College Diversity

College Diversity
College Diversity
Over the last decade, the American nation has been enriched with countless representatives of diverse countries who brought their languages, traditions, and religions to the United States. Even though schools continue stressing the need for inclusive education for immigrants, minority representatives, and children with special needs, there is an evident gap in full integration of diversity into educational system. Today, the classroom in primary and secondary school is more diverse than it has been at any other time in the history. Tutors have to explore more issues, need to meet more challenges, and pay more attention to needs of diverse students. Development of solid education system for diverse students is not an easy goal to accomplish because most of the schools have to address the issue through their own efforts. Currently, the main challenge of American education system is a creation of school system which provides education as well as socialization of diverse students and ensures the right of all students to learn.

Many American schools have already developed diversity programs to promote integration of diverse students into classroom activities and school involvement. Montgomery County, Maryland and Arlington, Virginia, in particular, enroll students from families speaking more than 30 languages. More than one-third of all high school students studying in Long Beach, California, come from Southern Asia (Gay 2003/2004). There is a need to shift the emphasis from literacy in English to include understanding of cultural differences and ensure cultural tolerance among the students. Textbooks and classroom activities are aimed at providing thorough exposure to different cultures and many teachers attempt to develop lessons addressing cultural diversity issue (Spring 2000). Some state programs provide funding for bilingual education; however, this strategy is successful only partially. While students are offered an opportunity to learn some academic subjects in their native language, they are not educated on cultural and ethnic diversity.

Five states experience a significant impact of racial and ethnic diversity on educational system. These are California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas. Texas is experiencing the largest growth in minority enrollments (Futrell & Bedden 2003). Educational reforms do not address the diversity issue and are focused on higher standards for all students rather than cultural and ethnical differences. The demographics of school students has significantly changed over the past decade. The graduation rate of white and African-American students is the same today, for example (Spring 2000). Texas is in need to improve achievements among sub-groups of students. The overall scores do not solve the educational problems of minority students. Schools in Texas are not prepared to commit themselves to meeting educational needs of diverse students and, taking into account that diversity increases very rapidly, the new reforms are needed urgently.

Texas was declared a “minority-majority” state in 2005 because non-Hispanic whites constituted less than half the total population. Such demographic change has influenced the representation of high school students as well because the minority groups are mostly younger. In 2000, half of the adult Hispanic population in Texas, 80 percent of Anglos and Asians, and 75 percent of blacks completed high school (Kelly 2005).

Texas minorities are significantly less likely than students of other states to graduate from high school. At the same time, the changing demographics and diversification of high school students creates an opportunity to improve educational system and pay more attention to diversity training within educational context (Lewis 2000). Texas, being one of the most diverse states in terms of high school representation, faces the need to address the needs of diverse students.

High school diversity gives students an opportunity to learn more about different cultures as well as to prepare themselves for the future. However, lack of knowledge about diverse cultures and ethnicities creates environment of hostility, violence, and resentment. Children representing diverse cultural and ethnical groups tend to be violent towards each other because of insufficient understanding of cultural differences. The United States is very culturally diverse; however, the issues of prejudice and discrimination are still hotly debated. The national trend is also reflected in high school student. Students representing majority tend to impose their authority on minority representatives and willingly or under peer pressure discriminate against students representing minority.

At the same time, high school diversity is an opportunity to learn more about different cultures. Students who are knowledgeable in cultural and ethnical differences are more prepared for college, social life, and involvement into employment industry. Workforce, similar to high school environment, is very diverse (Lewis 2000), and enriched knowledge in the field of diversity empowers students to become more prepared for adult life. There are three reasons why diversity at high school is beneficial. First, students knowledgeable in diversity are more likely to graduate from college and college attendance has further implications for the future contours of inequality. Second, investment in diversity is directly related to US competitiveness in global economy because, taking into account the changing demography of Texas, the workforce will constitute greatly of minority representatives. Third, high school diversity contributes to furthering the goals of democratic citizenship. Knowledge on cultural and ethnic diversity diffused through high schools must be accessible to all individuals.

Moreover, higher education funding in Texas is losing ground to other services. Annual expenditure per one high school pupil in public school at Texas is $5,400 compared with the expenditures per prisoner which is over $13,000. While state’s expenditures for public safety grew by over 200 percent, the expenditures on higher education increased only by 44 percent. According to economic estimates, every $1 spent on higher education yields a return of $5.50 (Spring 2000). This return exceeds the economic impact of oil and gas industry in Texas. Thus, reduction of racial and ethnic disparities in higher education is essential not only for national economy development, but also for reducing discrimination and prejudice incidents in wider societal context.

Diversity trainings in high school context can be delivered through diversity clubs which have proved being very effective in minimizing the negative impact of demographic change and maximizing the positives of cultural and ethnic differences. Diversity trainings are beneficial for education community, both in work and in study. Teachers, for example, are enabled to deliver information more efficiently, while students are empowered with knowledge to disclose their impairments, to practice their faith more openly, and not be embarrassed because of being different (Nagta 2003). A holistic approach towards diversity is directly linked to the high school’s vision and values. These values are shaped by teachers as well as peers. Diversity clubs should unite representatives of different cultures and ethnicities and promote tolerance towards differences.

Diversity clubs have been starting around the whole country in the late 1990s and almost every public school has one (Reichert 2006). The diversity club is based on the idea that students are different and they should not be discriminated on such differences as race, religion, or sexual orientation. Members of diversity clubs learn how to keep an open mind and how to respect individual differences. Diversity clubs are the most effective mean to break up the barriers between the students and promote tolerance towards others. Nevertheless, diversity clubs cannot be started up by students only, they need to have a leader, the one who can plan their activities and ensure provision of proper information.

Diversity clubs can be organized on campus; however, they should be student-driven. Students lack knowledge about diversity and cultural differences and are not empowered to cooperate effectively without training (The Benefits of Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Elementary and Secondary Education 2006). There is a need to send student representatives to various diversity awareness seminars. Thus, students will gain sufficient knowledge to come back and share it with the campus community in order to improve the school climate and safety for all students, staff, and community. Unfortunately, diversity clubs, despite of evident benefits, are not funded by local or national organizations. Without proper training and continuous knowledge update, diversity clubs will not significantly change the situation with discrimination and prejudice. Taking into account the specifics of demographics in Texas and increasing tensions among diverse students in school setting, there is an urgent need in creation of diversity clubs which is not possible without sufficient funding.

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