Friday, January 22, 2016

Diversity's role

Diversity in higher education is not an issue of an enhanced education for the white kids, but an issue of access and opportunity for qualified minorities.  Diversity is first about fairness.  If we make it about diversity as educational enhancement, we are missing the point and just perpetuating the entitlement of white students.     

Jedidah Isler, New York Times, December 17, 2015 writes:
 “Black students’ responsibility in the classroom is not to serve as ‘seasoning’ to the academic soup. They do not function primarily to enrich the learning experience of white students. Black students come to the physics classroom for the same reason white students do; they love physics and want to know more. Do we require that white students justify their presence in the classroom? Do we need them to bring something other than their interest?”

In 36 years of teaching I never thought of my black or Latino students as providing some service to the Caucasian ones.  I figured they were there to learn, and for the most point thankful for the opportunity, like the white students (there are always the non-motivated or just plain scared and “in-over-their-heads” students in all ethnicities.)  Yes, as a secondary benefit they did help an appreciation of diversity, especially since I require lots of collaboration.   But the white kids provide diversity to the black and Latino ones, too, by forced collaborative assignments, because we all tend to group with those who look like us (sorry, it’s just the truth--not to judge, it's just what we do). 

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