Category "Diversity Issues"

April 18, 2005

General College Diversity

Just a few incomplete thoughts about the General College issue. What I don't understand is how diversity can possibly be sustained if the GC is assimilated into other colleges. Just as a person of color both is distinctively different and yet shares commonalities, so too the GC is distinctive in its approach to usher in a class of students who might otherwise miss out on education at the U and yet the GC shares many of the same educational objectives as other colleges. In fact, it has developed an expertise, as I understand it, in helping nurture the kind of learning that more elite students--masters of the white linear educational system--are a step up on. If we take a "Wholes approach" (see Hanson, B.G., 1995) to diversity at the U, we have to consider the entire education system.

Our whole current education system is biased in favor of those abstract, linear-thinking, time-controlled & regimented, English-based, performance-oriented, and Euro/Western-based (foundationally) personalities. In a word: the privileged whites. School systems aside, Edina high school kids will fare better than Roosevelt High students in general because they're oriented & trained to succeed in that kind of system. Roosevelt students come from ethically diverse backgrounds and from lower to middle class families. As a group they are disadvantaged. Consider the environmental impact of trying to study in a neighborhood with frequent crimes or bullying. Not to mention a billion other obstacles that Edina students--in general--are protected from. Now picture those Roosevelt students excelling in the mainstream of the U!

My beef is that disadvantaged students need a leg up to help level the playing field. They have a steeper learning curve to be able to think or perform in a way that the mainstream curriculum demands. Now, this isn't to say that they should be coddled or given a Cliff Notes education. Intrinsically they are often just as bright as other privileged students, but they have hurdles that they need to surmont first. Some students of color, for instance, may devalue individual ambition or achievement in favor of maintaing their relationship and loyalty to the group. That kind of personality is not "wired" for a solo performance on a test covering abstract concepts that have never been experienced. How do you teach students to value an test that determines if you know anything? Or other students might need to learn how to manage their time in a way that conforms to the framework of higher education. Well, no one's going to help them "learn" this in the mainstream, but the GC profs integrate this kind of 'process learning' along with the 'content learning.' In my opinion that is helping those students to learn how to learn, so that they will be better equipped to compete in the mainstream. Often, they take courses both at the GC and at another college...that's not educating in isolation--it's systemic integration of both process and content.

Disadvantaged students don't need the "chance" to prove they can learn & succeed, they need the tools in order to gradually seize that "chance."

That's where I'm at right now on this.

Posted by gschache at 12:41 AM | Diversity Issues