Diversity Issues In Today’S Classroom
Diversity Issues in Today’s Classroom
This section will focus on diversity. This concept has undergone some major redefinitions, as diversity used to refer only to visible differences such as male and female, black and white. Today, diversity is defined as anything that diverts or deviates from the norm. As such, diversity exists in regards to ideas, opinions, goals, genders, ethnicities, communication styles, and even teaching and learning styles. The list is almost infinite. However, the debatable point here is what and who defines the “norm”? Consider the following:
- When one thinks of physical diversity in the classroom, which group gets the special attention? The handicapped because they are a detour from the norm – the unimpaired.
- In regards to language, which group gets assistance? The group that speaks the “norm” or the one that detours from it? The group that detours from the norm receives the assistance.
- When one speaks of intellectual diversity, which group is of concern, those who are honor students or those who struggle to understand basic concepts? The answer is the latter.
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, diversity awareness tends to highlight groups that detour from a pre-established “norm.” The “norm” can be defined as the commonly accepted way of doing things within the culture in question. Thus, in America, the Spanish will need assistance in regards to meeting the language norms; while in Spain, Americans will be the language diversity group that receives help.
However, while there are broad spectrums of diversity in many areas of life, certain specific diversities present challenges in today’s classrooms. These include Race and Ethnicity, Socio-Economic Status, Gender, Age and Exceptionalities, Religion, Language and Learning Styles. As each of these areas is highlighted below, consider the established norms here in America and the groups that struggle to meet those norms.
Race and Ethnicity
During the civil rights movement, classrooms struggled with the integration of blacks into what was deemed a “white space.” Thankfully, today’s classroom seeks to be a global learning environment that is open to students of all cultures. Today’s classroom is a materialization of the distinct emblem of welcome authenticated by the Statue of Liberty. Teachers want to be sensitive to the needs of those students who do not fit into the common American races of blacks or whites.
Students are continually dealing with social and economic disparities. This can result in some students being more open, bold and confident while others shy away from more extraverted classroom activities, such as role-plays, class presentations, group work and so forth. The groups in this category that oftentimes could benefit from special attention in the classroom are those who do not meet the normative level of wealth and social status.
While gender has traditionally involved the clear distinction between male and female, there is also a third group – a group that represents a type of hermaphrodism that is either the result of biology or learned behaviors, and is often identified through the voluntary display of a preferential dress and/or behavior style.
Today’s teachers have to deal with this triangular gender existence. Again, the group that is often discriminated against and ill-treated by other students is the one that does not match the norm.
Age and Exceptionalities
Some age disparity exists in the classroom, as some students are older or younger than others either because they got a late start or are top performers who have moved more quickly through the grades. The students frowned upon are usually the much older or younger ones.
Religious diversity is a growing topic in today’s classrooms as students from all over the world struggle to maintain their varying cultural identities.
While many schools are not affiliated with any type of religion at all, students’ comments and lifestyles can oftentimes make their religious preferences clear. Those who feel isolated are normally those who are of religions that are not common in America, but can also be those who are members of religions popular in America that are currently under scrutiny or criticism.
Language has become one of the main areas of diversity in the classroom. Language diversity involves students from other countries, as well as hearing impaired students who seek to enjoy “normal” schooling. Thus, teachers struggle to deal with multiple language barriers, and again, the students who need the most attention are those who are unable to function at a normative level in English.
Teachers who want to reach their zenith in classroom success need to take the time to understand the various learning styles. The number of these styles has undoubtedly increased right along with the growth in multiculturalism. Students of varying cultures learn in very unique ways. For example, countries such as Japan promote more independent learning while American students are typically granted a bit more “hand-holding” through the learning process.
Based on this extreme diversity in today’s classroom, teachers need to spend more time learning about these cultures and diversities.