Should teachers be required to take diversity training?
Looking around my education classes at Michigan State University, I often see only White, female students. In fact, it’s the highest demographic of teachers anywhere. Students need to know that their teachers respect and accept them, not only on an individual level, but also as members of society. If they don’t see themselves in their teachers, students want to know that at least they’re understood.
All educators will, no matter where they work, teach students from different backgrounds than their own, whether they are from a different social class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or level of physical ability. Diversity training can help educators relate more effectively to students who are different from themselves.
In one of my very first classes at MSU, I was able to mentor a young kindergartner, whom I will call Jack. A young African-American student, Jack was unaware of the connotations of race, but he immediately noticed the difference between his own skin color and mine. I didn’t ignore his comments, but rather chose to use the occasion as an opportunity to help him understand that there are many different types of people in the world. I feel this was important for me to do because, as an African-American male, Jack will soon grow up to realize that race has many real consequences in life. Ignoring that fact would have been a disservice to both of us.
Should all children attend preschool?
Children don’t come into this world knowing how to discriminate—it’s a learned behavior that can be stopped or prevented. Kids spend many hours in schools, and if they can be in an environment that breaks stereotypes and creates unity through diversity, it can continue the progress of social justice for our next generation of children.
Mary Cartier is a Student member at Michigan State University. She is a junior studying Secondary Spanish Education with a minor in Teaching Speakers of Other Languages.
Of course, every September a faculty does need a “heads-up” session on the year’s group of kids, of their homelife, their homeland, and needs. The same holds true when there is an influx of students in the middle of the year, as happened after Hurricane Katrina. These sessions are necessary tools, but quite different from required diversity trainings.
Too much in-service for employed teachers can be so demeaning, dumbed down, and even insulting, that required diversity training for all teachers would merely push the scale farther and infuriate the ones most needing some enlightenment. And it is a fallacy to assume that only the traditional “majority” members could use some enlightenment. Prejudice and downright ignorance is colorblind. We reflect our backgrounds, our families, our religions, and our communities.
Additionally, at least half of the people now teaching have entered the profession in the past five years, all earning credentials which have specified, in most states, a least one course or strand in meeting the needs of a culturally diverse student population. The experienced faculty have, for the most part, been “in-serviced” almost annually in various sensitivities of their community. For San Diego, that included everything from language variations for native African-American kids, to practices of Hmong families, to ways to involve differently-abled kids in field trips, to how it is that our Muslim girls can become track stars while wearing head coverings and workout sweats.
As futile as it is to teach ethics to politicians who already know right from wrong, it is folly to believe a few mandated diversity meetings can fundamentally change classroom behavior. Teachers already recognize that their students are very diverse but must eventually achieve similar success.
Suzanne Emery is a Retired member who taught English and journalism in San Diego City Schools.
Should teachers be required to take diversity training? Vote now, or join the debate on our discussion board.