Educational System in America

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Introduction

In the past, education in America was exclusive and did not include a diverse demographic pool, women, and people of color were not a part of major decisions. And yet, today the dichotomy in the education system is still unsettling due to racial inequality. African Americans and women alike are victims of the lasting effects of racism and oppression.

It was not until the 19th century where school was highly regarded as a serious matter in the United States. During the mid-1800s public schools were created to force children to attend school while excluding African American children, in return prompted famous Supreme Court cases like 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson and 1954, Brown v. Board of Education to arise, due to segregation and inequity. On behalf of better educational opportunity. Plessy v. Ferguson legalized segregation in “separate but equal” schools and Brown v. Board of Education overthrew segregation in schools from the precedent made in the Plessy v. Ferguson; in return, it allowed for other social injustice court cases to arise throughout the years in American history such as the 1964 Title VI of civil rights act, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, or natural origin in public schools (Ballotpedia, 2019, par.16).

As citizens participate in the political system it is crucial that students become acquainted with the history of diversity at a young age. That way students yield greater outcomes for the world around them. Although, in the United States, there is a lack of faculty diversity, which plays a major role in how successful education is amongst students. Particularly in higher education, as a society, we must do better at preparing and hiring people from diverse backgrounds for faculty positions in order to provide diverse role models for the nation’s shifting ethnic and cultural group of students.

Since the 1960s during the Great Society era, where equity and inclusion became a national issue of importance. A new compelling, argument transpired that involved all students to receive better education by preparation in leadership, citizenship, and professional competitiveness. As a result, race-conscious policies were put in place by the federal government to undo the cycle of institutional racism. From the lasting effects from the Brown vs. Board, racial bigotry was an all-time high. (Edwards, 2004, p. 952).

In 1961 president John F. Kennedy issued an executive order mandating “government contractors to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin” (Cornell Law School, n.d., par. 3). Which in turn lead up to 1965, when Lyndon B. Johnson passed the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which was the start of bridging the gap between equal education for all students (Lee, 2015). It was this act that would change the focus of the educational system in the United States. The emphasis was placed on the students’ success and included every student no matter race or class (Paul, 2018). Leading up to 1974, The Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) which states that it “prohibits, among other conduct, deliberate segregation on the basis of race, color, and national origin” (United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, 2018, par.1).

In the State of Ohio, the EEOA later adjusted and renamed in 1980, the Equal Educational Opportunity Policy guide for school districts in Ohio. The goal of the policy is to “empower districts with the tools, resources, and knowledge to promote diversity and reduce racial isolation” (State Board of Education, 2012, p.1). However, these acts failed to emphasize the importance of faculty diversity, specifically people of color. In America, students typically find themselves put in a school system scenario that resembles one end of a racial spectrum to the other. One being predominately Caucasian versus predominately African American. Research shows that areas where there is a lack of multicultural practice, students tend to be less prone to success, due to the lack of faculty that they can connect to.

History

Around the early 1800s, women were beginning to obtain jobs that required skill and education. According to researchers at Harvard Christine Woyshner and Bonnie Hao Kuo Tai explain the history of women in education as American society moved forward into the 19th century. They state that “The nineteenth century saw major advances in educational opportunities for women and girls, from the common school movement in the early part of the century to multiple opportunities in higher education at the century’s close” (Woyshner & Tai, 1997, par. 1). Similar to Woyshner and Tai’s author Patsy Parker, Ph.D. from Southwestern Oklahoma State University, claims that women have always been compared to men and have not been represented well in the college setting. If it was rare to find females in the business setting, why would you find them at the collegiate level? Between 1870 and 1930 the United States saw an increase in women who represented professional occupations, but that would only last for a little while due to the Great Depression around. After the Great Depression, women only made up less than 11% of the workforce during the 1950s. (Parker, 2015, p.4). Before that time it was not “Until 1960, professionals were predominately white males; women and minority men were mostly excluded from the elite group of occupations” (Parker, 2015, p.4). In return spurred the term the Great Society era.

Background

Throughout the years women have had many barriers that have held them back, specifically in the academic setting women and women of color were only allowed to teach in certain areas. To this day women make up 14% of presidents, Deans, Provosts, and Chancellors of colleges and only 25% of professors at universities. (Parker, 2015, p.9). In addition to the lack of representation Parker points out that “female professors, when compared to males, move up the career ladder slower, are less productive, have heavier teaching loads, and have lower salaries” (Parker, 2015, p.9). Researchers like to attribute this disproportion of experience, time, and salary to lacking a mentor, even though according to Parker, mentoring is seen as guidance and is becoming less effective.

Course Concepts

Mass Media

As Americans become more entrenched in social media, they tend to be less reliable on real news and forget that media is not news, instead, they can overlap. Authors Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw talk about what we care about and what is out of our control. They suggest that maybe you don’t care about the issue, but you are thinking about it. (McCombs & Shaw, 1972, p. 177). Mass media plays a role in agenda setting to make you use your muscle memory. Similar to singing a song you don’t like. After hearing it so many times, you learn the lyrics and are readily prepared to sing along. Muscle memory can also be used to get your mind on the agenda to spread the news about fixing issues. Higher education might not be on the forefront due to our choice in media outlets, but we all still hear about it, because it gets brought up in discussion amongst peers, in and out of the classroom. Whether it be through Instagram, radio, Facebook, magazines or talk shows. If more than one person is concerned with this issue, it will be circulated until it is picked up on large media platforms.

Agenda Setting

Bearing in mind the history of diversity strategies within the United States, it is clear to say that there have been issues of attention seeking, more specifically, an issue-attention cycle as Anthony Downs would put it, he claims there are five stages of public perception when domestic problems become major issues that interest media outlets. Where the state of women in higher education stands, it can be considered to be in stage 5. According to Downs, in stage 5 the “post-problem stage” where the issue moves from public light into a midpoint of less attention, and the issue transforms into a different perspective than what was initially intended in the pre-problem stage. The problem may lose major focus but will come back up in correspondence to a topic that is currently taking over the mass media stage (Downs, 1972, p.41). These are major issues that upset the public, but are not in the news every day, like affordable healthcare, water conditions in Flint, Michigan, and drug addiction. Which comes back to diversity strategies for successful school policies that relieve racial isolation that most Americans should want to have enforced in the school system to actively promote an environment that welcomes cultural confidence and expertise of different backgrounds.

Downs might also consider taking a look at stage 2 “alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm” where a policy erupts after a series of events. This is the period where people should be talking about the danger and risks in the pre-problem stage (Downs, 1972, p. 39). However, this is important to note, because there are limitations to finding research being conducted on certain issues, some may little to no coverage at all making it almost impossible to have the public become alarmed without further evidence. For example, according to Patsy Parker “data is occasionally gathered concerning women’s representation in higher education administration and faculty” (Parker, 2015, p.11). If we find this to be true, then it is likely to have the reoccurring issue to expand into the future.

One way to address diversity in schools is to determine if they are effectively teaching students and teachers how to address cultural responsive pedagogy. In the (2012) State Board of Education article they exert the importance of diverse relationships within the school as they produce “pedagogical goals, including preparing students to succeed in diverse society, staying competitive in a global economy, and to citizenship” (State Board of Education, 2012, p. 5). Culturally responsive pedagogy research is comprised of three dimensions: institutional, personal, and instructional. Each providing their own impact. For instance, on an institutional level, the education system relies on policies and procedures to ensure “impact on the delivery of services to students from diverse backgrounds” (Richards, Brown, Forde, 2007, p.1). Not only does responsive pedagogy educate students, but it also provides a voice for teachers of color and women in predominately white institutions. In the article written by Merrie Clark, she touches on the issues of being a faculty member of color who happens to be female. The struggles that women face, dealing with joint appointments. Clark describes joint appointments as being valued in one area of expertise, because it the race or ethnicity they identify as, so students won’t questions their knowledge, but if they are teaching a separate subject that is apart from their race or ethnicity they find themselves being challenged and not given the respect that they deserve. (Clark, 2003, p.134).

Proposed Solutions

Authors Lori Assaf, Ruben Garza, & Jennifer Battle and Geneva Gay and Kipchoge Kirkland all believe that multicultural teacher preparation programs are necessary. Not only do they agree to have them in practice, but they should be formatted with intention. These programs should not be set up to establish the bare minimum. Gay and Kipchoge (2003) state that during the process of teaching multicultural education to white female preservice teachers, it is essential to hone in the conversations about race, racism, socioeconomic status and inequality, and appreciate cultural differences. With real-life situations that make them think critically about their advantage as a white woman in America. Assaf et al reiterate by saying that it is more than trying a different cultures food, teachers should be attending “Coherent programs where teacher educators build a shared vision of good teaching, use common standards of practice that guide and asses coursework and clinical work, and demonstrate shared knowledge and common beliefs about teaching and learning” (Assaf et al, 2010, p. 116).

Future Policy

With the limitations on the data pertaining to faculty diversity in higher education, in the near future about five years from now, there should be a national data system that holds institutions accountable for not being diverse. Therefore, the blame can be pushed unto the universities and colleges that don’t adjust or conform, as a guilt trip to do better. Hiring practices should be stricter when it comes to Caucasians and not the other way around since minority candidates are the ones that are disproportionately affected. Higher education institutions need to focus on recruitment strategies to advance faculty diversity and mentorship once accepted into the college/university. Authors of Diversifying the Faculty Orlando Taylor, Cheryl Burgan Apprey, George Hill, Loretta McGrann, and Jianping Wang all claim that “Vanderbilt has taken measures to support its female faculty by establishing a mentoring network for junior members. In addition, Vanderbilt has established a support system outside of the university through a collaboration with Meharry Medical College that offers joint research, training, and educational opportunities and experiences for faculty at both institutions” (Taylor et al, 2019, par. 22). While this is great the diversity doesn’t end with faculty. As Matthew Lynch put it, diversifying should not only focus on the student but the heritage of the school. When I think of the history of Cleveland State University (CSU). I think back to how many times, I have heard people say that this school used to be really bad 50 years ago because prejudice and racism ruled the university. Many African Americans were reluctant to apply due to the reputation CSU had. Now 50 years later, CSU is leading the way in what a diverse institution looks like by keeping its faculty and student population civically engaged within the community that surrounds it.

Although CSU is not completely diverse it is better than what it used to be, with an astonishing 63% in white students, followed by 17.3% in African American students, 5.5% in Ethnicity unknown, 5.2% Hispanic/Latino, 4.9% Non-Resident, 3.7% Asian, .2% American Indian or Alaska Native, and lastly .1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Then, for faculty, white faculty make up 72.1%, African American 16.5%, Asian 5.7%, Hispanic/Latino 2.9%, Non-Resident Allen 1.6%, American Indian or Alaska Native .3%, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 0%, and Ethnicity Unknown 1%. (College factual, n.d.).The school still has some more to go. Racial and equity inclusion training, to eliminate the idea that changes do not need to be made.

Conclusion

Ultimately, faculty diversity won’t happen overnight, but it would be ideal to have the climate amongst peers within the institution sink in and be passed on from generation to generation. Not only generationally, but through each wave of new faculty, staff and students. By providing hope and attainment to achieve such goals, it is likely that throughout the expansion of time, the higher education field, will prepare a group of people that will think critically, set aside their biases, and intentionally plan to be better for the shifting multicultural body of students. Whether it be men or women or by choice of race. Given that there is an emphasis on quality and equality education, the United States must include educational initiatives to help spur success for all individuals.

The United States is headed for great change where diversity and inclusion is concerned. After years of oppression throughout the civil rights period and discrimination in schools forcing segregation, research has proven ways to break from such circumstances where agenda setting and mass media presence can play a role in implementing change. In conclusion, it can be determined that higher education policy has evolved over time and will continue to change as America grows more culturally introducing diverse backgrounds into the educational system.

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Educational System in America. (2021, Jun 17). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/educational-system-in-america/

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