Johnathan Harvell

Dr. Vincent Basile
EDUC 460-001
07 December 2016
Critical Reflection #3 – The Influence of Socio-Cultural Issues on American Education
As the years past, the division of the United States on a socio-cultural level has been

viewed as one based on race, ethnicity, and economical background. With the country

progressing on with a new President, as well as new cabinet members, it is important to note how

this divide will affect the foundation of public school education from this point forward. In this,

the socio-cultural divisions will be evaluated and extrapolated to determine the potential

outcomes in regards to the future of public school education in the United States of America.

First off, let’s discuss the impacts of the division of race and ethnicity inside a public

classroom. As a future science educator, I foresee race and ethnicity being less of a division

among classmates, but that of teachers and students. From my experience in the classroom so far,

it seems that students do not show any ill will or contempt to other classmates of color or

different origin; however, I have witnesses a few occasions in where students use their

race/ethnicity as a point of order in how a teacher is punishing a student or viewing an

assignment. To clarify, a generalization of the scenario that I am seeing starts with the student

stating to the teacher, “Why did I get a bad grade? Is it because I am (black, Hispanic, etc)?” The

teachers typically retort with an automatic “no,” but in a voice that is not positively framed;

therefore, this feeds the fire of the argument and teachers are forced to give into the student’s

demands to prevent further legal trouble. In the future, I see myself coming across this same

situation as a teacher, and I hope to handle it in a way that: (1) is legal, (2) positively framed in a

way that is both sympathetic and empathetic towards the students, and (3) allows for further
assessment of learning for the student, instead of caving into the demands of the students without

allowing the student to demonstrate their learning.

This is easier said than done, and I don’t expect for it to be easy the first time I encounter

this issue, nor the last time I do at the end of my teaching career. In this, it will be important for

me to understand the ratio and background of the multicultural students that will come into my

classroom, so that I may create better teacher-student relationships with these students before

situations like this occur in my classroom. I think one of the best ways to establish these better

relationships is by talking to the students themselves; sure, I can look up their files and histories

through the archive that the school/district may provide on the students, however, this is not

enough to create an empathetic relationship with a student. At the beginning of each semester, I

hope to spend a couple of class periods of genuine time with my students, so that I may come to

understand their lives and backgrounds to a point of trust and understanding between them and

myself.

Another aspect of race and ethnicity that may arise in the classroom is potential conflicts

between groups of students based on prejudices and affiliation with gangs/cults/etc. Although

this may not have any personal connection with myself as a teacher, I need to make sure that I

intervene in these students confrontations effectively in a manner that promotes less conflict, but

more of a “model citizen” feel to it as well. This “model citizen” example must be setup through

the classroom climate and culture that I establish at the beginning of each semester/year with

each new group of students that come into my classroom. An idea to help establish this could be

setting up personalized rules created by the students in how they view a “model citizen” in

modern society, and making them accountable in following those rules. This allows for a level of

social accountability for students, as well as muting the argument of students’ confrontation with
one another on the basis that they are not being “model citizens.” With time, I am sure that I will

adapt to new issues of race and ethnicity that comes with the ever changing society that we live

in now in the United States, but I believe it is good to start forming a foundation on trying to

address these issues early to be better prepared for the future.

Moving on, the division of wealth among students may be one that is a bit harder to

attack in my mind. As a future science teacher, I can be considered either middle to low-middle

class in the United States based on the economical standards established; with this label, I could

find difficulty identifying with high middle to high economical class students on an empathetic

scale, to which I will need to revert to more sympathetic approaches in the future. To do this, it

will again come back to how my classroom culture and climate is setup at the beginning of each

semester/year. As an idea to help relinquish this tier economical system’s influence in my

classroom, I believe it will be important for students to know that come into my classroom as

equals; for this, I can allow students to define their own definition of equality in the classroom,

and make them accountable for obeying their own definition. It is very similar to the idea

presented for race and ethnicity, but I think the same idea can be applied effectively in both areas

of socio-cultural issues. By allowing students to be accountable for themselves and one another, I

believe that a sense of sympathy with become prominent between students in a way that they

may at least respect each other on an economical scale in my classroom.

With a side note to the wealth division in the classroom, the hardest conflict that I may

need to overcome is mostly likely parent-teacher relationships. I can see myself being in an

argument with a parent because they don’t understand how I can use my own money to buy

supplies for the classroom or providing further materials needed to perform experiments, etc. As

a teacher, I still may not be able to create more effective relationships on an empathetic scale due
to the difference in socio-economical class labels; however, it will be important for me to try and

make the parents understand that I am trying to provide for their students’ needs to the best of

my ability as well as within my means economically. If I can provide substantial evidence in

doing so, I believe that I may have a better time in dealing with parents on economic issues due

to the effort that I am trying to put into their students learning. Hopefully, for the parents and

students sake, it is the effort that counts.

With the years I will accumulate in my teaching career, I have no doubt that I will run

into countless arguments/confrontations/conflicts with students, parents, teachers, and even

administration in regards to race/ethnicity, and the wealth divisions amongst all of those groups;

however, it does not mean I cannot approach each of these situations in manner that is positively

framed for all parties involved as well as putting a halt to students’ learning as well. As a future

public school science teacher, I plan to utilize my academic experience and external resources to

approach these socio-cultural issues appropriately to the best of my ability, including learning

from each experience to better myself and my students as the years of my teaching career go by.