Racial Biases and Their Influence on Modern Education

Racial Biases and their Influence on Modern Education

Humanity exists in the world that is full of similarities and differences. Each member of modern society is a unique personality with his or her own origin, culture, religion and morals. Some of these features may draw one closer to other people, some may alienate. Due to historical, evolutional or social development, people tend to feel more comfortable among those who are similar to them. Hence, people who are standing out against the background of majority still suffer from biased perception and attitude. The threat of being viewed through the prism of stereotypes becomes evident starting from the period of being a student. Nowadays, educational system still suffers from racial stereotypes and inequality in the perception of the students from different ethnical groups.

The first and the most obvious presence of unequal treatment in educational system is noticed in the inequality of attitude and privileges. The article by Hatt-Echeverria and Ji-Yeon entitled “Understanding the 'New' Racism through an Urban Charter School” proves that “as legislation and policies occur to provide opportunities for people of color, Whiteness shifts to make certain White privilege remains dominant”. This article exposes the opinions of the white and the black students of one of the charter schools in the USA. European-American students of the school highly praised this institution, while African-Americans’ points of view were absolutely different. These students complained that some of the teachers were racists as the latter did not give them any chance to answer, showed impatience, and often reproved them for their style of clothing. Suchlike attitude leads to the feeling of being treated differently, and, eventually, leads to personal alienation. Being presented with the slogan of the equality for all, this school, as many others across the country, failed to follow it.

The racism is often manifested in the undervaluation of the skills and abilities of students belonging to ethnical minorities. Hatt-Echeverria and Ji-Yeon prove that teachers at schools often express the point of view that shows their lowered expectations from the “colored” students. They do not put enough efforts to raise student’s motivation, to let them overcome their personal fears and doubts and to engage them in the discussions during the classes. Low performance rate is often viewed as the result of the lack of knowledge and common stereotypical idea that “white” students often study harder than their “colored” classmates. Many teachers simply do not feel any necessity to encourage students from ethnical minorities to study as they do not believe in their success. Suchlike attitude can possibly have a damaging effect on their educational experience throughout life. If students are not experiencing any motivation or positive reinforcement from their school mentors, they will have less desire to study and their achievement rate will decrease. This results in the lowered academic potential that will have negative influence on the future achievements.

In addition to the undervaluation of students’ abilities, racial stereotypes are present in the evaluation of possible negative achievements and the punishment measures. When the misbehavior is exhibited by students from ethnical minorities, teachers do not always try to understand the reasons behind such behavior and think only about what to do with these students. Moreover, the punishment measures often vary depending on the origin of the students. The article written by Lhamon and Samuels provides pieces of evidence of unequal punishment measures. The authors claim, “African American students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as their White peers without disabilities to be expelled or suspended” (Lhamon and Samuels). The number of African-American students in The Civil Rights Data Collection reaches 15% from the general number of students. Nevertheless, they comprise nearly 35% of the children who experienced suspensions or have been expelled. There is also provided information concerning the different degree of punishment depending on the race. It appears that in some schools, the discipline measures vary depending on the ethnical origin of the students and are often more severe towards the representatives of minorities despite the equivalence of their deeds.

The disparities between the intensively promoted ideas of equality and actual attitude towards the representatives of racial minorities within the system of education may be caused by the lack of proper training of the teachers. Some scholars complain about the lack of time devoted to the training of the new teachers. The article provides data obtained from the NationalCenter for Educational Statistics. According to this information, teaching staff of American schools consists of approximately 84% of white, monolingual and female members of society. Moreover, there is a tendency of employment of less experienced personnel. For example, 26% of the working teachers in 2012 had less than 5-years experience. The negligence of the proper preparation results in the unreadiness to deal with students from different ethnical groups. The authors define the problem in the following way: “new teachers continue to enter the classroom unprepared to teach all students” (Cleveland and Fasching-Varner). This happens not because these educators display indifference to their students, but because of the enrooted belief in the ruling power of certain ethnical group in the educational process that works against any socio-cultural differences. Teachers should be aware of the methods of culturally responsive teaching and be prepared to the challenges that may appear due to the difference of the skin color of their students.

The inequality and undervaluation may be traced even at the highest levels of school regulations. Schools with the prevalence of the representatives of ethnical minorities often receive less means for the development and renovation of the material-technical base. The article entitled “Idiot Nation” by Moore discusses the importance of the proper governmental support and points to negative tendencies that exist in this sphere. Moore states that “schools in low income communities with large minority population … least money is available for education, and least amount is spent on textbooks and other academic materials”. The article pays great attention to the poor condition of the libraries that actually serve as prior sources of knowledge. The financial support is directly connected with the future success of the students and any kind of its restrictions or cutback make negative impact on the students. Lack of some materials or technical tools only deepens the abyss between the students from different ethnical groups and assists in spreading racial stereotypes. Suchlike schools where “colorful” people comprise the majority of students are often treated as dangerous places that do not teach students at all. Those who enter these schools are not expected to show any bright achievements in the areas of science or business. Overcome by biased views, modern society expects most of these kids to become simple workers in the area of public services and take other low-paid jobs. However, it is not their fault that they were deprived of important tools for gaining the knowledge. Children from ethnical minorities become victims of a system with people permanently involved in discussions and not willing to resort to real actions.

However, numerous mass media sources claim that mankind is actively working on the overcoming the challenges and already achieved some success. A number of publications confirm that nowadays school administrations, as well as the government, foster the development of heterogeneous classes with students coming from different social or ethnical backgrounds. For example, the author of the article “A High School Class on Race and Racism” Lawrence Blum claims that it was a pressing issue in the previous decades when “the school was doing a very good job of serving one "community"--middleclass whites--but a poor job of serving another "community," working-class Blacks and Latinos”. Nowadays, classes at schools are formed on the basis of students from different social and cultural backgrounds, and teachers do not discriminate their students in any possible way and try to change the past perceptions of students labeled as “different”.

Some sources define the methods of dealing with inequality and provide evidence how they actually succeeded. The dialogue was chosen as the main tool of dealing with the issue. Acknowledgement of the problem through discussion is considered to be a powerful instrument that will start the process of eradication of the stereotypes from the educational system. The silence or suppression of the opinions may have detrimental effects on the future of the young generation that felt the influence of any kind of racial biases. Racial issues have already become one of the main topics at the parent meetings. Moreover, the parents are entering the dialogues with the students themselves. If any discussions occur during the class, a teacher should not try to suppress it. Pedagogue’s task is to let everyone express their own opinion and mitigate the problematic issue. It is extremely important to teach young generation to feel the difference between what is called “race” and what is referred to as “ethnicity”. The first one is predominantly associated with the color of skin and the word itself appeared to become “an instrument of social control, contributing to the oppression of the working class” (Hayduk). It is recommended to use the word “ethnicity” as it refers to person’s culture, ancestry and native language. Still, suchlike tolerant attitude and treatment of the racial issues is rather an exception than a rule.

Modern schooling works as a tool of division rather than unification. It often seems that the rules accepted in schools and behavior of school personnel influence students in the way that they actually “divide them from one another, and discard them if they don’t comfort” (Gatto, 688). It is easier to work and study in the environment where everyone shares the same viewpoints and values. This feeling of being different provoked by biases negatively influences the children’s self-esteem and suppresses any manifestations of their identities. Kids with “colorful” skin often feel labeled as the ones belonging to their minority. They are afraid to express their personal points of view and object to the arguments presented by other students because they do not want to seem even more different than they already are. Suchlike labeling makes these children more reserved and incommunicative and lowers their self-esteem.

All previously indicated arguments prove the existence of the issue connected with viewing students through the prism of racial biases at schools. Young representatives of ethnical minorities are often subjected to the groundless critics of their appearance, achievements or behavior. They may receive more strict punishment for the deeds of equal negative consequences than the other classmates. As it appeared, many teachers evince impatience and indifference towards students from ethnical minorities. Hence, these students suffer from lowered expectations and the lack of attention that are the key points in the fostering of the interest to the accumulation of the knowledge. As a result, student’s rates are getting lower, and they become indifferent to school. Presently, society actively discusses the problem of unequal perception and attitude to people of different ethnical origin at various levels starting from government and finishing with local debates between the students or their parents. Nevertheless, more attention to the elaboration of the ways to mitigate the challenges and create the environment of equal treatment and equal opportunities for everyone should be paid.