Diversity, Economics and Education
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"There should be community-oriented assignments,"
says Rogers. "Not a library research project on early Californians,
but something that combines the library and classroom with home
and community work on, say, immigration to California."
California, more than anywhere in the U.S., we have the potential
for creating a truly bilingual, globally oriented, educated
population. That is one of the things this country and the
world needs the most."
— Education Professor Jeannie Oakes
Creative approaches to education, however, require well-trained
and highly motivated teachers, and that costs more money. "The
tasks of teachers have been dumbed down by economics at the very
time that teachers need to be more skilled than ever," says
Economics also gets in the way of involving parents and families
in the schools. "We encourage parents to help out whenever
possible," says Imanishi. "But a lot of my students come
from homes where there is only one parent. When the child gets back
from school, that mother or father often is still out working and
may not even get home until after the child is already asleep. I
know that they want to support their children at home, but it is
very hard for them to find the time."
Thus, many of the schools that could most benefit from family and
community involvement, that need it to help make up for shortfalls
in fully credentialed teachers and poor facilities, can't get it.
The families are too busy simply trying to make a living. The communities
have too many other, more urgent problems.
In America, people dislike the word "class" as it applies
to the nation's social strata. Unfortunately, class is at the heart
of many education issues. The schools with the best-trained teachers,
the best facilities, the greatest resources, parents with the time
to get involved in the educational process, supportive communities
and the ability to take advantage of the opportunities inherent
in diverse student bodies are, with few exceptions, in higher-income
neighborhoods where the schools don't usually need as much help.
Education, says Walter Allen, a UCLA professor of sociology, is
a basic commodity, and the mess that's being made of its distribution
is affecting all of society for the worse. Fixing the problem will
require more than simple changes in curriculum. It will take political
and social solutions.