April 27, 2006

Mandatory diversity training?

The latest NEA (National Education Association) newsletter has the debate: Should teachers be required to take diversity training? Of course, you may guess what I think on the matter, but consider who the NEA got to offer the "pro" argument: a college junior. Someone who hasn't taught a single day in her life. Here's part of her argument:

All educators will, no matter where they work, teach students from different backgrounds than their own, whether they are from a different social class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or level of physical ability. Diversity training can help educators relate more effectively to students who are different from themselves.

But -- don't education colleges already mandate such "training" in their classes? Yes, they do. Many colleges even have a "multicultural requirement" for non-education majors alike (like the University of Delaware). Why then do teachers who've already been hired have to attend such "training" in addition?

A young African-American student, Jack was unaware of the connotations of race, but he immediately noticed the difference between his own skin color and mine. I didn't ignore his comments, but rather chose to use the occasion as an opportunity to help him understand that there are many different types of people in the world.

This is why having a college student offer this side of the argument is silly -- because that's what any person who claims the title "teacher" would do in that same situation! What would mandatory diversity "training" have offered in addition in this particular instance? Ms. Cartier, our college student gives us a clue:

I feel this was important for me to do because, as an African-American male, Jack will soon grow up to realize that race has many real consequences in life. Ignoring that fact would have been a disservice to both of us.

This is what diversity training does now -- it virtually ridicules the notion of color-blindness in favor of color-consciousness because, if we don't recognize color (race), we'll somehow fail to realize that discrimination still exists in the world today.

You may ask yourself how believing in color-blindness [can] lead[s] to such a failure; the legitimate response is that it actually does not, at least if a person has above an 80 IQ (which, hopefully all teachers possess). Diversity training doesn't legitimize color-blindness. It wants to change that view -- to make one believe in the oxymoronic "to be color-blind, one must recognize color" mantra, or the even more pernicious, "color-blindness = racism."

Suzanne Emery, a retired teacher, offers the "con" argument. While I do not agree with all her reasons why diversity training should not be mandatory, she still makes much sense. She offers:

Additionally, at least half of the people now teaching have entered the profession in the past five years, all earning credentials which have specified, in most states, a least one course or strand in meeting the needs of a culturally diverse student population. The experienced faculty have, for the most part, been "in-serviced" almost annually in various sensitivities of their community. As futile as it is to teach ethics to politicians who already know right from wrong, it is folly to believe a few mandated diversity meetings can fundamentally change classroom behavior. Teachers already recognize that their students are very diverse but must eventually achieve similar success.

Yep. How much is enough? And she's correct that such mandated training sessions are designed to alter classroom behavior (and, I'd add, raise test scores). But it's mostly a futile effort, for as Emery says, all "must eventually achieve similar success" (my emphasis). I've already written (and Felix, too) quite a bit on the numerous contradictions in the diversity/multiculturalism movement (see here, for one) -- for example, multicultis say on the one hand that "teachers must have high expectations for all children," and then on the other hand say that "different groups (races/ethnicities) of kids learn 'differently'," so expecting all groups to be able to achieve the same objective is unreasonable (hence, those "high expectations" go out the window). Or, that "high" in "high expectations" means something "different" for those "different" groups of kids.

You follow? If not, don't worry, you're not alone. The reasoning is indeed befuddling and contradictory.

And recently, regarding diversity, a new study by a Duke economics professor has concluded "that the degree of collegiate diversity has no effect on an individual's productivity or life satisfaction. ... Diversity capital may not exist. That is to say, two individuals' ability to profitably interact in the marketplace is not impeded by any racial or ethnic differences between them."

George Leef says

I think that's a bullseye and it destroys one of the favored justifications for "diversity," namely that American students need a big dose of multiculturalism if they're going to be able to compete in an increasingly globalized marketplace. When people see the opportunity for gains through trade, they set aside differences.
Posted by Hube at April 27, 2006 03:47 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

But Hube, if teachers weren't required to have sensitivity training, then what would all the sensitivity trainers do for a job? I hear Walmart is hiring. They would be great at making sure the different color clothes get along! Thank goodness only thirty days of school to go...but looming at the end of my calendar are the dreaded three days of inservice 'training'....Sounds like a personal day!

Posted by: cardinals fan at April 27, 2006 08:38 PM

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