classrooms with a growing number of socially and economically disadvantaged students continue to challenge the education system.
While schools have often been viewed as the equalizer for opportunity, all children do not start at the same point. In actuality the educational experience of a
child will vary depending on the socio-economic group a child is from (Persell, 87) Class disparities
among school districts are increasing as communities become economically more homogeneous. Those children from the lower socioeconomic
class are not being educated with middle class students. They are often denied access to the better teachers, and facilities
of the middle class districts (Hochschild & Scovronick, 26). Statistics
indicate that the majority of students from Nonwhite European social groups in Western nations are not receiving quality education
and that the inequality continues to expand rather than contract (Osborne, 286).
In large urban schools having students from
varied social backgrounds, it is not uncommon to divide students based on their perceived abilities. Often the methodology
used to teach fails to reach the students. The students are perceived to be the problem, and are placed in lower tracks or
less demanding academic classes. These students end up receiving a different and unequal education. Family income often parallels
the levels of grouping and tracking of students (Spring, 77). Schools with larger populations of low-income and diverse students
frequently have large remedial and vocational programs and smaller academic tracks. The social class background of students
is linked to the way tracks are assigned, the frequency of tracking and the type of tracks available.(Persell, 96) A school’s
expectations of students may be influenced by the social class of students’ parents. Schools located in working class
communities direct the education and learning toward rote behavior and following directions.
Schools located in affluent areas with a professional social class tend to value creativity and student interaction
The Assimilationist Philosophy
The projection of only one dominant culture as relevant, and unfair practices
of stratification of certain groups to low class statuses, are all legitimized by the undertones that students must assimilate
for survival. The assimilationist philosophy is a live entity ever present in schools that push to the fringes power, cultures
that it regards as threatening to its position of dominance. According to James Banks,
"The assimilationist ideology makes it difficult for educators to think
differently about how U.S. society and culture developed and to acquire commitment to make curricular multicultural." (Banks, 2005)
The obvious meaning of assimilation is to eliminate the general difference
in people, making only one standard socially acceptable. Nothing could be said to be more true than in the exclusion of cultural
differences in curriculum of the school system. James Banks, in his study of the assimilationist approach towards education
interviewed am African American Educator. The Educator was blunt, in her assertion of the need for African American students
"I think many of the youngsters [from the] larger community have more
normal set of values that people generally want to see, and therefore do not have [as] much difficulty in coping with their school situation...[The Black
Children] do have difficulty in adjusting because they are just not used to it.
Until we can adjustively counsel them into the right types if behavior...I think
we're going to continue to have these types of problems."
Assimilation is an age old concept used as a tool to marginalize and exclude
certain groups of ethnicity, under the illusion that these groups could develop the "cultural capitol" to be accepted into
mainstream society. Traditionally, what has resulted in a schism in the psyche of the mariganlized people; a development of
a "dual consciousness" (Bennet, 2003) of the African American people. The viewpoint that has been widely accepted is,
"...in the face of physical torture and white attempts to eradicate
their cultures, the many peoples of Africa among the slaves...became a single
African American people and forged their
own oppositional culture, an African
American culture. Drawing on deep spiritual roots, these new Americans shaped
their distinctive versions of Afro-English, and their own philosophical ans politcal
thinking about racial oppression, liberation, and social justice."
Where assimilation comes into play is when the dominant culture considers
such cultural distinctions invalid and unacceptable. For the students of color, what is suggested is the complete abandonment
of familiar culture and the complete mastery of foreign culture and social skills for social acceptance and access to educational
opportunities. According to Christine Bennet, The dominant culture views other cultures as unacceptable, inferior, or a threat
to social harmony and national unity. the dominant group only accepts members once they give up their original identity."
It isn't difficult to see how such a philosophy is problematic for students of color.