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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Race and Gender Exclusion In American Schools

Race and Gender Bias / Exclusion In Schools

The U.S. education system, which is inconsistent in the manner in which race and gender are accommodated, has had a persistent pattern of exclusion of women and people of color since its inception (Sturm & Guinier, 2005).  In an attempt to correct this exclusion, Congress passed an affirmative action law that should have given all races and genders an opportunity for a quality education, resulting in an equal chance for a secure job with reasonable pay.

Sturm and Guinier found that “Objectionable in them, these exclusions also signal the inadequacy of traditional methods of selection for everyone, and the need to rethink how we allocate educational and employment opportunities” (p. 12).  Sturm and Guinier concluded that rethinking is crucial to the opportunity to develop productive, fair, and efficient institutions that can meet the challenges of a rapidly changing and increasingly complex marketplace.  Using the experience of those who have been marginalized to rethink educational design may forge a new progressive vision of cross-racial collaboration, functional diversity, and genuine democratic opportunity.

Chaney (1999), an educator, stated that the Department of Education appears to be of two minds when it comes to promoting sound educational standards.  On one hand, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley championed more accountability and tougher standards to improve K-12 education.
These tougher standards would include ending the practice of social promotion by which teachers promote students to the next grade even if they have not mastered the current level.  Riley proposed changes to the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights guidelines (still in the drafting stage) to develop “new and creative ways to enlarge the pool of eligible minority applicants by going beyond the traditional factors of test scores and grades” (p. 20).

Achievement Gaps: Race Bias In Schools Berlak (2001), during his studies of the achievement gap, found that a major reason given for the claimed superior attainment of Caucasians in cultural, artistic, and academic endeavors over the years were overtly racist.  The explanation for these superior attainments was focused on the superior genes of Caucasian northern European, Anglo-Americans.

As the social sciences developed in the latter years of the 19th and 20th centuries, scientific tracts defending Caucasian supremacy appeared with regularity.  By the 1930s, the eugenics movement (which posited a biological basis for the superiority of Caucasians) managed to gain a small foothold in U.S. universities.  The academicians of this overtly racist movement were the leaders of a newly-emerging field of scientific mental measurement.

Many of the educators that testified before Congress in early years  provided justification for the racist immigration exclusion acts that restricted immigration from Asia, Latin America, and southern and eastern Europe (Berlak, 2001).  The movement educators started was considered a legitimate academic discipline until it was proven incorrect following the fall of the Third Reich and the knowledge that 6 million people were killed in the name of racial purity.  During the years between 1933 and 1942, the Nazi Party had a policy of persecuting and/or killing people thought to be impure or impaired.  The main targets of these persecutions were minority groups such as Jews, people of color, the mentally and physically disabled, and gypsies.

The U.S. public school system was formulated in the late 1920s based upon a political education system, which in turn was based on the theory that a democracy could only survive if every citizen was educated sufficient to understand voting issues; hence, compulsory education through the twelfth grade.  In addition, a strong industrial element was included.  The public education system served as a means of teaching basic reading and writing skills that would allow individuals to seek employment at low, unskilled positions in the factories, and to provide informed voters (Berlak).

In February of 1969, Jensen’s emergence as an important figure in the history of human intelligence theory occurred with the publication of a controversial essay in the Harvard Educational Review. In the article, Jensen (1969) presented evidence that racial differences in intelligence test scores may have a genetic origin.  This assertion, and Jensen’s concomitant recommendation that Caucasian and African-American children might benefit from different types of education, drew strident criticism from many members of the academic community and the public at large (Ciancolo & Sternberg, 2004).  This political philosophy was carried on through the 1970s and survives as a hidden agenda in segments of U.S. society today (Berlak, 2001).

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