- Position Statement
Education is the process through which individuals are equipped with systemic instruction with the ultimate goal of getting them enlightened on specialized matters. In the long run, educated individuals are expected to have the capacity to address the critical problems that emerge in their areas of expertise. Although the goal of education is quite straightforward, the purpose of schooling is multifaceted. Schooling seeks to accomplish cultural, social, and professional objectives. Through schooling, individuals are not only educated in their specialized subject areas but are also challenged to escape their social comfort zones and to play a useful part in a multicultural society. For this, reason, it would be expected that any individual who has attended school would emerge as a better individual and better equipped to fit into the modern society, regardless of the GPA that they may have attained at school. This is because the mere interaction between students from diverse cultural and sociocultural backgrounds in a schooling environment helps improve their understanding of other people’s perspectives as informed by their different sociocultural backgrounds.
By requiring students to complete a wide array of courses covering diverse subjects that relate to society directly and/or indirectly, schools attempt to improve students’ knowledgebase on societal matters, helping them to resolve issues that necessitate knowledge and critical thinking when dealing with people. Based on this understanding, I suggest that schooling is designed to accomplish the primary mandate of education, which entails enlightening students on specialized matters, but that the mandate does not end there. Schooling is also purposed at helping individuals to have a better appreciation of different cultures based on the interactions they experience in the learning environment.
- Philosophical Arguments
In contemporary times, education reform strategies are increasingly tailored to accommodate the need to address the issue of inequality based on societal and political forces such as race, social class, gender, sexuality, among other factors. Indeed James Banks and Cherry McGee (2020) acknowledge that, for a long time, broad social policies and structures have influenced factors like curriculum reform, ability tackling, and native language instruction, among others that would, ideally, help to ensure that education is available for all. This has been one of the most significant impediments to the delivery of equitable quality education for all. Nieto and Bode (2012), in turn, argue that the ideal school system challenges and rejects all forms of discrimination in both school and society and upholds the pluralism reflected by students, their teachers, and the community. The authors further argue that equitable education infiltrates into the curriculums of schools and strategies of instruction, as well as how students, teachers, and families interact (Nieto & Bode, 2012). Therefore, the manner in which students are instructed is considerate of their needs and of the communities in which they belong, as well as the need to serve divergent societies (Nieto & Bode, 2007). Schooling that is based on equitable education relies on critical pedagogy as the underlying philosophy. It focuses on knowledge, reflection, and action as the basis upon which social change should be realized. In turn, it promotes the democratic principle of social justice (Nieto & Bode, 2012; Banks & McGee, 2020).
It is undeniable that by tradition, a majority of schools in the country fall short of serving their secondary mandate of delivering equitable education for all. Indeed, schools have occasionally been identified among the key contributors to institutionalized racism in the country (Seaton & Yip, 2009). The American education system is traditionally designed to help Caucasian students to secure the best possible education and career opportunities at the expense of other racial groups. Banks and McGee (2020) identify institutionalized discrimination as a core impediment to learning and continued education for marginalized communities. The tendency by schools to offer low-level courses for people from impoverished backgrounds, for instance, sends the message that these individuals are not expected to perform at high levels (Banks & McGee, 2020). Moreover, the idea of categorizing students from specific sociocultural backgrounds as being “at-risk” impedes their learning, with both educators and fellow learners having low expectations on their capacity to learn (Banks & McGee, 2020). I reject this educational philosophy as it denies intellectually capable students of the opportunity to learn and achieve career progression. This philosophy also hinders America from being a part of an increasingly multicultural global society.
For an inclusive education system to be successfully absorbed into the American education system and to serve its purpose effectively, schools must initialize wholesome restructuring of their curriculums, cultures, and teaching methods (Banks & McGee, 2020). Schools must opt against making superficial adjustments to curriculums or initiating isolated programs for students and teachers as these would hardly influence the culture in the schools and the mindsets of teachers and learners (Banks & McGee, 2020).
- Ideological Arguments
With the United States being an exclusively capitalist country, one of the ideologies that have had the most significant influence on education is individualistic consumption (Gerald, 2013). This ideology has led to the proliferation of courses that equip students with core business administration skills and leadership qualities in order to improve their capacity to steer enterprises and corporations to success. American learners are taught to make use of available resources for maximal benefit, in line with the capitalist ideology of improving the financial status of the individual, rather than the community at large. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model is occasionally used in educative objectives to encourage learners to pursue the highest possible levels of individual development.
This ideological position is useful in brooding a hardworking workforce for the country’s corporations, a majority of which do better than their international counterparts in the global market. However, this ideology has also led stakeholders in education, including policymakers, to neglect the essence of preserving the environment. From an early age, individuals are taught that it is justifiable to make use of the resources at one’s disposal without replacing, as long as a profitable end is realized. This explains why modern corporations have been operating in manners that are unsustainable to the environment while threatening the social welfare of the people they affect directly and indirectly (Gerald, 2013). The gaps in our education system also partly explain why the United States is lagging in matters relating to climate action. For instance, the recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back on the decision to control toxic ash from coal plants can be largely attributed to a leadership that is profit-oriented but that hardly understands the long-term repercussions of such a regulatory call (Friedman, 2019).
Curriculums hardly address the importance of controlling businesses based on the natural resources they utilize, the net carbon footprint of their long-term operations, and the social impact they have on local communities in their areas of operation. Having been educated through these curriculums, American businessmen, as well as corporate leaders, tend to cut corners rather than going the full length of introducing a sustainable culture in their respective organizations (Gerald, 2013). This factor has led these businesses to struggle in regions where these values are upheld. The profit-oriented tendencies of American corporations have also undermined the welfare of the community. Big pharmaceutical companies, for instance, have been responsible for setting premium prices on essential drugs, rendering healthcare unaffordable for a majority of Americans (Gerald, 2013).
To address the ongoing crisis, the different stakeholders involved in determining the future of education in the country need to alter the foundational principles that guide educational outcomes. Instead of promoting individualistic consumption, the education system should promote sustainable development and the betterment of the environment. Such a change would go a long way in averting irreversible global warming and in addressing inequality in society.
- Theoretical Arguments
Based upon my position, two educational theories guide my teaching practice, namely sociocultural theory and theory of moral development. Sociocultural theory suggests that the social interaction among young learners leads to progressive step-by-step changes in their thoughts and behavior and that these changes can vary across different cultures (Zhou & Brown, 2013). The theory suggests that the said change is dependent on interaction with other people and the tools provided to the learner to help them create their view of the world. According to Zhou and Brown (2013), cultural tools may be passed on from one person to the other through imitative learning, instructed learning, and collaborative learning. This theory aligns with my position that placing learners in a multicultural learning environment is useful in helping them to have a better understanding of other people’s perspectives as informed by their cultural backgrounds. As confirmed by sociocultural theory, placing learners in a set up with diverse sociocultural elements is greatly advantageous for the social development of the learner, especially when compared to homeschooling.
Theory of moral development posits that moral reasoning has six distinctive stages, namely: conformity and punishment; self-interest; interpersonal harmony; compliance with authority and sustenance of social order; social contract; and universal ethics (Zhou & Brown, 2013). According to Lawrence Kohlberg, each developmental stage was more sufficient in resolving moral dilemmas than the previous (Zhou & Brown, 2013). Lawrence also observed that people negotiate different stages through their lifetimes, with most people in society remaining at the fourth stage, so that they rely on an external authority to distinguish ethical from unethical behavior (Zhou & Brown, 2013). A critical understanding of the theory of moral development is essential in helping individuals to think outside the limits dictated by existing laws to make a positive difference in society. Individuals at the sixth stage of Kohlberg’s model are capable of creating a set of ethical guidelines for others to follow and of making critical decisions that promote the greater good. In my teaching practice, I will use this theory to challenge learners to be active members of the community and to be advocates of positive change.
- Historical Underpinnings
The concept of providing quality education equitably is founded on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act prohibits institutions (including educational facilities) from discriminating individuals based on their demographic attributes in programs receiving federal assistance (U.S. Department of Education, 2015). Ideally, this doctrine is supposed to cushion individuals from marginalized communities from being denied equal education opportunities in public educational facilities. In spite of the long history of civil rights, however, the tendency by these institutions to introduce low-level courses for impoverished individuals constitutes an implicit form of discrimination (Banks & McGee, 2020; Marcus, 2006). Thus, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act has hardly been effective at providing equitable education for all.
Banks, J. A., & McGee, C. B. (2020). Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives. Indianapolis, IN: John Wiley & Sons.
Friedman, L. (2019). E.P.A. to Roll Back Rules to Control Toxic Ash from Coal Plants. The New York Times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/31/climate/epa-coal-ash.html
Gutek, G. L. (2013). Philosophical, ideological, and theoretical perspectives on education. New York: Pearson Higher Ed.
Marcus, K. L. (2006). The Most Important Right We Think We Have But Don’t: Freedom from Religious Discrimination in Education. Nev. LJ, 7, 171.
Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2007). School reform and student learning: A multicultural perspective. Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives, 425-443.
Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Paquette, J. (2017). Social purpose and schooling: Alternatives, agendas and issues. New York: Routledge.
Seaton, E. K., & Yip, T. (2009). School and neighborhood contexts, perceptions of racial discrimination, and psychological well-being among African American adolescents. Journal of youth and adolescence, 38(2), 153-163.
U.S. Department of Education. (2015). Race and National Origin Discrimination: Overview of the Law. Available at: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/rights/guid/ocr/raceoverview.html
Zhou, M., & Brown, D. (2015). Educational learning theories: 2nd Edition. GALILEO, University System of Georgia Available at: https://oer.galileo.usg.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=education-textbooks