The term “minority” is often used to refer to a group in a “numerical” sense. It refers to a group that is relatively smaller than the rest of the population.
However, while some groups are said to be larger than others in terms of numbers, the term minority is still used to demonstrate the oppression they experience. An example of such a usage is seen in the case of the black minority during the racial segregation in South Africa (Artiles, Palmer, & Trent, 2004).Up to this day, minorities exist in many different parts of the world. A lot of migrants leave their home country in the hope of being employed and receiving higher wage in a foreign land. In the course of this migration, many parents opt to bring their children with them in the newly-found home, and the family adjusts to the new environment. Part of this adjustment is the children establishing social ties, learning a second language, and adapting to a new educational system.
It is unfortunate to note, however, that these children’s adaptation to school seems to be thwarted by the lack of support of educational systems. The efforts of minority children are not met with the support that is supposedly inherent in an institution. These minority students have unique needs that a generic yet seemingly race-specific type of educational system may not be able to attend to. A society’s lack of acknowledgement and corresponding action towards this situation could be seen as a form of oppression towards this minority.This paper will attempt to discuss the probable causes of such an oppression seen in the unequal educational opportunities among minority students and to explore the evidences supporting the existence of this inequality, the consequences brought about by the situation, and possible interventions to help resolve this problem.Evidences to the Existence of the ProblemIn a place and time where racial desegregation has long been made constitutional, an individual tends to question if unequal rights and privileges are still existent between the majority and minority groups. With the longstanding experiences humans been through, it is not too difficult to infer that the promulgation of a law in his or her society does not necessarily equate to the realization of its purpose. If this was the case, then the problem in question should have ceased to exist, but it did not.
In a paper made by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (2006), studies made by several authors including Jonathan Kozol (2005), Tammy Johnson (2003), Jeannie Oakes (1995), and Lynda Darling-Hammond (1999), among others, were drawn together to illustrate several disparities in education between the minority and their white counterparts: a) African Americans and Latin Americans have been shown to comprise majority of public school population; b) Because of the type of school that the low-earning families could afford, the children in these families are not exposed to experienced teachers or well-examined curricula; c) Schools whose major population is white are more than twice as likely to present a considerable amount of advanced placement classes as schools the population of which mainly consists of African Americans and Latin Americans; d) Teachers who are highly-qualified tend to work in high-quality schools where majority are white, whereas beginning teachers are more likely to work in schools where majority of its students come from low-earning families; and lastly, e) African American students are found to have been given a harsher disciplinary measure than white students for an offense that is similar or has less gravity. Such difference only ceases when more objective measures are employed to determine the disciplinary measures appropriate to the offense.These points made by different studies reflect that the very intent of the constitutionalization of racial segregation many years ago seem to have not been accomplished.
What seem to be causes of this persistent problem? How does history play a role in the failure to achieve this goal?A Historical Perspective on the Minority and Educational OpportunitiesDuring the Civil Rights movement in 1950’s and 1960’s, the parents struggled for the grant of equal education opportunities for their African American children. This struggle resulted in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ordered the end of a race-based school segregation (Artiles et al., 2004).
In “Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” another group of parents fought for the rights of their children with mental retardation to receive free and proper public education (Artiles et al., 2004, p. 717). This and other similar cases led to the enactment of Public Law 94-142, the “Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975,” which is today known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (Artiles et al., 2004, p.
717). This law ascertains that the needs of students with disabilities and their families are attended through the provision of access to special education. The law aids state and local education agencies (SEA and LEA respectively) as well in providing education to these students and monitoring the effectiveness of the response given to the needs of this population (Artiles et al., 2004).Stated in the IDEA were measures to uphold the rights of students with disabilities. SEAs and LEAs were ordered to screen the population for students who have disabilities and for them to be given free and proper special education. These agencies were tasked to: a) provide fair and unbiased evaluations fitted to the students’ cultural and linguistic upbringing; b) to individualize the education program of a student with disability, specifically tapered to his unique needs; and c) to the highest extent possible offer these services in the “least restrictive environment” (Artiles et al.
, 2004, p. 717). Furthermore, the law enacted rules to protect parental rights and rights of SEAs and LEAs. This led to the creation of a system of settling conflicts between parents and schools. Parental participation in assessment, individualization of the program, and placement was deemed vital to the promulgation of the law (Artiles et al., 2004).The IDEA was amended three times. It should be noted that the first two amendments concentrated on the provisions for individuals with disabilities.
Examples of individuals or students under this category are those who have mental retardation, emotional disturbance, and learning disabilities. On the most recent amendment in 1997, however, emphasis was placed on students who are said to have culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. This is rooted from the observation that this group has increased its number, and that this increase is accompanied by high dropout rates, incongruity between referrals made for special education and the actual number who are actually taken into such programs, and a disproportionate representation of the group in special education in comparison to the general population. The 1997 amendment likewise obliged SEAs and LEAs to monitor the performance of institutions in providing educational and transitional services to this minority group. It required these agencies to submit a yearly report on the number of culturally and linguistically diverse students who are referred for special education assessment, the number of those who are receiving special education, the number of students who get to graduate from high school, and the students’ test scores in state achievement exams, and the extent to which this group’s needs are attended to (Artiles et al., 2004).Persistence of the “Minority Problem”One may ask now how come despite the presence of these laws, the problem on unequal opportunities among minority groups is still existent, or was it the promulgation of the law itself that has created a venue where racial discrimination have flourished and has thus led to unequal educational opportunities?Special education was discussed earlier as a program that aims to attend to the unique needs of students which could not be fully attended by general education curricula.
This was of course the original intent, yet with an ineffective and sometimes biased referrals, assessment, and teaching among minority students, this intent is not upheld.Referrals and placement made by teachers seem to be stained with racial bias as well. One theory is seen in an individual’s perception on the relationship of poverty, race, and disability (Artiles et al., 2004). An African American student, for example, because of his race, is subjectively associated with poverty and his poverty as a determinant of a disability. There seem to be a lack of objectivity in referring and placing the students to special education (Artiles et al., 2004). This is one of the reasons why minority students are seen to be overrepresented in the special education programs.
Incorrect assessment of the learning needs of a child may greatly compromise the progress of his learning (Artiles et al., 2004). Say, for example, an Asian American student has been tested using materials that are too westernized that the tools are not sensitive to his culture. The chances of the results indicating poor performance are high, and the child is placed in a program for children with learning disabilities. It must be understood that the assessment technique in this context is questionable, and so are the results. Thus, an intervention has been fitted to an inaccurate assessment, leading to the learning needs of the child being inappropriately addressed.
This may limit the child’s progress in learning (Artiles et al., 2004).Furthermore, the placement of students in such programs is found to put the minority students in restrictive classroom settings. Research claims that the special education needs of students are not always well-attended (Artiles et al., 2004). To be more specific, Parrish claimed that African American students have less likelihood of receiving “speech, occupational, and physical therapy services” than white students (cited in (Artiles et al.
, 2004, p.722).It is purported that such desegregation, without considering the influence of culture and race as to how students learn, has actually resulted in negative rather than positive effects (Artiles et al., 2004). One must first understand that a student’s learning is very much affected by his culture or race. One’s experiences as a human, which are inevitably influenced by his or her culture, play a significant part on how he or she tries to understand ideas, to think critically, and formulate insights. Therefore, the way a student must be assessed and taught should be within the context of a culture he or she understands.The enactment of IDEA seems to have provided a venue where racial supremacy of the dominant and the inferiority of the dominated could be heightened.
In a research made by Harry, Allen, and McLaughlin in 1996 (as cited in Artiles et al., 2004, p. 721) the perceptions of minority teachers and African American, low- to middle-income parents on what they think is the most effective teaching strategy elicited. It was found out that while teachers believe it is through constructivism, the parents, on the other hand, believed that students learn best through explicit teaching.
The groups of researchers expressed their concern that if the teachers will not take time to understand the context by which the parents have conceived this notion, the teachers might consider the parents’ beliefs to be undeserving of attention in educational issues. Furthermore, it is apparent that although teacher-parent discussions were held, the parents might have felt inferior and powerless to be pro-active in the affairs. Harry, Rueda, and Kalyanpur claimed that the passage of IDEA did not take into consideration the “hierarchical structure” within schools and among teachers and parents, making parental involvement in special education problematic. This may pose discomforts as well to the culturally different and underprivileged parents (cited in Artiles et al.
, 2004, p. 721).The Consequences of the ‘Minority Problem’There must definitely be a good reason why debates as to the existence of and how to secure equal educational opportunities, along with federal and state legislations, have long been present. First, as Gutierrez and Jaramillo (2009) claim, how a nation protects the minority’s welfare seems to be the very measure of its humanity.
The persistence of inequality in the education of the minority speaks ill of a society whose efforts of fifty years still seem to be futile in its struggle. It has been a struggle to stay human and to legislate, teach, and contemplate like humans.Other than fulfilling one’s moral and legal responsibility to uphold human rights, are there indeed any actual benefits should equal educational opportunities be granted to the minority? A study was conducted by Robert Dreeben and his colleagues among 300 Chicago first graders at the University of Chicago (cited in Darling-Hammond, 2009). The study aimed at identifying the association between educational opportunities and student achievement and the access of minority students to these opportunities. The study demonstrated that African-Americans and Whites, given that they go through comparable quality of instruction, achieved comparable levels of competency in reading. However, in this study, Dreeben found out that on the average, the African-American students were receiving actual instruction that was of less quality than that provided to their White counterparts (cited in Darling-Hammond, 2009). It was even found out that the group of students who had the highest ability among the subjects actually comes from a low-income school in an economically-low neighborhood. These kids, however, turned out to have fared less in performance as compared to the White students because of the disparity of the quality of instruction that the groups received (Dreeben cited in Darling-Hammond, 2009).
Therefore, it has indeed been proven that minority students, given proficiency in English such as the African Americans and a comparable mode of instruction, they could perform comparably with their white counterparts. This fact states that the minority students are deprived of that supposedly basic opportunity to learn, to appreciate themselves for being able to learn, and to be amused as a child with the amount of discovery he or she experiences through learning. In their adulthood, they are deprived of the chance to have an education that will give them equal chances with others in getting a decent employment, resolve their own poverty, and raise a family in accordance to how much they are able to and not based on what their society has only made them do.The amount of money that is perhaps being spent in special programs or education, such as special provisions for teachers and their training, teaching materials, venue, and the like might be in fact disproportionate to the number of accurately assessed students who might need it. The inaccurate, biased assessment made upon these minority students does not only place minority students in a position where their potentials could not be optimized, but may as well lead to inappropriate, if not wasted, allocation of a government’s fund.
Possible InterventionsWhat then could be done? Given the problem alone and the length of time it has existed, it is more than enough to be overwhelmed and convinced that it could not be undone overnight. University of California Los Angeles’ “Racial Inequity in Special Education: Executive Summary for Federal Policy Makers” presents different steps by which the problem on unequal educational opportunities among minorities could be remedied. First is to mandate that every school and district must report data, taking into consideration race, gender, and English language learner status. This will help in the analysis of problem situations, aiding in the drafting of solutions to the problem. Next, high quality teachers should be provided for minority students, in the same way that they are provided for their white counterparts. Undoubtedly, teachers’ competency and resourcefulness in making the most out of a materially deprived classroom could compensate for such deprivation (UCLA, 2009).
As the old line says, “prevention is better than cure.” Even before detriments such as discipline concerns would happen, investment should be done in putting up special education programs. Once disparities are proven evident in the education among minority groups and their counterparts, states and districts concerned should be held accountable.
They should be given enough support to correct this disparity. In line with this, a statewide and federal monitorial and corresponding technical support and intervention group should continuously oversee the adherence to regulations that aim to assure equal educational opportunities among students (UCLA, 2009).Parents and other stakeholders should be encouraged to exercise a structured private right of action and participation in the review of the conduct of general or special education programs to further improve implementation of these classes. Lastly, funding is needed for the continuation or improvement of the educational system suggested by the aforementioned suggestions (UCLA, 2009).
In addition to these, given the points made earlier as to the cause of overrepresentation of the minority in the special education programs, measures should be done to eliminate subjectivity in the conduct of referral and placement to these programs by providing concrete and objective criteria of assessment.The awareness of teachers of these conscious or unconscious biases to present their lessons in a race-specific ground should be raised in order for them to be cautious enough to practice an objective assessment. Increasing their knowledge in the culture of their students will help them ground their subject areas on concepts or ideas that are sensitive to the culture of their diverse students.
It can not anymore be denied that unequal educational opportunities among minority students are existent in the society today. The effect of this problem is wide in terms of the great number of those involved and in its extensive damage on the social, political, economic, and psychological state of the individuals affected and of the society as a whole. The nation in question at this point may only be US, but given the globalization and increased mobilization of people in the world today, it is not far from possible that other countries would possibly be facing the same predicament in the near future.Writing this paper that has required a review of the past and current literature has indeed increased the awareness of one individual. Humans have proven time and again that with collected consciousness and efforts to change a problem, much change could be done. Therefore, the recognition of the problem by the majority through consciousness-raising as a head start should be a responsibility at this point.
Man, given all his resources, has no excuse to let another human being suffer the consequences of his disabilities, race or color.