A Plea for Cultural Education

The taboo subject of race and ethnicity in the country has stalemated progress for equity of access and achievement in racial and ethnic minorities.  The glaring exception to this fact is the Asian populations who are still strife with their own issues, but are on par with whites.  The historical impediments to equal education are still prevalent and abiding.

Mickelson breaks down the five major ethnic groups as defined by the census and other data available to aid in her analysis of the state of racial and ethnic gaps.  While this is helpful, a more involved breakdown would have been advantageous to her argument.  The US government has systematically attempted to assimilate varying cultures into the dominant and presumed righteous white culture.  With such measures as the BIA’s, the educational system tried to ignore cultural heritage as a right of its students.  This has continued into the attempted eradication of bilingual education.

From the standpoint of an arts and cultural manager, this is just about the worst policy to have in regards to closing the achievement gap and educating children.  Culture is inherent to identity, and denying identity in any form creates social friction and malcontent within the subjugated population.  This in turn will lead to disengagement due to lack of respect for and from the dominant culture, in this case the white.  Attempting to remove a native language or native culture of a given population will only cause a rise in rebellion to the oppressing population.  In the case of education, what is seen as white by minority populations (immigrants excluded) is depraved.  This leads to a growth in the achievement gap, and a continuation of the cycle of recalcitrant attitude toward education.

The government has also created a standard of oppression towards racial and ethnic groups outside of Asian (excluding the Japanese during WWII) and white.  With the ruling for the Seattle and Wisconsin voluntary desegregation policy being unconstitutional, this standard has only been reinforced.  The gains made by Brown v. Board against the Jim Crow laws have been lost to gentrification, white flight, and school choice.  With these losses comes the use of a ‘preaching to the choir’ mentality towards teaching students, in that students of working class families are taught in a manner that will continue their future role as working class.  Social mobility stems from an excellent education, which is being denied to minority populations based on their class status.

While not all minority students come from disadvantaged families; those that are, are far from an exception.  In denying students equal access to educational resources, the government is continuing the acceptance of racism, segregation, and discrimination.  This is apparent in the lack of funding (relative), lack of highly effective teachers, and lack of exterior support for students and families of disadvantaged populations.

The discrimination against culture also produces adverse results in trying to close the achievement gap.  The model for this really rests in the hands of ESL and Native American students, where it is most easily identifiable.  The social backlash from attempting to remove native culture from a subgroup is akin to labeling that subgroup as inferior.  Almost 150 years after the Civil War, Blacks are still termed inferior based on their cultural identity.  The only way to fix this is to recognize, accept, and teach to all students the cultural differences inherent to the population.  The lack of communication in cultural education is the single greatest detriment to the US Educational System.

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