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May 15, 2014 0

Brown v. Board of Education: 60 Years Later, the Legacy Unfulfilled


LOC2Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion the promise of equal edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties in the United States remains unful­filled. On May 17, 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a land­mark deci­sion in Brown deseg­re­gat­ing America’s schools.  Find­ing that “it is doubt­ful that any child may rea­son­ably be expected to suc­ceed in life if he is denied the oppor­tu­nity of an edu­ca­tion,” the Court con­cluded that edu­ca­tion “is a right which must be made avail­able to all on equal terms.”

Today African Amer­i­can and Latino stu­dents are more than twice as likely to drop out of school as their white peers. Although there are many fac­tors that con­tribute to this trou­bling inequity, school sus­pen­sions and expul­sions are among the best indi­ca­tors for which stu­dents will drop out of school. A stu­dent who has been sus­pended from school is more than three times more likely to drop out in the first two years of high school than a stu­dent who has never been sus­pended.  Stu­dents who drop out of school have more dif­fi­culty find­ing gain­ful employ­ment, have much lower earn­ing power when they are employed, and ulti­mately are more likely to become involved with the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.  This cycle of sus­pen­sions and expul­sions that leads to stu­dents drop­ping out of school, which in turn leads to increased like­li­hood of incar­cer­a­tion, has become known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Harsh school dis­ci­pline poli­cies dis­pro­por­tion­ately impact stu­dents of color, stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, and stu­dents who iden­tify as les­bian, gay, bisex­ual or trans­gen­der (LGBT).  Data from the Depart­ment of Education’s Office for Civil Rights shows that black stu­dents are sus­pended and expelled at a rate three times greater than their white peers.  Sim­i­larly, stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties are more than twice as likely to receive out-of-school sus­pen­sions as stu­dents with no dis­abil­i­ties and LGBT youth are much more likely than their het­ero­sex­ual peers to be sus­pended or expelled.  Con­trary to some hypothe­ses, stud­ies have found lit­tle dif­fer­ence in stu­dents’ behav­ior across racial lines to account for the dis­pro­por­tion­al­ity.  Rather, stud­ies have found that African Amer­i­can stu­dents tend to receive harsher pun­ish­ment for less seri­ous behav­ior, and are more often pun­ished for sub­jec­tive offenses, such as “loi­ter­ing” or “disrespect.”

The bad news doesn’t end with the data about dis­ci­pline. There are other dis­pro­por­tion­ate, neg­a­tive impacts related to seg­re­gated schools and they rep­re­sent what can be known as the edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­nity gap.  Stu­dents in major­ity black and Latino schools are taught by fewer cer­ti­fied teach­ers, and their teach­ers are paid less than teach­ers at pre­dom­i­nantly white schools. Schools that are pre­dom­i­nantly black and Latino offer fewer courses nec­es­sary to attend com­pet­i­tive col­leges and have fewer gifted and tal­ented programs.

The data boils down to a truth many have known for a long time.  Race is still a promi­nent pre­dic­tor of access to qual­ity and equity in schools. It remains as impor­tant as ever to dis­cuss issues of racial dis­par­ity crit­i­cally and thought­fully in local communities.

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May 2, 2014 0

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but Watch Out for the Stereotypes

Cinco de mayoCinco De Mayo  is a fun and fes­tive hol­i­day in the United States, that it is often wrought with prob­lem­atic choices made by good peo­ple just want­ing to have a good time and cel­e­brate. With­out intend­ing to, peo­ple can per­pet­u­ate harm­ful stereo­types of Mex­i­cans at a pri­vate party, restau­rant, com­mu­nity fes­ti­val and even in schools.

As Cinco de Mayo fes­tiv­i­ties com­mence, it is impor­tant to stop and con­sider whether class­room obser­vances and cel­e­bra­tions in gen­eral are inclu­sive and respect­ful, and do not pro­mote stereo­typ­i­cal por­tray­als of groups of people—in this case, Mex­i­cans and Mex­i­can Americans.

Con­sider that Cinco de Mayo, which means the “5th of May,” is pri­mar­ily cel­e­brated in the United States, not in Mex­ico, and com­mem­o­rates Mex­i­can forces defeat­ing French occu­pa­tional forces in the Bat­tle of Pueblo in 1862. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is tra­di­tion­ally a cel­e­bra­tion of Mex­i­can cul­ture, her­itage and pride. When done thought­fully, the hol­i­day can be an oppor­tu­nity to explore issues of free­dom, cul­ture and iden­tity. It also can be a time when youth receive ini­tial impres­sions of a cul­ture they may not have expo­sure to and when stereo­typ­i­cal mes­sages about Mex­i­can peo­ple are often reinforced.

Here are a few sug­ges­tions that will help cre­ate a respect­ful class­room envi­ron­ment for cel­e­brat­ing Cinco de Mayo.

  • Ensure that class­room con­tent – images, books, etc. – relat­ing to Cinco de Mayo does not pro­mote or rein­force stereo­types about Lati­nos, espe­cially Mexicans.
  • Seek out cur­ric­u­lar con­tent that edu­cates stu­dents about the rich diver­sity of Mex­i­cans and Mex­i­can Americans..Expand your focus beyond the three Fs: fes­ti­vals, fash­ion and foods to avoid triv­i­al­iz­ing the culture’s rich his­tory and people’s experiences.
  • Avoid using images and dec­o­ra­tions which rein­force one-dimensional por­tray­als of Mex­i­cans. Cinco de Mayo is not about som­breros, pon­chos and other stereo­typ­i­cal ele­ments of Mex­i­can culture.
  • Be proac­tive by address­ing issues of stereo­typ­ing when­ever they arise, cre­at­ing “teach­able moments” to dis­cuss issues of stereo­typ­ing and dis­crim­i­na­tion. If a stu­dent or col­league invokes stereo­types, either out of igno­rance or to get a laugh, address it when you see it.

Help­ing youth develop an aware­ness of the rich his­tory and impor­tance of Mex­i­cans in the United States is a wor­thy endeavor. Com­bat­ting bias in youth by chal­leng­ing stereo­types is a life-skill that will serve them through­out their lives. Visit our ADL Edu­ca­tion web­page to down­load cur­ricu­lum on a range of bias-related topics.

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March 24, 2014 0

Gender: Neither an Obstacle Nor an Advantage

It starts at the begin­ning. Ever notice what color blan­kets swad­dle the major­ity of the new­born girls and boys? Have you ever heard vis­i­tors coo, “She’s so pretty,” or “He looks so strong,” upon learn­ing an infant’s gen­der? Early mes­sages about gen­der roles cer­tainly go beyond color and coo­ing and have the power to cre­ate last­ing impres­sions; they can led to choices, lim­i­ta­tions and expec­ta­tions cor­re­lated to gen­der, dur­ing a time when children’s brains are grow­ing at their fastest rate.Mother's hands holding a newborn baby.

Even our per­cep­tions of an infant’s abil­i­ties are influ­enced by their gen­der. In a scientific study, moth­ers were asked to esti­mate how steep a slope their 11-month-olds could crawl down. The moth­ers of the boys answered cor­rectly within one degree, but the moth­ers of girls under­es­ti­mated their daugh­ters’ abil­i­ties by nine degrees, even though there are no dif­fer­ences in the motor skills in infant boys and girls.

Trends also show that the major­ity of adults still give “action-oriented” toys (i.e., balls, vehi­cles, etc.) to boys and “pas­sive” toys (i.e. dolls, princesses, etc.) to girls, fur­ther per­pet­u­at­ing gen­der stereotypes.

Would females in our soci­ety be less obsessed with “beauty” and males with “strength” if their early mes­sages had been dif­fer­ent?  Might all col­ors be con­sid­ered appro­pri­ate, no mat­ter one’s gen­der? Would chil­dren grow up to enjoy a wider range of careers if their toys and books avoided gen­der stereo­types? Might more chil­dren feel com­fort­able about both gen­ders cry­ing, show­ing empa­thy or excelling in the arts, tech­nol­ogy and/or aca­d­e­mics, if they saw more role mod­els of dif­fer­ent gen­ders doing so?

Mov­ing beyond con­ven­tional and estab­lished gen­der norms requires a crit­i­cal eye and ear, and a dis­po­si­tion to chal­lenge gen­der bias by mak­ing gen­der nei­ther an obsta­cle nor an advan­tage. Since early mes­sages about gen­der have such a pow­er­ful and last­ing influ­ence, children’s first teach­ers should con­sider the following:

  •  If chil­dren do not live up to the soci­etal gen­der norms or your assump­tions, what judg­ments do you make? Exam­ine your per­sonal biases and make the deci­sion to chal­lenge nar­row gen­der expec­ta­tions daily.
  • As young chil­dren develop their own sense of iden­tity, they often embrace strict stereo­types and norms. Chal­lenge gender-related stereo­types when you hear and see them. Expect all chil­dren to excel in all sub­ject areas while also coun­ter­act­ing myths about gender’s rela­tion­ship to ability.
  • Expose chil­dren to real-life exam­ples, books, toys and media of peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing and suc­ceed­ing in non-traditional gen­der roles, such a male child-care provider or nurse, a female com­pany pres­i­dent or MVP in a co-ed base­ball league.
  • Par­tic­i­pate in ongo­ing anti-bias edu­ca­tion for your­self and infuse anti-bias cur­ric­ula into the classroom.



El Género: Ni Obstáculo Ni Ventaja

Comienza desde el prin­ci­pio. ¿Ha notado de qué color son las man­tas que envuel­ven a la may­oría de los niños y niñas recién naci­dos? ¿Alguna vez ha escuchado a los vis­i­tantes decir “Es muy bonita” o “Parece tan fuerte” al des­cubrir el sexo de un bebé? Los primeros men­sajes acerca de los roles de género cier­ta­mente van más allá de los col­ores y comen­tar­ios, y tienen el poder de crear impre­siones duraderas; pueden lle­var a opciones, lim­ita­ciones y expec­ta­ti­vas cor­rela­cionadas con el género, durante la época en que el cere­bro de los niños y niñas está cre­ciendo a su ritmo más rápido.

Incluso nues­tra per­cep­ción de las habil­i­dades del bebé está influ­en­ci­ada por su género. En un estu­dio cien­tí­fico, se pidió a las madres que esti­maran qué tan escarpada sería la cuesta que sus bebés de 11 meses de edad podrían descen­der gate­ando. Las madres de los niños respondieron cor­rec­ta­mente con una variación de un grado, pero las madres de las niñas subes­ti­maron las capaci­dades de sus hijas en nueve gra­dos, aun cuando no hay difer­en­cia en las habil­i­dades motoras de niños y niñas.

Las estadís­ti­cas tam­bién mues­tran que la may­oría de los adul­tos aún dan juguetes “ori­en­ta­dos a la acción” (es decir, pelotas, vehícu­los, etc.) a los niños y juguetes “pasivos” (es decir, muñe­cas, prince­sas, etc.) a las niñas, per­pet­uando así los estereoti­pos de género.

¿Será que, en nues­tra sociedad, las mujeres estarían menos obse­sion­adas con la “belleza” y los hom­bres con la “fuerza” si sus primeros men­sajes hubiesen sido difer­entes?  ¿Es posi­ble con­sid­erar apropi­a­dos todos los col­ores, sin impor­tar el género? ¿Cre­cerían las niñas y niños hasta dis­fru­tar de una más amplia gama de car­reras si sus juguetes y libros evi­taran los estereoti­pos de género? ¿Será que más niños y niñas se sen­tirían cómo­dos con ambos géneros llo­rando, demostrando empatía o sobre­saliendo en las artes, tec­nología y/o estu­dios, si vieran más mod­e­los de difer­entes géneros haciéndolo?

Ir más allá de las nor­mas de género estable­ci­das y con­ven­cionales exige un ojo y oído críti­cos, y la dis­posi­ción a desafiar los pre­juicios de género haciendo que el género no sea ni un obstáculo ni una ven­taja. Dado que los primeros men­sajes sobre el género tienen una influ­en­cia tan poderosa y duradera, los primeros mae­stros de los niños y niñas deben tener en cuenta lo siguiente:

  • Si las/os niñas/os no cumplen con las nor­mas sociales de género o sus suposi­ciones, ¿qué juicios hace? Exam­ine sus pre­juicios per­son­ales y tome la decisión de desafiar diari­a­mente las lim­i­tadas expec­ta­ti­vas de género.
  • A medida que las niñas y niños pequeños desar­rol­lan su pro­pio sen­tido de iden­ti­dad, a menudo adop­tan nor­mas y estereoti­pos estric­tos. Desafíe los estereoti­pos de género cuando los vea y escuche. Cuente con que todos los niños y niñas sobre­sal­gan en todas las mate­rias, mien­tras tam­bién con­trar­resta los mitos sobre la relación entre el género y las capacidades.
  • Exponga a los niños y niñas a ejem­p­los de la vida real, librosjuguetes y medios de comu­ni­cación de per­sonas que rep­re­sen­ten y tri­un­fen en roles de género no tradi­cionales, tales como un provee­dor de cuida­dos infan­tiles mas­culino o enfer­mero, una pres­i­dente de com­pañía o una estrella femenina en la liga de béis­bol mixto.
  •  Par­ticipe en los cur­sos de edu­cación con­tra el pre­juicio  e intro­duzca un cur­rículo con­tra el pre­juicio en el salón de clase.

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