Race and Education

The following is an interesting analysis written what Robert T. Carter Ph.D. about “Race and Education” a few years back.

Race has been and continues to be central to educational thought and practice. The dialogue about multiculturalism, race, and race relations has focused predominantly on members of visible racial/ethnic groups and immigrants. In the following TEDxLansingED video, Dorinda Carter Andrews talks about how gaps in mindsets and critical consciousness for students and adults in schools is preventing us from offering equitable education and schooling experience for students of all background.

Much of the debate and dialogue has ignored racially-based social scientific paradigms that undergird education – inferiority, cultural deprivation, and cultural difference. Race has been subsumed under the rubric of ethnicity and culture.

Race and Demographic Factors:

By the year 2050: two-thirds of the U.S. population will consist of visible racial/ethnic group members or people of color. Currently: 35% of school children are of color. Students of color constitute more than 70% of total school enrollments in 20 of the country’s largest school districts.

86% of new teachers are white and 81% of new teachers speak one language – English. Until recently (the 1970s), there has been no useful and complex way to understand race and its impact on human interaction. We have been stuck with social and demographic definitions that infer emotional, behavioral and attitudinal characteristics, with little room for within-group variability.

Racial identity, one’s psychological orientation to his/her group membership, is important and allows for a more complex way to grapple with racial issues. Racial identity includes all groups on equal terms and accounts for both group and individual complexity.

Visible racial/ethnic group members have different educational experience related to their minority status. Voluntary immigrants generally have a more positive experience than non-voluntary members. African Americans may have to deny their race in order to achieve academically. They may have to unlearn or modify their own cultural styles in order to remain competitive. Often, foreign students don’t quite get this picture before coming here to study. Understanding Racial Identity provides a valuable approach to exploring the impact of race in education.

Understanding Psychological Race: Racial Identity

Racial identity is the quality or manner of an individual’s psychological identification with a racial group. See also this post about the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. How one views, or understands members of their own racial group and understands members of other racial groups is key. It includes consideration of other domains of difference such as gender, social class, ethnicity, etc.

Racial identity development is a life-long process that begins during childhood and requires resolutions throughout one’s life. Racial identity is an aspect of one’s personality.

Racial Identity: Applications to Education

Racial identity development affects the way in which cultural knowledge and style are defined and valued and how education is structured. That’s why there are specific scholarships for minorities. Educators with poorly developed levels of racial identity can marginalize children’s cultural differences in subtle, unconscious ways despite well-intentioned behavior.

Visible racial/ethnic group students with low levels of racial identity could sabotage their academic success by
(A) denying their own racial heritage
(B) adopting behaviors that put them in conflict with schools and school success
High levels of racial identity can improve the education of children of color and can be used to transform school curricula and teaching.

Educators with low levels of racial identity development:
– Might view multicultural education as “minority education”
– Might be unable to recognize within-group differences among non-Whites and Whites
– Might perceive children of color to be “at-risk”

Racial Identity Theory: Implications for Practice, Policy, and Research

Educators need to understand their own levels of racial identity development in order to change their perceptions and expectations of children of color. Racial identity models should be incorporated into teacher education programs.

The task of developing effective skill, competence, and awareness about race and culture is something all educators must undertake. Racial group membership alone is not equivalent to racial identification or cultural knowledge or understanding. Then again, America offers individuals also the chance to get from rags to riches, or from homeless to Harvard. Just read Dawn Loggins’ story!

Educators can strengthen interracial interactions with students and begin to work equitably with diverse school populations by understanding how racial identity resolutions apply to them. Fortunately, there is financial support for those that need it. Racial identity development needs to become a conceptual framework under-girding the creation and implementation of curricula.

The aims of multicultural education will be able to shift from knowledge of others to knowledge of self

This reassessment is important to ensure that current policies do not evolve from low levels of racial identity and unintentionally maintain and promote inferiority and deprivation doctrines. Low levels of racial identity development on the part of policymakers may be one explanation for why inadequate resources continue to be allocated.