The Importance of Racial Diversity in American Education
Diversity in American society has been widely talked about for the past few decades. Equality activists have pushed for diverse populations in every aspect of American culture. With this trend comes the topic of racism, which is wound into almost any diversity conversation. Diversity may matter greatly in some areas, like equal opportunity employers or political offices, but the debate has raged in the educational world as well. The question at the center of diversity in education is as follows: Is racial diversity in the classroom essential to a good education?
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The argument for diversity in schools parallels many other pro-diversity arguments; the more diverse an environment, the better for everyone involved. Janet W. Schofield, professor of psychology at University of Pittsburgh, claims that contact between races in schools naturally reduces prejudice. She also argues that diversity in schools increases social cohesion across racial boundaries and increases the students’ likelihood to engage in a more diverse adult work environment. Citing the report “What Work Requires of Schools” from the George H. W. Bush administration,
Schofield states that “the ability to work effectively with individuals from diverse backgrounds is a fundamental workplace skill” that, in her eyes, comes from racial diversity in schools. Sam Fullwood Ill, who was instrumental in the Los Angeles Times Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, vehemently promotes diversity in schools because “students who are not exposed to racial diversity in schools lack other exposure to interact with students from different racial backgrounds. ” The benefits that diversity advocates lean on are mostly immeasurable gains and ideological hopes.
Others respond that while racial diversity is never a bad thing in schools, it is not necessary toa good education. Abigail Thernstrom, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, argues that if a good education depended on racial diversity, then large city school districts would forever be doomed to providing low-quality educations. Thernstrom goes on to explain that racial diversity is in many instances classified as white versus non-white, meaning a school can be ‘diverse’ if it is half white and half asian, with zero black population, thus challenging the very foundation of the racially iverse conversations.
Further, the expectations of schools should not change, regardless of whether every student in every class is black, white, or Latino. Schools in all areas should be held to the same standard. Finally, Thernstrom points out that even with true racial diversity in a given school, ethnic clustering is present, all one has to do is “visit a school lunchroom”. Thernstrom’s points are even supported by the Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts. The Court ruled 5-4 against two separate school districts in Seattle, Washington, and Louisville, Kentucky, that wanted o further integrate schools using race as a primary factor.
The verdict ruled against the school districts because according to Chief Justice Roberts, the attempts violated the general Constitutional ban on treating people differently according to race. be entertained. To imply that a group of students of a single race do not learn as well as another is racism in and of itself. The issue of diversity should be focused on economic status. Studies have been done that link impoverished area schools with low performance, while high income area school scores are higher. Thus, diversity onversations should be centered around the level of income. Ms.
Thernstrom introduced the very good point that there have been zero studies proving that black students’ performance is better when learning around white students. So what, then, is the need for racial diversity? Yes, it is absolutely necessary for children to learn about other cultures and ethnic backgrounds in schools, but it is not necessary for school boards to go out of their way to have a balance of different skin colors in the classroom. Not only is it a waste of time and effort to mix up the ethnic populations n a school district, but in a time where money can make or break a school, it is beyond impractical.
Additionally, the Supreme Court honored the Constitution and the set-in-stone idea that people are not to be treated differently because of race with their ruling against the Seattle and Louisville school districts. By putting a spotlight on race and moving students from school to school, administrators are doing Just that; they are treating people differently because of race. Education does not see race or ethnicity. It is not the 1960s in Selma, Alabama. Racial diversity is everywhere, and only when people call attention to it, does it become an issue.
School curriculum is colorblind, meaning students need to all learn the same things. The ethnic studies in schools are covered by plenty of material already, and one would be very hard pressed to find a school anywhere in the country that does not hold a very special assembly every February. The time spent discussing the diversity in schools should be spend on training teachers or organizing after school activities. Pretty much any other use of school officials’ time would be more productive.