Friday, January 27, 2012

Year 2: Week 19 – What Diversity Means In Education-Part II

Last spring I made a post of diversity in education. I didn’t really draw any conclusions in this post. I reflected on my own life and told a story about talking about my background enrich my students’ lives.

This week as I sat on a sub-committee at my school focused on the issue of diversity, I realized that I actually did have a strong idea of what diversity in education meant in education contrary to my conclusion in my earlier post on the subject.

“Diversity” is a huge buzz word not only in educations but in many corners of our world. The idea is that somehow, whatever business or group is more diverse is better. Why? A more diverse group of people brings more perspectives and abilities and is therefore more relevant. There’s almost a “political correctness” to the idea of being more diverse to the point that anyone who asserts the opposite is offensive.

As someone who brings diversity as an Asian American into most of the situations in my life, I like diversity. Because I am diversity. However I understand reservations about putting such a focus on being diverse especially if it’s at the cost of other things. Should a university be more diverse if it means the academic standards drop? No, I’m not talking about simply minorities here, I’m talking about all of the differences in our culture: gender, sexual-orientation, location in the country, socio-economic level, religion to name a few.

Not everything is better by being made more diverse. How strong can a Catholic Church community be if people of many religions come to the services with no intention of converting? There’s a place for a level of homogeny, but I think American education isn’t one of those places.

One of the things that I point out whenever someone asks me what I think about the fact that some countries like Japan and in Northern Europe have much higher test scores then American students is that their student population is much less diverse. If our goal as educators really was to teach math and reading, then we should segregate the schools by gender, languages they speak at home, learning styles, and of course ability. While you find schools that do separate their students by some or all of these ways, most schools don’t.

American education believes that it’s worth having lower test scores if students learn not only have to work with people who are different than them but embrace those differences as an asset.

Diversity isn’t just about specific differences in our country like race or gender. It’s not even about preparing our youth for a more global economy in the future. It’s about teaching students a paradigm that valuing diversity, differences in our world is what helps us understand each other.  In recognizing the differences and accepting them, we see the similarities that we all share and in those connections we find the moments that make life worth living.

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