Chris Schmidt (crschmidt) wrote,
Chris Schmidt

Diversity in Education

Affirmative action has played a large role in many educational institutions across this country: Making way for the less fortunate minorities to be able to participate in educational facilities which they might not otherwise be able to, and bringing diversity into places it might not otherwise be. These goals are applaudable, and although in some cases there have been instances of better students being edged out by less capable students, for the most part, affirmative action has played a positive role in higher education in America, especially from the point of view of minorities helped by these programs. (Note that this is largely hearsay, and if I'm wrong, you can feel free to argue that in comments.)

However, more minorities in a school does not always bring diversity. This is something that I learned recently through hard experience with Alicia's class at Tobin School in Cambridge. The class was almost entirely composed of minorities -- Alicia was the only white female in the class. Group Shot The social results of this were quite clear to me when I chaperoned a field trip for the class: She was completely excluded. Even when trying to get her and her group together for a picture, it was obvious that she was left out.

There was absolutely no integration program of any kind at the school to try and help Alicia, who had just moved from an almost-entirely white school in New Hampshire, adjust to the new social setting she had gotten into. Apparently such a program used to exist, but was chopped by city administration.

This was my first experience with integration of groups which would regularly be minorities not leading to greater diversity. I never really understood before how someplace could have that happen. It was a very weird experience for me. Growing up in St. Charles, and later in Manchester, I was used to a very very small number of non-majority students in all of my education. Trying to make people understand that Alicia was suffering due to the complete lack of social integration with the rest of the group was hard to do without seeming racist.

I think that it was important for Alicia -- it taught her what it is like to be a minority, to be outside the standard circles that the rest of the people around you are in. This is still something that I've never had to do, however, and I have no idea how I would handle it if i did. I'm glad that she's gotten into someplace that seems much better for her now.

It is very strange that minority integration does not necessarily lead to diversity, but it's definitely true, and something that I never would have realized before moving to Cambridge and seeing it for myself.
Tags: alicia, cambridge public schools, education

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