesized in his work. The problem with this kind of identification is the fact that it is born out of alienation. It is a futile attempt to disown the hegemonic practices of the current education system. In reality what has developed is a pedagogy that is heavily dependent on race.
Why do inequities exist? What are their origins? Why do they persist in the current paradigm? These are important questions to answer before attempts to propose any solution. Are educational initiatives aimed at equity and multicultural awareness simply attempts at making amends for things that are in essentially broken in the first place? Are multicultural educational initiatives, ideological attempts to lead students toward a better more evolved understanding of the broad based hodgepodge which characterizes humanity? Does it give a deeper credence to the purpose of education or simply remedy the situation on an ad-hoc basis as opposed to getting to the root of problems? There is interest in addressing and changing the status quo contributing to the propagation of injustice in the world within the framework of education. However simply proposing a theoretical solution without fully understanding the real issues to begin with is both problematic and wishful thinking. Some positions are now presented about the origins of inequity and injustices within educational and societal mechanisms, need to be addressed first by educators before proposing any global framework for multiculturalism through globalization.
The idea of Globalization has a requirement that people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds will need to come to terms with radically new interactions and complexities of the human experience. An awareness which could only be advanced through the use of institutional practices which de-emphasize the idea of race and ethnic exclusivity. Race emphasizes dichotomy, conflict and negative historical encounters; often elevating those negative encounters into absolute constructs of human encounters (i.e., black-white as absolute and incompatible), thereby foreclosing possibilities of discovering and appreciating commonalities. Globalization has overtime revealed its fair share of problems. Generally there is concern over, often times expressed through violent reactions, the economic implications of globalization. There is a dominating concern over status of wealthy nations, and multi-nationals, in respects to maintaining their disadvantaged position of superiority in respects to that of smaller and weaker nations. There are speculations to the idea that the perception of globalization as a vehicle for Eurocentric cultural hegemony could be skewed as a catch phrase to emphasize 'unequal encounters'. But the discoveries entail positive elements that would facilitate understanding and appreciation cross cultural barriers as well as provide an interactive nature of the human experience which should result in the acquisition of better knowledge of each other, and greater appreciation for each other. There is no doubt that many of the atrocities and manifestations of 'man's inhumanity to man' that currently influence human encounters, may likely be used to facilitates greater mutual appreciation and respect amongst humanity. The adoption of a race-based pedagogy would only impose unnecessary limits on the possibility of participating actively in, and benefiting from, the expansive parameters of human encounters.
In seeking to influence institutional change it is impeccably important to address the ramifications that have led to the condition from which the need for change has arisen. The United States indoctrinated in 1776 was colonized by a group of individuals who expressed a belief that it was necessary to have civil liberties from a totalitarian form of government as they felt was being imposed upon them by the British Colonial powers. After the Revolutionary War, there was an invigorating air about the country, because the people truly believed that they had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as was stated by the forefathers of this country ascribed in the United States Constitution. While this was a luxury that was to be shared by the land owners at the time, it energized people to institute revolutionary change in society for the sole purpose of created a shift from the old British colonial paradigm to what has become in ideology the new American paradigm.
The second wave of that shift came during the time of the Great Depression. While America was always perceived as the land of opportunity, it was even more so during this time because this depression marked the shift of the economic prosperity of the entire nation. While the depression had huge impacts on the total social welfare of the nation, certain areas of the country remained very much unaffected by the shift based on their impendent cultural consciousness. While the reporting of this aspect of the great depression is widely overlooked, there was section of the United States population that found their condition unchanged relative to that of the majority population. The United States has always been divided amongst the general population. The primary basis for this division was greed, envy, and overall jealousy. Whether this is innate or learned warrants no difference because the outcome of such action is usually the same. The outcome is division whether it is by economics, by segregation, labor, politics, and education. The division is a systematic disregard for humanity. This is a problem because "Politicians on the extreme right trade in their beliefs so that the writers on intelligence and 'cognitive abilities' would have you believe that there is something in our genes that determine significant differences in intellectual, sporting and criminal behavior(Gillborn,David. 2008)." In the United States, the effects of race are pandemic. Race consciousness and racism are so deeply rooted in this society that "In the US, for example, any physical marker of African American ancestry is usually taken as sufficient to identify a person as 'Black'; that same person, however, could board a flight to Brazil and, on disembarking, would find that they were viewed very differently by most Brazilians because the conventional categories in that society are markedly different to the 'commonsense' assumptions in North America (Gillborn,David. 2008)." Never was this more so seen than in education. From the pivotal Brown v. Board of Education case which led to the desegregation of schools to the No Child Left Behind legislature. There has been systemic and inherent racism in the school system.
Ever since the decision in the Brown vs. the Board of Education case rendered by the Supreme Court, America has been working to improve the diversity problem in America's school systems. This landmark decision set in place an idea that should have improved educational equality for all American citizens. The idea was that through equal educational opportunities, citizens should be able to obtain equal status in society. But as Geneva Gay states in a quote by James Patterson, "The complicated issues that Brown tried to resolve in 1954 still torment Americans half a century later." (Gay, Geneva 2004)
The promise of the Brown vs. the Board of Education case was to improve educational conditions and job opportunities for African-Americans at the time. "It is uncertain whether the Supreme Court meant its decision to be limited to the physical relocation of human bodies to achieve desegregation, or to imply that the mere presence of African Americans and European Americans in the same schools was sufficient to accomplish equal educational opportunities." (Gay, Geneva 2004) What ensued after the decision was a rash of violent interactions as African-American students were bused from their school districts to all white schools. The goal of the decision was to improve the conditions that African American students went to school in, but inevitably they were made worst.
Although the physical violence of school integration is over, a larger more pertinent issue has failed to be addressed. The "major oversight in the Brown decision was the failure to address curriculum and instruction." (Gay, Geneva 2004) Curriculum and Instruction is the very foundation through which ideas and principle are passed down from generation to generation. It is commonly known that the ideas and perceptions of the parents are usually passed down to their progeny. This idea is also true in education.
The American Education system was developed from the middle class European American lifestyle. The idea behind this system, as with all systems of education, is to instruct their children in how to perform in their society. Vacca refers to this system of education as a 'monoculture,' "a culture that is rooted in European American beliefs, standards, and values." (Vacca, Richard & Vacca, JoAnne, 2007) The problem with this system is that it does not reflect the values, standards and beliefs of people that are not representing the European ethnic group. Students representing other ethnic groups usually find themselves disenfranchised because they do not represent the culture that they are being instructed in. It is often the expectation, as taught to teachers upon entering into the school system, to instruct these students in how to perform in this European American system of education. This often causes these students to lose their cultural identity.
It is thought that "the changing demographics of the U.S. population which had always been multicultural but was becoming even more so, seemed to make a compelling case for a more inclusive curriculum." (Rothenberg, Paula 2007) What was developed was a system of pacification. Students of diverse ethnic backgrounds often find remnants of their culture instituted into various events; i.e. cultural days, using rap in the classroom, ethnic foods in the cafeteria, etc. The fundamental problem with this approach is that it does not address what the students are being taught and how it is being taught to them. If everything that is being taught is based on "the narrowly white, male, Eurocentric, privileged perspective," then how can a person who happens not to represent that description find connection to the material that is being taught to them. (Rothenberg, Paula 2007)
A student's ability to connect and relate to instruction material is based on the cultural context to which that material is addressing. Can that particular student activate prior knowledge based on their cultural background? It is important for an instructor to understand that all information disseminated in classroom instruction should be delivered in a way that is sensitive to the cultural needs of the students and "keep in mind the cultures that relate to socioeconomic status." (Vacca & Vacca, 2007) It is important to understand the effects of socioeconomic status, because of the huge increase of students entering the school system from a low socioeconomic background. "Many school districts nationwide are experiencing rapid growth in the number of students of color, culturally and linguistically diverse students, and students from low-income families." (Howard, Gary 2007)
The largest population of diverse students is represented by low income families. Students who represent this population can be from any ethnic background. Though they represent different cultural contexts, these students tend to have striking similarities. These students often live in inadequate housing. They often do not have adequate utilities. And can sometimes suffer from malnutrition. Working with students under these parameters is often a challenged. They do not understand the middle class European American lifestyle, and they are often distracted from learning because of their unfulfilled basic needs. As schools work to fulfill some of these basic needs, they are now faced with an even more pressing challenge. The challenge instituted by the implementation of President Bush's No Child Left Behind policy.
The No Child Left Behind "legislation requires states to test all pupils in grades three to eight and to identify schools as 'in need of improvement' if students in certain subgroups (racial minority, economic level, English fluency, and special education) do not either reach minimum standards or show improvement over time." (Boser, Ulrich 2003) Due to this new legislation, schools are now being targeted to improve their education standards. "While states have long targeted low-performing urban schools for improvement, suburban schools with high overall test scores and pockets of racial and economic diversity are only now coming under the reform microscope." (Boser, Ulrich 2003) This legislation is another attempt by the federal government to correct the learning ambiguities that are found in the education system.
The idea that racism is something that all people in society inevitably learn by simply living in a racist society is a profound testament of why it is so embedded in the education system (King, Hollins, & Hayman, 1997; McIntosh, 1989; Tatum, 1992). It challenges on the most precious of sense the democratic ideals espoused about the equitability of access to opportunity as well as posing as a formidable challenger to idea of promoting systemic change within that environment. The problem lies within the culture itself. The American tradition is predicated on one's ability to exude the criminal mentality. This is evidence by the promotion of the family member of bootleggers, mafia, and drug lords to public office. Alongside the development of RICO laws that punish people not already affiliated with these families from doing the same thing. The social promotion of the American 'bad boy' is an inherent problem because it leads to the high incarceration rates of people who find themselves on the lower end of the social strata. Education plays into this because the educational curriculum never fully addresses the social, political, and cultural concerns of the ethnic minority. Growing up and attending an inner-city school in Charlotte, North Carolina, much can be said about this. Never was it taught in school about the accomplishments of the Native Americans (i.e. Geronimo, Sitting Bull, etc.). Nor were the accomplishments of other races given the same attention to detail as to the advancements of Caucasian Americans (i.e. Jewish, Italian, Irish, Polish, Hungarian, German, Roman, Greek, etc.). Furthermore it has been shown that if a "teacher believes a student's intellectual potential is low, research shows that the teacher will "teach down" to the estimated level" (Chunn,Eva Wells 1988). This is a two-fold problem. First the student develops a lack of interest in the material because of a pivotal lack of connection, then the student is looked down upon because of this lack of interest and then subjugated to inferior teaching because the teacher feel that the student lacks the ability to learn on the same level as the other students of the class. Asa Hilliard postulates that students subjected to this form of education generally suffer from a misrepresentation and misestimation of (1) intellectual potential (the consequence of which - mislabeling, misplacement, and mistreatment of children - are enormous); (2) learned abilities or achievement in academic subjects such as reading' and (3) language abilities (Hilliard,Asa Grant, 1983, 1991).
While attacking racism from a system wide approach is the current trend in the New York and Los Angeles public school systems, it is not of concern here. The primary area of focus for the undertaking of systematic approach to change will be in the field of Technology Education. Racism is pandemic in society, but Racism itself was not created over night. Racism has a long and drawn out development of which its origins are unknown. What is known is that the idea of fixing the problem will not happen overnight as well. A systematic approach must be taken to rid the education system of racism and all of the other 'isms' that exist within its hallowed halls. For the duration of this paper the primary focus will be placed on Technology Education for practicality.
Technology Education while in theory seems to be less of a preemptive tool for the spread of racism; it too still finds its ugly face rearing its head in the discipline. Racism in Technology Education finds it roots in the doctrine. It is because the doctrine leaves out much technological advancement that was made by people of color. While it can be assumed that the nature justification for this is that the advancement of the field was primarily done in Europe and America, it ignores the very foundation that the whole of technological advancement was not done in isolation. Examples of this can be seen in the surgical practices of the Egyptians and the Kenyans. Or Peter Schmidt's and Donald Avery's, of Brown University in Rhode Island, findings that Africans along the lakes of Tanzania and Uganda were smelting steel 1500 years ago (Van Sertima,Ivan. 1992). It also ignores the fact that not only were they smelting steel but they were achieving the process in a single stage because their blast furnaces were producing temperatures that were 200 degrees higher than any machine that was smelting steel in Europe until the late nineteenth century(Van Sertima,Ivan. 1992). The curriculum blatantly ignores the fact that in order to achieve this significant process, there had to be schools of learning in Africa which was the building block for such development. Moving forward, the discipline does not place people in their rightful position in the field of technological advancement, which explains why they are not taught. Examples of this can be seen through people like Benjamin Bannekar, Lewis Lattimer, Elijah McKoy, Mae Jamison, etc. These people not only paved the way for the advancement of others, but also contributed volumes to the current technological condition. It is taught that Lewis Oppenheimer worked to develop the atomic bomb, but what is glossed over is the fact that he was working with a team of over 200 scientists whose names are only now being acknowledge.
While traditionally the way that Technology Education is taught, lauds in comparison to the damage done by fields like Science, English and History. Racism is still deeply rooted in the curriculum because it does not teach about the advancements to the field by other people. Yes, Technology Education is the only field that can tout that it was started by a woman, but where is the promotion of the advancements of women to the field being taught in the curriculum? Why is this fact seemingly glossed over in the curriculum? This is an example of why women may be detracted from the field due to sexism. It is necessary for students to see themselves in a curriculum to find value in such curriculum. This is why a systematic approach to the alleviating the condition must be considered.
The primary foundation to this approach is based on the Critical Race Theory of which no practical application has arisen in the public sector. Since the effects of racism, sexism, classism, etc, are systemic, they must be addressed from the top down. It is necessary to reorganize what is taught in Technology, Engineering, and Technology Education classes on the collegiate level. The reason why this needs to happen is because what is taught on the collegiate level is eventually passed down to the public sector of society. This is also important because the future film makers and designers will be equipped to know how racism is further perpetuated through the media and could possible do something to circumvent it. It is also important, as according to Marilyn Cochran-Smith, for educators to take the
"position that it is part of our responsibility as teachers and teacher educators to struggle along with others in order to unlearn racism, and to interrogate the racist assumptions that may be deeply embedded in our own courses and curricula, and address our own complicity in maintaining existing systems of privilege and oppression, while grappling with our own failures to produce the kinds of changes we advocate" (2000).
She postulates that it is imperative that teachers in this society unlearn the ideological principles that are used to maintain the status quo in society. By doing this, it will allow for more opportunities to arise for the underprivileged of society.
By teaching a curriculum driven at enhancing the overall schema of technological advancement by all culture, increased interest in the field of Technology Education will proportionally rise. Students will have a greater understanding of the legacy that their culture contributed to society there by creating a sense of purpose and moral character in the student. This enrichment will eventually lead to a sense of value in the student who will then be more interested in the subject matter that is being disseminated in the classroom environment. The students will also be more proactive about exhibiting greater moral character in the class.
The second phase that educators must take, that is more difficult than the first phase, is to work to rid themselves of potential social 'isms' that they themselves my carry into the classroom. This application is difficult because the educator must first address current and embedding beliefs and values that they themselves bring into the classroom. Examples of this can range from a Caucasian teacher looking down upon people with darker toned skin and assessing them as inferior that of people of his own skin pigmentation, to a male science teacher dismissing a female students lack of understanding of a topic as typical to the gender. From an administrative standpoint, administrators can address some of these issues that may be embedded in their faculty by having anti-isms seminars/symposiums. The administration can highlight events where 'ism' have been brought into a situation and provide the faculty with resources and strategies that can help in combating these actions in the classroom/school environment. The Administration can promote cultural awareness programs in the school which will increase not only the faculties' understanding of their students, but will also impact the students' understanding of themselves.
Other activities that the administration of schools can carry out are to develop and promote programs which highlight cultural aspects of the different people that are represented in the general population of the school. By doing this it will educate the parents of the students of the cultural difference represented in the school which should allow the parents of these students to make informed decision about how to interact with the school. This will also improve the relations that the students themselves have with other students as they see their parents embracing new ideas.
In conclusion, it is important that the 'isms,' which are manifesting in today's education system, should be address by systematic change. The system should be a threefold process, where there is aggreement from the administrative staff, faculty, and community. There should be active participation on the faculty part in the University education system, to better equip new teachers with current and relevant information that will allow the new teacher to be able to connect the material to the student population that the new teacher will be instructing. It is the job of the administrative staff to promote an environment where the expression of cultural differences is safe and inviting. The administrative staff should facilitate the proliferation of materials and events that will enhance the knowledge of the general public about diversity issues. It is the job of the faculty which resides in the public education arena to assist in squelching personal biases that are represented based on their own upbringing and provides a culturally rich exploration to education. It would be advantageous to have acceptance from the parents that are sending their children to the school. This above all else, parental acceptance, will expedite the transition of students from the traditional education to a diverse education.