Sunday, August 07, 2005

Survey. Is your classroom Culturally Responsive?

I had an assignment in my Multiculturalism class that had me rate my Cultural Responsiveness in my classroom. Please understand, I am sensitive to the needs of different cultures, but some of these questions are a total waste. The questions are right out of the book, the answers are word-for-word my own.
And yes, question #5 was really there.

In order to rate myself on being culturally responsive, let us follow the checklist that is on page 263 of the textbook.

1. What groups are represented in text, discussion, and bulletin board displays? Are certain groups invisible?
a. Since I teach Government and Economics, the primary groups that are listed in the text relate to the concepts of United States. I don't go out of my way to point out any specific group because the events that are happening around the world will do that for me. Since we live in California, and Latinos are in the news, there is a lot about Latinos that we talk about. Topics come up such as immigration, migrant workers, the economic/political/social status of Mexico, and the future of the Latino voting block in the United States. But, when Latinos are not in the news, I don't push to fit Latino news into the curriculum. Obviously, the Middle East dominates the news, followed by China, and the immigration problems in the United States. As for displays on my walls, I put up exceptional student work. I don't throw up work based on cultural identity. If my Latino or Native American students do excellent work (which they often do), they deserve to be on the wall. Are certain groups invisible? In terms of what? Representation? This is the United States and we discuss the U.S. government and its citizens. I think that group is represented very well.

2. Are roles of minorities and women presented in a separate manner from other content-isolated or treated as a distinct topic?
a. Absolutely not. Beside being immoral, that would totally detract from my method of being consistent in my construction. I pride myself and having everyone involved in what is going on in class. Isn't that the sign of a healthy democracy, when everyone is well informed and making sound judgments?

3. Are minorities and women treated in a positive, diversified manner or stereotyped into traditional or rigid roles?
a. This is a two sided question. I treat everyone in a positive, respectful manner. I'm guessing that "diversified" means that I meet the needs of individual students to allow them to be successful. As for stereotyping, I don't do it in my classroom, but it is becoming a problem with the Mexican culture being equated to gangs. As I stated before (with a very unpopular response), students and teachers will start "racial profiling" students if the Mexican community doesn't make a greater effort to crack down on the gangs within their culture.

4. Are problems faced by minorities presented in a realistic fashion, with a problem-solving orientation?
a. When it has to do with what I am teaching, then yes. To add to that, I think that I do it in a much more realistic fashion than most because we really do look at issues from the angle of a realpolitik point of view. Students are introduced to all points of view and then create informed opinions on how best to solve the problem. Understand that it is not my job to get on a soapbox and tell kids that their opinion is wrong (except when the opinion involves committing violence or death). For instance, if a student says that no social services should go towards illegal immigrants and that they should be deported, my job is to explain possible outcomes, ask some questions, and that is it. Same with a student that says that California should give all illegal immigrants Driver's Licenses and allow them to use social services. So, when we say a "realistic fashion", let's remember that things like National Security, Economics, and Social Welfare do matter.

5. Is the language used in the materials inclusive or are biased terms used such as masculine forms (mankind, mailman)?
a. Is this a serious question? I never use racial or gender slang terms that are derogatory to people or dehumanize them, but is this really a serious question? Does this mean I'm not supposed to use "HIStory" in class, or call 9th graders "FreshMEN", or when something goes wrong I can't say "MAN, I can't believe the Giants lost again". This question is a prime example of why Multicultural classes are not taken seriously.

6. Does the curriculum foster appreciation of cultural diversity?
a. My curriculum is designed to teach students of all learning modalities the concepts of Government/Economics, while also preparing them for college and the “real world”. Cultural diversity appears in my classroom because students bring it in their opinions and discussion. I think that this concept of "cultural diversity" has been warped into a definition that is totally exclusive of the culture that we have in the United States. A rich kid with a strong family from Regina Heights (a nice area) has a totally different culture than a poor kid with a broken home from Laws Ave. (a not so nice area). Yet cultural diversity is only focused on students that come from other countries, with the picture that they are the only ones that struggle. I teach students about the United States (the good, bad and ugly), I teach them about opportunities, and I teach them how to take advantage of those opportunities, regardless of their culture. That is true diversity.

7. Are experiences and activities, other than those common to middle class/European American culture, included?
a. Experiences from every walk of life are necessary for a good Government class to be run. What better way to show the United States than in a class that has different people, with different backgrounds. As for the method in terms of activities or lessons, and whether or not they are "Eurocentric", I use the best practices available to get my students to succeed. When I discover a better way to get my information to the students (regardless of Eurocentrism or no), I will use that way instead. By the way, this whole process of getting the CLAD is so we are considered proficient in helping students learn English. Isn't English part of the "middle class/European American culture"? It's funny how we are asking teachers to teach kids English, as long as you don't put emphasis on the culture that English dominates.

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