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Ethnic identity is a self perception of belonging based on a common or shared history and culture. By perpetuating racism through active vocalism or through blindness to the diversity of students, teachers contribute to the struggle disadvantaged students have to try and achieve comparable and equitable learning outcomes compared to students from a dominant culture. Students from disadvantaged groups can be discriminated against both within their own ethnic and cultural group and by a larger external ethnic and cultural group. This creates a situation that is detrimental to the individual and results in poor educational outcomes. Teachers can help to over come this by developing a range of techniques that value all students and their contributions. Discussion of how this can be achieved focuses on utilising constructivist teaching methods and engaging with students on an individual level. Teachers can also engage both within the school culture and the community at large to help support those who are excluded and discriminated against due to their ethnicity or culture.
Race and Ethnicity
Racism can be defined as a political and social construct based on historical concepts of society, exclusion and hegemonic power. (Gamage 2009:112) These concepts are not static and are not always focused on exclusion of the same group or groups. For example there has been a progressive transition, from racist feelings against all Lebanese immigrants in Australia, to those from a Muslim or Arab backgrounds since September 11th 2001. (Poynting 2006: 366) These have been punctuated by events such as the Cronulla riots (SMH 2005) and the Lakemba Police Station shootings (Campbell 2009¶9) 1 Word Count- 2197
Historically the concept of racial exclusion was based on a concept of genetics and biological differences. (Gamage 2009:112) As our knowledge of genetics has expanded our understanding that there is not a significant difference between different regional populations has increased. (Gannett 2001:S480) This has meant a change in the perceptions of some about what 'racism' means, but has not lead to a change in the essence of racism.
Racism is now grounded on a difference based on ethnicity and culture. (Gamage 2009:112) The concept of racism in Australia is therefore evolving. Traditional white Australia policy stereotypes are giving way to more individual identification of ethnic identity. (Dunn 2004¶2) Ethnicity is defined as a group of people who identify with each other through a common heritage. This heritage is grounded in cultural and religious characteristics (Birenbaum-Carmeli 2004:39) rather than differences such as skin colour and perceived intellectual ability. (Rutledge 1995:243)
Privilege and Disadvantage in Schools
Race can either create privilege or disadvantage those who have an ethnic background different from the mainstream dominant society. To examine how this occurs it is important to understand what these to words mean. Privilege is a prerogative or advantage given to someone who is in a favoured position. (The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd 1999:918) Disadvantage is any unfavourable circumstance or condition. (The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd 1999:315) This does not mean that any person from an ethnic background that experiences racist 2 Word Count- 2197
treatment will automatically be disadvantaged or that any person from a dominant society will be privileged. (Poynting 2006: 366)
Students who have a recognisable cultural similarities to those from a dominant culture will be in a privileged position compared to those from the same culture who lack those cultural similarities. (Gamage 2009:121) For example Christian Lebanese will be in a privileged position in an Eurocentric Christian dominated community compared to a Muslim Lebanese person. Students may be at an advantage or perceived advantage because their cultural heritage has recognisable similarities with the dominant culture thus creating shared values and a basis for a relationships. (Gamage 2009:121)
Education is about the acquisition of skills and knowledge. (The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd 1999:353) Using traditional methods of teaching, knowledge is transmitted to the student. The transmission method has been discredited in recent years although is still common in schools. (Cornish 2009:23) Students who have a culture or upbringing which does not mesh with the dominant teaching style of transmission are therefore at a double disadvantage. (Lareau 2006:352) This double disadvantage is reflected in students being disadvantaged because of their cultural heritage, both in the way they learn as well as in their beliefs about themselves and what they can achieve. This disadvantage can be due to differences in cultural styles of learning which can de-contextualise information, making it irrelevant and therefore hard to relate to every day living experiences. (Hickling 2003:72) Students may also be disadvantaged due to their access to resources. For example aboriginal children at Cherbourg State School Queensland Christina Bean 3 Word Count- 2197
who believed that they would never be able to receive the same resources as other schools for example quality library resources; fast internet connections; good effective teaching spaces and good quality teachers who were prepared to take long term contracts to teach in regional area's. (Sara 2003:4-5) Privilege and disadvantage are not as simple as just saying that some students will be better off or worse off depending on their culture and how that meshes in with the dominant ideologies. It will also depend on the type of racism employed at a school and how this is enacted.
There are many different types of racism and these impact on students in different ways for example the White Australia Policy established in the 1890's (A Dictionary of World History 2000¶1) set the basic belief that some ethnic groups assume that minority ethnic communities should be assimilated into the main stream. This ignores and subjugates differences and diversity. Others fail to recognise that racism is about power, violence and poverty not about physical differences, or ability. These overt signs of racism are managed through policy that is designed to stop racism for example, the Anti-Racism Policy of the Department of Education (2005¶1.1) Vocal racism, the explicit expression of racist ideologies, in Australia, is in the minority, making this sort of racism easier to publicly denigrate than more insidious types. (Poynting 2006:374)
The difficulty of identifying racism arises where a silent type of racism occurs, that of blindness. (Hollinsworth 2006:276) This is the concept, often used by teachers, that they will treat everyone the same and thus avoid the possibility of 4 Word Count- 2197
racism. This blindness to racism is detrimental because it does not acknowledge the background of the student or that these students may not all have access to the same support, facilities or even ways of learning that other students may have. (Nieto 2000:353) Cummins cited in Nieto (2000:351) contends that underachievement of students who are a language minority or who are disadvantaged in other ways is because of their subordinate cultural status which results in a decrease in their ability to achieve or access power. This access to power is not just the theoretical concept of dominance but the practical application in the inability for students to access resources and be supported in their learning. (Nieto 2000:351)
Why teach in a way that addresses disparities created as a result of a student’s ethnic or racial identity?
Racism is not as simple as just being about power or powerlessness. It is often intertwined with the expressed intention of the dominant group to try and do something to help the group they are dominating. (Hollinsworth 2006:273) Opposing racism is not just a matter of trying to give an individual the same opportunities as others it is about acknowledging that people of diverse ethnic backgrounds have the same rights as those of the dominant culture. Opposition to racism by the dominant culture is about valuing the skills and the knowledge of the non-dominant culture. (Ashenden et al 1980:14-15)
Opposing racism is considered by many as the right thing to do. Racism is damaging to the individual, both those being vilified and also those who engage in Christina Bean 5 Word Count- 2197
an act which takes away the rights of another. It is also distorting to the realities of the individual being vilified as it negates the value of their experiences. Combating racism is also considered to be an obligation for those who are part of the dominant white society: the idea is to engage in practises that do no harm to others. (Hollinsworth 2006:249) Opposing racism is not just to feel good, it also promotes and fosters social harmony, maximising the benefits of cultural diversity according to the Department of Educations Cultural Diversity and Community Relations Policy (2005¶3.3) According to the Department of Educations AntiRacism Policy (2005¶1.2) “No student, employee, parent, caregiver or community member should experience racism within the learning or working environments of the Department.” For teachers this means that aside from the moral imperative not to indulge in racist behaviour it is also a requirement of the job of teaching.
How can a teacher teach in a way that addresses disparities created as a result of a student’s ethnic or racial identity?
Addressing the disparities created by the ethnic identity of individual students is more than simply a matter of including details about their culture in to a lesson or series of lessons. It is about acknowledgement and respect for all students. It is about accepting the boundaries that exist between people because of their culture and ethnicity. (Barrera 2003:43) It is also about seeing and acknowledging that each person is equally capable and that their knowledge and experience is of equal value to that of others. (Barrera 2003:45) Addressing these disparities is also about challenging prejudice and ensuring that those who engage in prejudicial behaviour understand that it is unacceptable. (Department of Educations Anti6 Word Count- 2197
Racism Policy 2005¶1.4)
How much a teacher can achieve within a school or community depends on the school or the classroom and the receptiveness of stake holders to the changes. How much a teacher can achieve in their classroom depends on their commitment. A place to start is the understanding that everyone is an individual and even though one person has been bought up in a particular culture, this does not necessarily mean that they agree with each and every tenant of that culture. (Gamage 2009:120-121) Developing a personal understanding of the individual is essential to providing a space free of racial or ethnic discrimination. (Barrera 2003:50) By understanding the individual’s story a teacher is free to explore the differences inherent in each individual student and how they can influence the broader classroom culture.
As a teacher’s content is derived from the curriculum syllabus it is a good place to start exploring ways for students to develop a more critical perspective on racism and ethnicity. (Barrera 2000:389) For example inclusion of different ethnic food theories into a class on nutrition which can encourage the exploration of ethnic differences in the utilisation of food for health.
The NSW curriculum has a Eurocentric dominance. For example, all of the discoveries by famous scientist are European. No important scientific moments or laws, as discovered by scientists from other ethnic groups, are mentioned or studied. Scientists from other cultures are not explored and the contributions they have made to science are not elaborated upon. Incorporating research by students 7 Word Count- 2197
into scientist from other cultures, such as Hideki Shirakawa from Japan who won one third of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery and development of conductive polymers (The Nobel Foundation 2000), helps student’s to develop a critical approach to the dominant ideology expressed through the neglect of contributions from non-dominant societies. (Nieto 2000: 359) Looking at other cultures and their contributions to science challenges the acceptability of the dominant ideology as the only one to contribute in a meaningful way to progress.
By analysing and challenging concepts students are encouraged to build their own understanding of relevance and importance that is based on knowledge not on cultural precepts. (Ninnes 2009:104-105) Teaching with other cultures in mind recognises the value of other cultures and student backgrounds. (Department of Educations Cultural Diversity and Community Relations Policy: Multicultural education in schools. 2005¶1.3)
Constructivist teaching is about students constructing their own learning, through facilitation from the teacher, based on their own context. (Cornish 2009:23) Using this form of teaching, students are able to incorporate their own knowledge and understanding from their own culture. This helps students to see context which provides meaning and helps students to find relevance in their learning. (Cornish 2009:23) This incorporation of constructivist teaching methods is a new learning tool for the students as well as for teachers. It takes time for both students and teachers to become familiar with this sort of learning so it is best to start slowly and get feedback on what works and what does not. (Nieto 2000:361) For example using group discussion methods to look at metallurgy and the diversity of 8 Christina Bean Word Count- 2197
processes and historical applications in different cultures.
The idea of teaching to the individual is a small but important way to help develop a classroom with a respect for diversity. Racism is a societal issue which means it will be across a school community and outside the school community. Therefore developing students who have a respect for diversity must be expanded. It can not be encompassed by one classroom with a respect for diversity. Education for diversity must take place across the school culture and where possible within the community the school is situated within. (Nieto 2000:354)
Racism is an embedded social and political issue. Combating racism involves communities and the acceptance of varied cultures and ethnic groups. Teachers contribute to the acceptance and acknowledgement of different cultures within a dominant society. They can do this through the gradual introduction of the individual 'stories' of individuals from ethnic groups. As knowledge about ethnic groups increases it is possible for individuals from a dominant culture to begin to form personal relationships with those who are racially vilified. This deeper understanding of an individual helps others to see them in a context outside of a dominant ideal of their culture. This form of understanding helps to humanise the victims. Teachers can do this through constructivist teaching methods and through participation in both the school culture and the outside community. As teachers work through constructivist teaching methods introduction of diverse cultural achievements and contributions to progress show how cultures other than the 9 Word Count- 2197
dominant one contribute to an effective society. As long as one cultural group is vilified there will be racism, it is the roll of the teacher to try to address these issues and give all students the chance to reach their potential.
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Ashenden, R.W., Connell, G., Dowsett, G. & Kessler, S. 1980, 'Class and secondary schooling', Discourse,vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-19. Barrera, I. & Corso, R.M. 2003, 'Skilled dialogue, foundational concepts', in Skilled Dialogue: Strategies for Responding to Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood, P.H. Brookes Publishing, Baltimore, pp. 40-51, 68, 82. Birenbaum-Carmeli, D. 2004 'On the Prevalence of Population Groups in the Human-Genetics Research Source' Politics and the Life Sciences, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Mar., 2004), pp. 34-41. Association for Politics and the Life Sciences Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4236730 (Accessed: 25/10/2009) Campbell, A. Lakemba’s terrorist connections: The ‘axis of evil’ in Australia http://www.ci-ce-ct.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&catid=1:911&id=20:lakembas-terrorist-connections-the-axis-of-evil-inaustralia&Itemid=3 (Accessed 27/10/09) Cornish, L and Garner, J. 2009 Promoting Student learning Pearson Education Australia. Frenches Forest, NSW, Australia Dunn, K. and McDonald, A. 2004 'Constructing Racism in Australia' in Australian Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 39, 2004 http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst;jsessionid=KmmGGFLGBthFkyg Nr6MNGrNnD2qngJt5Vv7mNLkgyczmyXhZcYcP!-1058699480! 1275526282?docId=5008659707 (Accessed 27/10/09) Gamage, S. Current 2009 'Thinking about Critical Multicultural and Critical Race Theory in Education' in Interrogating Common Sense: Teaching for Social Justice Ed Soliman, I. Pearson Educaiton Australia, Frenches Forest, NSW, Australia Gannett, L 2001. 'Racism and Human Genome Diversity Research: The Ethical Limits of "Population Thinking"' Philosophy of Science, Vol. 68, No. 3,
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Supplement: Proceedings of the 2000 Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association. Part I: Contributed Papers (Sep., 2001), pp. S479S492 The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Philosophy of Science Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3080967 (Accessed: 25/10/2009) Hickling-Hudson, A. ; Ahlquist, R. 2003 Contesting the Curriculum in the Schooling of Indigenous Children in Australia and the United States: From Eurocentrism to culturally powerful pedagogies' Comparative Education Review Vol. 47, No 1, pp. 64-89. http://www.une.edu.au/ereserve/? biblioID=R15835 (Accessed 25/10/09) Hollinsworth, David. 2006 'Anti-Racism Strategies and Guidelines' In: Race and racism in Australia David Hollinsworth, 3rd ed. South Melbourne: Thomson/Social Science Press, 2006, pp. 248-259; 272-284. Lareau, A. 2006, 'Unequal childhoods', in Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology, 6th edn, eds M.L. Anderson & P.H. Collins, Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, Belmont, California, pp. 348-358. Nieto, S. 2000 'Multicultural Education in Practise' in Affirming Diversity, the Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education, 3rd edn Longman, New York, pp 349-370 Ninnes, P. 'Language Matters: Analysing Curriculum Materials for Social Justice in Interrogating Common Sense: Teaching for Social Justice Ed Soliman, I. Pearson Educaiton Australia, Frenches Forest, NSW, Australia NSW Department of Education and Training. 2005. Anti Racism Policy. NSW Department of Education and Training, Australia NSW Department of Education and Training. 2005. Cultural Diversity and Community Relations Policy: Multicultural education in schools . NSW Department of Education and Training, Australia
Poynting, Scott. 2006 ' Tolerance , freedom , justice and peace ' ? : Britain , 12 Christina Bean Word Count- 2197
Australia and anti - Muslim racism since 11 September 2001. Mason, Victoria, Australia Rutledge M. D. 1995. 'Social Darwinism, Scientific Racism, and the Metaphysics of Race' The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 64, No. 3, Myths and Realities: African Americans and the Measurement of Human Abilities (Summer, 1995), pp. 243-252. Journal of Negro Education http://www.jstor.org/stable/2967206 (Accessed: 25/10/2009) Sarra, C. 2003, 'Young and black and deadly: Strategies for improving outcomes for Indigenous students', paper no. 5, Quality Teaching Series, Practitioner Perspectives, Australian College of Educators (ACE), Deakin West, ACT, pp. 1-14. Sydney Morning Herald. 2005. http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/mobviolence-envelops-cronulla/2005/12/11/1134235936223.html? page=fullpage#contentSwap1 Fair Fax Press, NSW, Australia (Accessed 27/10/09) The Nobel Foundation http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2000/index.html (Accessed 27/10/09) Weldon, K (ed) 1999 The Macquarie Concise Dictionary, The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia "White Australia policy." A Dictionary of World History. 2000. Encyclopedia.com. 26 Oct. 2009 http://www.encyclopedia.com.
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Reflection on Group Work
I found the group discussion interesting in helping me to formulate some of my ideas. There were parts of the group discussion that I didn't use in my assignments just because there was way more scope for discussion then there was room to write a full assignment based around that discussion. However a lot of the final idea's in my assignment did come from that discussion. My personal contribution to the group discussion seemed to centre more around how to use constructivist teaching methods to encourage students to get to know and understand students from other cultural backgrounds. This is something that I have a personal interest in as I feel it is very important to have some idea's as how to how to actually implement all the knowledge we have about what helps to reduce racism. On a personal note, this is probably the hardest assignment I have ever written. I have discovered that I am uncomfortable with discussions on racism and without having written this assignment I would probably have been one of the blind teachers that I mentioned in my assignment.
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Contribution to group discussion
Sorry for the late entry to this conversation. I am from a white Anglo-Saxon background whose most recent migrant to Australia was in the 1880's from England. So at first glance it may not seem that this particular topic is of personal relevance to me. However I live in Sydney's North West in an area dominated by Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Korean migrants. My son goes to a school where he is the minority. 75% of the children at his school have English as a Second Language (ESL) and the dominant school culture is Chinese. Having said this the school has only one Chinese teacher. My recent prac was also at a school which has 75% ESL and I feel that for me to be an effective teacher in this environment I need to examine this topic as a priority. I find the syllabus for a secondary science teacher is full of Anglo-European references. We are asked to look at the advances in science made by different scientists yet the syllabus focuses almost entirely on aspects of science that were advanced by Anglo-European scientists. I know that Arabic scientists made all sorts of wonderful contributions to science and yet I know very little about what they did. In the same way I know that Chinese scientists made some fantastic contributions, but again I know virtually none of these. I have decided that one way for me to incorporate multi-cultural science into my classroom is to set an assignment where students from different cultures examine scientist in their culture, whether these be scientists as such or those who are keepers of knowledge for their culture, tribe etc, and write about what those people did. I realise this is only one small assessment and that it takes more than this to create an inclusive classroom but it is a place I would like to start, for my knowledge as much as for the knowledge of other students. According to (Gamage 2008) Students who have recognisable cultural similarities to those from a dominant culture will be in a privileged position compared to those from the same culture who lack those cultural similarities. The only way I can see to change this is to look at different cultures and help students to identify similarities across cultures so that they realise that every culture as well as having its differences has it similarities.(Gamage 2008) I am unable to look at every students background explicitly in class but I am able to set assessment pieces that involve both looking at a persons own culture and those of their classmates. This would take time and effort but it would be in the finest tradition of constructivist learning. According to Cornish (2009) constructivist learning is about creating a context for learning. So surely the purpose is to help students examine what is most relevant for them, placing their learning in their personal context. This then places the learning context into a situation where the teacher shows reciprocity and responsiveness according to Barrera (2003). By creating an assessment piece where students write and talk about their own culture they develop reciprocity they see and acknowledge the boundaries between others because the begin to develop an understanding of similarity and difference. (Barrera 2003) By doing this both the teacher and the students will, I hope, develop responsiveness, the ability to use this information to move forward and to develop the next learning event for that class. (Barrera 2003) Lessons designed specifically for each and every child in that class and flexible because it is adaptable from what the students contribute thus making it specific to the culture of the class and not the culture of Christina Bean 15 Word Count- 2197
specific individuals within the class. I hope this makes sense. At this stage this is the only way I can see of developing a class that truly does acknowledge the experiences of each student and places a value on those experiences without devaluing the experiences of others. However it may not work, but for me it is a place to start and try. Barrera, I. & Corso, R.M. 2003, 'Skilled dialogue, foundational concepts', in Skilled Dialogue: Strategies for Responding to Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood, P.H. Brookes Publishing, Baltimore, pp. 40-51, 68, 82. Cornsih, L and Garner, J. 2009 'Promoting Student Learning', Pearson, Education Australia, Frencehs Forest NSW, Australia Gammage, S. 2009 'Current Thinking about Critical Multicultura; amd Critical Race Theory in Education', in Interrogating Common Sense: Teaching for Social Justice, Pearson Education Australia, Frenches Forest, NSW, Australia. Thanks Kerrie, it is quite interesting as I have been doing more reading I have tried to figure out other ways of incorporating multiple cultures into my lessons. I now think another one would be to look at different cultural understandings of what the world is made of. For example ancient Greeks believed that everything is made up of the four elements earth, air, fire and water. The ancient Chinese believe in five elements wood, fire, earth, metal, water. The ancient Indian's believed in earth, air, fire, water ether. All of these gradually refined their understanding of what the basic building blocks of matter are and now the dominant concept is of the atom. How was this change done? What other cultures had other different idea's of what the basic building blocks of life are? I have no idea what the aboriginal concept of the basic building blocks of life are, do they have one or is it a purely spiritual belief. I get the impression that different aboriginal cultures believed in different things, some that people and things were solely created by a god, from nothing, some that things are formed from earth or air or water. This I think would be another great way to explore different cultures in science. I would also like to know if any cultures reject the concept of the atom as a building block of life currently. Just out of personal preference I would want to be very careful with this topic as the one thing I would not want to get into is the value of one religious belief over another. But the idea of exploring this topic could be fascinating. Hi Emily, my son goes to a school with a very high ethnic background to the point where Anglo-Celtic children are in fact a minority. Each year as well as having multicultural days at school the teachers spend some time covering news and identity topics with the kids. This year each student had to colour or create a flag for their country of origin and talk about some aspect of what they do at home that they like. It could be a dish or a festival, anything that they liked. They were then Christina Bean 16 Word Count- 2197
asked to share this with the other kids in their class to create an excitement about all the different things that people did in their families. My son loved this, he got to try all the different foods, he is now hooked on seasoned seaweed and rice as an after school snack. As my side of the family has a very boring and long white Australian heritage we did a flag for Australia, one for Germany where his grandfather on his fathers side comes from and one from Portugal where my step father comes from. My son took in food and talked about some of the German customs that have been integrated into our household. My son is in 1st grade and really doesn't seem to notice differences between his friends at this stage, he has friends from all sorts of cultures, but he really enjoyed finding out a bit more about them. For him it was the high light of his year to date. This may be one of the ways you could integrate reciprocity into your classes with your children. I have no illusions that one day is enough but I hope this suggestion is at least useful. I realised this one incidence is probably more tokenism on behalf of my son's school, but I did think this was a good place to start. Tina Hi Ana, I read your questions and had to go back and look over the readings you mentioned to make sure that I had understood them correctly. Civics is the study of rights and duties of citizenship. In other words, it is the study of government with attention to the role of citizens as opposed to external factors in the operation and oversight of government. wikipedia The impression I get from the readings that you mentioned is that if people are being taught civics it is really indoctrination of the dominant societies norms. This is a perpetuation of racism in that it is not acknowledging that the individual has an equally valid set of civic norms that belong to their own culture. Where teaching civics and citizenship may not be considered racist I guess would be if you tried to teach the civics of every culture in a classroom. This would be helping to familiarise each person in the classroom with lots of different cultures so that they gain respect for other cultures. However if you tried to do this as a teacher I think you would be creating a lot of work for yourself. What may be easier is to teach respect for all cultures and get your students to teach and present to other students about their culture, things that they value and respect and why. This is in the same line as teaching civics and citizenship to each student but different in that it is more a matter of respect and understanding then indoctrination of an unchanging ideal of citizenship for each culture. Does this make sense?
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