Education: Social Foundation
Brown v. The Board of Education (1954) was a landmark ruling that not only marked the beginning of the era of desegregation in the school environment, but also served as a frontal attack on the practice and doctrine of white supremacy in the overall society. Many viewed it as a reprieve for the Black-American community, but as Justice William Douglas revealed in 1971, the de jure segregation ruling in Brown v. Board of Education was more than just a mere reprieve for blacks; it was a direct effort towards integrating the philosophies, policies, and cultures of different communities to make public education accessible to American Indians, Latinos, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans just as it was to whites. As it turns out, however, desegregation of public schools did not even come close to being the one-fits-all solution that many thought would address all the inequality concerns of minorities -- even after gaining access into predominantly white institutions, children from this group still continued to face serious challenges that impeded on their ability to matriculate speedily, graduate, and match up to their white counterparts in the academics sphere. This text reviews some of the key challenges faced by some of these minority groups in their attempts to not only gain access into public education, but also fit in amidst the philosophies and policies that had been designed primarily to meet the needs of the dominant paradigm.
The Challenges and Struggle of Black Americans
The African-American's struggle to gain access into public education is undoubtedly the most prominent of its kind. Even after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, most leaders still appeared committed to advocating for the segregation of school children on the basis of race. George Wallace's, then governor of Alabama, quote; "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever," in 1963 was an outward sign of defiance to the Brown ruling, and although predominantly white institutions were under a legal obligation to open their doors to black children, there was still much of a status quo in various aspects and this made it quite challenging for black children to fit in (Rothstein, 2013, p. 2). First, despite opening their doors to blacks, most schools still conformed to the old institutional standards, rather than evolving the same to be able to respond to the needs of their increasingly diverse student bodies (Benton, 2001). This made white students to not only feel superior, but also develop negative attitudes about the inclusion of 'strangers' in their institutions. This in turn made the public school environment rather unwelcoming and unsupportive of black children. Moreover, the curriculum was blatantly ignorant of black's culture and perspectives -- student services and teaching styles were drawn from a monocultural angle, making black children to perceive themselves as 'side dishes' simply because their cultures were not considered part of the university fabric (Benton, 2001). A third challenge was the unfavorable school environment - the black culture values family, groups and social networks; in fact, most blacks derive their social values from their social groups (Benton, 2001). The public school environment impeded on black children's capacities to establish social networks as most of the staff and faculty members were white, and of course a bulk of the student population was white as well.
The Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s served as major breakthroughs, coming in to reinforce the ruling made earlier on in Brown v. Board of Education. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by President Johnson, called for the integration of all Americans, requiring all facilities, business or otherwise, to bestow equal opportunities to all, regardless of race. As a result, schools began to seek out human development models that would assist them in understanding the processes of human development and consequently, providing black students with an environment that appreciates and responds to their specific educational needs (Benton, 2001). In another landmark ruling in 1978, in the case of Regents of University of California v. Bakke (1978), the Supreme Court made it mandatory for public schools to incorporate appropriate affirmative action programs into their admission programs...
The Civil Rights Act imposed upon schools a legal obligation to make the school setting more than just an academic center by implementing social and cultural services, providing social support services targeting black children and allowing for the formation of black student unions and other social outlets in institutions of higher learning (Benton, 2001).
The Struggle of Asian-Americans
Like their African-American counterparts, Asian America children have faced numerous challenges in their attempt to gain access into the public education system. The famous strikes by Asian-American students at the San Francisco State University and the University of California, Berkeley in1968 and 1969 respectively are perfect indicators of the struggle by this group to bring equality into the public education arena (Le, n.d.). Asian-American students faced three main challenges, which were also the causes of the students' strikes. The first was the issue of persistent stereotyping. Asian-American children were widely-perceived as not being well-rounded enough to participate in community activities, social and academic clubs, arts, and sports (Le, n.d.). As such, public schools tended to favor white children in their selection procedures, as these were perceived as being more socially active (Le, n.d.). A second challenge was the 'model minority' myth, where Asian-Americans are perceived as being more educated relative to the rest of the population, and as such, they are denied opportunities in public schools as the administration's way of bringing about an educational balance among communities (Le, n.d.). Culture differences also posed as a major challenge for this group. For instance, whereas American culture encouraged children to ask questions in class, Asian-America values discouraged it, often interpreting it as a lack of respect for those in authority.
Activists' efforts and the student strikes witnessed in several parts of the country in the 1960s opened up avenues for the establishment of Asian-American study programs that equipped children with, among other things, a clear understanding of the Asian-American culture. This was crucial in helping schools and policy makers develop effective curricula that responded to the specific needs of Asian-American children and fostered their academic success (Le, n.d.).
The Struggle of Native American Children
Native Americans have also had quite a struggle in their attempt to access public education. One of the key challenges faced by children seeking to gain education from this group was the high level of illiteracy among its members. Children need role models, and when they lack these, their drive for positive change is likely to die (Indian Country Media Network, 2011). A lack of interpersonal financial and emotional support was also identified as a key challenge for children in this group. A 2012 study by Pew Research Center established that one out of every four Native Americans lives below the poverty line. We can rightly argue that the situation was worse a few years back, judging from the fact that some Native Americans have had access to education or secured jobs over the last few years. Another key challenge is that children from this group were often intimidated by the unfamiliar processes of financial aid application and often lacked the advice of career counselors because reservation schools, which most of them attended, had limited access to such services (Indian Country Media Network, 2011).
Organizations such as the American Indian Education Foundation came up to assist children from the Native American community in accessing public education. This they did by providing scholarships to bright, needy children, and linking members of the communities with career counselors and advisors, thus helping children realize their educational goals by equipping them with expert advice and at times linking then up with appropriate public schools (Indian Country Media Network, 2011).
The Struggle of Women
Women have, and in some countries, actually continue to face numerous challenges in their attempt to gain an education. One of the key challenges faced by women in America during their struggle to gain access to public education was society's persistent preference for males (Women in World History, 2013). Laws and customs had placed men as superior to women, and as such, public schools tended to show preference for men in their selection procedures as well as in the administration of financial aid (Women in World History, 2013). Internal resistance (resistance from other women) was also a key challenge for women seeking to be allowed to access public education. Most women feared that this would make the female gender lose its female rights as the 'protected species' as it would mean that it had chosen to compete with, as opposed to submitting to men (Women in World History, 2013). A third challenge was the large-scale resistance from liberal politicians, who felt that if women were allowed access to public education, they would also demand to be included in politics, and this would damage the conventional structure of progressive politics (Women in World History,…
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