Understanding the opportunity gap

Understanding the Opportunity Gap and finding ways to bridge the gap.

Stephanie Sawyer takes us through her life in as community college student, student teacher and part time waitress.

Created by: Renin Broadnax

pathways after high school

The History 

Diversity in primary and secondary education has a very long and complicated history. According to Ed Change, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the women's rights movement joined this push for education reform. Women's rights groups challenged inequities in employment and educational opportunities as well as income, identifying education as a primary contributing factor in institutionalized and systemic sexism.” When referencing diversity in education it is important to mention race and gender. The intersection of those two underrepresented groups presents a conversation that needs to be identified when speaking on the inequities of education. 

Education State University stated, “by the late 1980s multicultural theorists recognized that ethnic studies was insufficient to bring about school reforms capable of responding to the academic needs of students of color. They consequently shifted their focus from the mere inclusion of ethnic content to deep structural changes in schools.” As a society, we often discuss the new influx of students entering into primary and secondary education. In conjunction with these structural changes, how are schools prepared for those students to enter into their facilities? Are they equipped to give these new students a proper education? 

Education Cultural Shift

The content in schools were adjusted to fit the many different levels and styles of learning for the myriad of different students in the same district who are now receiving schooling from the same curriculum. Education State University stated,  “the knowledge construction process helps teachers and students to understand why the cultural identities and social positions of researchers need to be taken into account when assessing the validity of knowledge claims. Multicultural theories assert that the values, personal histories, attitudes, and beliefs of researchers cannot be separated from the knowledge they create.”

Reducing prejudice among teachers was also a very crucial precautionary method when schools began to integrate, especially in reference to race and different ethnic backgrounds. Referencing Education State University they gave the insight of “the prejudice reduction dimension of multicultural education seeks to help students develop positive and democratic racial attitudes. It also helps students to understand how ethnic identity is influenced by the context of schooling and the attitudes and beliefs of dominant social groups.”

Benefits and Barriers 

“So the students are the ones that are raising that or bringing that into the classroom. And so the professor themselves are finding out like, Oh, I didn't know that. Or Oh, this is what's coming to my class now,”  Jose Rodriguez, chief director of diversity, said. “Or Oh, I need to start using pronouns because I might be identifying someone as a certain gender when they themselves may not necessarily identify as that gender and, or, or any gender at all.” 

Bringing in students of diverse ethnic backgrounds raises the cultural awareness of not only the professors and educational professionals but the students who are more socially acceptable or even more common backgrounds. Lavin's 2001 research review and Cohen and Lotan's 1995 research on cooperative learning and interracial contact activities indicate that these “interventions help students to develop more positive racial attitudes, to make more cross-racial friendships, and have positive effects on the academic achievement of Latino and African-American students,” stated Education State University.

“Multicultural education theorists believe that the nation's schools should respond to its increasing racial, ethnic and language diversity,” said  Education State University, “Some theorists are concerned that as the field expands to include an increasing number of cultural groups, its initial focus on institutionalized racism and the achievement of students of color might wane.” Many researchers and education professionals fear that expanding the umbrella of education will dilute the quality of education for the rest of the student body. Therefore impeding the expansion of the curriculum to incorporate that of ethnic students today. 

The Future 

The Huffington Post found that information is processed through what students learn at home and in school. “They learn bias. The hard brain wiring contributes to the way any of us processes information, but it is the family that influences us the most as we develop, followed by our experience in the school system. Teachers at every level including the collegiate level must partner with parents to sow the seeds to produce citizens that believe in equality.”  If we are not sowing the seeds of equity inside of the minds of the future of our country and world then it is bound to infiltrate and create a much less productive world both socially and economically. The most valuable and initial times of an adolescents life are also shared with being inside of school. This points to how important teachers are to the development of the brain for young adults. If inclusivity and equity are taught from the beginning it will become second nature and produce a more socially acceptable future for those same young adults when they reach adulthood.

Written by: Renin Broadnax

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