—Takaki, 2008, p.435
The above quote from Takaki (2008) reminds me of Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States (2003), which focuses on the history of the United States from the perspectives of common people, some who have traditionally been omitted from the history textbooks. North American history has observed a great divide and struggle to achieve inclusion of the minorities who have been left out, had their stories misrepresented, or who have been discriminated against. Terms like segregation, integration, equity, or diversity create a mix of images, and the meaning of these terms has changed over time. When terms like these are used in professional settings, reactions range from empathy, stereotyping, and a mix of opinions and justifications for how students represented in these groups are best served.
In terms of issues of inequality facing my school community, the most noticeable one is socio-economic inequalities, especially equitable access to technology and resources outside of school. Many students attending our school are from wealthy communities wanting children to be involved in the Arts or parents with children already having an Arts background growing up and wish to develop the talent further. At the same time, my school serves students for which it is a neighborhood school, but one that is considered safe to attend. We have a number of foster children, homeless children, and children from low socio-economic backgrounds. Last semester I conducted a technology needs assessment and was surprised to discover that the majority of the students my site serves do not have Internet access or a computer to use at home. Most do have SMART phone however. This caused me to look into securing additional funds for a computer lab, which will probably be implemented next year.
In terms of a sharing of resources, this is an area where more perhaps is needed. My site has a parent room, but it is small and practically hidden in the back of the library. The career section of the front office was recently expanded to provide computer access to parents, as well as additional services. This area is also shared to some extent with students. There is also one computer lab in the library that can be reserved, and a student lounge with a few computers in it available after school. Most of the shared resources for community members are through school partnerships, particularly Arts partnerships. This includes some use of theatre space.
As for decision-making, my site is moving toward a more collaborative model involving input from all stakeholders (administrators, counseling, school psychologist, ELD Coordinator, Governance, School Site Council, Friends of SCPA, similar to a PTA only non-profit).
Three Key Lessons:
(1) Equity as a Learning Community topic and context for schools and districts.
(2) The history of school segregation, desegregation, multiculturalism, and integration for equal access, rights, and benefits.
(3) The importance of placing learning within the context of our cultural communities represented in our schools and districts, and knowing the cultures we serve in order to develop “inclusive” futures for these populations.
Three Key Quotes:
(1) “Having an understanding of our history of equity and inequality is an important step in our learning how to become a culturally proficient learning community.” (p.22).
(2) “The sad reality is that those access and achievement gaps are historical, but they have remained invisible to most of the educational community due to our selective vision and our choice to see only the data we want to see.” (p. 24).
(3) “Unlike the trend toward multiculturalism, which focused narrowly on students’ ethnic and racial differences, the shift toward diversity responds to societal trends by urging us to take a broader approach to addressing equity issues, encompassing a wide range of differences, including race, culture, language, class, caste, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and physical and sensory abilities among students.” (p.30).
As a World History teacher, the information from “Getting Centered: Out History,” deeply resonates with me. I try to include primary sources whenever possible and multiple perspectives so that all sides of a story get considered and included, even histories we often find difficult to accept. Recently, my tenth grade class is forcing on several of the WWII atrocities; not just the Holocaust, but atrocities not always mentioned in the history textbooks such as the Rape of Nanjing or the Bataan Death March. It is hope by using this approach, that students will be engaged in the content, not because they are getting a grade, but because knowledge for the truth and a better future demands it. Much of what I have learned this past year, has led me to try to convince students, traditionally privileged, that inclusive futures are needed to survive in the global environment.