attached all information below 

Assignment 1

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Compose three HIGH QUALITY multiple choice questions relating to content found in Chapter 9 of your textbook.  Number each question #1, #2, or #3.
Each question should have four possible answers.  List each answer choice as A, B, C, or D.
Make your questions challenging.  Do not make it obvious which answer is the best choice.
Do not copy any phrases or sentences directly from the textbook.  Instead, read and learn the information presented, and then put the information into your own words as you develop the questions and answer choices for your assignment.
Do NOT post the answers to the questions in your Assignment Post.  
Post your Assignment Post, containing all three of the multiple choice questions that you have developed, in the Topic 9 Discussion section of your D2L website before the deadline stated above.

Assignment 2

Response Post #1:

Select one of your classmate’s Assignment Posts.   TRY TO SELECT A CLASSMATE’S QUIZ THAT NO ONE HAS TAKEN YET, IF POSSIBLE.
Answer all three questions that your classmate has developed.
Number your answers #1, #2, and #3.
Each answer will have four parts/components:
1)  Write the letter of the answer that you think is the best answer.  
2)  THEN type out the answer choice that you have selected and put that answer in quotation marks.
3)  THEN state the reason WHY you selected that answer as being the best answer.  Do not just type “Because it’s in the book”, or “Because that’s the right answer”.  Instead, you are to provide an explanation of why that is the best answer, based on what you have learned in Chapter 9.  
4)  THEN, in parentheses, list the page number where you located the answer in Chapter 9.
Example of how to answer one of your classmate’s quiz questions:  


“78% of the population in the Midwest states are of European American background.” (Note: PUT THE TYPED OUT ANSWER IN QUOTATION MARKS)

I selected this answer because it is described in Chapter 9 that, in the Midwest, approximately 16%-36% of the population are minorities, and approximately 78% of the population in the Midwest are European American.  

You’ll do that for all three of questions that your classmate developed.

Response Post #2:

Now, select another classmate’s quiz.   Answer all three questions that the classmate developed for his/her quiz.   

Answer the three questions using the same format that you did in Response Post #1, including all four components to each of your answers.
So you will have a developed a total of three questions relating to Chapter 9; and, you will have answered a total of six questions relating to Chapter 9.

Post your one Assignment Post and your two Response Posts in the Topic 9 DISCUSSION section of your Psy310 MyLeoOnline/D2L website.

Grading of the quizzes that your classmates have taken:

Once someone takes your “quiz”, answering the three questions that you developed, you are to score what they have done by replying to their Response Post and advising them about which questions they answered correctly, and which they answered incorrectly.  Provide explanations as necessary.  
If no one takes the quiz that you developed, that will not affect your grade for this assignment.  

Donna M. Gollnick
Chief Academic Officer, TEACH-NOW
Philip C. Chinn
California State University, Los Angeles
Multicultural Education
in a Pluralistic Society
T e n T h e d i T i o n
Boston • Columbus • Indianapolis • New York • San Francisco
Amsterdam • Cape Town • Dubai • London • Madrid • Milan • Munich • Paris • Montréal • Toronto
Delhi • Mexico City • São Paulo • Sydney • Hong Kong • Seoul • Singapore • Taipei • Tokyo
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Vice President/Editorial Director: Jeffrey Johnston
Executive Editor: Meredith D. Fossel
Editorial Assistant: Maria Feliberty
Marketing Managers: Christopher Barry/Krista Clark
Senior Development Editor: Christina Robb
Program Manager: Miryam Chandler
Project Manager: Karen Mason
Manufacturing Buyer: Deidra Skahill
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Full-Service Project Management: Cenveo® Publisher Services
Cover and Chapter opener photo credits: ilolab/Shutterstock; Zurijeta/Shutterstock; Rawpixel/Shutterstock;
RyFlip/Shutterstock; ZouZou/Shutterstock; Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock; Blend Images/Shutterstock;
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Acknowledgments of third party content appear on the page with the material, which constitutes an extension of
this copyright page.
Copyright © 2017, 2014, 2011 by Pearson Education, Inc. or its affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Printed in the
United States of America. This publication is protected by copyright, and permission should be obtained from
the publisher prior to any prohibited reproduction, storage in a retrieval system, or transmission in any form or
by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise. For information regarding
permissions, request forms and the appropriate contacts within the Pearson Education Global Rights &
Permissions Department, please visit
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Gollnick, Donna M. | Chinn, Philip C., 1937-
Title: Multicultural education in a pluralistic society / Donna M. Gollnick,
National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, Philip C.
Chinn, California State University, Los Angeles.
Description: Tenth Edition. | Boston : Pearson, [2017] | Includes
bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2015033057 | ISBN 9780134054674
Subjects: LCSH: Multicultural education–United States. | Social
sciences—Study and teaching (Elementary)–United States. | Cultural
pluralism—Study and teaching (Elementary)–United States. | Social
sciences—Study and teaching (Secondary)–United States. | Cultural
pluralism—Study and teaching (Secondary)–United States.
Classification: LCC LC1099.3 .G65 2017 | DDC 370.1170973–dc23
LC record available at
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ISBN 10: 0-13-405491-1
ISBN 13: 978-0-13-405491-9
ISBN 10: 0-13-405564-0
ISBN 13: 978-0-13-405564-0
eText with LLV:
ISBN 10: 0-13-405467-9
ISBN 13: 978-0-13-405467-4
A01_GOLL4674_10_SE_eText-FM.indd 2 23/10/15 4:47 PM

This book is dedicated to
Dr. Haywood Wyche and Michele Clarke,
my best friends and my inspiration
Dr. Frances Kuwahara Chinn and Dylan Philip Chinn-Gonzalez,
my best friend and my newest grandchild
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About the Authors
Donna M. Gollnick
is the Chief Academic Officer of TEACH-NOW, an online teacher education program. She
was previously a senior consultant for the new teacher education accrediting organization,
the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and the Senior Vice Presi-
dent of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), where
she managed the accreditation of colleges and universities across the United States. She has
been promoting and writing about multicultural education and equity in teacher education
and schools since the 1970s and is a past president of the National Association for Multicul-
tural Education (NAME). Dr. Gollnick is the coauthor of Introduction to the Foundations of
American Education, Seventeenth Edition, and Introduction to Teaching: Making a Difference in
Student Learning, Second Edition.
Philip C. Chinn
is a professor emeritus at California State University, Los Angeles, where he taught multicul-
tural education, special education, and served as Special Education Division chair. He served as
special assistant to the Executive Director for Minority Affairs at the Council for Exceptional
Children (CEC), where he coordinated the first national conferences on the Exceptional Bilin-
gual Child and the Exceptional Black Child. He served as vice president of the National Associa-
tion for Multicultural Education (NAME) and co-editor of Multicultural Perspectives, the NAME
journal. NAME named their Multicultural Book Award in his honor. He has co-authored two
special education texts. He also served on the California State Advisory Commission for Special
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Brief Contents
ChAPter 1
Foundations of Multicultural education 1
ChAPter 2
race and ethnicity 26
ChAPter 3
Class and Socioeconomic Status 57
ChAPter 4
Gender 84
ChAPter 5
Sexual Orientation 109
ChAPter 6
exceptionality 130
ChAPter 7
Language 156
ChAPter 8
religion 180
ChAPter 9
Geography 209
ChAPter 10
the Youth Culture 235
ChAPter 11
education that Is Multicultural 258
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Preface xv
ChAPter 1
Foundations of Multicultural education 1
Diversity in the Classroom 2
Culture 4
Critical Incidents in Teaching: Celebrating Ethnic Holidays 5
Characteristics of Culture 5
The Dominant Culture 6
Cultural Identity 8
Pluralism in Society 9
Assimilation 10
Ethnocentrism 11
Cultural Relativism 11
Multiculturalism 12
Equality and Social Justice in a Democracy 12
Meritocracy 13
Equality 14
Social Justice 14
Obstacles to Equality and Social Justice 15
Multicultural Education 18
Evolution of Multicultural Education 19
Focus Your Cultural Lens: Debate/Should Ethnic Studies Be
Taught? 21
Multicultural Education Today 22
Multicultural Proficiencies for Teachers 23
Reflecting on Multicultural Teaching 24
Summary 25
ChAPter 2
race and ethnicity 26
Immigration 27
A Brief History of Immigration in the United States 27
The Control of Immigration 29
Unauthorized Immigrants 31
Refugees and Asylees 32
Education of Immigrants 33
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Ethnicity 33
Ethnic Identity 34
Acculturation 35
Race 35
Critical Incidents in Teaching: Student Conflict between Family and Peer
Values 36
Identification of Race 37
Racial Diversity 38
Racial Identity 39
The Struggle for Civil Rights 41
The Civil Rights Movement 41
Brown v. Board of Education 42
Post-Brown Turnaround 43
Racial and Ethnic Discrimination 46
Intergroup Relations 46
Hate Groups 47
School-to-Prison Pipeline 48
Focus Your Cultural Lens: Debate/To Suspend or Not Suspend? 49
Affirming Race and Ethnicity in Classrooms 50
Acknowledging Race and Ethnicity in Schools 51
Confronting Racism in Classrooms 52
Incorporating Race and Ethnicity in the Curriculum 52
Closing the Opportunity Gap 54
Summary 56
ChAPter 3
Class and Socioeconomic Status 57
Class 58
Class Identity 58
Social Stratification 59
Socioeconomic Status 59
Income 59
Critical Incidents in Teaching: Impact of Socioeconomic Status on School Events 61
Wealth 61
Occupation 62
Education 63
Power 64
Class Differences 65
The Unemployed and Homeless 66
The Working Class 68
The Middle Class 69
The Upper Middle Class 70
The Upper Class 71
viii Contents
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Contents ix
Economic Inequality 72
Racial and Ethnic Inequality 72
Gender Inequality 74
Age Inequality 74
Teaching for Equality 76
Teacher Expectations 78
Tracking 78
Focus Your Cultural Lens: Debate/Detracking 80
Curriculum for Equality 81
School Funding 82
Summary 82
ChAPter 4
Gender 84
Male and Female Differences 85
Differences Based on Nature 85
Socially Constructed Differences 86
Gender Identity 88
Masculinity and Femininity 88
Transgender Identity 89
Influence of Ethnicity and Religion 90
Struggles for Gender Equity 90
Early Struggles for Gender Equity 91
The Second Wave 91
Today’s Challenges 92
The Boy Crisis 93
The Cost of Sexism and Gender Discrimination 93
Jobs 94
Income 96
Sexual Harassment 98
Critical Incidents in Teaching: The Boys’ Code 99
Bringing Gender Equality to the Classroom and
Beyond 100
Title IX 101
Improving Academic Achievement 102
Nonsexist Education 103
Focus Your Cultural Lens: Debate/Separate Education for Boys and Girls 105
Single-Sex Education 105
Gender Equity: A Universal Issue 106
Summary 108
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x Contents
ChAPter 5
Sexual Orientation 109
Sexual Identity 110
Sexual Differences 110
Diversity of Sexual Orientations 111
Self-Identity 112
Critical Incidents in Teaching: Same-Sex Parents 113
Struggles for Sexual Equity 114
Fighting for Sexual Equity 115
Continuing Challenges for Equity 119
Heterosexism’s Toll on Students and Adults 120
A Targeted Minority 120
The School Climate 121
LGBTQ Teachers 122
Schools That Value Sexual Diversity 124
Queering the Curriculum 124
Conflict About LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum 126
Supporting LGBTQ Students 126
Focus Your Cultural Lens: Debate/Sexual Orientation in the Curriculum 127
Summary 129
ChAPter 6
exceptionality 130
Students with Disabilities and Students Who Are Gifted and
Talented 131
Labeling 132
Historical Antecedents 133
Litigation 134
Brown v. Board of Education 134
PARC v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 135
Mills v. Board of Education 135
Legislation 136
Section 504 136
Public Law 94-142 136
Americans with Disabilities Act 137
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA) 138
Idea Amendments 139
Idea Funding 140
Post–P.L. 94-142 Litigation 140
Laws and Funding for Gifted and Talented Students 141
Exceptional Individuals and Society 142
Exceptional Cultural Groups 143
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Contents xi
Disproportionate Placement in Special Education 145
Reporting of Students with Disabilites 145
Need for Disaggregated Data 148
California Proposition 227 and Special Education 148
Teaching Children with Exceptionalities 149
Communication Needs 150
Acceptance Needs 150
Freedom to Grow 150
Critical Incidents in Teaching: How to Address a Major Student Behavior Issue 151
Normalization and Inclusion 152
Focus Your Cultural Lens: Debate/Is Full Inclusion Feasible for All Children with
Disabilities? 154
Summary 154
ChAPter 7
Language 156
Language and Culture 157
Language as a Socializing Agent 158
Language Diversity 159
The Nature of Language 159
Cultural Influences 159
Language Differences 160
Bilingualism 161
Accents 161
Dialects 162
Bidialectalism 163
Perspectives on Standard English 164
Perspectives on African American English 164
Critical Incidents in Teaching: Attitudes toward African American Vernacular
English 165
Sign Language 166
Nonverbal Communication 166
Second-Language Acquisition 168
English Language Learner Characteristics 169
The Role of First Language in Second Language Acquisition 169
Official English (English-Only) Controversy 171
Differentiating Instruction for All Language Learners 171
Language and Educational Assessment 172
Bilingual Education 173
English as a Second Language 175
Focus Your Cultural Lens: Debate/Curtailing Bilingual
Education 178
Summary 178
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ChAPter 8
religion 180
Religion and Culture 181
Religious Composition of Schools 181
The First Amendment and the Separation of Church and State 182
Religion as a Way of Life 183
The Importance of Religion in Our Lives 183
Freedom of Religious Expression 183
Religious Pluralism in the United States 184
A Changing Religious Landscape 185
The End of Christian America? 187
Protestantism 188
Catholicism 190
Judaism 191
Islam 193
Critical Incidents in Teaching: Ship Them Back to Where They Came From? 194
Buddhism 196
Hinduism 197
Other Denominations and Religious Groups 198
Interaction of Religion with Gender, Gay and Lesbian Issues, and Race 198
Religion and Gender 198
Religion and Gay and Lesbian Issues 200
Religion and Race 201
Separating Church and State and Other Issues 203
School Prayer 204
School Vouchers 204
Censorship 205
Focus Your Cultural Lens: Debate/School Prayer 206
Classroom Implications 207
Summary 208
ChAPter 9
Geography 209
Geography and Culture 210
What Is Geography? 210
Our Place in the World 211
Regional Diversity in the United States 211
Regional Differences in Education 213
Rural, Urban, and Suburban Areas 216
Rural Areas 216
Urban Areas 218
Critical Incidents in Teaching: Moving from the City to a Rural Community 219
Suburban Areas 222
xii Contents
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Migration 223
Migration Worldwide 225
Migration in the United States 225
Globalization 225
Economics 226
Environment 227
Resistance by Indigenous People 228
Incorporating Students’ Cultural and Geographic Differences into the
Classroom 229
Teaching Immigrant Students 230
Honoring Family Cultures 231
Incorporating Global Perspectives 231
Working with Families and Communities 231
Focus Your Cultural Lens: Debate/Incorporating Global
Perspectives in the Curriculum 232
Summary 233
ChAPter 10
the Youth Culture 235
The Culture of Youth 236
Young Adulthood 236
The Millennials: The Me Generation 237
Childhood 239
Social Class and Poverty 240
Children, Ethnic Awareness, and Prejudice 240
Child Abuse 241
Childhood Obesity 243
Adolescence 244
Relationship with Parents 244
At-Risk Youth and High-Risk Behavior 244
Substance Abuse 245
Adolescent Sexual Behaviors 246
Other High-Risk Behaviors 247
Adolescent Suicide 247
Adolescent Self-Injury 249
Bullying 249
Youth Violence 250
Focus Your Cultural Lens: Debate/Zero Tolerance 252
Street Gangs 253
America’s Youth in Today’s Classrooms 254
Critical Incidents in Teaching: Honor Student and Star
Athlete 255
Summary 256
Contents xiii
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ChAPter 11
education that Is Multicultural 258
Making Teaching Multicultural 259
Placing Students at the Center of Teaching and Learning 260
Student Voices 261
Engaging Students 261
Climate That Promotes Human Rights 262
School Climate 263
Hidden Curriculum 264
Messages to Students 264
Student and Teacher Connections 265
Student and Teacher Communications 266
Belief That All Students Can Learn 266
Focus on Learning 267
High Expectations 268
Caring 269
Culturally Responsive Teaching 269
Multicultural Curriculum 269
Critical Incidents in Teaching: Teaching about Thanksgiving 271
Culture in Academic Subjects 271
Multiple Perspectives 272
Inequity and Power 273
Focus Your Cultural Lens: Debate/Teaching “Black Lives Matter” 274
Social Justice and Equality 275
Thinking Critically 275
Fostering Learning Communities 276
Teaching as a Political Activity 276
Preparing to Teach Multiculturally 276
Know Yourself and Others 276
Reflect on Your Practice 277
Summary 278
Glossary 279
References 287
Author index 305
Subject index 309
xiv Contents
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A decade from now, we may look back at the period around 2015 as a turning point in address-
ing racism in the United States. As this book went to print, in the summer of 2015, marchers
from diverse racial, ethnic, and economic groups across the country were chanting “Black Lives
Matter” after nine African Americans had been murdered in the Emanuel African Methodist
Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and a number of unarmed African American
youth and men had been killed by police over the previous year. Calls for the removal of the
Confederate f lag as a symbol of hate from public places came from leaders across political
parties and racial groups. Times will tell whether these events have led to a public outcry by
people of all races that will change policies and practices that are racist and discriminate against
people of color.
The tenth edition of Multicultural Education in a Pluralistic Society examines issues of race,
diversity and equity in society, how they are ref lected in schools, and their impact on students
and teachers. In order to explore these issues, the book introduces future teachers to the dif-
ferent cultural groups to which we and our students belong and the importance of building on
the cultures and experiences of students to help them learn at high levels.
What Is New in the tenth edition?
NEW! The tenth edition is available as an enhanced Pearson e-text* with the following
• Video Margin Notes: Our new digital format allows us to illustrate issues and
introduce readers to cultural groups in ways that were unimaginable in the past. Each
chapter includes two to five videos to allow readers to listen to experts, watch footage
of diverse classrooms, and listen to and watch effective teachers talk about and prac-
tice strategies that promote multicultural education.
• Chapter Quizzes: Quiz questions align with learning outcomes and appear as a link
at the end of each chapter in the e-text*. Using multiple-choice questions, the quiz-
zes allow readers to test their knowledge of the concepts, research, strategies, and
practices discussed in each section.
NEW! New opening scenarios in Chapters 1 and 5 introduce issues surrounding
language diversity and sexual identity in classrooms.
NEW! Chapters 1, 2, and 11 include new Focus Your Cultural Lens features on the
politics of teaching ethnic studies, the use of suspensions in schools, and teaching “Black
Lives Matter.”
NEW! New Critical Incidents are introduced on handling a student behavior issue
(Chapter 7), verbal attacks on Muslims in a classroom (Chapter 8), and moving from the
city to a rural community (Chapter 9).
*These features are only available in the Pearson eText, available exclusively from or by ordering
the Pearson eText plus Loose-Leaf Version (ISBN 0134054679) or the Pearson eText Access Code Card (ISBN 013405492X).
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xvi Preface
NEW! With disproportionately large numbers of African American and Latino men
incarcerated in the nation’s prisons, Chapter 2 on ethnicity and race explores the school
to prison pipeline that contributes to many youth entering the juvenile justice system as
a result of actions taken in schools.
NEW! Data from the Clinton Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s
No Ceilings, the Full Participation Report informs a Chapter 4 discussion of the dramatic
changes that have improved conditions for girls and women in the world since the 1995
United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.
NEW! The growing interest in dual language immersion programs and the softening in
some states of their previous opposition to bilingual education programs are introduced
in Chapter 7 on language.
NEW! New sections on global restrictions on religion, the changes introduced by Pope
Francis, and Islamic extremists have been added to Chapter 8 on religion along with a
discussion of the rise in the number of Americans and Canadians indicating no religious
affiliation. The discussion of the interaction between religion and presidential and
congressional elections has been expanded in this edition.
NEW! Changing racial and ethnic demographics and significant regional differences
related to health and well-being, politics, religion, and education are explored in
Chapter 9 on geography.
NEW! The impact of the most technologically advanced group of students to appear in
our classrooms is examined in Chapter 10 on age. The chapter now includes a section
on the Sandy Hook tragedies and chronicles the problems faced by the gunman who
instigated the incident.
UPDATED! Chapters reflect recent events and research that have impacted the topics
addressed throughout the book.
UPDATED! All tables, figures, and references reflect the latest data and thinking about
the issues explored throughout the book.
Why Study Multicultural education?
The United States is one of the most multicultural nations in the world. The population
includes indigenous peoples—American Indians, Aleuts, Inuit, and Hawaiians—and others who
themselves or whose ancestors arrived as immigrants from other countries. Our students bring
their unique ethnicities, races, socioeconomic statuses, religions, and native languages to the
classroom. They differ in gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and physical and mental
abilities. They have come from different parts of the world and have different experiences based
on the communities in which they have grown up. As we move further into this century, the
population will become increasingly more diverse. Children of color comprised just over half
of the school-aged population in 2014, and this percentage will continue to grow over time.
The culture and the society of the United States are dynamic and in a continuous state of
change. Understanding the impact of race, class, gender, and other group memberships on
our students’ lives will make us more effective teachers. Education that is multicultural pro-
vides an environment that values diversity and portrays it positively. Students are valued
regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, native language, religion, socio-
economic status, or disability. We should have high expectations for all of our students and
both encourage and support them in meeting their educational and vocational potential. To
deliver multicultural education, we must develop instructional strategies that build on the
cultures of our students and their communities. We must make the curriculum authentic and
meaningful to students to engage them in learning. Making the curriculum multicultural helps
students and teachers think critically about institutional racism, classism, sexism, ablism, age-
ism, and heterosexism.
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Preface xvii
About the tenth edition
Students in undergraduate, graduate, and in-service courses will find this text helpful in
examining social and cultural conditions that impact education. It provides the foundation
for understanding diversity and using this knowledge effectively in classrooms and schools
to help students learn. Other social services professionals will find it helpful in understanding
the complexity of cultural backgrounds and experiences as they work with families and
As in previous editions, we approach multicultural education with a broad perspective of
the concept. Using culture as the basis for understanding multicultural education, we discuss
the cultural groups to which we belong and the impact those group memberships have on us
and how we are treated in society and in schools.
We also emphasize the importance of an equitable education for all students. Educators
should both be aware of and confront racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and discrimi-
nation based on abilities, age, religion, and geography. Schools can eradicate discrimination
in their own policies and practices if educators are willing to confront and eliminate their
own racism, sexism, and other biases. To rid our schools of such practices takes a committed
and strong faculty. The tenth edition helps readers develop the habit of self-ref lection that
will help them become more effective teachers in classrooms that provide equity for all
Multicultural Education in a Pluralistic Society provides an overview of the different cultural
groups to which students belong. The first chapter examines the pervasive inf luence of culture,
the importance of understanding our own and our students’ cultural backgrounds and experi-
ences, and the evolution of multicultural education. The next nine chapters examine ethnicity
and race, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, exceptionality, language, religion,
geography (that is, the places we live), and age. The final chapter contains recommendations
for using culturally responsive and social justice pedagogies in the implementation of education
that is multicultural. The chapters in this edition have been revised and reorganized to ref lect
current thinking and research in the area. In particular, the first chapter provides the founda-
tional framework that supports our thinking about multicultural education. The final chapter
integrates critical pedagogy with research on teaching effectively. Each chapter opens with a
scenario to place the topic in an educational setting.
We have tried to present different perspectives on a number of issues in the most unbiased
manner possible. We are not without strong opinions or passion on some of the issues. How-
ever, in our effort to be equitable, we attempt to present different perspectives on the issues
and allow the reader to make his or her own decisions. There are some issues related to racism,
sexism, ableism, and so on, that are so important to the well-being of society that we do provide
our positions, which we recognize to be our biases.
Readers should be aware of several caveats related to the language used in this text.
Although we realize that the term American is commonly used to refer to the U.S. popula-
tion, we view American as including other North and South Americans as well. Therefore,
we have tried to limit the use of this term when referring to the United States. Although we
have tried to use the terms black and white sparingly, data about groups often have been
categorized by the racial identification, rather than by national origin such as African or
European American. In many cases, we were not able to distinguish ethnic identity and have
continued to use black, white, or persons of color. We have limited our use of the term minority
and have focused more on the power relationships that exist between groups. We use His-
panic and Latino interchangeably to refer to persons with Spanish-speaking heritages who
have emigrated from countries as diverse as Mexico, Cuba, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Belize,
and Colombia.
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xviii Preface
Features in the Tenth Edition
Each chapter includes the following features that illustrate how concepts and events play out
in a classroom or school.
Classroom Scenarios
Each chapter opens with a class-
room scenario to place the chap-
ter content in an educational
setting. Questions at the end of
each scenario encourage readers
to think about the scenario and
ref lect on the decisions they
would make.
Critical Incidents in
This feature presents both real-life and
hypothetical situations that occur in
schools or classrooms, providing read-
ers with the opportunity to examine
their feelings, attitudes, and possible
actions or reactions to each scenario.
Socioeconomic Status 61
better in 1973 than in 1940. Beginning in 1973, however, the cost of living (i.e., the cost of
housing, utilities, food, and other essentials) began to increase faster than incomes. Except for
the wealthy, all families felt the financial pressure. No longer did they have extra income to
purchase nonessentials. No longer was one full-time worker in a family enough to maintain a
reasonable standard of living. The 1990s saw another upswing in the economy that resulted
in an annual median family income of $68,9311 in 2007. Following the 2008 recession, the
median income of a family dropped to $63,152; it had rebounded only to $63,815 by 2013.
When both husband and wife worked, the median income of the family increased to $94,299
(U.S. Census Bureau, 2014m).
Income sets limits on the general lifestyle of a family, as well as on their general welfare.
It controls the consumption patterns of a family—the amount and quality of material posses-
sions, consumer goods, and luxuries—and it influences savings, housing, and diet. It deter-
mines whether families are able to afford college educations or new cars. Most low-income
and middle-income families are barely able to cover their expenses from one paycheck to the
next. If they lose their source of income, they could be homeless within a few months. Higher
incomes provide security for families so that they will not need to worry about paying for the
essentials and will have access to health care and retirement benefits.
Although the difference in income among families is great, an examination of income alone
does not reveal the vast differences in the way families live. Income figures show the amount
of money earned by a family for their labors during one year, but the figures do not include
money earned from investments, land, and other holdings. They do not present the net worth
of a family after they have paid all of their debts. The wealth of a family includes savings
accounts, insurance, corporate stock ownership, and property. Wealth provides a partial guar-
antee of future income and has the potential of producing additional income and wealth.
However, for most families, the majority of their wealth comes from the equity value of their
1All of the family income numbers in this paragraph are reported as equivalent to 2013 dollars.
Critical Incidents in Teaching
impact of Socioeconomic Status on School events
The middle school in a rural community of 9,000 residents has four school-sponsored dances each year. At the
Valentine’s Day dance, a coat-and-tie affair, six eighth-grade boys showed up in rented tuxedos. They had planned
this together, and their parents, who were among the more affluent in the community, thought it would be “cute”
and paid for the rentals. The final dance of the year is scheduled for May, and it too is a coat-and-tie dance. This
time, rumors are circulating around school that “everyone” is renting a tux and that the girls are getting new
formal dresses. The parents of the six boys are, according to the grapevine, renting a limousine for their sons and
their dates. These behaviors and dress standards are far in excess of anything previously observed at the middle
Several students, particularly those from lower-income backgrounds, have said they will boycott the dance.
They cannot afford the expensive attire, and they claim that the ones behind the dress-up movement have said
that only the nerds or geeks would show up in anything less than a tux or a formal gown.
QueStiOnS fOr CLaSSrOOm DiSCuSSiOn
1. How can schools ensure that the cost of attending school affairs is not prohibitive for some of their students?
2. Should school administrators intervene in the plans being made by the more advantaged students? What
could they do to control the situation?
3. Why could the actions of these advantaged students be disruptive to the school climate?
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Race and Ethnicity
LEaRning OutcOmEs
As you read this chapter, you should be able to:
2.1 Identify patterns of immigration and immigration policy and their impact on the
education of children of foreign-born families.
2.2 Explain how educational practices support or eliminate ethnic differences among
2.3 Analyze the impact that the nation’s growing racial diversity will have on schools and
2.4 Describe the impact of the civil rights movement on education.
2.5 Evaluate the results of continuing racial and ethnic discrimination on communities and
2.6 Develop strategies for affirming race and ethnicity in the classroom.
Denise Williams was aware of the racial tension in the high school in which she teaches. At the last faculty meeting, the focus of the discussion was on developing more positive interethnic
and interracial relations among students. A committee had been created to identify consultants
and other resources to guide teachers in this effort.
Ms. Williams, however, thought that neither she nor her students could wait months to
receive a report and recommendations from the committee. She was ready to introduce the civil
rights movement in her social studies class. It seemed a perfect time to promote better
cross-cultural communications. She decided to introduce this unit with a current event. She
asked students to read selected articles and videos of events in Ferguson, Missouri, in the
summer and fall of 2014, after Michael Brown had been shot by a police officer.
She soon learned that this topic was not an easy one to handle. African American students
expressed their anger at the discriminatory practices in the school and the community. Most of
the white students did not believe that there was any discrimination. They did not understand the
anger of the African American and Latino students. Ms. Williams thought the class was getting
nowhere. In fact, at times the anger on both sides was so intense that she worried a physical
fight would erupt. She was frustrated because the class discussions and activities were not
helping students understand the reasons for their different perspectives about the same event.
She felt she was making no progress at addressing stereotypes and prejudices that students
held about each other. She was concerned that students were becoming more polarized in their
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Immigration 27
beliefs. She wondered whether she could do anything in her class to improve understanding,
empathy, and communications across groups.
1. What racial groups are most likely to see themselves represented in the school curriculum?
2. How can a classroom reflect the diversity of its students so that they all feel valued and
3. What were the positive and negative outcomes of the steps taken by Ms. Williams to introduce
the civil rights movement?
As people from all over the world joined American Indians in populating this nation, they
brought with them cultural experiences from their native countries. Just because individuals have
the same national origins, however, does not mean that they have the same history and experi-
ences as other people who have emigrated from the same country. The time of immigration, the
places in which groups settled, the reasons for emigrating, their socioeconomic status, and the
degree to which their families have been affected by racism and discrimination affect their
immigration experiences and acceptance in the United States. You will see these differences in
schools as students whose families have been in the United States for several generations do not
always warmly welcome new immigrant students.
Most groups have immigrated to the United States voluntarily to seek freedoms not avail-
able in their native countries at the time, to escape dismal economic or political conditions,
or to join family members already settled in the United States. However, not all people and
groups voluntarily immigrate. The ancestors of most African Americans arrived involuntarily
on slave ships. Mexicans living in the southwestern part of the country became residents when
the United States annexed their lands. The reasons for immigration and the way immigrants
were treated after they arrived have had a lasting impact on each group’s assimilation patterns
and access to society’s resources.
a Brief History of immigration in the united states
The United States was populated by hundreds of American Indian tribes when explorers
from other nations arrived on its shores. Early European leaders were convinced that they
needed to convert First Americans to Christianity, teach them English, and have them
adopt European culture. With the continuing arrival of the European settlers, federal
policies led to government takeovers of the land of the indigenous population, who fought
against the privatization and selling of their lands. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 led to
the forcible removal of First Americans in the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw,
and Choctaw nations from their homes in southeastern states in the Trail of Tears that
moved them to reservations in the Oklahoma Territory. As many as 1 in 3 of the First
Americans who were removed from their homes died on the way to the western territories.
In addition, this separation led to a pattern of isolation and inequity that remains for many
First Americans today.
By 1879, children on reservations were being removed from their homes and placed in
boarding schools to unlearn their traditional ways and languages of their families. The hair of
these children was cut, and they were not allowed to use their native languages. They some-
times attended school part of the day and worked the other part of the day to support the
school. A number of reports in the 1920s chronicled the abuse of these children, who were
schooled many miles and sometimes many states away from their families. Although the goal
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Preface xix
Focus Your Cultural
Lens: Debate
This feature presents a controversial
school issue with for and against
statements for readers to consider.
Questions guide readers to critically
analyze both sides of the issue and
encourage them to take a side.
232 chapter 9 Geography
are congruent with the home cultures of students. Parents can learn to support their children’s
learning at home but may need concrete suggestions, which they will seek from teachers who
they believe care about their children.
Educators must know the community to understand the cultures of families. In a school
in which a prayer is said every morning, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision forbidding
prayer in public schools, a new teacher in that setting should realize that teaching evolution
would need to be done with great care and even then might have some negative consequences.
In that school setting, one may not be able to teach sex education in the same way it is taught
in many urban and suburban schools. In another school, Islamic parents may be upset with
the attire that their daughters are expected to wear in physical education classes and may not
approve of coed physical education courses. Jewish and Muslim students often wonder why the
school celebrates or at least acknowledges Christian holidays but never their religious holidays.
Because members of the community may object to the content and activities in the cur-
riculum does not mean that educators cannot teach multiculturally. It does suggest that they
Focus Your Cultural Lens
Debate/incorporating Global Perspectives in the curriculum
When a number of teachers at John F. Kennedy High School began to realize the impact that globalization was
having on their community, they began to talk to their colleagues about more systematically incorporating global
perspectives across the curriculum. Some of the other teachers agreed. They clearly saw that a number of parents
had lost their jobs when several factories relocated to Southeast Asian cities. And all around them, they could see
that they and their students were wearing clothing and buying goods that were made outside the United States.
The latest threats to food safety were due to imports from other countries.
Other teachers thought it was nonsense to change their curriculum to integrate global issues and perspec-
tives. One teacher was overheard saying, “Who do these young radicals think they are? All they want to do is
convince these kids that the United States is an imperialist country that only cares about filling corporate pockets.
The country will be ruined with such talk.” The principal, however, likes the idea of students developing a greater
global awareness. She thinks that it might gain community support and provide a unique branding for the school.
1. Why do faculty members disagree about how globalization should be addressed in the curriculum?
2. Why do proponents feel that it is important to help students not only understand globalization but
understand the negative impact it is having on many of them who are students, as well as children around
the world?
3. Where do you stand on including global perspectives throughout the curriculum? How could they be
integrated into the subject that you will be teaching?
The study of globalization will help students understand
how different nations are connected.
It will help students understand which people are
benefited by globalization and which ones lose as a result.
Students will learn to think more critically about the
changes that are occurring in the country as a result of
Projects in some classes could help students become
more involved in their communities by having them
organize to fight against inequalities.
Social studies courses already cover global issues.
The approach must present a balanced view of the
importance of globalization for our economy.
Including global perspectives in the curriculum will
politicize the curriculum.
The curriculum should concentrate on preparing
students for college or jobs.
M09_GOLL4674_10_SE_CH09_pp209-234.indd 232 18/09/15 6:02 PMSupplements for the tenth edition
The following resources are available for instructors to download on www.pearsonhighered
.com/ educators. Instructors enter the author or title of this book, select the 10th edition of the
book, and then click on the “Resources” tab to log in and download textbook supplements.
Instructor’s Resource Manual and Test Bank (0134227972)
The Instructor’s Resource Manual and Test Bank includes an overview of chapter content and
related instructional activities for the college classroom and for practice in the field as well as
a robust collection of chapter-by-chapter test items. Discussion Questions and Portfolio Activ-
ities found in earlier editions have been moved to the Instructor’s Resource Manual.
PowerPoint™ Slides (0134227980)
The PowerPoint™ slides include key concept summarizations. They are designed to help
students understand, organize, and reinforce core concepts and theories.
TestGen (0134227999)
TestGen is a powerful test generator available exclusively from Pearson Education publishers.
You install TestGen on your personal computer (Windows or Macintosh) and create your own
tests for classroom testing and for other specialized delivery options, such as over a local area
network or on the Web. A test bank, which is also called a Test Item File (TIF), typically con-
tains a large set of test items, organized by chapter and ready for your use in creating a test,
based on the associated textbook material. Assessments may be created for both print and
testing online.
Tests can be downloaded in the following formats:
TestGen Testbank file – PC
TestGen Testbank file – MAC
TestGen Testbank – Blackboard 9 TIF
TestGen Testbank – Blackboard CE/Vista (WebCT) TIF
Angel Test Bank (zip)
D2L Test Bank (zip)
Moodle Test Bank
Sakai Test Bank (zip)
A01_GOLL4674_10_SE_FM_ppi-xx.indd 19 23/10/15 4:50 PM

xx Preface
The preparation of any text involves the contributions of many individuals in addition to those
whose names are found on the copyright page. We wish to thank Maria Gutierrez and Michele
Clarke for their highly competent assistance in researching and manuscript development.
Thanks also to Ian K. Macgilliray for his thoughtful review and recommendations on Chapter
5 on sexual orientation. We also sincerely appreciate the continuous support and assistance of
Dr. Haywood E. Wyche and Dr. Frances Kuwahara Chinn as the manuscript was developed.
We appreciate the assistance, patience, encouragement, and guidance of our editors, Christina
Robb, Karen Mason, and Meredith Fossel, and particularly want to thank Maria Feliberty for
promptly responding to our needs during the development of the manuscript. We greatly
appreciate Susan McNally, Kitty Wilson, and Jeff Georgeson for their editing and recommen-
dations in the final stages of producing the book.
We also wish to thank the following reviewers, whose recommendations were used to
improve this edition: Temba Charles Bassoppo-Moyo, Illinois State University; Alma L.
Contreras-Vanegas, Sam Houston State University; Edward Garcia Fierros, Villanova Univer-
sity; and Richard Gordon, CSU Dominguez Hills.
A01_GOLL4674_10_SE_FM_ppi-xx.indd 20 23/10/15 4:50 PM

1 Foundations of Multicultural EducationLEarning OutcOMEs
As you read this chapter, you should be able to:
1.1 Describe the diversity of students in today’s schools and discuss how that diversity can
enrich a classroom.
1.2 Examine the role that culture plays in the lives of students and their families and
discuss the influence of the experiences of a cultural group in the community and
society on our cultural identity.
1.3 Consider whether cultural pluralism is a reasonable and achievable goal in the
1.4 Identify the obstacles to creating a just and equal classroom and explore strategies for
overcoming them.
1.5 Describe characteristics of a multicultural classroom.
Katie Cunningham’s students are anxious about their first day of school. A number of them are learning a new language—along with a new country, a new teacher, and new classmates. More
than one-third of the school’s student population speak a language other than English at home.
More than 50 languages are spoken among students in the school district who have come from
numerous countries in Africa, Asia, Central America, South America, and Europe.
Ms. Cunningham is excited about having such a diverse classroom. The majority of her class
is African American and European American students whose native language is English. She is
bilingual in Spanish and English and is familiar with the families of some of the students who
have emigrated from Central America over the past two decades. She had not realized that her
class would include a student who recently moved from Russia and speaks no English and that
the native language of two students is Farsi, but she is looking forward to learning about the
languages and cultures of Russia and Iran.
1. What are some of the reasons that Ms. Cunningham is excited about having a diverse student
population in her classroom?
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2 chapter 1 Foundations of Multicultural Education
2. What challenges is Ms. Cunningham likely to confront in her goal for all of her students to be
at grade level by the end of the year?
3. What do you wish you had learned in your teacher preparation program to help you be a
more effective teacher of English language learners from diverse countries of origin?
Diversity in the classroom
Educators today are faced with an overwhelming challenge to prepare students from diverse
populations and backgrounds to live in a rapidly changing society in which we don’t know many
of the jobs that will be available to them in the future. In addition, the United States is becom-
ing increasingly diverse but continues to struggle to provide equality across racial, ethnic,
gender, economic, language, and religious groups. The gap in income and wealth continues to
grow, leading to a smaller middle class and a larger proportion of the population being unable
to provide basic needs for their families even when working full time.
Schools are becoming increasingly diverse across the United States as the proportion of
white students diminishes. In today’s public schools, students of color account for more than
half of the student population, with the largest increases in Asian American and Latino students
( National Center for Education Statistics, 2014a). By 2023, students of color are projected to
account for 55% of the elementary and secondary public school populations ( National Center
for Education Statistics, 2014b). However, the race and sex of their teachers match neither
the student population nor the general population, as shown in Figure 1.1. More than 80%
of the teachers are European American, and 76% are female ( National Center for Education
Statistics, 2014b).
The racial and ethnic diversity in public schools differs greatly from region to region,
as shown in Figure 1.2, and from state to state within the region. Students of color already
account for over half of the student population in western and southern states. More than 40%
of the public school students in western states are Hispanic, and 10% are Asian American/
Pacific Islander. Nearly 25% of the public school students in southern states are African
American. Schools in midwestern states are the least diverse, with only one in three students
being students of color. Students of color are in the majority in most of the nation’s largest
school districts, with only one in four students being white across the 100 largest districts
(Sable, Plotts, & Mitchell, 2010). This ethnic diversity includes the children of recent immi-
grants, who often speak a language other than English at home, requiring schools to have
programs that help students learn both the subjects being taught and English.
The United States is not only multiethnic, it is also a nation of diverse religious beliefs.
During the past 40 years, new waves of immigrants from around the globe have brought with
them religions that are unfamiliar to many U.S. citizens. While small groups of Muslims,
Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs have been in the country for many decades, they became more
highly visible as conflicts in the Middle East were expanded in the first few years of this
century. Even Christians from Russia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines, and Egypt
bring their own brands of worship to denominations that have strong roots in this country.
Diverse religious beliefs can raise challenges for educators in some communities. The
holidays to be celebrated must be considered, along with religious codes related to the
curriculum, school lunches, interactions of boys and girls, and student clothing. Immigrant
parents generally value education for their children, but they do not always agree with the
school’s approaches to teaching and learning or accept the public school’s secular values as
being appropriate for their families. Values are the qualities that parents find desirable and
important in the education of their children; they include areas such as morality, hard work, and
caring, often with religious overtones. Working collaboratively with parents and communities
is an important step in providing an equitable education to all students.
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Diversity in the Classroom 3
Indian or
Alaskan Native
Asian or
Black or
Hispanic White or
Two or
80.0% Population
Public School Students
Public School Teachers
FigurE 1.1 Pan-Ethnic and Racial Diversity of K–12 Teachers and Students in 2011
Sources: (1) U.S. Census Bureau. (2014). Annual estimates of the resident population by sex, age, race, and Hispanic origin for the United States and
states: April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2014, from
xhtml?pid=PEP_2013_PEPASR6H&prodType=table. (2) National Center for Education Statistics. (2014). Digest of education statistics: Enrollment and
percentage distribution of enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by race/ethnicity and region: Selected years, fall 1995 through
fall 2023 (Table 203.50). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from (3) National Center
for Education Statistics. (2014). Digest of education statistics: Number and percentage distribution of teachers in public and private elementary and
secondary schools, by selected teacher characteristics: Selected years, 1987–88 through 2011–12 (Table 209.10). Retrieved October 12, 2014, from
Northeast Midwest South West
White or European
Black or African American
American Indian/
Alaska Native
Asian American/
Pacific Islander
Two or more races
FigurE 1.2 Percentage of Public Elementary and Secondary School Students Enrolled, by Region and Ethnicity/Race in 2011
Source: National Center for Education Statistics. (2014). Enrollment and percentage distribution of enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools,
by race/ethnicity and region: Selected years, fall 1995 through fall 2023 (Table 203.50), Digest of education statistics. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved
on October 12, 2014, from
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4 chapter 1 Foundations of Multicultural Education
Another important aspect of diversity that has an impact on schools is the economic
level of students’ families. Although the U.S. Census Bureau (2014) reports that 14.5% of
the U.S. population had income below the poverty level in 2013, nearly one in five, or 20%,
of U.S. children live below the official poverty level (DeNavas-Walt & Proctor, 2014). The
percentage of public school students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch pro-
grams because their families are below or near the poverty level increased from 38% in the
2000–01 school year to 48% in 2010–11 (Snyder & Dillow, 2015). In addition, nearly one in
five students attend a high-poverty school in which more than 75% of the students are eli-
gible for free or reduced-price lunch (Kena et al., 2014). African American, American Indian,
and Latino students are more likely than other students to be attending these high-poverty
schools (Aud et al., 2012).
Each classroom is likely to have one or more students with disabilities. Depending on the
disability, modifications in the curriculum or environment will be needed to provide students
with disabilities the opportunity to learn at the same level as other students. The goal is to
provide all students the least restrictive environment so that they can learn with peers who do
not have a recognized disability. The number of students with disabilities who are being served
by special programs increased from 3.7 million in the 1976–77 school year to 6.4 million, or
13% of the school population, in the 2010–11 school year (Snyder & Dillow, 2013).
Being aware and knowledgeable of the diversity of your students is one way to show respect
for them and their families. Understanding the community in which the school is located
will be very helpful in developing effective instructional strategies that draw on the cultural
background and experiences of students. You should help students affirm their own cultures
while learning that people across cultures have many similarities. In addition, students should
become aware of cultural differences and inequalities in the nation and in the world.
Teachers will find that students have individual differences, even though they may appear
to be from the same cultural groups. These differences extend far beyond intellectual and
physical abilities. Students bring to the classroom different historical and cultural backgrounds,
religious beliefs, and day-to-day experiences that guide the way they behave in school. The
cultures of some students will be mirrored in the school culture. The differences between
home and school cultures for others will cause dissonance unless the teacher can accept and
respect students’ cultures, integrate their cultures into the curriculum, and develop a support-
ive environment for learning. If the teacher fails to understand the cultural factors that affect
student learning and behavior, it will be difficult to help all students learn.
Multicultural education is an educational construct in which students’ cultures are inte-
grated into the curriculum, instruction, and classroom and school environment. It supports
and extends the concepts of culture, diversity, equality, social justice, and democracy into the
school setting. An examination of these concepts and their practical applications in schools is
a first step in creating a classroom that is multicultural.
Culture defines who we are. It inf luences our knowledge, beliefs, and values. It provides the
blueprint that determines the way we think, feel, and behave. Generally accepted and patterned
ways of behavior are necessary for a group of people to live together, and culture imposes order
and meaning on our experiences. What appears as the natural and perhaps only way to learn
and to interact with others is determined by our culture. It allows us to predict how others of
the same culture will behave in certain situations. Culturally determined norms provide the dos
and don’ts of appropriate behavior in our culture. We are generally comfortable with others
who share our culture because we know the meanings of their words and actions. In addition,
we share the same traditions, holidays, and celebrations.
Culture has such an impact on us that we fail to realize that not everyone shares our way
of thinking and behaving. This may be, in part, because we have never been in cultural settings
Watch the video
“Cultural Diversity in
the United States” to hear the
importance of teachers
developing cultural compe-
tence to interact effectively
with students and families
from diverse groups.
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Culture 5
different from our own. This lack of knowledge often leads to our responding to differences as
personal affronts rather than simply cultural differences. These misunderstandings may appear
insignificant to an observer, but they can be important to participants. For example, our cul-
ture determines how loud is too loud, how late we may arrive at an event, and how close we can
stand to another without being rude or disrespectful. Teachers may misinterpret the actions
and voices of their students if they do not share the same culture.
characteristics of culture
Culture is learned, adapted, and dynamic. We learn our culture from the people who are closest
to us—our parents or caretakers. The ways that we were held, fed, bathed, dressed, and talked
to as babies are culturally determined and begin the process of learning the family’s culture.
Culture impacts how we dress, what we eat, how we speak, and what we think ( Ryan, 2010).
The process continues throughout our lives as we interact with members of our own and other
Our values are initially determined by our culture. They influence the importance of
prestige, status, pride, family loyalty, love of country, religious belief, and honor. Status sym-
bols differ across cultures. For many families in the United States, accumulation of material
possessions is a respected status symbol. For others, the welfare of the extended family is of
utmost importance. These factors, as well as the meaning of morality and immorality, the use
of punishment and reward, and the need for higher education are determined by the value
system of our culture.
Critical Incidents in Teaching
celebrating Ethnic Holidays
Esther Greenberg is a teacher in an alternative education class. Ms. Greenberg’s college roommate was Chinese
American, and she remembers fondly her visit to her roommate’s home during the Lunar New Year. During that
holiday, the parents and other Chinese adults gave all the children, including her, money wrapped in red paper,
which was to bring all the recipients good luck in the new year. Ms. Greenberg thought it would be a nice gesture
to give the students in her class the red paper envelopes as an observance of the upcoming Lunar New Year.
Since she was unable to give the students money, she wrapped gold-foil-covered chocolate coins (given to Jewish
children) in red paper to give to her students.
Unfortunately, on the day of Lunar New Year, a number of students were pulled out of class for a special
event-planning session. Most of the remaining students were Asian American students. When she passed out the
red envelopes, the students were surprised and touched by her sensitivity to a cherished custom.
When her principal heard what Ms. Greenberg had done, he accused her of favoritism to the Asian American
students and of deliberately leaving out the African American and white students. When she tried to convince him
otherwise, he responded that she had no right to impose Asian customs on her students. She responded that this
was an important Asian custom of which students should be aware. However, he continued his attack, saying that
this was Asian superstition bordering on a religious observance, and students should not be participating in such
QuEstiOns FOr cLassrOOM DiscussiOn
1. Were Esther Greenberg’s actions inappropriate for a public school classroom? If so, why? If not, why not?
2. When Ms. Greenberg learned that a large number of students were going to be absent from class, what
should she have done with the red envelopes? Did her actions create an appearance of favoritism of one
ethnic group over others? How could she have handled the situation to make it a pleasing experience to all
3. Why may the principal have been so upset about Ms. Greenberg’s actions?
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6 chapter 1 Foundations of Multicultural Education
Our nonverbal communication patterns also reflect our culture and can lead to misunder-
standings among groups. The appropriateness of shaking hands, bowing, or kissing people on
greeting them varies across cultures. Culture also determines our manner of walking, sitting,
standing, reclining, gesturing, and dancing. Raising an eyebrow and gesturing with our hands
have different meanings across groups; they may be acceptable and expected in one group and
very offensive or rude in another group. We must remind ourselves not to interpret acts and
expressions of people from a different cultural group as wrong or inappropriate just because
they are not the same as our own. These behaviors are culturally determined.
Language is a reflection of culture and provides a special way of looking at the world and
organizing experiences that is often lost in translating words from one language to another.
Many different sounds and combinations of sounds are used in the languages of different cul-
tures. Those of us who have tried to learn a second language may have experienced difficulty
verbalizing sounds that were not part of our first language. Also, diverse language patterns
found within the same language group can lead to misunderstandings. For example, one per-
son’s joking may be heard by others as serious criticism or abuse of power.
Because culture is so internalized, we tend to confuse biological and cultural heritage. Our cul-
tural heritage is not innately based on the culture into which we are born. For example, Vietnamese
infants adopted by Italian American, Catholic, middle-class parents will share a cultural heritage
with their adopted family rather than with Vietnamese. Observers, however, may continue to iden-
tify these individuals as Vietnamese Americans because of their physical characteristics. Parents
from different ethnic, racial, and religious groups than their children may consciously encourage
their children to be bicultural, learning the cultures of the two groups to which they belong.
the Dominant culture
U.S. political and social institutions have evolved from an Anglo-Saxon and Western European
tradition. The English language is a polyglot of the languages spoken by the various conquerors
and rulers of Great Britain throughout history. The legal system is derived from English
Our cultures are adapted to
the environments in which
we live and work. While the
environment in rural areas
is characterized by space
and clean air, urban dwellers
adapt to smog, crowds,
and public transportation.
(© MIXA Co., Ltd)

Watch the video
“Components of
Non-Verbal Communication” to
learn cultural cues that can be
misunderstood by members of
a culture different than your
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Culture 7
common law. The political system of democratic elections comes from France and England.
White Anglo-Saxon Protestants ( WASPs) have had a major historical inf luence on the judicial
system, schools, social welfare, and businesses that affect many aspects of our lives. Over gen-
erations, the U.S. population has adapted traditionally WASP characteristics and values that
provide the framework for the common culture that people in other countries would recognize
as American.
Although most of our institutions still function under the strong influence of their WASP
roots, the common culture has been influenced by the numerous cultural groups that have
come to comprise the nation’s population. Think about the different foods we eat, or at least
try: Chinese, Indian, Mexican, soul food, Italian, Caribbean, and Japanese. Young people
choose clothing that is influenced by hip-hop and African American culture. But more import-
ant are the contributions made to society by individuals from different groups in the fields of
science, the arts, literature, athletics, engineering, architecture, and politics.
The overpowering value of the dominant culture is individualism, which is characterized
by the belief that every individual is his or her own master, is in control of his or her own
destiny, and will advance or regress in society based only on his or her own efforts (Bellah
et al., 2008). This individualism is grounded in a Western worldview that individuals can control
both nature and their destiny. Traits that emphasize this core value include industriousness,
ambition, competitiveness, self-reliance, independence, appreciation of the good life, and the
perception of humans as separate from, and superior to, nature. The acquisition of the most
recently released cell phone and technology gadgets, cars, boats, and homes measures success
and achievement.
Another core value is freedom, which is defined by the dominant culture as not having
others determine our values, ideas, or behaviors (Bellah et al., 2008). Relations with other peo-
ple inside and outside the group are often impersonal. Communications may be very direct or
confrontational. The nuclear family is the basic kinship unit, but many members of the domi-
nant culture rely more on associations of common interest than on family ties. Values tend to
be absolute (e.g., right or wrong, moral or immoral) rather than ranging along a continuum of
degrees of right and wrong. Youthfulness is emphasized in advertisements and commercials.
Many U.S. citizens, especially if they are middle class, share these traits and values to some
degree. They are patterns that are privileged in institutions such as schools.
Although Congress is more
diverse than in the past,
its members do not yet
represent the racial, gender,
and religious diversity of the
nation’s population. (© Jim Lo
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8 chapter 1 Foundations of Multicultural Education
cultural identity
Groups in the United States are called subsocieties or subcultures by sociologists because
they exist within the context of a larger society or culture in which political and social institu-
tions are shared (Ryan, 2010). Numerous groups exist in most nations, but the United States
is exceptionally rich in the many distinct groups that make up the population. Each of us
belongs to multiple subcultures, such as ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age,
socioeconomic status, native language, geographic region, and abilities or exceptional condi-
tions, as shown in Figure 1.3. Our cultural identity is based on traits and values learned as part
of our membership in these groups. Each of the groups to which we belong has distinguishable
cultural patterns shared among all who identify themselves as members of that particular group.
Although we generally share many characteristics of the dominant culture, we also have learned
traditions, discourse patterns, ways of learning, values, and behaviors that are characteristic of
the different groups to which we belong.
We may share membership in one of the groups in Figure 1.3 with many people, but they
may not be in the other groups of which we are members. For example, all men are members
of the male culture, but not all males belong to the same ethnic, religious, or socioeconomic
group. On the other hand, an ethnic group includes both males and females and individuals
with disabilities who have different religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The intersection of the various group memberships within society determines our cultural
identity. Membership in one group can greatly influence the characteristics and values of mem-
bership in other groups. For instance, some fundamentalist religions have strictly defined expec-
tations for women versus men. Thus, membership in the religious group influences, to a great
extent, the way a female behaves as a young girl, teenager, bride, and wife, regardless of her
ethnic group. One’s economic level greatly affects the quality of life for families, especially the
children and elderly in the group. Having a disability can have a great impact on one’s life, some-
times leading to involvement in civil rights action to promote the interests of the group. Some
students and adults with disabilities, such as those who are deaf, are members of distinct cultural
groups with their own language and primary interactions with other members of the group.
Race and
Age Geography
Common Culture
Cultural Identity
FigurE 1.3 Cultural Identity
Our cultural identity is based on our membership in multiple groups that are influenced by the
dominant culture, discrimination, and power relations among groups in society.
Source: Adapted from Johnson, J. A., Musial, D. L., et al. (2005). Introduction to the Foundations of American Education
(13th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Copyright 2005 Pearson Education. Reprinted and electronically reproduced by
permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
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Pluralism in Society 9
One cultural group may have a greater influence on our identity than others. This influence
may change over time and may be greatly influenced by our life experiences. We can shed aspects
of our culture that no longer have meaning, and we can adopt or adapt aspects of other cul-
tures that were not inherent in our upbringing. Identity is not fixed. For example, a 24-year-old,
upper-middle-class, Catholic, Polish American woman in Chicago may identify strongly with
being Catholic and Polish American when she is married and living in a Polish American com-
munity. However, other group memberships may have a greater impact on her identity after she
has divorced, moved to an ethnically diverse neighborhood, and become totally responsible for
her financial well-being, as portrayed in Figure 1.4. Because she was straight, not disabled, and a
native English speaker, her membership in those groups had little to do with how she saw herself.
If she later has a disability, membership in that group is likely to take on more importance to
her. Think about the group memberships that are most important in your own cultural identity.
Understanding the importance of group memberships to your identity helps answer the
question “Who am I?” An understanding of other groups will help answer the question “Who
are my students?” Historical and current background on each of these groups and approaches
for making a classroom multicultural are explored throughout this book.
Pluralism in society
Although many similarities exist across cultural groups, differences exist in the ways people learn,
the values they cherish, their worldviews, their behavior, and their interactions with others.
There are many reasonable ways to organize our lives, approach a task, and use our languages
and dialects. It is when we begin to see our cultural norms and behaviors not just as one approach
but as superior to others that differences become politicized. By developing an understanding
of cultural differences, we can begin to change our simplistic binary approaches of us/them,
good/bad, and right/wrong. We begin to realize that a plurality of truths is appropriate and
reasonable. We seek out others for dialogue and understanding rather than speak about and for
them. We begin to move from exercising power over others to sharing power with them.
The theory of cultural pluralism describes a society that allows multiple distinctive
groups to function separately and equally without requiring assimilation into the dominant
Age 24 Age 35
Has No Disability
FigurE 1.4 Changing Cultural Identities
Some cultural group memberships may take on more importance than others at different periods of
life, as shown here for a woman when she was 24 years old and married without children and again
when she was 35, divorced, and a single mother.
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10 chapter 1 Foundations of Multicultural Education
culture. Some immigrant groups have assimilation as their goal; others try to preserve their
native cultures. Refusing or not being permitted to assimilate, some immigrants and ethnic
groups maintain their own ethnic communities and enclaves in areas of the nation’s cities, such
as Little Italy, Chinatown, Harlem, Koreatown, East Los Angeles, and Little Saigon. The
suburbs also include pockets of families from the same ethnic group. Throughout the country
are small towns and surrounding farmlands where the population comes from the same ethnic
background, with all the residents being African American, German American, Danish American,
Anglo American, or Mexican American. Some American Indian nations in the United States have
their own political, economic, and educational systems.
Members of segregated communities may be culturally encapsulated in that most of their pri-
mary relationships and many of their secondary relationships are with members of their own ethnic
group. Cross-cultural contacts occur primarily at the secondary level in work settings and political
and civic institutions. In segregated communities, families may not have the opportunity to interact
with members of other ethnic groups, who speak a different language or dialect, eat different foods,
or have different values. They may learn to fear or denigrate members of other ethnic groups.
Many European Americans live in segregated communities in which they interact only with others
who share the same culture. Most people of color are forced out of their ethnic encapsulation to
try to achieve social and economic mobility. In these cases, they are likely to develop secondary
relationships with members of other ethnic groups at work, school, or shopping centers.
Assimilation occurs when a group’s distinctive cultural patterns either become part of the dom-
inant culture or disappear as the group adopts the dominant culture. Two similar processes
interact as we learn how to act in society: enculturation and socialization. Enculturation is
the process of acquiring the characteristics of a given culture and becoming competent in its
language and ways of behaving and knowing. Socialization is the general process of learning
the social norms of the culture. Through these processes, we internalize social and cultural
rules. We learn what is expected in social roles, such as mother, husband, student, and child,
and in occupational roles, such as teacher, banker, plumber, custodian, and politician. Encul-
turation and socialization are processes initiated at birth by parents, siblings, nurses, physicians,
teachers, and neighbors. These people demonstrate and reward children and adults for accept-
able behaviors. We learn the patterns of our culture and how to behave by observing and
participating in the culture in which we are raised.
Structural assimilation occurs when the predominant cultural group (e.g., WASP) shares
primary relationships with a second group, including membership in social clubs, intermar-
riage, and equal benefits in society. Although it may require several generations after immigra-
tion, assimilation has historically worked for most voluntary immigrants, particularly if they
are white, but has not applied to involuntary immigrants, who were forced to emigrate as
slaves. Many families have been in the country for centuries and yet have not been allowed to
assimilate at the structural level because of long-term discrimination.
White European immigrants usually become structurally assimilated within a few gen-
erations after arriving in this country. Marriage across groups is fairly common across white
ethnic groups and Judeo-Christian groups. Interracial marriage is now growing across ethnic
groups and races. More than two in three Asian Americans and half of Latinos marry outside
their ethnic groups. However, only 7% of whites and 17% of African Americans were marry-
ing outside their groups in 2008 ( Lee & Bean, 2010). Young people who are biracial are more
likely to acknowledge their mixed heritage today than in the past. According to self-reported
census data, 2% of the population identifies as biracial, with 3% of K–12 students so identified
( National Center for Education Statistics, 2014a; U.S. Census Bureau, 2014b).
Many groups that immigrated have become acculturated or have adopted the dominant
culture as their own. Although some groups have tried to maintain the cultures of their native
countries, it is often in vain, as children go to school and participate in the larger society.
Continuous and firsthand contacts with the dominant culture result in subsequent changes in
the cultural patterns of either or both groups. The rapidity and success of the acculturation
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Pluralism in Society 11
process depend on a number of factors, including location and discrimination. If a group is
spatially isolated and segregated (whether voluntarily or not) in a rural area, as is the case with
many American Indians on reservations, the acculturation process is very slow. Discrimination
against members of oppressed groups can also make it difficult for them to acculturate even
when they choose to do so.
The degree of acculturation is determined, in part, by individuals or families as they decide
how much they want to dress, speak, and behave like members of the dominant culture. In the
past, members of many groups had little choice if they wanted to share the American dream of
success. Many people have had to give up their native languages and behaviors or hide them at
home. However, acculturation does not guarantee acceptance by the dominant group. Most
members of oppressed groups, especially those of color, have not been permitted to assimilate
fully into society even though they have adopted the values and behaviors of the dominant culture.
Schools historically have promoted assimilation by teaching English and U.S. culture to
new immigrants. Before the civil rights movement, students of color would have rarely seen
themselves in textbooks or learned the history and culture of their group in the classroom.
Even today, the curriculum is contested in some communities when families do not see their
cultures and values represented. When the first set of national history standards were being
developed in the early 1990s, the historians involved proposed a multicultural curriculum
that celebrated the similarities and differences of the ethnic groups that comprise the United
States. Some very influential and powerful individuals and groups accused the project of pro-
moting differences that would undermine national unity and patriotism. When the standards
were presented to Congress, they were condemned by a vote of 99 to 1 (Symcox, 2002).
Identifying the degree of students’ assimilation into the dominant culture may be helpful
in determining appropriate instructional strategies and providing authentic learning activities
that relate to the lived experiences of students. The only way to know the importance of cul-
tural groups in the lives of students is to listen to them. Familiarity and participation with the
community from which students come also help educators know students and their families.
Because culture helps determine the way we think, feel, and act, it becomes the lens through
which we judge the world. As such, it can become an unconscious blinder to other ways of
thinking, feeling, and acting. Our own culture is automatically treated as innate and the natural
and right way to function in the world. Even common sense in our own culture is translated to
common sense for the world. We compare other cultures with ours and evaluate them by our
cultural standards. It can become difficult to view another culture as separate from our own.
This inability to view other cultures as equally viable alternatives for organizing reality is
known as ethnocentrism. Although it is appropriate to cherish one’s culture, members sometimes
become closed to the possibilities of difference. These feelings of superiority over other cultures
can become problematic in interacting and working effectively and equitably with students and
families of different groups. Our inability to view another culture through its own cultural lens
prevents an understanding of the second culture. This inability can make it difficult to function
effectively in a second culture. By overcoming one’s ethnocentric view of the world, one can begin
to respect other cultures and even learn to function comfortably in more than one cultural group.
cultural relativism
“Never judge another man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” This North Amer-
ican Indian proverb suggests the importance of understanding the cultural backgrounds and
experiences of others rather than judging them by our own cultural standards. The principle
of cultural relativism is to see a culture as if we are a member of the culture. It is an acknowl-
edgment that another person’s way of behaving and thinking is valid. This ability becomes
essential in the world today as countries and cultures become more interdependent. In an effort
to maintain positive relationships with people in our community as well as around the world,
we cannot afford to relegate cultures other than our own to an inferior status.
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12 chapter 1 Foundations of Multicultural Education
Intercultural misunderstandings between groups occur even when no language barrier
exists and when large components of the dominant culture are shared by the people involved.
The members of one group are largely ignorant about the culture of another group, giving it
little credibility or respect. Our lack of knowledge about others leads to misunderstandings that
are accentuated by differential status based on race, gender, class, language, religion, and ability.
Cultural relativism suggests that we need to be knowledgeable about our own culture.
That must be followed by study about and interaction with other cultural groups. This inter-
cultural process helps one know what it is like to be a member of the second culture and to
view the world from another perspective. To function effectively and comfortably within a
second culture, that culture must be learned.
Individuals who have competencies in and can operate successfully in two or more different
cultures are bicultural or multicultural and often bilingual or multilingual as well. Having
proficiencies in multiple cultures allows us to draw on a broad range of abilities and make
choices as determined by the particular situation.
Because we participate in more than one cultural group, we have already become pro-
ficient in multiple systems for perceiving, evaluating, believing, and acting according to the
patterns of the various groups to which we belong. We often act and speak differently when we
are in the community in which we were raised than when we are in a professional setting. We
behave differently on a night out with members of our own gender than we do at home with
the family. People with competencies in several cultures develop a fuller appreciation of the
range of cultural competencies available to all people.
Many members of oppressed groups are forced to become bicultural, operating (1) in
the dominant culture at work or school and (2) in their family’s culture at home and in the
community. Different behaviors are expected in the two settings. Because most schools reflect
the dominant culture, students are forced to adjust to or act like middle-class white students
if they are to be academically successful. In contrast, most middle-class white students find
almost total congruence between the cultures of their family, school, and work. Most remain
monocultural throughout their lives. They do not envision the value and possibilities inherent
in becoming competent in a different culture.
Multiculturalism values the cultural identities of diverse groups as members participate
in and interact with the dominant culture. A society that supports multiculturalism promotes
diverse ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, language, religious, and other group identities. Diver-
sity in the workplace, school, university, or community is valued and affirmatively sought. It
allows individuals to choose membership in the cultural and social groups that best fit their iden-
tities, without fear of ostracism or isolation from either their original group or their new group.
Educators establish cultural borders in the classroom when all activity is grounded in the
teacher’s culture. In our expanding, diverse nation, it is critical that educators be able to participate
effectively in more than one culture. As we learn to function comfortably in different cultures, we
should be able to move away from a single perspective linked to cultural domination. We should
be able to cross cultural borders and integrate our students’ cultures into the classroom. Under-
standing the cultural cues of different groups improves our ability to work with all students and
makes us more sensitive to the importance of cultural differences in teaching effectively.
Equality and social Justice in a Democracy
The United States is a democracy, in which people participate in their government by exercis-
ing their power directly or indirectly through elected representatives. Egalitarianism—the
belief in social, political, and economic rights and privileges for all people—is espoused as a key
principle on which democracy is based. Thus, the Constitution was fashioned with a coherent
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Equality and Social Justice in a Democracy 13
set of “checks and balances” to limit the systematic abuse of power.
Power should be shared among groups, and no one group should
continuously dominate the economic, political, social, and cultural
life of the country. Society and government, though not perfect, are
promoted as allowing mass participation and steady advancement
toward a more prosperous and egalitarian society.
One strength of a democracy is that citizens bring many per-
spectives, based on their own histories and experiences, to bear on
policy questions and practices. Thus, to disagree is acceptable as
long as we are able to communicate with each other openly and
without fear of reprisal. Further, we expect that no single right way
will be forced on us. For the most part, we would rather struggle
with multiple perspectives and determine what is best for us as
individuals within this democratic society than have one perspec-
tive forced on us.
At the same time, a democracy expects its citizens to be con-
cerned about more than just their own individual freedoms. In the
classic Democracy and Education, philosopher and educator John
Dewey (1966) suggested that the emphasis should be on what binds
us together in cooperative pursuits and results, regardless of the
nation or our group alliance and membership. He raised concern
about our possible stratification into separate classes and called for
“intellectual opportunities [to be] accessible to all on equitable and
easy terms” (p. 88). The Internet may help us achieve this goal.
Both individualism and equality have long been central
themes of political discourse in a democratic society. The mean-
ing of equality in our society varies according to one’s assumptions
about humankind and human existence. At least two sets of beliefs
govern the ideologies of equality and inequality. The first accepts
inequality as inevitable and believes that an individual’s achievements are due totally to his or
her own personal merits. The second set of beliefs supports a much greater degree of equality
across groups in society that could be accomplished by not limiting accessibility to quality
education, quality teachers, higher-paying jobs, health care, and other benefits of society to
affluent groups with power.
Proponents of meritocracy accept the theories of sociobiology or functionalism or both, in
which inequalities are viewed as natural outcomes of individual differences. They believe that
all people have the opportunity to be successful if they just work hard enough (Grinberg, Price,
& Naiditch, 2009). They give little credit to conditions such as being born into a wealthy family
as a head start to success. Members of oppressed groups such as low-income families, persons
of color, and persons with disabilities are seen as inferior, and their hardships blamed on their
personal characteristics rather than societal constraints or discrimination.
The belief system that undergirds meritocracy has at least three dimensions that are
consistent with dominant cultural values. First, the individual is valued over the group. The
individual has the qualities, ambitions, and talent to achieve at the highest levels in society.
Popular stories promote this ideology in their descriptions of the poor immigrant who arrived
on U.S. shores with nothing, set up a vegetable stand to eke out a living, and became the
millionaire owner of a chain of grocery stores. In reality, moving from the bottom of the
economic ladder to the top is a rare occurrence. Some individuals and families move up and
down the economic ladder one quintile from where they started ( Page & Jacobs, 2009). The
second dimension stresses differences through competition. IQ and achievement tests are used
throughout schooling to help measure differences. Students and adults are rewarded for out-
standing grades, athletic ability, and artistic accomplishment. The third dimension emphasizes
Because of family income
and wealth, some students
have access to resources
and experiences in their
homes, communities,
and schools that are not
available to most low-income
students. (© Echo/Cultura/
Getty Images)
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14 chapter 1 Foundations of Multicultural Education
internal characteristics— such as motivation, intuition, and character—that have been inter-
nalized by the individual. External conditions, such as racism and poverty, are to be overcome
by the individual; they are not accepted as contributors to an individual’s lack of success.
Equal educational opportunity, or equal access to education, applies meritocracy to edu-
cation. All students are to be provided with equal educational opportunities that allegedly will
give them similar chances for success or failure. Proponents of this approach believe it is the
individual’s responsibility to use those opportunities to his or her advantage in obtaining life’s
resources and benefits. Critics of meritocracy point out that children of low-income families
do not start with the same chances for success in life as children from affluent families. Even
the most capable of these students do not enjoy equal educational opportunities if the schools
they attend lack the challenging curriculum and advanced placement courses typically found in
middle-class and affluent communities. Thus, competition is unequal from birth. The chances
of a child from an affluent family being educationally and financially successful are much greater
than for a child from a low-income family (Page & Jacobs, 2009). Those with advantages at birth
are almost always able to hold on to and extend those advantages throughout their lifetimes.
With the persistence of racism, poverty, unemployment, and inequality in major social systems
such as education and health, it is difficult to reconcile these daily realities with the celebrated
egalitarianism that characterizes the public rhetoric. This perspective sees U.S. society as com-
prising institutions and an economic system that represents the interests of the privileged few
rather than the pluralistic majority. Even institutions, laws, and processes that have the appear-
ance of equal access, benefit, and protection are often enforced in highly discriminatory ways.
These patterns of inequality are not the product of corrupt individuals as such but rather are a
ref lection of how resources of economics, political power, and cultural and social dominance
are built into the political-economic system.
Even in the optimistic view that some degree of equality can be achieved, inequality is expected.
Not all resources can be redistributed so that every individual has an equal amount, nor should all
individuals expect equal compensation for the work they do. The underlying belief, however, is that
there need not be the huge disparities of income, wealth, and power that have increased greatly
over the past 30 years. Equality does suggest fairness in the distribution of the conditions and goods
that affect the well-being of all children and families. It is fostered by policies for full employment,
wages that prevent families from living in poverty, and child care for all children.
Equality is more than providing oppressed group members with an equal chance or equal
opportunity. One proposal is that more equal results should be the goal. These results might
be more equal achievement by students across groups and similar rates of dropping out of
school, college attendance, and college completion by different ethnic, racial, gender, and
socioeconomic groups.
Traditionally, the belief has been that education can overcome the inequities that exist
in society. However, the role of education in reducing the amount of occupation and income
inequality may be limited. School reform has not yet led to significant social changes outside
schools. Equalizing educational opportunity has had very little impact on making adults more
equal. Providing equal educational opportunities for all students does not guarantee equal
results at the end of high school or college. It does not yet provide equal access to jobs and
income across groups. Equality in schools would mean that students in impoverished com-
munities would be guaranteed to have teachers who are as highly qualified as the teachers in
wealthy school districts. Equality requires financial support for providing quality instruction
in environments that are conducive to learning by all students.
social Justice
Social justice is another element of democracy that is based on the expectation that citizens will
provide for those in society who are not as advantaged as they are. John Dewey (1966) called
for social justice at the beginning of the twentieth century when he said, “What the best and

Watch the video
“American Dream
Myth—Stiglitz on Income
Inequality” (https://www
swpgji1h17s) to hear a Nobel
Laureate economics professor
discuss income inequality that
is central to meritocracy.
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Equality and Social Justice in a Democracy 15
wisest parent wants for his [or her] own child, that must the community want for all of its
children” ( p. 3). In schools, social justice requires critiquing practices that interfere with equity
across groups. Social and economic inequities that prevent students from learning and partic-
ipating effectively in schools must be confronted.
Enormous disparities exist between the very wealthy and the poor. The very wealthy have
accumulated vast resources, while the poor are unable to obtain the barest essentials for shel-
ter, food, or medical care. Some lack housing, which leads to a growing number of homeless
students. Others lack nutritious meals as well as heat in the winter and air conditioning in the
summer. Every day children from low-income families come to school having had insufficient
sleep because of the physical discomfort of their homes, with inadequate clothing and with
empty stomachs. Tens of thousands suffer from malnutrition and lack of dental care. When
they are sick, many go untreated. Under these conditions, it is difficult to function well in an
academic setting.
Civil unrest has almost always been precipitated by the disenfranchised who have no real-
istic hope of extricating themselves from lives of despair. Those who have the power to bring
about meaningful change in society are generally the more affluent. They have the resources and
connections to make things happen. Bringing about truly meaningful change requires paradigm
shifts. Even the middle class may be reluctant to make changes if a change in the status quo
diminishes their position. Meaningful change in society requires a universal social consciousness.
It requires, to some extent, a willingness of the citizenry to explore the means of redistributing
some of the benefits of a democratic society. Effective redistribution requires that some who
have considerable wealth provide a greater share in an effort to eliminate poverty and its effects.
The end result could be a society in which everyone has a decent place to sleep, no child goes to
school hungry, and appropriate health care and a quality education are available to all.
Obstacles to Equality and social Justice
Differing and unequal power relationships have a great impact on individuals’ and groups’
abilities to define and achieve their own goals. These differences among and within groups can
lead not only to misunderstandings and misperceptions but also to conf lict. Cultural differences
sometimes result in political alliances that respond to the real or perceived presence of domi-
nation or subordination faced by a group. The result may be strong feelings of patriotism or
group solidarity that expand into armed conf licts across and within nations, tribes, religious
communities, or ethnic groups. Feelings of superiority of one’s group over another are some-
times ref lected in anti-Semitic symbols and actions, cross burnings, gay bashing, and sexual
Conflicts between groups are usually based on the groups’ differential status and value
in society. The alienation and marginalization that many powerless groups experience can
accentuate their differences and may lead to their separating themselves from the dominant
culture. Groups sometimes construct their own identities in terms of others. For example,
European Americans often do not think of themselves racially, except as it makes them dif-
ferent from Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, or American Indians. Males may
define themselves in opposition to females. Native English speakers may see their language
as superior to the language of immigrants, and they may refuse to learn a second language or
value the advantages of bilingualism or multilingualism.
As long as differences across groups have no status implications in which one group is
treated differently from another, conflict among groups is minimal. Unfortunately, cultural
borders are often erected between groups, and crossing them can be easy or difficult. What is
valued on one side of the border may be denigrated on the other side. For example, speaking
Spanish or a dialect may be valued in the community but not appreciated in school.
Prejudice, discrimination, and privilege stem from a combination of several factors
related to power relationships. People who are prejudiced have a negative attitude about mem-
bers of a group other than their own. Discrimination leads to the denial of privileges and
rewards to members of some groups. Privilege provides advantages and power to groups that
have resources and status exceeding those of others.
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16 chapter 1 Foundations of Multicultural Education
Prejudice. Prejudice can result when people lack understanding of the history, experiences,
values, and perceptions of groups other than their own. Members of a specific group are
stereotyped when generalizations are applied to the group without consideration of indi-
vidual differences within the group. Prejudice manifests itself in feelings of anger, fear, hatred,
and distrust toward members of a specific group. These attitudes are often translated into fear
of walking in a neighborhood, fear of being robbed or hurt by members of a group, distrust of
a merchant from the group, anger at any advantages that others may be perceived as receiving,
and fear that housing prices will be def lated if someone from that group moves next door.
Some members of all groups possess negative stereotypes of others. For example, some
African Americans and Latinos believe that all whites are bigoted, bossy, and unwilling to share
power. Some women believe that all men are abusers because that is their experience with men.
Feminists become labeled as lesbians because some activists are lesbians. Blue-collar workers
are seen as intolerant and bigoted because that is how they have been portrayed in movies.
Fundamentalist Christians are labeled as sexist or homophobic because some ministers have
preached that message. These negative stereotypes may describe some members of a group but
have been unfairly extended as characteristic of all members of the group.
Although prejudice may not always directly hurt members of a group, it can be easily
translated into behavior that harms members. An ideology based on aversion to a group and
perceived superiority undergirds the activities of the neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, skinheads, and
other racist groups. A prejudiced teacher may hold high academic expectations for students of
one group and low expectations for students of another group. Such prejudice could lead to
inappropriate placement of students in gifted or special education programs.
Children who hold biased attitudes toward other groups may simply be reflecting their
parents’ attitudes, but other implicit messages from peers and the media also affect them
( Berk, 2012). Children are influenced by what those around them think, do, and say. Even
when parents model tolerance, children may still be exposed to the racist behaviors of others.
They may hear older children or adults putting down a group in jokes or ethnic slurs. They may
observe how some individuals do not associate with members of certain groups (Anti-Defamation
League, n.d.). They may observe how some white teachers associate only with other white
teachers in the cafeteria. Unwittingly, these teachers are modeling behaviors for students.
Children are greatly influenced by the media. They watch television and movies. They
see pictures on the Internet, in newspapers, and in magazines their families have in the home.
Hardly a day goes by without children being exposed to stereotyping, misinformation, or
exclusion of important and accurate information (Anti-Defamation League, n.d.).
For the past few years, children have been exposed to the horrors of war in Afghanistan,
Iraq, and Syria, as well as bombings in other parts of the world. They have heard or seen reports
of soldiers killed daily by people of color, whom they assume are Muslims. They continually
hear expressions of justifiable anger directed toward terrorists and suicide bombers, who are
almost always described by race or religion. The popular media has always had its villains.
From the American Indians to the Japanese and Germans in World War II, villains of choice
have evolved from Communists to Latin American drug lords, and now to Arabs and Muslims.
These messages can contribute to children developing prejudicial attitudes about people they
don’t know. This situation is exacerbated by the minimal effort made to show that the majority
of the people in these groups are good, law-abiding, loyal citizens of their countries.
The Anti-Defamation League (n.d.) suggests that children with poor self-images are prone to
develop prejudices. By targeting individuals they can put down, they bolster their own self-worth,
making them feel more important and powerful than those they attack. At other times, children
may exclude or ridicule other children because they perceive that this behavior will enhance their
standing among their peers (Anti-Defamation League, n.d.). Because children are cognitively
capable of becoming less prejudiced, developing activities that have been shown to reduce prej-
udice during the early years of elementary school is an appropriate education goal for teachers.
Discrimination. Whereas prejudice is based on attitudes, discrimination focuses on behav-
ior. Discrimination occurs at two levels: individual and institutional. Individual discrimination
is attributable to, or inf luenced by, prejudice. Individuals discriminate against members of a
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Equality and Social Justice in a Democracy 17
group because they have strong prejudicial, or bigoted, feelings about the group, or they believe
that society demands they discriminate. For example, real-estate agents, human resources
managers, receptionists, and membership chairpersons all work directly with a variety of indi-
viduals. Their own personal attitudes about members of a group can inf luence decisions such
as whether a house is sold, a job is offered, a loan is granted, an appointment is made, a meal is
served, or a membership is granted to an individual. The actions of these individuals can pre-
vent others from gaining the experiences and economic advantages that these activities offer.
An individual has less control over the other form of discrimination. Institutional dis-
crimination cannot be attributed to prejudicial attitudes. It refers to inequalities that have
been integrated into the systemwide operation of society through legislation and prac-
tices that ensure benefits to some groups versus others. Laws that disproportionately limit
immigration to people from specific countries are one example. Other examples include
practices that lead to a disproportionately large percentage of African Americans being
incarcerated; single, low-income mothers being denied adequate prenatal care; and children
in low-income neighborhoods suffering disproportionately from asthma as a result of poor
environmental conditions.
We have grown up in a society that has a long history of discrimination against people
of color, low-wage earners, women, and people with disabilities. We often do not realize the
extent to which members of some groups receive the benefits and privileges of institutions
such as schools, Social Security, transportation systems, and banking systems. Because we may
think that we have never been discriminated against, we should not assume that others do not
suffer from discrimination.
Some people argue that institutional discrimination no longer exists because today’s laws
require equal access to the benefits of society. As a result, they believe that individuals from
all groups have equal opportunities to be successful. They fight against group rights that lead
to what they perceive to be preferential treatment of the members of one group over others.
The government is usually accused of going too far toward eliminating discrimination against
historically oppressed groups by supporting affirmative action, contracts set aside for specific
groups, special education, and legislation for women’s equity. Opponents of these programs
charge that they lead to reverse discrimination.
However, the criteria for access to the “good life” are often applied arbitrarily and unfairly.
A disproportionately high number of people of color and students with disabilities have had
limited opportunities to gain the qualifications for skilled jobs or college entrance or to obtain
the economic resources to purchase homes. As businesses and industries move from the city to
the suburbs, access to employment by those who live in the inner city becomes more limited. A
crucial issue is not the equal treatment of those with equal qualifications but equal accessibility
to the qualifications and jobs themselves.
The consequences are the same with individual and institutional discrimination. Members
of some groups do not receive the same benefits from society as most members of the dom-
inant group. Individuals are harmed by circumstances beyond their control because of their
membership in a specific group. The roles of teachers and other professional educators require
that they not discriminate against any student because of his or her group memberships. This
consideration must be paramount in assigning students to special education and gifted classes
and in giving and interpreting standardized tests. Classroom interactions, classroom resources,
extracurricular activities, and counseling practices must be evaluated to ensure that discrimina-
tion against students from specific groups does not occur.
Privilege. European Americans generally do not think of themselves as white, financially
secure, Christian, English-speaking, or heterosexual. In fact, not all whites are financially
secure or Christian or English-speaking or heterosexual. However, they are privileged in soci-
ety. They do have advantages of which they are not always aware. Many teachers do not rec-
ognize the inequality, racism, and powerlessness that work against the success of students of
color, girls, English language learners, non-Christians, students from low-income families,
and students with disabilities. Many European Americans have not had the opportunity to
explore their own ethnicity and privileged position in society. They often have not studied or

Watch the videos
“Mirrors of Privilege:
Understanding White Privilege”
/watch?v=uuXWJDyGct4) and
“Mirrors of Privilege: Beyond
Guilt to Responsibility”
/watch?v=WdHJtyf7TB0) to
become aware of the meaning
of white privilege.
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18 chapter 1 Foundations of Multicultural Education
interacted with groups to which they do not belong. Therefore, they have not explored where
they fall along the continuum of power and inequality in society.
In contrast to whites, members of other groups are constantly confronted with the differ-
ence of their race, language, class, religion, gender, disability, and/or sexual orientation. The
degree of identification with the characteristics of the dominant culture depends, in part, on
how much an individual must interact with society’s formal institutions for economic support
and subsistence. The more dependence on these institutions, the greater the degree of sharing
or of being forced to adopt the traits and values of the dominant culture.
Think about the following situations and how often you have been confronted with them
(McIntosh, 2010):
• Turning on the television or opening the newspaper and seeing people of your cultural
group widely represented
• Speaking in public to a male group without putting your cultural group on trial
• Performing well on a project without being called a credit to your cultural group
• Being asked to speak for all people of your cultural group
• Asking to talk to “the person in charge” and finding a person of your cultural group
• Worrying that you have been racially profiled when you are stopped for a traffic violation
• Being followed around by a clerk or security person when you shop
How differently would whites and people of color respond to these situations? Some groups
have more privilege than others as they interact in broader society.
These differing perspectives have led to public debates about the need for affirmative
action to ensure diversity as well as the integration of diversity into the common core of the
curriculum. Members of oppressed groups argue that their cultures are not reflected in a cur-
riculum that includes the great books of Western European thought. The traditionalists, who
are predominantly European Americans, often invoke nationalism and patriotism in their calls
to retain the purity of the Western canon and promote homogeneity in society. However, pro-
ponents of a common core curriculum that includes the voices of women, people of color, and
religions other than Christianity also include many European Americans who value differences
and multiple perspectives and are allies in the quest for equality.
The question appears to be whose culture will be reflected in the elementary and sec-
ondary, as well as the college, curriculum. Those who call for a curriculum and textbooks that
reflect only their history and experiences view their culture as superior to all others. Thus,
they and their culture become privileged over others in schools. They do not see themselves as
different; to them, diversity refers only to members of other groups in society. To be successful,
European Americans are not required to learn to function effectively in a second culture, as are
members of other groups. The privileged curriculum reinforces this pattern. It is the members
of the oppressed groups who must learn the culture and history of European Americans, often
without the opportunity to study in depth their own cultural group or to validate the impor-
tance of their own history and lived experiences. It is as if they do not belong. This feeling may
lead to marginalization and alienation from school when students do not see themselves in the
curriculum, do not feel a part of the school culture, and are not leaders in the school.
Multicultural Education
Not all students can be taught in the same way because they are not the same. Their cultures
and experiences inf luence the way they learn and interact with their teachers and peers. They
have different needs, skills, and experiences that must be recognized in developing educational
programs. Each student is different because of physical and mental abilities, gender, ethnicity,
race, socioeconomic status, language, religion, class, sexual orientation, geography, and age.
Students behave differently in school and toward authority because of cultural factors and their
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Multicultural Education 19
relationship to the dominant culture. As educators, we behave in certain ways toward students
because of our own cultural experiences within the power structure of the country.
Multicultural education is a construct that acknowledges the diversity of students and
their families and builds on that diversity to promote equality and social justice in education.
Developing the knowledge and skills to work effectively with students from diverse groups
is key in creating differentiated instruction to meet the needs of all students. The following
beliefs are fundamental to multicultural education:
• Cultural differences have strength and value.
• Schools should be models for the expression of human rights and respect for cultural and
group differences.
• Social justice and equality for all people should be of paramount importance in the
design and delivery of curriculum.
• Attitudes and values necessary for participation in a democratic society should be
promoted in schools.
• Teachers are key to students’ learning the knowledge, skills, and dispositions (i.e.,
values, attitudes, and commitments) they need to be productive citizens.
• Educators working with families and communities can create an environment that is
supportive of multiculturalism, equality, and social justice.
Many concepts support multicultural education. The relationships and interactions among
individuals and groups are essential to understanding and working effectively with students
from groups different from those of the teachers. Educators should understand racism, sexism,
prejudice, discrimination, oppression, powerlessness, power, inequality, equality, and stereotyp-
ing. Multicultural education includes various components that often appear in courses, units of
courses, and degree programs. They include ethnic studies, global studies, bilingual education,
women’s studies, human relations, special education, and urban education. Let’s examine how
multicultural education has evolved over the past century.
Evolution of Multicultural Education
Multicultural education is not a new concept. Its roots are in the establishment of the Associ-
ation for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915. Through their research and books on
the history and culture of African Americans, Carter G. Woodson, W. E. B. DuBois, Charles
C. Wesley, and other scholars were the pioneers of ethnic studies. Woodson founded the Journal
of Negro History and the Negro History Bulletin to disseminate research and curriculum materials.
These materials were integrated into the curricula of segregated schools and historically black
colleges and universities, allowing African American students to be empowered by the knowledge
of their own history ( J. A. Banks, 2004).
By the 1920s some educators were writing about and training teachers in intercultural edu-
cation. The intercultural movement during its first two decades had an international emphasis,
with antecedents in the pacifist movement. Some textbooks were rewritten with an international
point of view. Proponents encouraged teachers to make their disciplines more relevant to the
modern world by being more issue oriented. One of the goals was to make the dominant popula-
tion more tolerant and accepting of first- and second-generation immigrants in order to maintain
national unity and social control (C. A. M. Banks, 2004). However, issues of power and inequality
in society were ignored. The interculturalists supported the understanding and appreciation of
diverse groups but did not promote collective ethnic identities, the focus of ethnic studies.
Following the Holocaust and World War II, tensions among groups remained high. Jewish
organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee pro-
vided leadership for improving intergroup relations and reducing the anti-Semitic sentiment
that existed at the time. National education organizations and progressive educational leaders
such as Hilda Taba and Lloyd A. Cook promoted intergroup relations in schools to develop
tolerance of new immigrants, African Americans, and other groups of color. Like the earlier
intercultural movement, many intergroup educators had the goal of assimilating immigrants and
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20 chapter 1 Foundations of Multicultural Education
people of color into the dominant society ( J. A. Banks, 2004). Some programs focused on under-
standing the “folk” cultures of these groups. Others were designed to help rid native European
Americans of their prejudice and discrimination against other groups. There was disagreement
among the supporters of intergroup relations about the degree to which they should promote
an understanding of the culture and history of ethnic groups (C. A. M. Banks, 2004).
By the 1960s desegregation was being enforced in the nation’s schools. At the same time,
cultural differences were being described as deficits. Students of color and whites from
low-income families were described as culturally deprived. Their families were blamed for not
providing them with the cultural capital, or advantages such as wealth and education, that
would help them succeed in schools. Programs like Head Start, compensatory education, and
special education were developed to make up for these shortcomings. Not surprisingly, those
classes were filled with students of color, students from low-income families, and students with
disabilities—the children who had not been privileged in society and whose cultures seldom
found their way into textbooks and school curricula.
In the 1970s the term cultural deficits was replaced with the label culturally different to
acknowledge that students of color and immigrant students have cultures, just as do European
Americans. One of the goals of this approach was to teach those who were culturally different
to develop the cultural patterns of the dominant society so that they could fit into the main-
stream (Sleeter & Grant, 2009). Students with disabilities were still primarily segregated from
their nondisabled peers during this period.
The civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s brought a renewed interest in ethnic
studies, discrimination, and intergroup relations. Racial and ethnic pride emerged from oppressed
groups, creating a demand for ethnic studies programs in colleges and universities across the
country. Similar programs were sometimes established in secondary schools. However, students
and participants in ethnic studies programs were primarily members of the group being studied.
Programs focused on students’ own ethnic histories and cultures, with the objective of provid-
ing them with insights into and instilling pride in their own ethnic backgrounds. Most of these
programs were ethnic specific, with only one ethnic group studied. Sometimes the objectives
included gaining an understanding of the relationship and conflict between the ethnic groups, but
seldom was a program’s scope multiethnic.
Concurrent with the civil rights movement and the growth of ethnic studies, an emphasis
on intergroup or human relations again emerged. Often, these programs accompanied ethnic
Although the Supreme
Court ruled in 1954
that schools should be
desegregated, students in
many classrooms today are
from the same racial, ethnic,
or language group. (© Blend
Images-Hill Street Studios/Brand X
Pictures/Getty Images)
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Multicultural Education 21
studies content for teachers. The objective was to promote intergroup, and especially interracial,
understanding in order to reduce or eliminate stereotypes. This approach emphasized the affective
level—teachers’ attitudes and feelings about themselves and others (Sleeter & Grant, 2009).
With the growth and development of ethnic studies came a realization that those programs
alone would not guarantee support for the positive affirmation of diversity and differences in this
country. All students needed to learn the history, culture, and contributions of groups other than
their own. As a result, ethnic studies expanded into multiethnic studies. Teachers were encour-
aged to develop curricula that included the contributions of oppressed groups along with those
of the dominant group. Textbooks were rewritten to represent more accurately the multiethnic
nature of the United States and the world. Students were to be exposed to the perspectives of
Focus Your Cultural Lens
Debate / should Ethnic studies Be taught?
During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, students at San Francisco State University and the University of
California, Berkeley led the movement to demand courses in ethnic studies that would be taught from the lens
of the ethnic group rather than a Eurocentric perspective. These protests resulted in the addition of courses
and programs at colleges and universities across the country in African American, Asian American, Hispanic, and
American Indian studies. Some school districts followed suit, offering courses related to specific ethnic and
cultural groups.
By 2013, students in California’s state universities were protesting budget cuts that were eliminating ethnic
studies courses and faculty. A similar pattern was occurring in high schools. In 2010 the governor of Arizona
signed a bill banning the teaching of ethnic studies programs that are designed for a particular group or advocate
ethnic solidarity. The Tucson Unified School District was forced to close its Mexican American studies courses soon
after the law went into effect. Taking an opposite approach, the El Rancho school district in California in 2014
adopted a requirement that all of its students take an ethnic studies course before graduation. California’s state
senate also was considering a bill to study the best way to implement a standardized curriculum for ethnic studies
across the state. What are the rationales for supporting or not supporting ethnic studies in a school or university?
1. How do European American groups fit into ethnic studies?
2. Whose ethnic groups and cultures are best represented in the curriculum used by most schools? What ethnic
and other cultural groups are seldom found in the curriculum? What are the reasons for these disparities?
3. How do the personal perspectives and biases of authors impact the content of textbooks and curriculum?
What is important about hearing the perspectives of different ethnic groups?
Help make curriculum more relevant to students from
specific ethnic groups.
Ethnic studies courses teach about long-neglected
ethnic groups in the United States.
Ethnic studies courses allow students from the group
being studied and students from other ethnic groups to
explore different perspectives on the histories and
literature of a group.
Ethnic studies courses help students develop empathy
toward other groups.
All students can benefit from learning the culture,
history, literature, and experiences of ethnic groups
different from their own.
It is wrong to teach students separately based on their
ethnic group membership.
Ethnic studies courses are divisive and foster
resentment among students.
Teachers of ethnic studies courses indoctrinate
students with anti-American ideas and anti-patriotism.
Ethnic studies courses foster hostility toward U.S.
Ethnic studies courses encourage students whose
ethnic group is being studied to see themselves as
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22 chapter 1 Foundations of Multicultural Education
diverse groups through literature, history, music, and other disciplines integrated throughout
the general school program. Curriculum and instructional materials were to reflect multiple
perspectives, not just the single master narrative of the dominant group.
During this period, other groups that had suffered from institutional discrimination
called their needs to the attention of the public. These groups included women, those with
low incomes, people with disabilities, English language learners, and the elderly. Educators
responded by expanding multiethnic education to the more encompassing concept of multi-
cultural education. This broader concept focused on the different groups to which individuals
belong, with an emphasis on the interaction of race, ethnicity, class, and gender in one’s cultural
identity. It also called for the elimination of discrimination based on group membership. No
longer was it fashionable to fight sexism without simultaneously attacking racism, classism,
homophobia, and discrimination against children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
Multicultural Education today
The 1990s were characterized by the development of standards, which led to debates between
fundamentalists and multiculturalists, especially around the history standards. The fundamen-
talists argued that the standards should stress what they believed to be the foundations of democ-
racy: patriotism and historical heroes. The multiculturalists promoted the inclusion of diverse
groups and multiple perspectives in the standards. In English language arts, groups disagreed
about the literature to which students should be exposed, some arguing for multiple perspectives
and others arguing that such literature might promote values they could not support.
Multicultural education is sometimes criticized as focusing on differences rather than sim-
ilarities among groups. Critical theorists criticize it for not adequately addressing the issues of
power and oppression that keep a number of groups from participating equitably in society. At
least three schools of thought push multiculturalists to think critically about these issues: crit-
ical pedagogy, antiracist education, and critical race theory (Sleeter & Bernal, 2004). Critical
pedagogy focuses on the culture of everyday life and the interaction of class, race, and gender in
contemporary power struggles. Antiracist education is the construct used in Canada and a num-
ber of European countries to eliminate racist practices such as tracking, inequitable funding,
and segregation in schools. Critical race theory focuses on racism to challenge racial oppression,
racial inequities, and white privilege (Howard, 2010). Multicultural education promotes critical
thinking about these and other issues to ensure that education serves the needs of all groups
equitably. Multicultural education as presented in this text attempts to integrate critical peda-
gogy, antiracist education, and critical race theory as different groups are discussed.
Still, after eight decades of concern for civil and human rights in education, racism per-
sists. Educators struggle with the integration of diversity into the curriculum and provision of
equality in schools. Some classrooms may be desegregated and mainstreamed, and both boys
and girls may now participate in athletic activities. However, students are still labeled as at risk,
developmentally delayed, underprivileged, lazy, or slow. They are tracked in special classes or
groups within the classroom based on their real or perceived abilities. A disproportionate num-
ber of students from African American, Mexican American, Puerto Rican, American Indian,
and Southeast Asian American groups score below European American students on national
standardized tests. The number of students of color and low-income students participating
in advanced science and mathematics classes is not proportionate to their representation in
schools. They too often are offered little or no encouragement to enroll in the advanced courses
that are necessary to be successful in college. To draw attention to these inequities, the National
Alliance of Black School Educators declared that “education is a civil right” and has called on
the country to establish a “zero tolerance policy on illiteracy, dropout and failure” ( National
Alliance of Black School Educators, 2008, p. 1).
In a country that champions equal rights and the opportunity for the individual to improve
his or her conditions, educators are challenged to help all students achieve academically. At
the beginning of the twenty-first century, the standards movement focused on identifying
what every student should know and be able to do. The federal legislation for elementary and
secondary schools, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), requires standardized testing of students
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Multicultural Education 23
Table 1.1 sELEctED intasc PrOFiciEnciEs rELatED tO DiVErsitY
1. Learner Development. The teacher understands how learners grow and develop, recognizing that
patterns of learning and development vary individually within and across the cognitive, linguistic, social,
emotional, and physical areas, and designs and implements developmentally appropriate and challenging
learning experiences.
1(g) The teacher understands the role of language and culture in learning and knows how to modify
instruction to make language comprehensible and instruction relevant, accessible, and challenging.
2. Learning Differences. The teacher uses understanding of individual differences and diverse cultures and
communities to ensure inclusive learning environments that enable each learner to meet high standards.
2(d) The teacher brings multiple perspectives to the discussion of content, including attention to learners’
personal, family, and community experiences and cultural norms. (Performance)
2(k) The teacher knows how to access information about the values of diverse cultures and communities
and how to incorporate learners’ experiences, cultures, and community resources into instruction. (Knowledge)
2(l) The teacher believes that all learners can achieve at high levels and persists in helping each learner
reach his/her full potential. (Disposition)
2(o) The teacher values diverse languages and dialects and seeks to integrate them into his/her
instructional practice to engage students in learning. (Disposition)
3. Learning Environments. The teacher works with others to create environments that support individual
and collaborative learning, and that encourage positive social interaction, active engagement in learning,
and self-motivation.
3(f) The teacher communicates verbally and nonverbally in ways that demonstrate respect for and
responsiveness to the cultural backgrounds and differing perspectives learners bring to the learning
environment. (Performance)
4. content Knowledge. The teacher understands the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of
the discipline(s) he or she teaches and creates learning experiences that make the discipline accessible
and meaningful for learners to assure mastery of the content.
4(m) The teacher knows how to integrate culturally relevant content to build on learners’ background
knowledge. (Knowledge)
4(o) The teacher realizes that content knowledge is not a fixed body of facts but is complex, culturally
situated, and ever evolving. S/he keeps abreast of new ideas and understandings in the field. (Disposition)
to determine a school’s effectiveness in helping students learn. It mandates that test scores be
reported to the public by race, gender, English language proficiency, disability, and socioeco-
nomic status ( U.S. Department of Education, 2001). The goal of NCLB is to improve the
academic achievement of all students. Students in low-performing schools may transfer to
a higher-performing school to improve their chances of passing tests if their neighborhood
school continues to be low performing for three years. Congress has begun the process of
reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is currently called NCLB,
and may have passed it by the time you read this book. Although a number of initiatives may
change, the emphasis on improving student learning is not likely to decrease.
Multicultural Proficiencies for teachers
By the time you finish a teacher education program, states and school districts expect you to
have proficiencies for helping all students meet state standards such as the common core.
NCLB requires school districts to hire qualified teachers who can help low-income students,
students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities meet state standards.
The expected proficiencies include specific knowledge, skills, and dispositions related to work-
ing with diverse student populations and multicultural education.
State standards for teacher licensure reflect the national standards in Table 1.1 that were
developed by the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC, 2011).
Each of the 10 standards include knowledge, dispositional, and performance proficiencies that
teachers should be able to demonstrate to earn a state license to teach. Selected InTASC pro-
ficiencies related to diversity and multicultural education are listed in Table 1.1.
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24 chapter 1 Foundations of Multicultural Education
In working with students who come from different ethnic, racial, language, and religious
groups from those of the teacher, the development of dispositions that are supportive of
diversity and differences is important. Students quickly become aware of the educators who
respect their cultures, believe they can learn, and value differences in the classroom. Examples
of dispositions that the InTASC standards expect teachers to develop are listed in Table 1.1.
reflecting on Multicultural teaching
Teachers who reflect on and analyze their own practices report that their teaching improves
over time. If you decide to seek national board certification after you have taught for three
years, you will be required to provide written ref lections on videos of your teaching. You
are encouraged to begin to develop the habit of ref lecting on your practice now and to
include in that ref lection the multicultural proficiencies listed above. Are you actually help-
ing students learn the subject and skills you are teaching? An important part of teaching is
to determine what is working and what is not. Effective teachers are able to change their
teaching strategies when students are not learning. They do not leave any students behind.
5. application of content. The teacher understands how to connect concepts and use differing
perspectives to engage learners in critical thinking, creativity, and collaborative problem solving related to
authentic local and global issues.
5(g) The teacher facilitates learners’ ability to develop diverse social and cultural perspectives that
expand their understanding of local and global issues and create novel approaches to solving problems.
6. assessment. The teacher understands and uses multiple methods of assessment to engage learners in
their own growth, to monitor learner progress, and to guide the teacher’s and learner’s decision making.
6(h) The teacher prepares all learners for the demands of particular assessment formats and makes
appropriate accommodations in assessments or testing conditions, especially for learners with disabilities
and language learning needs. (Performance)
7. Planning for instruction. The teacher plans instruction that supports every student in meeting rigorous
learning goals by drawing upon knowledge of content areas, curriculum, cross-disciplinary skills, and
pedagogy, as well as knowledge of learners and the community context.
7(i) The teacher understands learning theory, human development, cultural diversity, and individual
differences and how these impact ongoing planning. (Knowledge)
7(n) The teacher respects learners’ diverse strengths and needs and is committed to using this
information to plan effective instruction. (Disposition)
8. instructional strategies. The teacher understands and uses a variety of instructional strategies to
encourage learners to develop deep understanding of content areas and their connections, and to build
skills to apply knowledge in meaningful ways.
8(k) The teacher knows how to apply a range of developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate
instructional strategies to achieve learning goals. (Knowledge)
9. Professional Learning and Ethical Practice. The teacher engages in ongoing professional learning and
uses evidence to continually evaluate his/her practice, particularly the effects of his/her choices and
actions on others (learners, families, other professionals, and the community), and adapts practice to meet
the needs of each learner.
9(e) The teacher reflects on his/her personal biases and accesses resources to deepen his/her own
understanding of cultural, ethnic, gender, and learning differences to build stronger relationships and create
more relevant learning experiences. (Disposition)
10. Leadership and collaboration. The teacher seeks appropriate leadership roles and opportunities to
take responsibility for student learning; to collaborate with learners, families, colleagues, and other school
professionals, and community members to ensure learner growth; and to advance the profession.
10(q) The teacher respects families’ beliefs, norms, and expectations and seeks to work collaboratively
with learners and families in setting and meeting challenging goals. (Disposition)
Source: Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium. (2011, April). InTASC model core teaching standards:
A resource for state dialogue. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers, pp. 10–19.
Table 1.1 sELEctED intasc PrOFiciEnciEs rELatED tO DiVErsitY (continued)
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Summary 25
Diversity in the classroom
Students of color currently account for over half of the ele-
mentary and secondary school populations, and this propor-
tion is expected to grow to 55% by 2023. They come from
diverse ethnic, racial, religious, socioeconomic, language,
gender, sexual orientation, and ability groups. Understanding
diversity and the cultures of students and knowing how to
use that knowledge effectively can enable teachers to deliver
instruction to help students learn.
Culture provides the blueprint that determines the way we
think, feel, and behave in society. We are not born with
culture but rather learn it from our families and communi-
ties. Historically, U.S. political and social institutions have
developed from a Western European tradition, and they still
function under the strong influence of that heritage. At the
same time, many aspects of American life have been greatly
influenced by the numerous cultural groups that comprise the
U.S. population. The dominant culture of the United States
is based on its white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant roots and the
core values of individualism and freedom. Cultural identity
is based on the interaction and influence of membership
in groups based on ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual
orientation, age, class, native language, geographic region,
and exceptionalities. Membership in one group can greatly
affect our participation in another group. Cultural identity is
adapted and changed throughout life in response to political,
economic, educational, and social experiences that either alter
or reinforce our status or position in society.
Pluralism in society
Assimilation is the process by which groups adopt and change
the dominant culture. Schools have traditionally served as
transmitters of the dominant culture to all students, regardless
of their cultural backgrounds. The theory of cultural pluralism
promotes the maintenance of the distinct differences among
cultural groups with equal power. Ethnocentrism occurs when
individuals believe that their culture is superior to others.
Multiculturalism allows groups to maintain their unique
cultural identities within the common culture without having
to assimilate.
Equality and social Justice in a Democracy
Egalitarianism and equality have long been espoused as goals
for society, but they are implemented from two perspectives.
The emphasis on individualism is supported in a meritocratic
system in which everyone is alleged to start out equally,
but the most deserving will end up with the most rewards.
Equality, in contrast, seeks to ensure that society’s benefits
and rewards are distributed more equitably among individuals
and groups. Prejudice, discrimination, and privilege continue
to be obstacles to equality.
Multicultural Education
Multicultural education is an educational construct that
incorporates cultural differences and provides equality
and social justice in schools. For it to become a reality in
the formal school situation, the total environment must
ref lect a commitment to multicultural education. The
diverse cultural backgrounds and group memberships
of students and families are as important in developing
effective instructional strategies as are their physical and
mental capabilities. Further, educators must understand
the inf luence of racism, sexism, and classism on the lives
of their students and ensure that these are not perpetuated
in the classroom.
Chapter Quiz: Click here to gauge your understanding of chapter concepts.
They draw on the experiences and cultures of their students to make the subject matter
relevant to them. Self-ref lection will be a critical skill for improving your teaching.
You can begin to develop skills for reflection while you are preparing to teach. Many teacher
education programs require candidates to keep journals and develop portfolios that include
reflection papers. Video the lessons that you teach so that you can critique your knowledge of the
subject matter, interactions with students, and methods of managing a class. The critique could
be expanded to address multicultural proficiencies. You may find it valuable to ask a colleague
to periodically observe you while you are teaching and provide feedback on your multicultural
proficiencies. Honest feedback can lead to positive adjustments in our behavior and attitudes.
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Race and Ethnicity
LEaRning OutcOmEs
As you read this chapter, you should be able to:
2.1 Identify patterns of immigration and immigration policy and their impact on the
education of children of foreign-born families.
2.2 Explain how educational practices support or eliminate ethnic differences among
2.3 Analyze the impact that the nation’s growing racial diversity will have on schools and
2.4 Describe the impact of the civil rights movement on education.
2.5 Evaluate the results of continuing racial and ethnic discrimination on communities and
2.6 Develop strategies for affirming race and ethnicity in the classroom.
Denise Williams was aware of the racial tension in the high school in which she teaches. At the last faculty meeting, the focus of the discussion was on developing more positive interethnic
and interracial relations among students. A committee had been created to identify consultants
and other resources to guide teachers in this effort.
Ms. Williams, however, thought that neither she nor her students could wait months to
receive a report and recommendations from the committee. She was ready to introduce the civil
rights movement in her social studies class. It seemed a perfect time to promote better
cross-cultural communications. She decided to introduce this unit with a current event. She
asked students to read selected articles and videos of events in Ferguson, Missouri, in the
summer and fall of 2014, after Michael Brown had been shot by a police officer.
She soon learned that this topic was not an easy one to handle. African American students
expressed their anger at the discriminatory practices in the school and the community. Most of
the white students did not believe that there was any discrimination. They did not understand the
anger of the African American and Latino students. Ms. Williams thought the class was getting
nowhere. In fact, at times the anger on both sides was so intense that she worried a physical
fight would erupt. She was frustrated because the class discussions and activities were not
helping students understand the reasons for their different perspectives about the same event.
She felt she was making no progress at addressing stereotypes and prejudices that students
held about each other. She was concerned that students were becoming more polarized in their
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Immigration 27
beliefs. She wondered whether she could do anything in her class to improve understanding,
empathy, and communications across groups.
1. What racial groups are most likely to see themselves represented in the school curriculum?
2. How can a classroom reflect the diversity of its students so that they all feel valued and
3. What were the positive and negative outcomes of the steps taken by Ms. Williams to introduce
the civil rights movement?
As people from all over the world joined American Indians in populating this nation, they
brought with them cultural experiences from their native countries. Just because individuals have
the same national origins, however, does not mean that they have the same history and experi-
ences as other people who have emigrated from the same country. The time of immigration, the
places in which groups settled, the reasons for emigrating, their socioeconomic status, and the
degree to which their families have been affected by racism and discrimination affect their
immigration experiences and acceptance in the United States. You will see these differences in
schools as students whose families have been in the United States for several generations do not
always warmly welcome new immigrant students.
Most groups have immigrated to the United States voluntarily to seek freedoms not avail-
able in their native countries at the time, to escape dismal economic or political conditions,
or to join family members already settled in the United States. However, not all people and
groups voluntarily immigrate. The ancestors of most African Americans arrived involuntarily
on slave ships. Mexicans living in the southwestern part of the country became residents when
the United States annexed their lands. The reasons for immigration and the way immigrants
were treated after they arrived have had a lasting impact on each group’s assimilation patterns
and access to society’s resources.
a Brief History of immigration in the united states
The United States was populated by hundreds of American Indian tribes when explorers
from other nations arrived on its shores. Early European leaders were convinced that they
needed to convert First Americans to Christianity, teach them English, and have them
adopt European culture. With the continuing arrival of the European settlers, federal
policies led to government takeovers of the land of the indigenous population, who fought
against the privatization and selling of their lands. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 led to
the forcible removal of First Americans in the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw,
and Choctaw nations from their homes in southeastern states in the Trail of Tears that
moved them to reservations in the Oklahoma Territory. As many as 1 in 3 of the First
Americans who were removed from their homes died on the way to the western territories.
In addition, this separation led to a pattern of isolation and inequity that remains for many
First Americans today.
By 1879, children on reservations were being removed from their homes and placed in
boarding schools to unlearn their traditional ways and languages of their families. The hair of
these children was cut, and they were not allowed to use their native languages. They some-
times attended school part of the day and worked the other part of the day to support the
school. A number of reports in the 1920s chronicled the abuse of these children, who were
schooled many miles and sometimes many states away from their families. Although the goal
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28 chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
became less assimilation based, some boarding schools for American Indians continued to
operate into the twenty-first century.
The atrocities and near genocide that characterized the treatment of First Americans have
been ignored in most accounts of U.S. history. Not until 2000 did an official of the U.S. gov-
ernment apologize for the Bureau of Indian Affairs’s “legacy of racism and inhumanity that
included massacres, forced relocations of tribes and attempts to wipe out Indian languages and
cultures” (Kelley, 2000, p. 1). Congress did not give American Indians the right to vote until
1924, and it was not until the 1960s that they had federal authority to establish and manage
their own tribal schools.
The 1.1 million Native Hawaiians have experiences similar to those of other indigenous
populations around the world. In 1894 Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii was overthrown by a
group of white sugar planters in an effort to gain control of the island and further their inter-
ests. The American minister sent to Hawaii by President Grover Cleveland declared the over-
throw to be illegal, and the president agreed that the monarchy should be restored. However,
the annexationists’ interests prevailed, and a white president of the Republic of Hawaii was
recognized immediately by the U.S. government. Vital to the interests of the United States,
Hawaii eventually became a territory and, in 1959, the fiftieth state. Today, Native Hawai-
ians remain near the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, as do other indigenous populations
Although most of the first European settlers were English, the French, Dutch, and Spanish
also established early settlements in the “new world.” After the consolidation and development
of the United States as an independent nation, successive waves of Western Europeans joined
the earlier settlers. Irish, Swedish, and German immigrants left their home countries to escape
economic impoverishment or political repression. These early European settlers brought with
them the political institutions that would become the framework for our government. The
melding of Northern and Western European cultures over time formed the dominant culture
in which other immigrant groups strived or were forced to assimilate.
Africans were also among the early explorers of the Americas and were settlers in the
early days of colonization, but by the eighteenth century, they were being kidnapped in their
native country and sold into bondage by slave traders. As involuntary immigrants, Africans
underwent a process quite different from that confronting the Europeans who voluntarily
immigrated. Separated from their families and homelands, robbed of their freedom, cultures,
and languages, Africans developed a new culture out of their African, European, and Native
American heritages and their unique experiences in this country. Early on, the majority of
African Americans lived in the South, where today they remain the majority population in
many counties. When industrial jobs in northern, eastern, and western cities began to expand
between 1910 and 1920, many African Americans migrated to northern and then western
cities—a pattern that was repeated in the 1940s and 1950s. By the beginning of the twenty-first
century, the trend had reversed, with a growing number of African Americans from northern
states moving south.
Another factor that contributed to African American migration north was the racism and
political terror that existed across the South at that time. Even today, a racial ideology is
implicit in the policies and practices of many of our institutions. It continues to block the full
assimilation of African Americans into the dominant society. Although the civil rights move-
ment of the 1960s reduced a number of the barriers that prevented many African Americans
from enjoying the advantages of the middle class, the number of African Americans, especially
children, who live in poverty remains disproportionately high. Schools generally are not yet
meeting the needs of African American children. They do not perform as well as most other
ethnic groups on standardized tests, and less than 60% of African American male students are
graduating from high school in four years (U.S. Department of Education, 2010).
Mexican Americans also played a unique role in the formation of the United States. Spain
was the first European country to colonize the western and southwestern United States as
well as Mexico. In 1848 the U.S. government annexed the northern sections of the Mexi-
can Territory, including the areas currently occupied by Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and
southern California. The Mexicans and Native Americans living within that territory became
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Immigration 29
an oppressed group in the region where they had previously been the dominant population.
Although the labor of Mexicans has persistently been sought by farmers and businesses for
over a century, laborers have been treated with hostility and have been limited to low-paying
jobs and subordinate status. Supremacy theories related to race and language have been used
against them in a way that, even today, prevents many Mexican Americans and Central Amer-
icans from assimilating fully into the dominant culture if they choose to do so.
While Mexican Americans were involuntary immigrants when they were annexed by the
U.S. government, they have been the largest group to voluntarily and legally immigrate to the
United States since the 1960s. They have been joined by other immigrants from Cuba, Cen-
tral America, and South America—a combined group identified as Latino or Hispanic, terms
used interchangeably in this book. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Latino
population became the largest group of color in the United States, and it is projected to con-
stitute 30% of the population by 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014j).
The industrial opening of the West in the mid-1800s signaled a need for labor that could
be met through immigration from Asia. Chinese worked the plantations in Hawaii and were
recruited to provide the labor needed on the West Coast for mining gold and building rail-
roads along with workers from Japan and the Phillipines. By 1882 racism and a changing
need for labor led to Congress passing the Chinese Exclusion Act, halting all immigration
from China. Japanese American families were arrested and placed in internment camps during
World War II, many losing their property and belongings in the process. Because of such bias
against the Chinese and Japanese, immigration from Asia was severely limited by Congress
until a change in the immigration laws in 1965. With the changed immigration quotas, Asian
Americans have become the fastest-growing group in the United States, with the majority of
Asian American students being foreign-born or having a foreign-born parent.
At the end of the nineteenth century, industries in the nation’s cities again required more
labor than was available. Immigrants from impoverished Eastern and Southern European
countries were enticed to accept jobs, primarily in midwestern and eastern cities. Into the early
twentieth century, immigrants continued to arrive from nations such as Poland, Hungary, Italy,
Russia, and Greece. The reasons for their immigration were similar to those that had driven
many earlier immigrants: devastating economic and political hardship in the homeland and the
demand for labor in the United States. Many immigrants came to the United States with the
hope of enjoying the higher wages and improved living conditions they had heard about, but
they found conditions in the United States worse than they had expected. Most were forced to
live in substandard housing near the business and manufacturing districts where they worked.
These urban ghettos grew into ethnic enclaves in which the immigrants continued to use their
native languages and maintain the cultures of their native lands. To support their social and
welfare needs, ethnic institutions were established. Many of the racist policies that were used
against African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans were applied to these
immigrants. A major difference was that their offspring were allowed to assimilate into the
dominant culture during the second and third generations.
Immigration continues to impact the nation’s population today. Around 1 million people
have been immigrating to the United States annually for more than a decade. Over half of the
persons born outside the United States live in California, New York, Florida, and Texas (U. S.
Department of Homeland Security, 2013). More than 1 in 4 California residents and 1 in 5 New
York residents are foreign-born (Grieco et al., 2012). Although many new immigrants settle in
metropolitan areas of at least 50,000 people, more than half of today’s immigrants live in the
suburbs; fewer than 5% of new immigrants live in rural areas (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014e).
the control of immigration
Throughout history, the U.S. Congress has restricted the immigration of different national or
ethnic groups on the basis of the racial superiority of the older, established immigrant groups
that had colonized the nation. As early as 1729, immigration was being discouraged. In that
year, Pennsylvania passed a statute that increased the head tax on foreigners in the colony. Some
leaders, including Benjamin Franklin, worried that Pennsylvania was in danger of becoming a
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30 chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
German state. The 1790 Naturalization Act, which allowed only whites to become U.S. citizens,
declared that an immigrant could become a citizen after several years of residency.
In the nineteenth century, native-born citizens again worried about their majority and
superiority status being threatened by new immigrant groups. The resulting movement,
known as nativism, restricted immigration and protected the interests of native-born citi-
zens. This nativism continued into the twentieth century, when the Dillingham Commission
recommended, in 1917, that all immigrants be required to pass a literacy test. The nativ-
ists received further support for their views when Congress passed the Johnson-Reed Act
in 1924, establishing annual immigration quotas that disproportionately favored immigrants
from Western European countries. This act also stopped all immigration from Japan. The
Johnson-Reed Act was not abolished until 1965, when a new quota system was established,
dramatically increasing the number of immigrants allowed annually from the Eastern Hemi-
sphere and reducing the number from the Western Hemisphere, which resulted in the changes
shown in Figure 2.1.
Congressional leaders and presidential candidates during the 1980s promoted a “get
tough” approach to immigration, calling for greater control of the U.S. borders. However, the
1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act actually expanded immigration by allowing visas
to people born in countries adversely affected by the 1965 law—Europeans. Today, immigra-
tion policies are again under attack by citizens who believe that immigration, especially unau-
thorized immigration, is not being controlled effectively by the federal government.
Some of today’s immigrants enter the United States legally and others are unauthorized.
Legal immigrants come in through four major routes. Family sponsorship is the primary path
to immigration, representing approximately 66% of the legal immigrants. Family members
who are U.S. citizens can petition the federal government to admit their relatives; there are
no caps on the number of visas available for immediate family members. The second-largest
group of legal immigrants (14%) have come to the United States at the request of employers.
They include workers with “extraordinary ability” in the arts or sciences, professionals with
advanced degrees, skilled and unskilled workers, investors, and such special categories as ath-
letes, ministers, and investors. Refugees and asylees (15%) make up the third group. The
fourth group is diversity immigrants (4%), participants in a system that allows persons from
1960–1969 1970–1979 1980–1989 2010–20122000–20091990–1991
Canada Newfoundland,
& Oceania
South America
Central America
figuRE 2.1 Persons Obtaining Legal Permanent Resident Status by Selected Countries and
Continents: 1960–2012
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2013). Yearbook of immigration statistics: 2012. Retrieved May 24, 2015,
from .
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Immigration 31
countries with relatively few immigrants to enter a lottery for 50,000 available openings (U.S.
Department of Homeland Security, 2013).
As in the past, emotions about immigration policies today are dividing restrictionists from
immigration supporters. Many citizens value multiculturalism and bilingualism, recalling that
their ancestors were immigrants who entered the country with a culture and often a language
different from that of the dominant group. Other citizens view the growing cultural and lan-
guage diversity as dangerous to the continuation of the “American” culture for which they and
their ancestors have fought. In some states and school districts, these groups of citizens have
led the movement to declare English the nation’s official language and oppose the use of bilin-
gual signs and documents, which they see as promoting bilingualism. In some communities
they picket places where unauthorized day workers gather to meet potential employers.
The debate about immigration policy centers on the action to be taken regarding unau-
thorized immigrants. Although George W. Bush proposed immigration reform during his
presidency at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Congress took no action. Many Lati-
nos were hopeful that President Barack Obama would push for immigration reform soon
after he was inaugurated but were disappointed by the inaction of the Obama administration.
The Dream Act, intended to allow the children of unauthorized immigrants to attend U.S.
colleges, was defeated by Congress in 2010, but President Obama created a policy in 2012
that temporarily deferred removal deportation of these “dreamers” who arrived in the United
States as children. However, U.S. citizens continue to be divided on the immigration policies
that should be enacted. The Pew Research Center (2014c) reports that 71% of the population
would like the government to find a way for unauthorized immigrants to be able to stay in the
country legally, although they disagree on the appropriate path for citizenship.
unauthorized immigrants
Not all immigrants are authorized to be in the country. People from other countries enter
the United States as travelers or on student or other special visas. Some of them extend their
stay; others never go home. Many of these immigrants are later reclassified as legal because
they meet the requirements for employment-based visas, they qualify as refugees, or they are
sponsored by a family as allowed by law. They may also become legal immigrants through
Latinos are joined by their
allies to protest attacks on
immigration rights and anti-
discrimination legislation.
(© Peter Casolino/Alamy)
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32 chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
amnesty or similar programs periodically enacted by Congress. The total number of unau-
thorized immigrants has decreased since 2007, when it was at its peak, 12.8 million. In 2012
an estimated 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants—3.5% of the population—were living
in the United States. Approximately 52% of the unauthorized immigrants were from Mexico,
15% from Central America, 6% from South America, 5% from the Caribbean, 12% from
Asia, 5% from Europe and Canada, and 4% from Africa, the Middle East, and other coun-
tries. Over 6% of the population of California, Texas, and Nevada are unauthorized immi-
grants (Passel & Cohn, 2014).
Restrictionists charge that unauthorized immigrants drain the social welfare system as
they seek education for their children and medical assistance for their family members. Some
states try to restrict public services, including education, to unauthorized immigrants. Other
states are more supportive of immigrant families, passing their own Dream Acts and promot-
ing bilingual education. For example, some states have passed legislation to provide in-state
tuition to children of unauthorized immigrants and increase opportunities for them to attend
public colleges and universities in their states.
Refugees and asylees
Refugees are people who are recognized by the federal government as being persecuted in their
home countries because of race, religion, nationality, or membership in a specific social or
political group. During 2012, 58,179 individuals were admitted as refugees and 17,506 as
asylees, with the majority from the countries shown in Figure 2.2. Figure 2.2 shows that the
number of refugees from different countries changes over time, based on political conditions
in their home countries.
Nearly half of the refugees are students who may be coping with the stress of the political
unrest in their native countries and time spent in refugee camps. They often do not speak
English and do not have strong academic backgrounds. They may feel disconnected from
their U.S. schools, which contributes to poor academic performance and high dropout rates.
c Egy
an Ira
na Cub
Refugees in 2003
Refugees in 2013
Asylees in 2003
Asylees in 2012
figuRE 2.2 Home Countries from Which Most Refugees and Asylees Entered the United States in
2003 and 2012
Source: Martin, D. C., & Yankay, J. E. (2014). Refugees and asylees: 2013. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Homeland
Security, Office of Immigration Statistics.
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Ethnicity 33
Educators need to work with the parents of these students to determine their educational goals
for their children and provide the necessary support (Roxas, 2010).
Education of immigrants
A key factor in the education success of immigrant children is the level of their parents’ edu-
cation, which impacts the economic well-being of the family (Mather, 2009). However, the
education level of immigrants varies greatly. The percentage of the foreign-born population
with bachelor’s degrees is nearly equal to that in the native-born population, 18% and 20%,
respectively. Nearly 11% of the foreign-born population have advanced degrees, as do native-
born citizens. At the other end of the scale, 28% of foreign-born adults do not have a high
school degree—three times as many as in the native-born population (U.S. Census Bureau,
2014e). Studies of immigrants indicate that those with the social and cultural capital of higher
education and higher economic status are more likely to be accepted by the dominant society
and more likely to assimilate into the middle class (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001).
More than 1 in 4 students in the United States has one or more foreign-born parents
(Hanson & Simms, 2014). Children of immigrants comprise nearly 50% of all children in Cali-
fornia and over 30% of the children in Florida, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, and Texas. The
majority of these children are born into Latino (59%) or Asian (23%) families. Almost 8 in
10 children with at least one unauthorized parent are U.S. citizens (Pew Research Center, 2014c).
Speaking English well improves students’ chances of academic success in U.S. schools.
Overall, 1 in 5 of the U.S. population speaks a language other than English at home, but 3 in
5 speak English “very well” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014h). Children are more likely to speak
English than their immigrant parents. More than 4 in 5 of the children of immigrants are
English proficient, even though nearly half of their parents do not speak English proficiently.
Although English language learners (ELLs) speak English fluently within a reasonably short
time after arriving in the United States, it generally takes five to seven years to develop con-
ceptual and academic fluency in a second language.
English language learners are not performing as well as their white peers on the standard-
ized tests in math and reading that are required in U.S. schools. Latino immigrant students are
more likely to drop out of school than other students, especially if they had limited education
in their native countries. Many teachers do not have information or experience that will help
them work effectively with immigrant students and foreign-born parents. If the students are
lucky, they will attend schools in which the faculty and staff work together to provide them
every opportunity possible to achieve academically at high levels.
The Fourteenth Amendment grants citizenship to children born in the United States.
Unauthorized children have a right to seek a public education under the U.S. Supreme Court
decision Plyler v. Doe (1982). Educators cannot require students or parents to declare their
immigration status, and they cannot make inquiries that might expose such status. For example,
parents cannot be forced to provide Social Security numbers to school districts.
The United States is an ethnically and racially diverse nation comprised of nearly 300 ethnic
groups whose members can identify the national origins of their ancestors. First Americans
comprise approximately 1.7% of the total U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014b), with
566 federally recognized tribal entities that are indigenous or native to the United States (U.S.
Department of the Interior, 2014). Foreign-born individuals comprise 13% of the population
(U.S. Census Bureau, 2014b). Ancestors of the remaining 85% of the population immigrated
to the United States from around the world sometime during the past 600 years.
Many definitions have been proposed for the term ethnic group. Some writers describe
ethnic identity as one’s national origin, religion, and race. The most basic definition focuses on
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34 chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
the native country of one’s ancestors. Thus, we identify ourselves as German American, Chi-
nese American, or Mexican American. A growing number of citizens are able to identify mul-
tiple national origins of their ancestors, seeing themselves as African, European, and Japanese
American, for example. Other citizens identify themselves as American, not acknowledging
the national origins of their ancestors as part of their identity.
A common bond with an ethnic group is developed through family members, friends,
and neighbors with whom intimate characteristics of living are shared. These are the people
invited to baptisms, marriages, funerals, and family reunions. They are the people with whom
we feel the most comfortable. They know the meaning of our behavior; they share the same
language and nonverbal patterns, traditions, and customs. Endogamy (that is, marriage within
the group), segregated residential areas, and restriction of activities with the dominant group
help preserve ethnic cohesiveness across generations. The ethnic group also allows for the
maintenance of group cohesiveness. It helps sustain and enhance the ethnic identity of its
members. It establishes the social networks and communicative patterns that are important for
the group’s optimization of its position in society.
The character of an ethnic group changes over time, becoming different in a number of
ways from the culture of the country of origin. Members within ethnic groups may develop
different attitudes and behaviors based on their experiences in the United States and the con-
ditions in the country of origin at the time of immigration. Recent immigrants may have little
in common with members of their ethnic group whose ancestors immigrated a century, or
even 20 years, before. Ethnic communities undergo constant change in population character-
istics, locations, occupations, educational levels, and political and economic struggles, which
affects the nature of the group and its members as they become Americans with ethnic roots
in another country.
Ethnic identity
Developing a healthy and secure ethnic identity helps in developing one’s overall identity, pro-
viding a sense of belonging, optimism, and self-esteem (Berk, 2012b). Among young children,
ethnic awareness increases with age. By age four they are aware of differences in appearance,
language, and names. Soon after, they become aware of religious and cultural distinctions as
well (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011).
Ethnic identity is influenced early in life by whether one’s family members recognize or
promote ethnicity as an important part of their identity. Sometimes, the choice about how
ethnic one should be is imposed, particularly for members of oppressed ethnic groups. When
the ethnic group believes that a strong and loyal ethnic identity is necessary to maintain group
solidarity, the pressure of other members of the group makes it difficult to withdraw from the
group. For many members of the group, their ethnic identity provides them with the security
of belonging and knowing who they are. Their ethnic identity becomes the primary source of
identification, and they feel no need to identify themselves differently. In fact, they may find it
emotionally very difficult to sever their primary identification with the group.
One does not have to live in the same community with other members of his or her ethnic
group to continue to identify with the group. Many second- and third-generation children
have moved from their original ethnic communities, integrating into the suburbs or other
urban communities—a move that is easier to accomplish if they look white and speak standard
English. Although many Americans are generations removed from immigrant status, some
continue to consciously emphasize their ethnicity as a meaningful basis of their identity. They
may organize or join ethnic social clubs and organizations to revitalize their identification with
their national origin. Such participation is characterized by a nostalgic allegiance to the culture
of one’s ancestral homeland. As ethnic groups learn English and adopt the cultural behaviors
of the dominant group, their ethnicity becomes less distinct, and they are less apt to be labeled
as ethnic by society, especially if they are white. Their ethnicity becomes voluntary; they can
choose to identify with their ethnic group or not.
The European heritages with which nearly half of U.S. residents identify are German
(14.6%), Irish (10.5%), English (7.7%), Italian (5.4%), Polish (3%), French (2.6%), Scottish
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Race 35
(1.7%), Dutch (1.4%), and Norwegian (1.4%) (U.S.
Census Bureau, 2014b). Unlike the European groups
that emigrated in a wave early in the twentieth century
and eventually lost contact with relatives in their coun-
try of origin, the ethnic identity of Latinos is regularly
replenished as newcomers from their home countries
arrive in their communities with the cultural traditions
and language of their native countries (Jiménez, 2010).
Some residents have multiple ancestries, identifying
with two or more national origins. However, teachers
and others with whom students interact may continue
to respond to them primarily on the basis of their iden-
tifiable ethnicity.
Some families fight the assimilative aspects of
schooling that draw children into adopting the dress,
language, music, and values of their peers from the dom-
inant culture. Immigrant families, families with origins other than Europe, families who are not
Christian, and conservative Christian families may fight acculturation and assimilation in an
effort to maintain the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that are important in their cultures.
Many immigrant groups have become acculturated over time, adopting the dominant group’s
cultural patterns. The rapidity and extent of the acculturation process depend on a number of
factors, including location and discrimination. If a group is spatially isolated and segregated
(whether voluntarily or not) in a rural area, as is the case with some American Indians on res-
ervations, the acculturation process is very slow. Discrimination against members of oppressed
groups can make it difficult for them to acculturate even when they choose to do so.
The degree of acculturation is determined, in part, by individuals or families as they decide
how closely they want to match the dress, speech, and behavior of members of the dominant
group. In the past, members of many groups had little choice if they wanted to share the Amer-
ican dream of success. However, acculturation does not guarantee acceptance by the dominant
group. Most members of oppressed groups, especially those of color, have not been permitted
to assimilate fully into society even though they have adopted the values and behaviors of the
dominant group.
Are racial groups also ethnic groups? In the United States, many people use the two terms
interchangeably. Racial groups include many ethnic groups, and ethnic groups may include
members of more than one racial group. Race is a concept that was developed by physical
anthropologists to describe the physical characteristics of people in the world more than a cen-
tury ago—a practice that now has been discredited. It is not a stable category for organizing and
differentiating people. Instead, it is a sociohistorical concept dependent on society’s perception
that differences exist and that these differences are important (Bonilla-Silva, 2014; Omi &
Winant, 2015). Throughout U.S. history, race has been used by policymakers and much of the
population to classify groups of people as inferior or superior to other racial groups, resulting
in inequality and discrimination against people of color. These racial structures impact the life
chances of members of racial groups, benefiting members of the dominant culture (Bonilla-Silva,
2014). They have led to the oppression of people of color and their resistance against that
oppression (Omi & Winant, 2015), as ref lected in the 2014 street protests against the killing of
unarmed African American men and the fairness of a justice system that places a disproportion-
ately high number of men of color in U.S. prisons.
Many individuals and
families in the United States
maintain ties with their
ethnic group by participating
in family and cultural
traditions. (© Jeff Greenberg/
PhotoEdit, Inc.)
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36 chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
People of Northern and Western European ancestry have traditionally been advantaged
in the United States. Until 1952 immigrants had to be white to be eligible for naturalized
citizenship. At one time, slaves and American Indians were perceived as so inferior to the
dominant group that each individual was counted by the government as only a fraction of a
person. Chinese immigrants in the late nineteenth century were charged an additional tax.
When Southern and Eastern Europeans immigrated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries, they were viewed by nativists as members of an inferior race. However, these Euro-
peans were eligible for citizenship because they were white; those from most other continents
were not eligible. Arab American immigrants, for example, needed a court ruling that they
were white before they could become citizens.
In 1916 Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race detailed the U.S. racist ideology.
Northern and Western Europeans of the Nordic race were identified as the political and mili-
tary geniuses of the world. Protecting the purity of the Nordic race became such a popular and
emotional issue that laws were passed to severely limit immigration from any region except
Northern European countries. Miscegenation laws in many states prevented the marriage of
whites to members of other races until the U.S. Supreme Court declared those laws unconsti-
tutional in 1967.
Critical Incidents in Teaching
student conflict between family and Peer Values
Wing Tek Lau is a sixth-grade student in a predominantly white and African American southern community. He
and his parents emigrated from Hong Kong four years ago. His uncle was an engineer at a local high-tech
company and had encouraged Wing Tek’s father to immigrate to this country and open a Chinese restaurant. The
restaurant is the only Chinese restaurant in the community, and it was an instant success. Mr. Lau and his family
have enjoyed considerable acceptance in both their business and their neighborhood. Wing Tek and his younger
sister have also enjoyed academic success at school and appear to be well liked by the other students.
One day when Mrs. Baca, Wing Tek’s teacher, called him by name, he announced before the class, “My
American name is Kevin. Please, everybody call me Kevin from now on.” Mrs. Baca and Wing Tek’s classmates
honored this request, and Wing Tek was “Kevin” from then on.
Three weeks later, Mr. and Mrs. Lau made an appointment to see Mrs. Baca. When the teacher made reference
to “Kevin,” Mrs. Lau said, “Who are you talking about? Who is Kevin? We came here to talk about our son, Wing Tek.”
“But I thought his American name was Kevin. That’s what he asked us to call him,” Mrs. Baca replied.
“That child,” Mrs. Lau said in disgust, “is a disgrace to our family.”
“We have heard his sister call him by that name, but she said it was just a joke,” Mr. Lau added. “We came to
see you because we are having problems with him in our home. Wing Tek refuses to speak Chinese to us. He
argues with us about going to his Chinese lessons on Saturday with the other Chinese students in the community.
He says he does not want to eat Chinese food anymore. He says that he is an American now and wants pizza,
hamburgers, and tacos. What are you people teaching these children in school? Is there no respect for family, no
respect for our cultures?”
Mrs. Baca, an acculturated Mexican American who was raised in East Los Angeles, began to put things
together. Wing Tek, in his attempt to ensure his acceptance by his classmates, had chosen to acculturate to an
extreme, to the point of rejecting his family heritage. He wanted to be as “American” as anyone else in the class,
perhaps more so. Like Wing Tek, Mrs. Baca had acculturated linguistically and in other ways, but she had never
given up her Hispanic values. She knew the internal turmoil Wing Tek was experiencing.
QuEstiOns fOR cLassROOm DiscussiOn
1. Why is Wing Tek rejecting his Chinese name?
2. Why do Mr. and Mrs. Lau say that their son is a disgrace to the family and their traditional family values?
3. What can Mrs. Baca do to meet both the needs of Wing Tek’s parents and Wing Tek?
4. What can Mrs. Baca do to help Wing Tek feel more comfortable with his Chinese heritage in the classroom?
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Race 37
Nativism reappeared in the 1990s in resolutions, referenda, and legislation in a number of
states to deny education to unauthorized immigrants, restrict communication to the English lan-
guage, and limit prenatal care and preschool services available to low-income families, who are dis-
proportionately of color. As the nation continues to become more racially and ethnically diverse,
nativists again call for more restrictive control of immigration. They worry that the heritage and
power of European Americans are being diminished as the population becomes less white.
identification of Race
When racial identification became codified in the United States, it was acceptable, and even
necessary at times, to identify oneself by race. This practice allows tracking of the participation
of groups in schools, colleges, and professional fields to determine the extent of discriminatory
outcomes. Federal forms and reports classify the population on the basis of a mixture of racial
and pan-ethnic categorizations, as shown in Figure 2.3.
A problem with identifying the U.S. population by such broad categories is that the cate-
gories reveal little about the people in these groups. Whether a person was born in the United
States or is an immigrant may have significance in terms of how he or she identifies himself
or herself. Pan-ethnic classifications impose boundaries that do not always reflect how group
members see themselves. Some students rebel against identifying themselves in this way and
refuse to select a pan-ethnic identity. Puerto Ricans and other Latinos do not generally iden-
tify themselves by race, even though the U.S. Census asks them to identify their race. Their
group identity within the United States is primarily connected to the country from which their
family emigrated (Taylor, Lopez, Martinez, & Velasco, 2012).
Although non-Hispanic whites are numerically dominant in the United States, they belong
to many different ethnic groups. Neither the ethnic identification nor the actual racial heritage
Not Hispanic
American Indian &
Alaska Native, Not
Not Hispanic
Asian, Not Hispanic
Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander
Two or more races, Not Hispanic
figuRE 2.3 Pan-Ethnic and Racial Composition of the United States in 2013
Source: U.S. Census Bureau. (2014b). American community survey: Demographic and housing estimates.
Retrieved December 28, 2014, from
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38 chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
of African Americans—which may be a mixture of African, European, American Indian, and
other groups—is recognized. Latinos represent different racial groups and mixtures of racial
groups, as well as distinct ethnic groups whose members identify themselves as Mexican Amer-
icans (64% of the Latino population), Puerto Ricans (9%), Central Americans (8%), South
Americans (6%), and Cuban Americans (4%) (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013).
The pan-ethnic classification of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans includes individuals
whose families have been here for generations and those who are first-generation immigrants.
Many have little in common other than that their countries of origin are from the same conti-
nent. Asian Americans are immigrants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Borneo, Burma, Cambodia,
Chamorro, China, East India, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Okinawa, Samoa,
Sikkim, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, and other Asian countries.
African Americans have become a single pan-ethnic group because of a common history,
language, economic life, and culture developed over centuries of living in the United States.
They are a cohesive group, in part, because of the continuing discrimination they experience
in the way of racial profiling by police and others, segregated schools and housing, and dis-
criminatory treatment as shoppers, diners, and employees. Just because an individual appears
to be African American is not an indication that the person always identifies himself or herself
as African American. Some identify themselves as black, others with a specific ethnic group—
for example, Puerto Rican or Somali or West Indian. Africans who are recent immigrants may
identify themselves ethnically by their nation or tribe of origin and do not see themselves as
members of the long-established African American ethnic group.
The belief in the racial superiority of whites is reflected in cases of mixed racial heritage.
Children of black and white parents are often classified by others as black, not white; those of
Japanese and white heritage usually are classified as Japanese American. Biracial young people
today may recognize both of their races but may identify with one race more than another.
Many whites see themselves as raceless. They believe they are the norm, against which
everyone else is “other.” They can allow their ethnicity to disappear because they do not see it
as determinant of their life chances, especially after their family has been in the United States
for a few generations. They often deny that racial inequality has any impact on their ability
to achieve, believing that their social and economic conditions are based solely on their own
individual achievement. They seldom acknowledge that white oppression of people of color
around the world has contributed to the subordinate status of those groups. Most whites are
unable to acknowledge that they are privileged in our social, political, and economic systems.
The study of whiteness exposes the privilege and power it bestows on its members in the main-
tenance of an inequitable system (Leonardo, 2009; McIntosh, 2013).
Racial Diversity
The proportion of whites in the U.S. population will continue to decline. Currently more than
one-third of the nation’s population is African American, Latino, Asian American, American
Indian, Alaska Native, Hawaiian Native, and Pacific Islander. These groups of color will comprise
40% of the population by 2020 and 50% of the population by 2045 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014j).
Two factors contribute to the population growth of people of color: new immigrants and
births. As shown in Figure 2.1, the majority of new immigrants are coming from Mexico, the
Caribbean, and Asian countries. The countries from which the most people were granted legal
permanent residency in 2012 were Mexico (14.2%), China (7.9%), India (6.4%), the Philippines
(5.6%), the Dominican Republic (4%), Cuba (3.2%), Vietnam (2.7%), and Haiti (2.2%) (Monger
& Yankay, 2013). The growth of the Asian American population is due primarily to immigration.
Nearly 3 in 4 Asian adults in the United States are foreign born (Brown, 2014).
The second factor that affects population growth is birth rate. At its peak in the 1950s,
the U.S. fertility rate was 3.7 births per woman (Mather, 2014), leading to an overall increase
in the population. Today that rate is 1.9, as compared to 1.1 in Taiwan, 1.2 in Singapore and
South Korea, 1.4 in Japan and Germany, 2.4 in India, 4.1 in Iraq, 5.1 in Afghanistan, 6.1 in
Mali, and 7.6 in Niger (Population Reference Bureau, 2014). The replacement rate required
to maintain the population is 2.1 children per woman. Therefore, some countries with lower

Watch the video
“Redefining Race
and Ethnicity in the US”
/watch?v=VA7La5JgOUk), in
which categories of race and
ethnic identity are discussed.

Watch the video
“Being Multiracial in
America” (
in which biracial students
discuss their experiences
growing up in two cultures.
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Race 39
fertility rates are experiencing a decrease in their populations, while those with higher rates are
increasing the size of their populations. The differential rate among racial and ethnic groups
contributes to distinct growth patterns in the U.S. population. White women in the United
States are having an average of 1.8 children, as are Asian Americans, while African Americans
are having an average of 2.1, and Latinos 2.4 (Passel, Livingston, & Cohn, 2012).
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Latinos replaced African Americans as the
largest group of color in the United States. Figure 2.4 shows how the diversity of school-age
children and youth has changed since 1995 and is projected to change by 2023. The majority
of the population in many urban schools is already comprised of students of color, and diver-
sity is growing in many rural areas of the Midwest and South. White students represented
less than half of the student population beginning in 2014 (U.S. Department of Education,
2013b). These demographics obviously will have a profound impact on schools throughout
the United States.
Some states and areas of the country are much more diverse than others; for example, the West
has the largest concentration (60%) of students of color, the Midwest the lowest (32%). Students of
color now comprise over half of the student population in 14 states and the District of Columbia,
as shown in Figure 2.5. The highest concentration of African American students is in the South
(24%); Latinos and Asian American students are more concentrated in the West, comprising 40%
and 9% of the student population, respectively (U.S. Department of Education, 2013b).
Racial identity
Racial identity is inf luenced by our family and by others who share our identity. Racial stereo-
types inf luence the interactions among members of different racial groups. If a group is seen
as aggressive and violent, the reaction of the second group may be fear and protective action.
The construct of whiteness by many students of color is based on a distrust of whites that has
grown out of their own or their communities’ lived experiences. Unlike most whites, people of
color see the privilege of whiteness and, in many cases, have suffered the consequences of their
lack of privilege and power in society. Their oppression by the dominant group is often a uni-
fying theme around which people of color coalesce.
Indian or
Alaskan Native
Asian or
Black Hispanic White Two or More
60.00% 1995
figuRE 2.4 The Changing Diversity of the K–12 Student Population
Source: U.S. Department of Education. (2013b). Digest of education statistics 2013. Retrieved December 28, 2014, from
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40 Chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
The racial identity of groups evolves with education and life experiences but may be sup-
pressed at any stage before full development. The Black Identity Development (BID) model,
which has been recently updated by Bailey W. Jackson III (2012), describes five stages in the
racial development of African Americans. In the first stage, black children become aware of
physical and cultural differences between themselves and others but generally do not feel
afraid of or hostile toward members of other groups. In the second stage, acceptance, children
attempt to accept and conform to the standards and values of the dominant society. In the third
stage, resistance, young people begin to become acutely aware of racism and its impact on their
lives as well as its institutionalization in policies and practices that affect them. They learn the
overt and covert messages in society that indicate that blacks are not equal to whites, as por-
trayed in their low achievement rates on standardized tests, high incarceration rates, and low
economic status. It becomes clear that the black culture is not positively portrayed in society.
They do not see their culture or the contributions of their ancestors in textbooks, books, and
movies used in school. During this period, they may be angry or hurt about the stereotyping
and racism they are experiencing or seeing others experience.
In the fourth stage, redefinition, blacks develop a strong desire to identify with their racial
group and actively learn about African American history and culture. The fifth stage of devel-
opment is internalization, in which individuals become secure in their own race and are able to
develop meaningful relationships with whites who respect their racial identity. In the last stage,
individuals have a very positive sense of their racial identity and develop a commitment to the
issues of African Americans as a group. Some blacks will develop a multicultural perspective
that incorporates the worldviews from a number of cultural groups.
Whites and other racial and cultural groups also go through developmental stages as they
develop their racial identity and abandon racism. At the beginning, whites usually do not recog-
nize the significance of race. They accept the common stereotypes of people of color and do not
believe that racism pervades society. As they become aware of white racism and privilege, they
Over 50%
Less than 10%
Figure 2.5 Percent of Students of Color by State
Source: U.S. Department of Education. (2013b). Digest of education statistics 2013. Retrieved December 28, 2014, from
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The Struggle for Civil Rights 41
become uncomfortable and feel guilt, shame, and anger about racism. They begin to recognize
that they are prejudiced. In the next stage, they become silent about racism and are frustrated
at being labeled a member of a group rather than an individual. As they become more aware
of institutional racism, they begin to unlearn their own racism. In this stage they are often
self-conscious and feel guilty about their whiteness. The development of a positive white identity
allows them to move beyond the role of the victimizer, causing their feelings of guilt and shame
to subside. In the last stage, they become an ally to people of color and are able to confront insti-
tutional racism and work toward its elimination (Helms, 1990; Tatum, 2009).
Elementary and secondary students will be at various stages in their development of racial
identity. They may be angry, feel guilty, be ethnocentric, or be defensive—behaviors and feel-
ings that may erupt in class, as Denise Williams found in the vignette that opened this chapter.
Educators must remember that students of color face societal constraints and restrictions that
seldom affect white students. Such recognition is essential in the development of instructional
programs and schools to effectively serve diverse populations who do not yet share equally in
the benefits that education offers.
the struggle for civil Rights
Members of oppressed groups sometimes coalesce to fight against the harsh economic and
political realities and injustices imposed on them. These movements for democratic rights and
economic justice invariably bolster community solidarity based on race or national origins. The
fight for civil rights has led to the reduction of the overt discrimination and exclusion that has
kept many citizens from having access to the basic necessities and benefits of society. The events
that initiated these changes in schools and broader society are outlined in this section.
the civil Rights movement
The fight for civil rights by ethnic and racial groups has a long history in the United States.
Native Americans fought to maintain their rights, culture, languages, and lands as foreigners
appropriated their homelands. African slaves revolted against their owners. Free blacks decried
the discrimination and violence they faced in the North. Martin Delaney led a Black Nationalist
movement in the mid-1800s for black liberation. In the early twentieth century, Mexican
American miners in Arizona led a strike for better working conditions and pay equal to that of
European American miners. Across the Southwest, Mexican Americans established ethnic
organizations to fight exploitation and support those who were in dire straits. Chinese and
other immigrants used the courts to overturn the 1790 Naturalization Act, which excluded
them from citizenship (Takaki, 1993).
Although individuals and groups continued to push the government for civil rights
throughout the twentieth century, the movement exploded in the 1950s and 1960s when large
numbers of African Americans in the South challenged their oppressed status. Rosa Parks
defied authorities in 1955 when she sat in the whites-only section at the front of the bus in
Montgomery, Alabama, sparking a boycott of the public transportation system for over a year
and leading to the desegregation of the transportation system. Beginning in 1960, students
from North Carolina A&T University and other historically black colleges sat at lunch count-
ers designated for whites only, challenging Jim Crow laws that forced whites and people of
color to use different public accommodations such as water fountains, restrooms, hotels, and
restaurants. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee (SNCC), and the Black Panthers Party organized young people to fight the injus-
tices African Americans faced daily.
Under the leadership of Fannie Lou Hamer, African American Democrats from Missis-
sippi challenged the seating of the all-white delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Con-
vention. Although the African American delegates were not seated, their courage led to the
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42 Chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
seating of a growing number of ethnically and racially diverse delegates in the years that fol-
lowed. Facing arrest and beatings, the racially mixed Freedom Riders boarded buses to break
the segregation pattern in interstate travel. African Americans, sometimes joined by European
Americans, marched for freedom and established Freedom Schools across the South to teach
leadership and social activism. The March on Washington in 1963, in which Martin Luther
King, Jr., made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, inspired African Americans to continue
the fight for their civil rights. But the violence against them continued. Less than a month after
the March on Washington, four girls were killed when a bomb exploded in the basement of
their black church in Montgomery, Alabama. Congress finally responded by passing the 1964
Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which banned discrimination in schools,
employment, and public accommodations and secured the voting rights of African Americans.
The call for “Black Power” brought attention to the history and contributions of African
Americans to society. Black studies and other ethnic studies programs were established in
colleges and universities. Educators and textbook publishers were pushed to rewrite books to
more accurately reflect the multiethnic history of the United States. Yet societal changes did
not necessarily follow. Although legislation guaranteed equality for all racial groups, many
European Americans continued to fight against the desegregation of schools and other public
facilities. Frustration with the dominant group’s efforts to impede progress led African Ameri-
cans and members of other oppressed groups to identify even more strongly with other mem-
bers of their ethnic group to fight discrimination and inequality with a unified voice. These
struggles continue today, not only in this country but elsewhere throughout the world.
Brown v. Board of Education
Schools have long been at the center of the civil rights movement. At one time children of color
were not allowed to attend school. Later they were not allowed to attend schools with white
children, leading to a system of segregated schools in which students of color were delegated
to schools without the books and resources to which most white children had access. Segrega-
tion continued in many states until more than a decade after the Supreme Court unanimously
declared that separate but equal schooling was not equal in its Brown v. Board of Education of
Topeka (1954) decision.
The 1954 decision was the result of four cases before the Supreme Court: Briggs v.
Elliott (1952) in South Carolina, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (1952)
in Virginia, Gebhart v. Belton (1952) in Delaware, and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
(1951) in Kansas. These cases were addressed together in the 1954 decision of Brown v.
Board of Education. A fifth case, Bolling v. Sharpe (1954), settled a year later, declared that the
federal government could not segregate schools in the District of Columbia. The Supreme
Court returned to the implementation of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1955 when
it sent all school integration cases back to the lower courts and asked states to desegregate
“with all deliberate speed.” Later courts called for the desegregation of metropolitan areas,
requiring students to be bussed across city lines to ensure integration.
Many segregated school districts and universities took years to integrate their schools.
The fierce resistance of many whites in many communities required the use of the National
Guard to protect African American students who were entering white schools for the first
time. Many whites established private schools or moved to the suburbs, where the population
was primarily European American, to avoid sending their children to schools with African
American children. Some communities, such as Farmville, Virginia, closed their public schools
rather than desegregate them. The composition of schools did change in the three decades
following the Brown decision. In the mid-1960s only 2% of the African American students in
the United States attended integrated schools, as compared to 37% in the 1980s (Mickelson
& Smith, 2010). Unfortunately, one of the negative outcomes of this movement was the loss
of jobs by African American teachers and principals who were not hired to work in integrated
Other ethnic groups also used the courts to demand an equitable education for their chil-
dren. In Gong Lum v. Rice in Mississippi in 1927, a Chinese American girl sought the right to
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The Struggle for Civil Rights 43
attend a white school by arguing that she was not black. The court ruled she was not white,
giving the school the authority to determine the racial makeup of their students. A Mexican
American student was allowed to attend an integrated school in California in the 1940s as
a result of Méndez v. Westminster (1946). Chinese American students in San Francisco won
the right to have their first language used in instruction in Lau v. Nichols (1974). The Brown
decision also served as the precursor for federal laws that supported educational equity for
girls and women in Title IX, passed in 1972, and people with disabilities in Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Post-Brown turnaround
By the mid-1980s courts had begun lifting the federal sanctions that had forced schools to
desegregate, stating that the federal requirements were meant to be temporary to overcome de
jure segregation. Now that schools were no longer segregated by race, the easing of sanctions
allowed school districts to return students to neighborhood schools. Because of de facto
segregation in communities, the students in many neighborhood schools were overwhelm-
ingly of the same race, returning the status of integration to pre-1970 levels. Today 2 in 5
African American and Latino students attend schools in neighborhoods with high poverty,
limited resources, social strife, and few, if any, white students (Orfield, Kucsera, & Siegel-
Hawley, 2012). The schools of the majority of white students are also segregated; they attend
schools where at least 3 in 4 of their peers are white (Spatig-Amerikaner, 2012).
The use of race and ethnicity by a public school or university to promote diversity of its
student population was considered by the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003). The
court endorsed the arguments of the University of Michigan Law School that it had used race
in its admissions policies to increase integration and the need for a diverse workforce. Race
was one of a number of factors considered by the school’s admission committee. On the same
day, the court ruled against the University of Michigan College of Arts and Sciences, which
gave bonus points to applicants from specific groups of color. To ensure that race could not be
used as a factor in determining admission to a public college or university, the voters of Mich-
igan passed Proposal 2 in 2006 to ban its use—an action that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme
Court in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (2014).
The National Guard was
required to protect African
American students as
schools were desegregated
in many communities during
the 1960s. (© Everett Collection
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44 chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
School districts with plans to diversify their student populations began to be sued. In 2007
the Supreme Court ruled by a vote of 5 to 4 against programs in Seattle and Louisville that used
race in assigning students to schools. The court did not find that either school district could
relate its preferred level of diversity in a school to related educational benefits. Chief Justice John
G. Roberts wrote that “racial balance is not to be achieved for its own sake” (Parents Involved in
Community Schools v. Seattle School District #1, 2007). Many educators and commentators claim
that the two 2007 Supreme Court rulings against using race to determine where students attend
schools have essentially halted the integration of schools. As court orders to desegregate schools
have declined, the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education has intervened
to work with schools to reduce racial isolation and improve capital facilities (Maxwell, 2014).
The milestones in the desegregation and resegregation of schools are chronicled in Table 2.1.
The goal of desegregation changed over time from the physical integration of students in a
school building to the achievement of equal learning opportunities and outcomes for all students.
Civil rights groups are now asking why students of color have unequal access to qualified teachers,
advanced mathematics and science classes, gifted classes, and adequately funded schools. Why are
African American and Latino students disproportionately represented in nonacademic and special
education classes, and why do the rates for school suspension and dropping out vary so greatly
across racial groups? As schools become segregated again, educators have a greater responsibility
for ensuring that all students learn regardless of the ethnic and racial composition of the school.
Teachers will also have the responsibility for helping students understand that the world in which
they will work is multiethnic and multiracial, unlike the school they may be attending.
Table 2.1 miLEstOnEs in DEsEgREgating anD REsEgREgating scHOOLs
1896 The Supreme Court authorizes segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson, finding Louisiana’s
“separate but equal” law constitutional.
1940 A federal court requires equal salaries for African American and white teachers in Alston v.
School Board of City of Norfolk.
1947 In a precursor to the Brown case, a federal appeals court strikes down segregated schooling
for Mexican American and white students in Westminster School Dist. v. Méndez. The verdict
prompts California Governor Earl Warren to repeal a state law calling for segregation of
Native American and Asian American students.
1954 In an unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education overturns Plessy
and declares that separate schools are “inherently unequal.”
1955 The Supreme Court rules that the federal government is under the same duty as the states and
must desegregate the Washington, DC, schools in Bolling v. Sharpe. In Brown II, the Supreme
Court orders the lower federal courts to require desegregation “with all deliberate speed.”
1956 Tennessee Governor Frank Clement calls in the National Guard after white mobs attempt to block
the desegregation of a high school.
The Virginia legislature calls for “massive resistance” to school desegregation and pledges
to close schools under desegregation orders.
1957 More than 1,000 paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division and a federalized Arkansas
National Guard protect nine African American students integrating Central High School in
Little Rock, AR.
1959 Officials close public schools in Prince Edward County, VA, rather than integrate them.
1960 In New Orleans, federal marshals shield six-year-old Ruby Bridges from an angry crowd as
she attempts to enroll in school.
1964 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is adopted. Title IV of the Act authorizes the federal government
to file school desegregation cases. Title VI of the Act prohibits discrimination in programs
and activities, including schools, receiving federal financial assistance.
The Supreme Court orders Prince Edward Country, VA, to reopen its schools on a
desegregated basis.
1965 In Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, the Supreme Court orders states to
dismantle segregated school systems “root and branch.” The Court identifies five factors—
facilities, staff, faculty, extracurricular activities, and transportation—to be used to gauge a
school system’s compliance with the mandate of Brown.
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The Struggle for Civil Rights 45
1969 The Supreme Court declares the “all deliberate speed” standard no longer constitutionally
permissible and orders the immediate desegregation of Mississippi schools in Alexander v.
Holmes County Board of Education.
1971 The Court approves busing, magnet schools, compensatory education, and other tools as
appropriate remedies to overcome the role of residential segregation in perpetuating racially
segregated schools in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education.
1972 The Supreme Court refuses to allow public school systems to avoid desegregation by
creating new, mostly or all-white “splinter districts” in Wright v. Council of the City of Emporia
and United States v. Scotland Neck City Board of Education.
1973 The Supreme Court rules that states cannot provide textbooks to racially segregated private
schools to avoid integration mandates in Norwood v. Harrison.
The Supreme Court finds that the Denver school board intentionally segregated Mexican
American and African American students from white students in Keyes v. Denver School
District No. 1.
The Supreme Court rules that education is not a “fundamental right” and that the
Constitution does not require equal education expenditures within a state in San Antonio
Independent School District v. Rodriguez.
1974 The Supreme Court blocks metropolitan-wide desegregation plans as a means to
desegregate urban schools with large minority populations in Milliken v. Bradley.
1978 A fractured Supreme Court declares the affirmative action admissions program for the
University of California–Davis Medical School unconstitutional because it sets aside a
specific number of seats for African American and Latino students. The Court rules that race
can be a factor in university admissions, but it cannot be the deciding factor in Regents of the
University of California v. Bakke.
1982 The Supreme Court rejects tax exemptions for private religious schools that discriminate in
Bob Jones University v. U.S. and Goldsboro Christian Schools v. U.S.
1986 For the first time, a federal court finds that once a school district meets the Green
factors (i.e., the desegregation of facilities, staff, faculty, extracurricular activities, and
transportation), it can be released from its desegregation plan and returned to local control
in Riddick v. School Board of the City of Norfolk, Virginia.
1991 Emphasizing that court orders are not intended “to operate in perpetuity,” the Supreme
Court makes it easier for formerly segregated school systems to fulfill their obligations under
desegregation decrees in Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell.
1992 In Freeman v. Pitts the Supreme Court further speeds the end of desegregation cases, ruling
that school systems can fulfill their obligations in an incremental fashion.
1995 The Supreme Court sets a new goal for desegregation plans in Missouri v. Jenkins: the return
of schools to local control.
1996 A federal appeals court prohibits the use of race in college and university admissions, ending
affirmative action in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi in Hopwood v. Texas.
2001 White parents in Charlotte, NC, schools successfully seek an end to the desegregation
process, barring the use of race in making student assignments.
2003 The Supreme Court upholds diversity as a rationale for affirmative action programs in higher
education admissions, but concludes that point systems are not appropriate in Gratz v.
Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger.
A federal district court case affirms the value of racial diversity and race-conscious student
assignment plans in K–12 education in Lynn v. Comfort.
2007 The more conservative Supreme Court strikes down the use of race in determining schools
for students in Parents Involved in Community Schools Inc. v. Seattle School District and
Meredith v. Jefferson County (Ky.) Board of Education.
2014 The Supreme Court upholds a Michigan constitutional amendment that banned affirmative
action in admissions to the state’s public universities in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend
Affirmative Action.
In Fisher v. University of Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rules in favor
of the University of Texas, writing that “universities may use race as part of a holistic
admissions program where it cannot otherwise achieve diversity.” Fisher may file an appeal or
return to the Supreme Court.
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46 chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
Racial and Ethnic Discrimination
Equality among groups is greater today than at any other time in our nation’s history, but we have
not yet achieved the egalitarian goals that we so proudly espouse to the rest of the world. African
American and Latino families earn an income that is only 57% and 58% that of a white family
(U.S. Census Bureau, 2014d). Large numbers of American Indian, African American, and Latino
students are not achieving at a proficient academic level in our schools. Because their educational
experiences are generally of a lower quality than those of most white students, they have fewer
opportunities for higher education and well-paying jobs. Although many whites do not think
discrimination contributes to the life chances of African Americans, the majority of blacks per-
ceive that discrimination is the major obstacle to the achievement of equality (Newport, 2013a).
In this section, we will explore some of the areas that lead to these differences in perspectives.
intergroup Relations
Interethnic and interracial conf lict is certainly not new in the United States. Conf licts between
American Indians and whites were common in the European American attempt to subjugate
the native peoples. African slaves rebelled against their owners. This resistance exists today in
protests after particularly egregious actions of police and other perpetrators, such as the 2014
shootings of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida; Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Tamir
Rice in Cleveland, Ohio; and other unarmed black youth and men.
What are the reasons for continued interethnic conflict? Discriminatory practices have
protected the superior status of the dominant group for centuries. When other ethnic groups
try to participate more equitably in the rewards and privileges of society, the dominant group
must concede some of its advantages. As long as one ethnic or racial group has an institutional
advantage over others, intergroup conflict will occur.
Competition for economic resources can also contribute to intergroup conflict. As eco-
nomic conditions become tighter, fewer jobs become available. Discriminatory practices in the
past have forced people of color into positions with the least seniority. When jobs are cut back,
disproportionately high numbers of people of color are laid off. The tension between ethnic
groups increases as members of specific groups determine that they disproportionately suffer
the hardships resulting from economic depression.
Part of the problem is that whites have little or no experience with being the victims of
discrimination and are less likely to believe that members of other groups are treated unfairly
or are discriminated against. Perceptions are greatly affected by our experiences, as shown in a
Gallup poll in which 67% of the white and 71% of the Hispanic respondents indicated that they
were satisfied with the way blacks are treated in society as compared to 47% of black respon-
dents (Gallup, 2014b). Most whites and Hispanics think that they and people of color have
equal job opportunities, but the majority of African Americans disagree, as shown in Figure 2.6.
Even though research shows that young African American men receive harsher sentences than
their white peers and are incarcerated at disproportionately high rates, 69% of whites don’t find
the justice system biased, while only 25% of blacks find the system unbiased (Gallup, 2014a).
Following the nationwide protests against the killing of unarmed African American men,
which began in Ferguson, Missouri, in the summer of 2014, the percentage of the population
that identified race relations as a major U.S. problem jumped from 1% to 13%. The last time
Americans were so concerned about race relations was after the Rodney King beating by police
in Los Angeles in 1992 (McCarthy, 2014). With limited progress over the past few decades
in reducing inequalities across racial groups, the population is not overly optimistic about the
improvement of race relations. Thirty-nine percent of whites, 35% of Latinos, and 49% of
African Americans believe that race relations will always be a problem (Gallup, 2014b). Even
with the pessimism about racial relations, 2 in 3 blacks described white–black relations as good
or somewhat good (Gallup, 2014a).

Watch the video “A Tale
of 2 High Schools”
watch?v=5xdfVAPvv9A), in which
two high school students
describe the courses they take
and provide a brief tour of their
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Racial and Ethnic Discrimination 47
Hate groups
White privilege is sometimes taken to the extreme as some whites organize to protect their
power by preaching hate against other groups. Since World War II, overt acts of prejudice have
decreased dramatically. In the early 1940s, the majority of whites supported segregation of and
discrimination against blacks. Today, most whites support policies against racial discrimination
and prejudice. A decade after it was first proposed, Congress passed a federal law in 2009 to
protect the population against hate crimes.
Nevertheless, intolerance and violence against people based on their membership in spe-
cific groups continue. The Hate Crimes Act defines hate crimes as those “that manifest evidence
of prejudice based on race, gender or gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and
ethnicity” (Wilson, 2014). The U.S. Department of Justice reported 293,800 hate crimes in
2012 (Wilson, 2014). Although hate crimes are reported against all of these groups, nearly half
of all the crimes are racially based, as shown in Figure 2.7. Two in three of these racially moti-
vated crimes stemmed from anti-black bias; 1 in 5 were a result of anti-white bias.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that 939 hate groups were operating in
the United States in 2013, with the majority located east of the Mississippi River (Southern
Poverty Law Center, 2014). These groups include nativist vigilantes who patrol the border
with Mexico, antigovernment “patriot” groups, neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists,
neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, and black separatists.
Recruitment efforts by hate groups often target areas of the country that have experienced
economic and racial change, such as factory layoffs or increased diversity in a school. Some
recruits may be angry about economic conditions that have led to the loss of jobs in their com-
munities. Rather than blame the corporations, which may be economizing and moving jobs to
sources of cheaper labor, they blame African Americans, women, Arabs, Jews, or the govern-
ment. Hate group organizers convince new recruits that members of other groups are taking
their jobs and being pandered to by government programs. A student contact in a school can
provide information about any anger in students that might make the school a potential site
for recruitment. Responding to Hate and Bias at School and the periodical Teaching Tolerance are
available for free from the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center as resources for teach-
ers to combat bigotry and hate in schools.
Blacks have same
chance as whites
to get a job
Blacks have same
chance as whites to
get a good education
Blacks have same
chance as whites to
get affordable housing
80% Black
figuRE 2.6 Gaps in Views of Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics
Source: Gallup. (2014b). Race relations. Retrieved December 29, 2014, from
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48 chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
school-to-Prison Pipeline
In the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
(2012) makes the case that African American men and other poor people of color are dispro-
portionately arrested and convicted for nonviolent crimes. With a criminal record, they are no
longer able to vote or serve on a jury in most states. They are legally discriminated against in
finding a job, locating housing, and receiving food stamps and other public benefits in ways
similar to the restraints of the Jim Crow laws of the twentieth century. Across the country, 1 in
7 African American men cannot vote because they are felons.
The incarceration rate in the United States is higher than in any other industrialized nation. In
the past 30 years, the prison population exploded from 300,000 to more than 2 million (Alexander,
2013). This increase was due primarily to arrests related to drugs that account for more than half of
the increase. In 2005, 4 in 5 drug arrests were for possession; only 1 in 5 was for the sale of drugs.
Although white youth are more likely to be engaged in drug crimes, young people of color are more
likely to be arrested and sentenced (Alexander, 2013). If the current trends continue, as many as 1 in
3 young African American men will be imprisoned. In some cities more than half of all young adult
black men are in prison or jail or on probation or parole (Alexander, 2012).
What does the imprisonment of men of color have to do with schools? The path to prison
begins for many youth in school, especially with the zero-tolerance policies of a number of
schools that can lead to children and youth being handcuffed and arrested. Zero-tolerance
policies in schools require punishment of any infraction of a rule. Although the initial intent
was to ensure safety of the learning environment by removing students for possession of drugs
or weapons, students have been suspended and expelled for the possession of cough drops or
Tylenol, paper swords, or a toy gun. Although punishment for some of these offenses may be
appropriate, critics of the zero-tolerance policy would argue that the punishment is far too
severe for many of the offenses. When students are expelled from school, they are not only
Gender Identity
figuRE 2.7 Bias Motivation of Hate Crimes in 2013
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2014). Hate crime statistics, 2013. Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://
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Racial and Ethnic Discrimination 49
removed from a learning environment but often left on their own and exposed to opportunities
for getting in trouble that places them in the juvenile justice system.
Schools often use suspension to temporarily remove students from schools for infractions
against school rules, including minor rules that would not have led to out-of-school suspension
in the past. Research is finding that suspension is one of the leading indicators of a student drop-
ping out of school. Out-of-school suspension contributes to the risk of a student being incar-
cerated (Losen & Gillespie, 2012). Who are the students who are most likely to be suspended?
Disproportionately, they are African American students and students with disabilities. Nation-
wide, 1 in 6 African American students is suspended, which is two to over three times higher
than students from other groups. African American students with disabilities are the most likely
to be suspended, with 1 in 4 of them suspended at least once in 2009–2010. These students are
also more likely to be suspended more than once during a school year (Losen & Gillespie, 2012).
Some schools are placing increasing reliance on police to maintain discipline in a building,
removing that burden from teachers and school administrators. Most of the arrests in schools are
for students being disruptive, but in some schools they are for infractions such as being late to
class or dress code violations. In some school systems, students as young as 10 are being arrested.
In Meridian, Mississippi, students were being handcuffed and jailed for days without a hearing.
Further school infractions were counted as violation of a student’s probation (Rethinking Schools,
Focus Your Cultural Lens
Debate / to suspend or not suspend?
Schools have historically suspended disruptive students temporarily from school as a punishment for breaking
school rules. Over the past three decades, suspensions have also been used for many other infractions of school
rules, leading to the removal of students from the learning environment of a school for a period of days or weeks.
Researchers, policymakers, educators, and parents are now debating the use of suspensions and zero-tolerance
policies in schools. Are they accomplishing the purposes for which they were intended? Are they effective in
maintaining a safe learning environment? Are they serving students and the school community effectively?
Should schools be suspending students?
1. In what ways are suspensions applied unfairly across different racial and ethnic groups?
2. Why does disagreement exist among educators about the use of suspensions to maintain a safe learning
3. If you were serving on a committee in your school district to develop a policy related to suspensions and zero-
tolerance policies, what would you recommend?
Not suspending disruptive students will negatively
impact the learning environment for the students who
want to learn.
Suspension will make schools safer by removing
disruptive students.
Because school violence is at a crisis level, students
who do not follow school rules must be removed from
the school.
The threat of suspension will deter misbehavior by
Parents are overwhelmingly supportive of suspending
students who do not follow the rules.
Suspensions are not fair in the way they are being
applied by too many school administrators.
The use of suspensions is not consistent with what we
know about developmentally appropriately strategies
for working with students.
Out-of-school suspensions are a first step in pushing
students who need assistance and support out of
school and into the juvenile justice system.
Out-of-school suspensions do not deter future misbehavior.
Preventing or treating misbehavior that leads to
suspensions is much more cost effective than paying
welfare and prison costs later.
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50 Chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
2012–2013). Once a student has entered the juvenile justice system, reentering a traditional school
is difficult (American Civil Liberties Union, n.d.), making it difficult for many of these students to
finish high school. Because 7 in 10 students arrested or referred to law enforcement are African
American or Hispanic (U.S. Department of Education, 2014a), those students are entering the
juvenile justice system at disproportionately high rates.
Safe schools do contribute to a positive learning environment for students. Does that require
the removal of so many students from an environment in which they should be learning? The
U.S. Departments of Education and Justice jointly released guidance on school discipline in
2014 that called for rules that are fair to all racial and ethnic groups. They also called for less
reliance on zero-tolerance policies. The guidance document recommends that schools:
• Create positive climates and focus on prevention.
• Develop clear, appropriate, and consistent expectations and consequences to address
disruptive student behaviors.
• Ensure fairness, equity, and continuous improvement (U.S. Department of Education,
2014b, p. 1).
The work of the Civil Rights Project and other groups has documented the critical importance
of keeping students, especially those who suffer the most from inequality, in school (Orfield, 2012).
Promising practices for reducing the risk of violence and disruption in schools do not include the
use of zero-tolerance policies. Instead, they include bullying prevention, threat assessment, and
restorative justice programs (American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force,
2008). In addition, a growing number of schools are dramatically reducing the number of out-of-
school suspensions by figuring out how to keep students in learning environments in schools.
Affirming Race and Ethnicity in Classrooms
Race and ethnicity can have a significant impact on how educators perceive students and their
behavior and performance in school. Because the cultural background and experiences of teach-
ers may be incongruous with the cultural experiences of students, miscommunication and
Maintaining a positive
climate in the classroom is
critical for a safe learning
environment that supports
all students, regardless
of their racial and ethnic
background. © Hill Street
Studios/Blend Images/Getty
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Affirming Race and Ethnicity in Classrooms 51
misperceptions may interfere with learning. Teachers may stereotype students who have a racial
or ethnic background different from their own. The majority of teachers are white females who
may be teaching classes in which the majority of students are students of color. Therefore, it is
critical that all teachers become aware of the cultures and experiences of the students in the
schools to which they are assigned.
This incongruity may contribute to student perceptions that their cultures and experi-
ences are not reflected or respected in school. White students are less likely to drop out of
school than their black and Hispanic peers. The percentage of students who graduate from
high school on schedule (that is, four years after they enter high school) varies from 68% for
African American, American Indian, and Alaska Native students, to 76% for Hispanic students,
to 85% and 93%, respectively, for white and Asian American students (Kena et al., 2014).
Ladson-Billings (2012) found that successful teachers of African American students focus
on student learning, have developed cultural competence, and promote sociopolitical con-
sciousness. Success does not require a new curriculum or a new behavior performance system
or require everyone to wear a uniform. It does require a teacher who believes deeply in stu-
dents’ academic capacity and the teacher’s own efficacious abilities. Are you up to this chal-
lenge as you prepare to enter schools with an increasingly diverse student population? In this
section we will explore some areas that will be important in developing cultural competence
and addressing sociopolitical consciousness.
acknowledging Race and Ethnicity in schools
Teachers may declare that they are color-blind—that they do not see a student’s color and treat
all students equally, regardless of race. The problem is that color-blindness helps maintain
white privilege because it does not recognize the existence of racial inequality (Bonilla-Silva,
2014). Teachers do not usually confront issues of race in schools and classrooms in part because
race is not supposed to matter. Teachers’ discomfort becomes intertwined with their own
uncertainties about race and their possible complicity in maintaining racial inequities.
Race and ethnicity do matter to many students and their families, and they do have an impact
on communications and interactions with teachers. Students of color are reminded by others of
their race almost daily as they face discriminatory practices and attitudes. Rather than pretend that
race and ethnicity do not exist, teachers should acknowledge the differences and be aware of ways
they can influence learning. Equity does not mean sameness; students can be treated differently, as
long as the treatment is fair and appropriate, to accomplish the goal of student learning.
One of the leading researchers on desegregation, Gary Orfield, argues that a major benefit
of diverse schools is the realization across groups that cultural and linguistic differences are
educational resources rather than deficits (Orfield, 2014). An outgrowth of Brown v. Board of
Education was the need for intergroup relations to assist students and teachers in respecting
each other and working together effectively. This need continues today. Even within desegre-
gated schools, students are often segregated in classes, the cafeteria, and activities. To ensure
that they interact with students from other ethnic and racial groups, educators have to con-
sciously plan for this outcome. A number of national groups have developed programs to
encourage cross-cultural communications. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s project Mix It
Up at Lunch, for example, challenges schools to mix students from different groups during the
lunch hour. More than 3,000 schools are now participating in the project.
The ethnic communities to which students belong provide the real-life examples that
teachers should draw on to teach. Knowing students’ ethnic and cultural experiences and how
subject matter interacts with students’ realities are important in designing effective strategies to
engage students in learning. Successful teachers ensure that students learn the academic skills
needed to compete effectively in the dominant workplace. In the process, they acknowledge
and respect the race and ethnicity of their students and the community in which the school is
located to prevent students from becoming alienated from their homes, their community, and
their culture. A disproportionally large number of students of color are not learning what is
needed to perform at acceptable levels on standardized tests. In fact, the achievement of many
students of color decreases the longer they stay in school. Educators should do everything
possible to ensure that students are achieving academically at grade level or above.

Watch the video “Why
Are All the Black Kids
Sitting Together in the Cafete-
ria?” (
.com/watch?v=FY4wKoPDjls) to
hear a discussion with the
author of the book of the same
name on why students are more
comfortable interacting with
other students from the same
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52 chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
Small-group teams and cooperative learning promote both learning and interracial
friendships. Students should have equal access to the curriculum, advanced courses, qualified
teachers, and activities to develop high-order thinking skills. They should see themselves in
the curriculum and in textbooks. Practices such as tracking and pull-out programs are barriers
to providing equal access and improving intergroup relations. Engaging parents in school
activities and decisions may help decrease the dissonance between school and home. The pro-
vision of multicultural education is a critical component in the continued effort to integrate
schools and improve intergroup relations.
confronting Racism in classrooms
A first step in confronting racism in schools is to realize that racism exists and that, if teachers are
white, they have benefited from it. This is not an easy process, as discussed in the section on racial
identity. We often resist discussions of race and racism because we must eventually confront our own
feelings and beliefs. Once teachers believe that discrimination exists in society and the school, they
are more likely to believe students of color when they report incidents of racism or discrimination.
They stop making excuses for the perpetrators or explaining that the action of the perpetrator was
not really racist. When white teachers are unable to acknowledge the discrimination that groups of
color know from experience, building trust with students and their families will be more difficult.
White students may resist discussions about race and racism. They are sometimes reluctant
to participate in these discussions because they are afraid of offending someone, they worry
about becoming angry, or they do not want to be labeled as racist. Because students are at dif-
ferent levels in their own racial identity, many of them cannot address these issues as rationally
as the teacher might desire. Some will personalize the discussion. Some will be emotional or
confrontational. Others will be uncomfortable or silent. Just because the topic is difficult to
address does not mean it should be ignored. Teachers should break the silence about race and
develop the courage to work at eliminating racism in their own classrooms and schools. One
step is to help students think critically about race and social justice for all students.
Educators should intervene when students call each other names that are racist. Students
should be helped to understand that racist language and behavior are unacceptable and will
not be tolerated in schools. When students use derogatory terms for ethnic group members or
tell ethnic jokes, teachers should use the opportunity to discuss attitudes about those groups.
Students should not be allowed to express their hostility to members of other groups without
being confronted. When teachers allow students to treat others with disrespect, they become
partners in the perpetuation of racism. These overt acts can be confronted and stopped, but
the more difficult task is to identify and eliminate practices in schools that lead to African
American and Latino students being disproportionately suspended, placed in special educa-
tion, and enrolled in low-level courses—all practices that contribute to high dropout rates.
A teacher’s challenge is to seriously confront these issues at a personal level before enter-
ing the classroom. If teachers believe that people of color are intellectually inferior, it will be
difficult for them to have high expectations for the academic achievement of those students.
In the classroom, you will be in a position to help students grapple with these topics and their
own feelings. As you learn to practice antiracism in the classroom, you should pursue equal
opportunity and academic outcomes for your students. In the practice of antiracist education,
teachers acknowledge that race impacts their students’ lives, learn from the knowledge and
experience of the communities in which they are teaching, and challenge racial inequality in
the classroom, schools, and communities (Pollock, 2008).
incorporating Race and Ethnicity in the curriculum
The school environment should help students learn to participate in the dominant society while
maintaining connections to their distinct ethnicities. All students should feel like they belong.
Respect for and support of ethnic differences are essential in this effort. As educators, we cannot
afford to reject or neglect students because their ethnic backgrounds are different from our own.
We are responsible for making sure all students learn to think, read, write, and compute so that
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Affirming Race and Ethnicity in Classrooms 53
they can function effectively in society. We can help accomplish this goal by accurately ref lecting
ethnicity and race in the curriculum and using it positively to teach and interact with students.
Traditionally, the curriculum of most schools has been grounded in the dominant cul-
ture. The inherent bias of the curriculum does not encourage candid admissions of racism
and oppression within society. In fact, it is more likely to support the claim of superiority of
Western thought over all others and provide minimal or no familiarity with the non-Western
cultures of Asia, Africa, and South and Central America. Information on, and perspectives of,
other groups is sometimes added as a unit during a school year. Some schools have replaced
this traditional curriculum with one based on the culture of students and communities. Multi-
cultural education, on the other hand, encourages a culturally responsive curriculum in which
diversity is integrated throughout the courses, activities, and interactions in the classroom.
An educator has the responsibility for ensuring that ethnic groups become an integral
part of the total curriculum. This mandate does not require the teacher to discuss every ethnic
group. It does require that the classroom resources and instruction not focus solely on the
dominant group. It requires that perspectives of ethnic groups and the dominant group be
examined in discussions of historical and current events. For example, one should consider the
perspectives of Mexican and American Indians as well as the dominant group in a presentation
on and discussion of the westward movement of European Americans in the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries. It requires students to read literature by authors from different ethnic
and racial backgrounds. It assumes that mathematics and science will be explored from an
American Indian as well as a Western perspective. The contributions of different ethnic groups
should be reflected in the books that are used by students, in the movies they view, and in the
activities in which they participate.
Bulletin boards, resource books, and films that show ethnic and racial diversity constantly
reinforce these realities. However, teachers should not depend entirely on these resources for
instructional content about groups. Too often, people of color are studied only during a unit
on African American history or American Indians. Too often, they are not included on read-
ing lists or in the study of biographies, labor unions, or the environment. Students can finish
school without reading anything written or produced by females or persons of color. If ethnic
groups are included only during a unit or a week focusing on a particular group, students do
not learn to view them as integral parts of society. They are viewed as separate, distinct, and
inferior to the dominant group. A multiethnic curriculum counteracts the distortion of history
and contemporary conditions. Without it, the perspective of the dominant group becomes the
only valid curriculum to which students are exposed.
Ethnic studies. Ethnic studies courses introduce students to the history and contempo-
rary conditions of one or more ethnic groups. Many universities and some high schools have
ethnic studies programs—such as African American, Asian American, American Indian, and
Latino studies. These courses and programs allow for in-depth exposure to the social, eco-
nomic, and political history of a specific group. They are designed to correct the distortions
and omissions that prevail in society about a specific ethnic group. Events that have been
neglected in textbooks are addressed, myths are dispelled, and history is viewed from the per-
spective of the ethnic group as well as the dominant group. Prospective teachers and other
school professionals who have not been exposed to an examination of an ethnic group different
from their own should take such a course or undertake individual study.
Traditionally, ethnic studies have been offered as separate courses that students elect from
many offerings in the curriculum. Seldom have they been required courses for all students.
Although the information and experiences offered in these courses are important to members
of the ethnic groups, students from other ethnic groups also need to learn about the multieth-
nic nation and world in which they live.
Ethnocentric curriculum. Some ethnic groups have their own schools, with classes
held in the evenings or on Saturdays, to reinforce their cultural values and traditions or to
learn the language of their country of origin. Some ethnic groups have established their own
charter or private schools with a curriculum that is centered on the history and values of their
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54 chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
ethnic group. For example, some American Indian tribes have established public tribal schools
in which the traditional culture serves as the social and intellectual starting point.
Some African American communities support an Afrocentric curriculum to challenge
Eurocentrism and tell the truth about black history. These classes are designed to improve stu-
dents’ self-esteem, academic skills, values, and positive identification with their ethnic group. At
the core of this approach is an African perspective of the world and of historical events. These
schools are generally found in urban areas with large African American student populations.
closing the Opportunity gap
African American students, as well as Latino and American Indian students, are not meeting stan-
dards as measured by the standardized tests required in most states, as shown in Figure 2.8, which
presents achievement levels on a national eighth-grade mathematics test. As a result, a dispropor-
tionately large number of students of color are not being promoted to the next grade, are not
graduating from high school, or are dropping out of school. It is easy to blame the students’ lack of
interest or active participation in school on the poverty in which they live or their previous teachers.
However, teachers are expected to help all students learn, regardless of environmental factors that
may make the task challenging. We may think we are being nice to students who have a difficult
home life or who are English language learners by making less rigorous academic demands on them
than on other students. Instead, students may decide that we do not believe they are capable of
learning at the same level as other students and will respond accordingly (Nieto, 2008).
the Role of assessment. Schools conduct widespread testing of students to determine
whether they are meeting the standards established by states. Tests are trumpeted as measures
of competence to move from one grade to another, graduate from high school, enter upper-di-
vision college courses, earn a baccalaureate, and become licensed to teach. Thus, student
performance on state tests has become the primary measure of quality in the nation’s schools,
with sanctions imposed if students are not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) or the
minimum level of performance required by the federal legislation No Child Left Behind.
Teachers and principals can lose their jobs if students do not perform at expected levels.

Watch the video
“Best Practices for
Teaching African American
Boys” (
to learn the importance of
centering students’ cultures in
the classroom.
Indian &
Alaska Native
Hispanic Native
Hawaiian &
Pacific Islander
Two or
Below Basic
figuRE 2.8 Eighth-Grade NAEP Mathematics Performance by Race and Ethnicity: 2009
Source: U.S. Department of Education. (2013a). 2013 mathematics assessment. Retrieved January 1, 2015, from
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Affirming Race and Ethnicity in Classrooms 55
Increasingly, salary increments are based on the degree to which teachers have improved stu-
dents’ performance on tests. This focus on student performance on standardized tests has led
many teachers to spend much of their instructional time teaching to the test, which has limited
their teaching of critical thinking and other skills needed in the twenty-first century.
Between 1970 and 1990, student performance on national tests improved, with the largest
gains being made by students of color (Education Trust, n.d.). The progress came to a halt in
the 1990s, and the achievement gap between whites and most students of color remains wide.
Why do a disproportionately high number of students of color score lower than whites and
Asian Americans on standardized tests? Studies indicate:
• Students from low-income households and students of color are more likely to be taught
a low-level curriculum with low standards for performance (Darling-Hammond, 2010).
• Forty-two percent of Asian American high school students completed a calculus course,
compared to 18% of white, 9% of Latino, and 6% of African American students (Kena
et al., 2014).
• Students in high-poverty and high-minority schools are more likely to be taught by unqualified
teachers who are not certified to teach and did not major in the subject they were teaching
(Darling-Hammond, 2010).
Should it be a surprise that many students of color do not perform as well as white students
when they have not participated in advanced mathematics and science courses or have not had
teachers who majored in those subjects? In urban schools in which students of color are over-
represented, teachers are less likely to be fully licensed than in schools with middle-class white
students. Advanced courses in mathematics and science are not always available in the schools
attended by a large proportion of students of color. Students must have access to such courses
and qualified teachers so that they can study the content on which they will be tested.
As educators, we must be careful not to label students of color intellectually inferior because
their standardized test scores are low. These scores may influence a teacher’s expectations for
their academic performance. Standardized test scores can help in determining how assimilated
into the dominant culture and how affluent one’s family may be, but they provide less evidence
of how intelligent a person is. Many other factors can be used to provide information about
intelligence—for example, the ability to think and respond appropriately in different situations.
What should be the purposes of assessments? Rather than use tests to sort students on
the basis of income, ethnicity, and family characteristics, assessments could be used for stu-
dent learning to help us understand what students know so that curricula and activities can be
designed to increase their knowledge and skills. Assessments that use observations, portfolios,
projects, and essays provide evidence of what students know in many different ways. They are
designed to promote complex and engaged learning.
Educators are capable of making valid decisions about ability on the basis of numerous
objective and subjective factors about students. If decisions about the capabilities of students
of color correspond exactly to the standardized scores, educators should reevaluate their
responses and interactions with students. Test results today are making a difference in the life
chances for many students, especially those of color and from low-income families. Therefore,
educators cannot afford to use assessments in unfair and inequitable ways.
Who is Responsible for closing the Opportunity gaps? When students do not
achieve at the levels expected, some teachers refrain from taking responsibility. They blame the
students, their parents, or the economic conditions of the community rather than seriously reflect-
ing on why students in their classrooms are not learning and what might be changed to help them
learn. A number of research studies report that teacher effectiveness is more important in stu-
dent achievement than a student’s race, poverty status, or parents’ education (Darling-Hammond,
2010; Sanders & Rivers, 1996). In other words, effective teachers matter. Students who have been
assigned the most effective teachers for three years in a row perform at much higher levels than
students who were in the classrooms of the least effective teachers for three years. With effective
teachers, low-achieving students become high achievers (Education Trust, 2008).
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56 chapter 2 Race and Ethnicity
Chapter Quiz: Click here to gauge your understanding of chapter concepts.
The ancestors of the majority of the population voluntarily
immigrated to the United States because of economic impov-
erishment and political repression in their countries of origin
and the demands of a vigorous U.S. economy that required a
growing labor force. However, the ancestors of many African
Americans and the early Mexican residents of the Southwest
were involuntary immigrants. Approximately 1 million people
per year continue to immigrate to the United States from
around the world.
Ethnicity is a sense of peoplehood based on national origin.
Almost from the beginning of European settlement in the
United States, the population has been multiethnic, with indi-
viduals representing many American Indian and European
nations, later to be joined by Africans, Latinos, and Asians.
The conditions encountered by different ethnic groups, the
reasons they came, and their expectations about life here have
differed greatly and have led ethnic groups to view themselves
as distinct from each other.
Although no longer useful in describing groups of people,
the term race continues to be used in this country to classify
groups of people as inferior or superior. The popular use of
race is based on society’s perception that racial differences are
important—a belief not upheld by scientific study. Neverthe-
less, government forms often request users to identify them-
selves by race in part to track the extent of discriminatory
outcomes. As of 2014 the majority of the student population
was students of color. By 2050, the majority of the population
as a whole will be persons of color.
the struggle for civil Rights
People of color have had to fight for their civil rights
throughout U.S. history. The efforts of African Americans in
the 1950s and 1960s led to the removal of Jim Crow laws, the
passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights
Act, and the expansion of civil rights for women, Latinos,
Asian Americans, American Indians, and people with disabil-
ities. Desegregation is a process for decreasing racial/ethnic
isolation in schools. Although early desegregation efforts
focused on ensuring that black and white students attended
the same schools, increasing numbers of students of color
attend predominantly minority schools.
Racial and Ethnic Discrimination
Members of oppressed groups, including children and youth,
continue to experience discriminatory treatment and often
are relegated to relatively low-status positions in society.
Although Americans perceive race relations as better than
before the Civil Rights Movement, they were not overly opti-
mistic in 2014 about them getting better. Hate groups such as
the Ku Klux Klan and other white nationalist groups continue
to recruit new members, including young people, to fight for
their causes. The majority of hate crimes are against persons
of color. With the harsh penalties now given by some schools
to students who are disruptive or not following school rules, a
growing number of students are being pushed out of schools
and into the juvenile justice system.
affirming Race and Ethnicity in classrooms
The school curriculum has traditionally represented the
dominant culture as the focus of study. Since the 1970s, ethnic
studies have been added to curricula as an extension or special
segment that provides in-depth study of the history and
contemporary conditions of one or more ethnic groups. Some
ethnic groups have established schools or programs in tradi-
tional schools that center the curriculum on their ethnicity.
All students should be able to see positive portrayals of their
racial and ethnic groups in the curriculum. If disproportion-
ately large numbers of students of color are scoring poorly on
standardized tests, educators should develop different instruc-
tional practices to improve academic performance.
Students are not always active participants in their academic achievement. They are not
always engaged with the schoolwork, and they do not always do their homework. However,
effective teachers do not allow students to fail. There are many examples of good teachers who
have helped students with low test scores achieve at advanced levels. African American and
Latino students have performed at the same level as other students in mathematics and other
subjects after teachers raised their expectations and changed their teaching strategies. Your
challenge is to become one of the teachers whose students are not allowed to fail.
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3 Class and Socioeconomic StatusLearning OutCOmeS
As you read this chapter, you should be able to:
3.1 Examine class structures and the factors that contribute to distinct class divisions.
3.2 Discuss the five factors that contribute to an individual’s or family’s socioeconomic
3.3 Analyze the impact of the class of a student’s family on the student’s school
3.4 Probe the interaction of socioeconomic status with race, ethnicity, gender, and age
differences and the impact of inequality on families and children.
3.5 Develop curricula and instructional strategies that positively incorporate the experiences
and backgrounds of low-income and working-class people into the educational process
with the goal of providing equal educational opportunities for students regardless of the
economic status of their families.
While he was still in college, Tomas Juarez decided he wanted to work with children from low-income families. He began his teaching career, however, in a culturally diverse suburban
school. The school had been built only a few years before and included state-of-the-art science
labs. Students were proficient with computers; they even helped Mr. Juarez develop his skills.
Most of the students participated in extracurricular activities, and their parents were active in
school affairs. More than 90% of the previous graduating class had enrolled in postsecondary
programs. It was a pleasure to work with a team of teachers who planned interesting lessons
based on a constructivist approach, engaged students in the content, and developed higher-order
thinking skills.
After a few years, Mr. Juarez decided he was ready to take on the challenge of an inner-city
school where most students were members of oppressed groups. As soon as he stepped into
his new school, he realized how spoiled he had been in the suburbs.
First, the smell wasn’t right, and the halls were dingy, even though it was the beginning of
the school year. The room that was to be his classroom did not have enough chairs for all of the
students who had been assigned to the class. Not only did the room look as if it had not been
repainted for 20 years but numerous ceiling tiles were missing. Mr. Juarez’s first thought was that
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58 Chapter 3 Class and Socioeconomic Status
both he and the students would be exposed to asbestos and lead poisoning. Outside, the
playground was uninviting. There was no grass, the stench from local factories was overpowering,
and the football field did not even have goalposts.
During Mr. Juarez’s first few weeks, he found that the students were terrific. They
were enthusiastic about being back in school. He had only enough textbooks for half the
class, however, and no money in the budget to purchase more. Supplies were limited, and
most of the school’s audiovisual equipment had been stolen the previous year and not
1. Why were conditions at Mr. Juarez’s new school so much different from those in the subur-
ban school?
2. What are the chances of Mr. Juarez’s students being academically successful at the same
level as his students in the suburban school?
3. Why are students in the urban school more likely to drop out or not attend college?
“Class is a system that differentially structures group access to economic, political, cultural,
and social resources” (Andersen & Collins, 2013, p. 71). It determines the schools we attend,
the stores in which we shop, the restaurants at which we eat, the community in which we live,
and the jobs to which we have access. Class is socially constructed by society and its institutions,
determining the relationships between families and people who have little or limited financial
resources and families with greater resources.
Most people are caught in the socioeconomic strata into which they were born; the political-
economic system helps keep them there. However, some individuals have become socially and
economically mobile. Stories abound about the athletes, coaches, movie stars, and singers who
have moved from poverty to successful careers and great wealth. In reality, few people have
abilities and opportunities that translate into the high salaries of elite stars of the corporate
entertainment and sports worlds. A college education is the most effective path for moving
from low-income to a middle-class or higher status, but family background accounts for a large
part of the variation in educational and occupational attainment. The opportunity to partic-
ipate equally in the generation of wealth is usually thwarted before a child is born. Children
born into a wealthy family are likely to be wealthy as adults. Children born into poverty are
significantly more likely to be adults in poverty. Barriers that exist in society often lead to the
perpetuation of inequalities from one generation to the next.
Class identity
Most people, if asked, can identify themselves by class, which for most people is probably the
middle class. They may not strongly vocalize their identification with a specific class, but they
participate socially and occupationally within a class structure. Their behavior and value system
may be based on a strong ethnic or religious identification, but that specific identification is
greatly inf luenced by their economic circumstances. The first generation of a group that has
moved to the middle class may continue to interact at a primary level with friends and relatives
who remain in the working class. Over time those cross-class ties may disappear as we develop
new friends and social groups in a community in which we did not grow up.
Most U.S. citizens exhibit and articulate less concern about class consciousness than do
many of their European counterparts. However, many, including teachers, have participated
in class actions such as strikes or work stoppages to further the interests of the class to which
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Socioeconomic Status 59
they belong. Class consciousness, or solidarity with others at the same socioeconomic level,
has become more pronounced since the 2008 recession. During that period, many middle- and
working-class people lost the jobs that allowed them to live comfortably. If they could find a
job, it was not at the same level and pay as their previous job. As a result, the number of middle-
class families dropped dramatically. This change is reflected in the rhetoric of presidential
elections as candidates call for policies that will once again grow the middle class.
Social Stratification
Social stratification is a society’s system for ranking individuals and families. People with
higher incomes and prestigious careers have greater status, wealth, and inf luence on who is
elected and the development of policies that support their needs. It is quite clear in the United
States and elsewhere around the world who is at the top and bottom of this hierarchical system.
Some groups are more likely to be ranked at the bottom of the scale, primarily because of race
or sex discrimination that has prevented them from achieving the education levels necessary
for higher-paying jobs.
Inequality results, in part, from differential rankings within the division of labor. Different
occupations are evaluated and rewarded unequally. Some jobs are viewed as more worthy, more
important, more popular, and more preferable than others. People who hold high-ranking
positions have developed a common interest in maintaining their positions and the accompa-
nying power. They have established policies and practices to restrict others’ chances of obtaining
the same status—a key to establishing and maintaining a system of stratification.
Many people in the United States receive high or low rankings in the social stratification
system on the basis of characteristics over which they have no control. Some of the groups to
which we belong are assigned at birth because they are the ones to which our parents belong; we
have no choice about our membership. If we have been born into higher-ranking socioeconomic
positions, we will have advantages and privileges over children who were born in lower-ranking
groups. Although white, able-bodied, Christian men are more advantaged in society because of
their race, sex, and religion, they do not all enjoy high-ranking status. They appear at all levels
along the continuum, from a homeless person to a billionaire, but European Americans remain
overrepresented at the highest levels. Conversely, members of most oppressed groups fall along
all levels of the continuum, but with proportionately fewer at the top of the socioeconomic scale.
Socioeconomic Status
How is economic success or achievement measured? The economic condition of a person or
group is measured using a criterion called socioeconomic status (SES). It serves as a compos-
ite of the economic status of a family or an individual on the basis of occupation, educational
attainment, and income. Related to these three factors are wealth and power, which also help
determine an individual’s SES but are more difficult to measure.
These five determinants of SES are interrelated. Although inequality takes many forms,
these factors are probably the most salient for an individual because they affect how one lives.
Families’ SES is usually readily observable in the size of their home and the part of town in
which they live, the schools the children attend, and the clubs to which the parents belong.
Many educators place their students at specific SES levels on the basis of observations about
their families, the way students dress, the language or dialect they use, and their eligibility for
free or reduced-price lunch.
Income is the amount of money earned in wages or salaries throughout a year. One way to
look at income distribution is by dividing the population into fifths; the lowest one-fifth has
the lowest income, and the highest one-fifth has the highest income. Figure 3.1 shows the
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60 Chapter 3 Class and Socioeconomic Status
percentage of total income earned by each fifth of the population. The top fifth of the popula-
tion earned 51% of the total income, whereas the bottom fifth earned 3% of the total income.
High incomes are reserved for the privileged few. The top 5% of U.S. families with the highest
incomes earned 22% of the total income of all families (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014l), and the
wealthiest families are becoming even wealthier. The top 1% of wealth holders own 33% of
the nation’s wealth (Rose, 2014).
Many people view this income inequity as a natural outcome of the American way. Those
people who have contributed at high levels to their professions or jobs are believed to deserve
more pay for their effort. People at the lower end of the continuum are either unemployed or
work in unskilled jobs and thus are not expected to receive the same economic rewards. The
distance between the two ends of this continuum can be quite large. Chief executive officers
(CEOs) of the largest 100 U.S. companies earned a median income of $13.9 million in 2013
(Eavis, 2014), which was 257 times the average earnings of their employees (Sweet, 2014).
At the other end of the scale, people earning the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour receive
$15,080 annually. International studies report that the gap between high and low wage earners
is greater in the United States than in most other industrialized countries. This situation is
exacerbated by the lack of tax structures to adjust the disparities; in fact, the rich are paying
less in taxes today than in 1961 (Goldberg, Collins, Pizzigati, & Klinger, 2011). When these
disparities are noted at the political level, some conservatives accuse liberals of encouraging
class warfare.
Between World War II and 1973, the growth of the U.S. economy allowed the incomes of
workers at all levels to increase at a faster rate than expenditures. Many middle-income fami-
lies were able to purchase homes, cars, boats, and luxuries for the home; money was sometimes
also available for savings. During this period, the annual median income of all people 14 years
of age and older nearly tripled. The standard of living for most of the population was markedly
Highest Fifth
Second Fifth
Lowest Fifth
Third Fifth
Fourth Fifth
figure 3.1 Share of Aggregate Family Income Received by Fifths of the Population
Source: Based on U.S. Census Bureau. (2014b). Table H-2. Share of aggregate income received by each fifth and top
5 percent of households, all races: 1967 to 2013. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved on February 16, 2015, from
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Socioeconomic Status 61
better in 1973 than in 1940. Beginning in 1973, however, the cost of living (i.e., the cost of
housing, utilities, food, and other essentials) began to increase faster than incomes. Except for
the wealthy, all families felt the financial pressure. No longer did they have extra income to
purchase nonessentials. No longer was one full-time worker in a family enough to maintain a
reasonable standard of living. The 1990s saw another upswing in the economy that resulted
in an annual median family income of $68,9311 in 2007. Following the 2008 recession, the
median income of a family dropped to $63,152; it had rebounded only to $63,815 by 2013.
When both husband and wife worked, the median income of the family increased to $94,299
(U.S. Census Bureau, 2014m).
Income sets limits on the general lifestyle of a family, as well as on their general welfare.
It controls the consumption patterns of a family—the amount and quality of material posses-
sions, consumer goods, and luxuries—and it influences savings, housing, and diet. It deter-
mines whether families are able to afford college educations or new cars. Most low-income
and middle-income families are barely able to cover their expenses from one paycheck to the
next. If they lose their source of income, they could be homeless within a few months. Higher
incomes provide security for families so that they will not need to worry about paying for the
essentials and will have access to health care and retirement benefits.
Although the difference in income among families is great, an examination of income alone
does not reveal the vast differences in the way families live. Income figures show the amount
of money earned by a family for their labors during one year, but the figures do not include
money earned from investments, land, and other holdings. They do not present the net worth
of a family after they have paid all of their debts. The wealth of a family includes savings
accounts, insurance, corporate stock ownership, and property. Wealth provides a partial guar-
antee of future income and has the potential of producing additional income and wealth.
However, for most families, the majority of their wealth comes from the equity value of their
1All of the family income numbers in this paragraph are reported as equivalent to 2013 dollars.
Critical Incidents in Teaching
impact of Socioeconomic Status on School events
The middle school in a rural community of 9,000 residents has four school-sponsored dances each year. At the
Valentine’s Day dance, a coat-and-tie affair, six eighth-grade boys showed up in rented tuxedos. They had planned
this together, and their parents, who were among the more affluent in the community, thought it would be “cute”
and paid for the rentals. The final dance of the year is scheduled for May, and it too is a coat-and-tie dance. This
time, rumors are circulating around school that “everyone” is renting a tux and that the girls are getting new
formal dresses. The parents of the six boys are, according to the grapevine, renting a limousine for their sons and
their dates. These behaviors and dress standards are far in excess of anything previously observed at the middle
Several students, particularly those from lower-income backgrounds, have said they will boycott the dance.
They cannot afford the expensive attire, and they claim that the ones behind the dress-up movement have said
that only the nerds or geeks would show up in anything less than a tux or a formal gown.
QueStiOnS fOr CLaSSrOOm DiSCuSSiOn
1. How can schools ensure that the cost of attending school affairs is not prohibitive for some of their students?
2. Should school administrators intervene in the plans being made by the more advantaged students? What
could they do to control the situation?
3. Why could the actions of these advantaged students be disruptive to the school climate?
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62 Chapter 3 Class and Socioeconomic Status
homes and the residual value of household goods. Approximately 40% of U.S. households have
virtually zero or negative wealth (Rose, 2014).
Whereas income is reported on federal income tax forms, wealth is difficult to determine
from these or any other standard forms. However, the distribution of wealth is clearly concen-
trated in a small percentage of the population. The wealthiest top two-tenths of the population
holds 16% of the nation’s wealth, with an average of $19 million per person (Rose, 2014).
Figure 3.2 shows how wealth is distributed across fifths of the population.
The world’s wealth is also held by a few people. The richest 0.000016% of the people in
the world owns 16% of the global economic output, while 2.6 billion of the world’s population
exist on $2 a day. The profits of major corporations such as Walmart, Nestlé, Microsoft, and
Apple exceed the gross national income of many countries of the world (Smith, 2012). The
difference between the economic lives of populations in the wealthiest and poorest countries
in the world is shocking in its magnitude. These differences affect quality of life, health, and
life expectancy.
Wealth ensures economic security for its holders even though the degree of security
depends on the amount of wealth accumulated. It also enhances the power and prestige of
those who possess it. Great wealth attracts power, provides an income that allows luxury, and
creates values and lifestyles that are very different from those of the rest of the population.
Wealth also gives great economic advantages to the children in such families, who can attend
the best private schools, travel widely, and access needed medical and health resources.
Income, for most people, is determined by their occupation. Generally speaking, income is a
fair measure of occupational success—both of the importance of the occupation to society and
of one’s skill at the job. In addition to providing an income, a person’s job is an activity that is
Highest Fifth
Fourth Fifth
Second FifthThird Fifth
figure 3.2 Distribution of Wealth in the United States by Fifths of the Population
Source: Based on Rose, S. J. (2014). Social stratification in the United States: The American profile poster (revised and
updated). New York: New Press.
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Socioeconomic Status 63
considered important. Individuals who are unemployed often are stigmatized as noncontribut-
ing members of society who cannot take care of themselves. Even individuals with great wealth
often hold jobs even though the additional income is unnecessary. Just over half of today’s
workforce is comprised of white-collar workers—people who do office work. The percentage
of service workers is growing, although the percentage who are private household workers
continues to decline. Between now and 2022, 5 of the 10 fastest-growing occupations are
expected to fall in the health fields, as shown in Figure 3.3.
A number of the jobs on this list require on-the-job training but no postsecondary prepa-
ration (e.g., personal care aides, home health aides, and helpers such as brick masons). Others
require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree at a minimum. The difference in income among
these jobs varies greatly, as shown in Figure 3.3.
The type of job one holds is the primary determinant of income received, providing a
relatively objective indicator of a person’s SES. The job usually indicates one’s education, sug-
gests the types of associates with whom one interacts, and determines the degree of authority
and responsibility one has over others. It accounts for differing amounts of compensation in
income and differing degrees of prestige in society.
The best predictor of occupational prestige is the amount of education required for the job.
Financial compensation is usually greater for occupations that require more years of education.
For example, medical doctors and lawyers remain in school for several years beyond a bachelor’s
degree program. Many professionals and other white-collar workers have completed at least
an undergraduate program. Craft workers often earn more money than many white-collar
workers, but their positions require specialized training that often takes as long to complete as
a program leading to a college degree.
A great discrepancy exists among the incomes of people who have less than a high school
education and those who have completed professional training after college. In 2013 the
median annual income of a male who was 25 years old or older who worked full-time, year
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60%
Percent change
Industrial-organizational Psychologists
Physical Therapist Assistants
Genetic Counselors
Occupational Therapy Assistants
Helpers—Brickmasons, Blockmasons, …
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Interpreters & Translators
Insulation Workers, Mechanical
Home Health Aides
Personal Care Aides
Median Annual Wage
figure 3.3 Projected Fastest-Growing Occupations from 2012 to 2022
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014a). Fastest growing occupations. Occupational outlook handbook.
Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved February 20, 2015, from
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64 Chapter 3 Class and Socioeconomic Status
round, but had not completed high school was $30,565; for a male who had attained a bach-
elor’s degree, it was $76,105. Women do not earn as much as men, no matter what education
level they have achieved. The differential for females was $22,248 if they have not finished
high school versus $55,724 if they have a bachelor’s degree—or 73 cents for each dollar earned
by males with the same education (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014f ).
Education is rightfully viewed as a way to enhance one’s economic status. However,
impressive educational credentials are much more likely to be achieved as a result of family
background than because of other factors. High school graduates whose parents have bache-
lor’s degrees or higher are more likely to enroll in postsecondary education. The higher the
socioeconomic level of a student’s family, the greater the student’s chances of finishing high
school and college, as shown in Figure 3.4. The rate of students who enrolled in college soon
after high school graduation ranged in 2012 from 51% of those from low-income families to
81% of those from families with high incomes (Snyder & Dillow, 2015).
The conditions under which low-income students live can make it difficult for them to go
to school as an alternative to working. The colleges that students attend are influenced more by
the SES of the family than by the academic ability of the student. Many students simply cannot
afford to attend private colleges and instead choose community colleges or state colleges and
universities. To add to the problems faced by low-income students contemplating college, the
cost of tuition has risen continuously over the past decade (Stiglitz, 2013). Thus, a student’s
socioeconomic origins have a substantial influence on the amount and type of schooling.
Individuals and families at the upper SES levels exert more power than those at any other level.
These individuals are more likely to sit on state or local policy boards, boards of colleges and
universities, and boards of corporations. They determine who receives benefits and rewards in
governmental, occupational, and community affairs. Groups and individuals with power control
resources that inf luence their lives and the lives of others. Groups or individuals with little
power do not have the means to get what they need or the access to the people who could
inf luence their interests. They continually obtain a lower share of society’s benefits, in part
because they lack access to sources of power.
The type of job one
holds impacts one’s
socioeconomic status.
Low-wage jobs make it
difficult if not impossible to
move into the middle class.
(© George Dolgikh/Shutterstock)
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Class Differences 65
People with higher incomes are more likely to participate in national and local politics as
well as vote in presidential elections. Contributing financially to political candidates pays off
for this portion of the population. The American Political Science Association (2004) found
that voters with low or moderate incomes have little or no influence on policies, whereas
advantaged voters have great influence. This power translates to legislative action that ben-
efits people, families, and corporations that are wealthy. Other segments of the population
become disillusioned with a political system in which they reap few if any of the benefits
(Stiglitz, 2013).
Education is not exempt from the exercise of power. Wealth and affluence can create an
uneven playing field for many students, as parents with larger incomes use their power to
ensure that their children have access to the best teachers, advanced placement courses, gifted
and talented student programs, and private schools. Parents are able to financially contribute
to the hiring of teachers for programs such as music and art, which many school districts can
no longer afford. They do not tolerate the hiring of unqualified or poor teachers. On the other
end of the income spectrum are families with little input into decisions concerning the edu-
cation of their children and with insufficient resources to donate funds to maintain a full and
desirable curriculum.
Class Differences
Many Americans identify themselves as middle class. It is an amorphous category that can
include everyone who works steadily and is not a member of the upper class. It ranges from
well-paid professionals to service workers. Most white-collar workers, no matter what their
salary, see themselves as middle class. Manual workers, in contrast, may view themselves as
working class rather than as middle class, even though their incomes and cultural values may
be similar to those of many white-collar workers.
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100%
Over $108,284
Under $36,080
Graduated by Age 24 Enrollment in College High School Graduates
figure 3.4 High School Graduation, College Enrollment, and College Completion by Family Income
Source: Based on Family Income and Educational Attainment: 1970 to 2009. (2010, November). Postsecondary Education
Opportunity, No. 221.
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66 Chapter 3 Class and Socioeconomic Status
Despite the popular myth, most people in the United States are not affluent by U.S.
standards. A medium budget that allows a family of four to meet basic needs is above $47,248,
compared with the federal government’s poverty line of $23,624 for a family of four (Jiang,
Ekono, & Skinner, 2015). In 2013 more than 1 in 3 U.S. families earned less than $45,000
(U.S. Census Bureau, 2014a), which corresponds to the category of low income. Many of these
individuals identify themselves as middle class, but they may be unable to obtain the material
goods and necessities to live comfortably. In this section we will explore the different classes
and socioeconomic levels of the population.
the unemployed and Homeless
The portion of the population who suffers the most from lack of a stable income or other
economic resources is the unemployed and homeless. The long-term poor fall into this group,
but most others are temporarily at this level, moving in and out of poverty as they work off and
on at low wages. More than half of the population will have lived below the poverty line at least
once by the time they turn 75 years old (Pimpare, 2008). Children suffer the most from per-
sistent poverty.
Families and people in poverty have been socially isolated from the dominant society.
They usually are not integrated into, or welcome in, the communities of the other classes.
Recommendations to establish low-income housing, homeless shelters, or halfway houses in
middle-class communities are often met with vocal outrage from the residents. Some analysts
think this lack of integration has exacerbated the differences in behavior between members of
the underclass and those of other classes.
Nearly 9 million people, or 5.7% of the civilian workforce, in January 2015 were classified
as unemployed; another 2.2 million unemployed people had given up looking for work and
were not included in the government’s report of the unemployed (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statis-
tics, 2015a). Children and families live on the streets of our cities, comprising a large portion
of today’s homeless population, as shown in Figure 3.5, but homelessness is not limited to cit-
ies. About 7% of the homeless live in rural areas in cars, campers, or substandard housing with
relatives (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2009). In its biannual count of the homeless
on one night in January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development found more
than 578,000 homeless people in the United States (Henry, Cortes, Shivji, & Buck, 2014).
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80%
HIV Positive
Severely Mentally Ill
Physically Disabled
Victims of Domestic Violence
Unaccompanied Youth
Persons in Families
Single Adults
figure 3.5 Who Are the Homeless in Our Cities?
Source: Based on The United States Conference of Mayors. (2014, December) Hunger and homelessness survey: A status
report on hunger and homelessness in American cities. Washington, DC: Author.
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Class Differences 67
Because almost all cities report having more homeless people than shelter space, the number
housed nightly in shelters undercounts the actual number of homeless people. The National
Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (2015) reports that 2.5 to 3.5 million people have
been homeless at some time during the previous year, and 1.35 million of them are children.
Many of the homeless work, but at such low wages that they are unable to afford housing.
Why are people homeless? The lack of affordable housing is the primary reason for home-
lessness, followed by unemployment, poverty, and low-paying jobs (U.S. Conference of May-
ors, 2014). The federal definition of affordable housing is rent equal to 30% of one’s income.
To afford a two-bedroom apartment in most parts of the country, a person who makes the
minimum wage will require one or more additional wage earners in the household. Four in
five minimum wage earners are paying more than 30% of their income for rent, leaving little
to cover expenses such as health care, child care, and other basic necessities. They are also
more likely to live in inadequate housing that could be hazardous to their health and safety.
Over half of the households with incomes in the bottom quartile are spending more than half
of their income on rent; households of color suffer the most from the lack of affordable hous-
ing. Because of job losses and reductions in working hours, a growing number of people are
unable to pay their rent or mortgage, ending up homeless (Joint Center for Housing Studies
of Harvard University, 2014).
Domestic violence is another cause of homelessness; women who are escaping violent
relationships do not always have someplace else to go. Other homeless people are without
a place to stay because the number of facilities to care for people with mental disabilities is
limited. Some people who are dependent on drugs or alcohol have lost their jobs, can’t keep a
job that earns enough to pay for their housing, or have become estranged from their families.
Some teenagers leave home because of family problems, economic problems, or residential
instability, often ending up homeless on city streets.
Nearly 2.5 million children were homeless at some point during 2013 (National Center
on Family Homelessness, 2014). Some homeless students do not attend school for extended
periods of time and are not as healthy as other children. Many have not received immuni-
zations that are expected in childhood. They experience higher rates of asthma, respiratory
infections, ear infections, stomach problems, and obesity than other children. They have more
emotional and behavioral problems, show delayed development, and have learning disabilities.
An increasing number of
homeless adults, families,
and children are found in
communities around the
country. (© Ljupco Smokovski/
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68 Chapter 3 Class and Socioeconomic Status
They are often hungry or lack adequate nutrition. Further, they are more likely to have been
abused or neglected by parents and other adults (National Center on Family Homelessness,
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, passed by Congress in 1987, requires
public schools to recognize the educational rights of and provide protection for homeless chil-
dren and youth, including students who are living with relatives or friends because they have
lost their housing. The law requires school districts to provide transportation for homeless
students to keep them in their schools of origin if requested by their parents or guardians. A
school cannot deny enrollment to homeless students because they do not have school records,
immunization records, proof of residency, or other documents. The McKinney-Vento Act
ensures that homeless students have access to schooling and are not denied services because of
circumstances beyond their control. The school district’s liaison for homeless students should
serve as an advocate for them, assisting them in accessing available services in the school sys-
tem and community. This legislation has made a difference. Before it was passed, 25% of
homeless students were in school, compared to 85% today (Murphy & Tobin, 2011).
The unemployed and homeless suffer from economic insecurity and from social, political,
and economic deprivation. When they do hold full-time jobs, they are of the lowest prestige
and at the lowest income levels. The jobs are often eliminated when economic conditions
tighten or the jobs move to the suburbs, again resulting in unemployment. The work for which
they are hired is often the dirty work—not only physically dirty but also dangerous, menial,
undignified, and degrading. Most people who are living in poverty want a job, not charity
(Pimpare, 2008). They want work that will help move them out of poverty.
Many stereotypical notions about the poor need to be overcome for teachers to effec-
tively serve students from low-income families. Some Americans believe that people are poor
because of their moral failings or because they simply do not want to work. Poor people are
often treated with condescension, not as equals. Students from these families should not be
blamed if they show acceptance of, resignation to, or even accommodation to their poverty as
they learn to live with their economic conditions.
Some anthropologists and sociologists who have studied the relationship between cul-
tural values and poverty status have proposed the theory of a culture of poverty. They assert
that the poor have a unique way of life that has developed as a reaction to their impoverished
environment. This thesis suggests that people in poverty have a different value system and
lifestyle that is perpetuated and transmitted to future generations. Critics of the culture of pov-
erty thesis believe that the cultural values of this group are much like those of the rest of the
population but have been modified in practice because of situational stresses (Gorski, 2013).
This explanation suggests that the differences in values and lifestyles are not passed from one
generation to the next but rather are their adaptations to the experience of living in poverty.
the Working Class
The occupations pursued by the working class are those that require manual work, for which
income varies widely, depending on the skill required in the specific job. A factor that is import-
ant in defining the working class is the subordination of members to the capitalist control of
production. These workers do not have control of their work. They do not give orders; they
take orders from others. They have been hurt the most because of job losses resulting from the
movement of jobs to other countries, periodical recessions, and technological advances where
machines and robots have replaced them.
Blue-collar workers are engaged primarily in manual work that is routine and mechan-
ical. The level of education required for most of these jobs is not as high as for white-collar
jobs, which are not mechanical and are less routine. Without additional training, it becomes
difficult to move into a higher-level position. Blue-collar workers are generally hard workers
who are performing important work for society. They want to have financially stable lives, as
everyone else does, and they hope that their children will have a better life than their own. Of
the employed population, 42.1% have the blue-collar jobs shown in Figure 3.6 (U.S. Bureau
of Labor Statistics, 2014d).

Watch the video
“Tri-State Homeless
Children Problem” (https://
yC16hV06unI), in which
childhood homelessness in
the Cincinnati area is
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Class Differences 69
The income of these workers varied in 2013 from a median weekly wage of $366 in food
services to $797 for installation, maintenance, and repair occupations (U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics, 2014d), which provide different standards of living. Although the income of the
working class is equal to and sometimes higher than that of white-collar workers, these work-
ers generally have less job security. Work is more sporadic, and unemployment is unpredictably
affected by the economy. Jobs are uncertain because of displacement as a result of technology
or being moved to other countries. Fringe benefits available to these workers are often not as
good as those offered to other workers. Vacation time is usually less, health insurance more
typically unavailable from the employer, and working conditions more dangerous.
People at the low end of the wage scale are the working poor. They do the jobs that most
people with more education refuse to do or can’t afford to do. Although many work one or
more jobs at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, they can’t pull themselves out of
poverty. The working poor are more likely than other workers to hold part-time jobs, be
women, be African American or Hispanic, and lack a high school diploma. Service workers
account for 1 in 3 of the working poor (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014e). Although
union workers generally receive higher incomes and enjoy negotiated health care and retire-
ment benefits, many low-income workers either do not join unions or work in states or com-
panies that aggressively discourage union membership.
the middle Class
The incomes of Americans who consider themselves middle class vary greatly. The middle class
includes members of the working class, managers, and professionals who do not see themselves
as either poor or rich. It includes families from all ethnic and racial groups, and both immigrant
and native families. Moving into the middle class and maintaining that status often requires
two wage earners. For the purpose of this discussion, families are classified as middle class if
they fall in the third or fourth quintile of income earners in the country, which includes 40%
of the population. The income range is $40,188 to $105,910 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014g),
which leads to different lifestyles at the two ends of the continuum. Although some members
0% 5%4%3%2%1% 6% 7% 8% 9% 10%
Building & Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance
Transportation & Movers
Protective Service
Personal Care & Service
Installation, Maintenance, & Repair
Healthcare Support
Food Preparation & Service
Farming, Fishing, & Forestry
Construction & Extraction
figure 3.6 Percentage of U.S. Population in Working-Class Jobs.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014d). Occupational employment and wages—May 2013 (News release).
Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from .
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70 Chapter 3 Class and Socioeconomic Status
of the middle class have comfortable incomes, many have virtually no wealth. Many live from
paycheck to paycheck, with little cushion against the loss of earning power through catastrophe,
recession, layoff, wage cuts, or old age. Some fall into poverty for brief periods over their
life cycle.
The jobs held by the middle class vary greatly, especially in income compensation. Overall,
middle-class workers earn a median income above that of most blue-collar workers, but there is
a great deal of crossover. For example, the median income of sales workers was $25,168 in 2013;
workers who provide office and administrative support in offices earned more, at $32,011 (U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014d). As a group, white-collar workers have greater job security
and better fringe benefits than many blue-collar workers, but these benefits are being eroded
under current economic constraints in the United States and globally.
Some white-collar jobs are as routine and boring as many blue-collar jobs; others are
highly interesting and challenging. Still others are extremely alienating in that employees
cannot control their environments. Some employees perceive their work as meaningless, are
socially isolated from coworkers, and develop low levels of self-esteem. The type of job and
the environment in which it is performed vary greatly among workers with white-collar jobs.
Members of the middle class appear to believe strongly in the Protestant work ethic. They
generally adhere to a set of beliefs and values that are inherent in the good life. Although they
are only slightly better off economically than their blue-collar counterparts, they have or try
to maintain a more affluent lifestyle.
Over 30 years ago, sociologists were warning that the middle class was beginning to dis-
appear. At that time blue-collar workers were losing their manufacturing jobs; many of the
replacement jobs paid lower wages, making it difficult to maintain their lifestyles. Today’s
middle-class families face stagnant salaries. They are being forced to pay more of their health
insurance and retirement funding than in the past (Hacker & Pierson, 2010).
the upper middle Class
Professionals, managers, and administrators are the elite of the middle class. They represent
the status that many upwardly mobile families are trying to reach. Their income level allows
them to lead lives that are, in many cases, quite different from those of white-collar and
blue-collar workers. They are the group that seems to have benefited most from the nation’s
economic growth. Although they are at a level far below the upper class, the upper middle
class are the aff luent members of the middle class.
The professionals who best fit this category are those who must earn professional or
advanced degrees and credentials to practice their professions. Almost 2 in 5 workers have
a professional or related job. Judges, lawyers, architects, physicians, college professors,
teachers, computer programmers, and scientists are the professionals. Excluding teachers
and social services occupations, many professionals earn far more than the $53,046 median
income of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015b). Generally, members of the
upper middle class are among the top 5% of income earners, with annual salaries over
$180,000. They usually own a home and a couple of cars and are able to take vacations
(Mooney, 2008).
This group also includes managers and administrators, who make up 5% of the employed
population. They are the successful executives and businesspeople, a very diverse group that
includes the chief executive officers of companies, presidents of colleges, and owners of local
businesses. Those who are the most affluent make up the middle and upper management posi-
tions in financing, marketing, and production. As reported earlier in this chapter, the adminis-
trators of large corporations earn salaries far above this level; their salaries and fringe benefits
place them in the upper class.
The incomes and opportunities to accumulate wealth are higher for this group compared
with other members of the middle class because they have enough money to invest and earn
additional income. Members of this class play an active role in civic and voluntary organiza-
tions. Their occupations and incomes give them access to policymaking roles in local, state,
and national organizations. They actively participate in the political process when possible.
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Class Differences 71
The occupations of the people in this group play a central role in their lives, often determining
their friends as well as their business and professional associates. Their jobs allow autonomy and
a great amount of self-direction. Members of this group tend to view their affluence, advantages,
and comforts as universal rather than as unique. In the past, they believed in the American dream
of success because they had achieved it. However, this dream now appears to be working primarily
for college graduates who choose careers in the financial and corporate world. College graduates
who choose fields such as reporting, teaching, social work, and other human services professions
do not appear to be eligible for the opportunities for upper economic and social mobility available
to earlier generations (Hacker & Pierson, 2010; Mooney, 2008).
the upper Class
High income and wealth are necessary characteristics for entering the upper class as well as
being accepted by those who are already members. Within the upper class, however, are great
variations in the wealth of individual families. This income level is composed of two groups.
One group includes the individuals and families who control great inherited wealth; the other
group includes top-level administrators and professionals. Prestige positions, rather than great
wealth, allow some families to enter or maintain their status at this level. The upper class
includes individuals with top-level, highly paid positions in large banks, entertainment compa-
nies, and industrial corporations. It also includes those who serve as primary advisors to CEOs
and government leaders—for example, corporate lawyers.
The disparity in income and wealth between members of this class and members of other
classes is astounding. In 1980, for example, chief executive officers earned about 42 times as
much as the average worker in their companies. In 1990 the pay ratio reached 107:1 (Anderson,
Collins, Pizzigati, & Shih, 2010). By 2013 it had increased to 257:1 (Sweet, 2014). The number
of people reporting incomes of more than $1 million has grown dramatically since the 1980s.
This increase in the size of the upper class has occurred, in part, because of the growing incomes
of CEOs. The richest hundredth of a percent (i.e., 0.01%) of the population includes around
15,000 families with average annual incomes of $35 million, responsible for 6% of the national
income (Hacker & Pierson, 2010). For the first time, in 2005, all of the richest 400 Americans
on the Forbes magazine list were billionaires; there were 1,400 billionaires by 2013 (Piketty,
2014). The wealthiest families have been able to increase their share of income and wealth
consistently over the past 35 years, whereas low-income families have seen almost no gain and
middle-class families only a modest gain (Hacker & Pierson, 2010).
Wealth and income ensure power. The extremely small proportion of the population who
hold a vastly disproportionate share of the wealth also benefit disproportionately in resource dis-
tribution. The power possessed by these people allows them to protect their wealth. The only
progressive tax in this country is the federal income tax, in which a greater percentage of the
income is taxed as the income increases. Loopholes in the tax laws provide benefits to those whose
unearned income is based on assets. What does this mean in terms of advantage to the rich? Tax
laws in the 1980s were regressive, resulting in a decline in the taxes of higher-income families.
The 1990s saw a more progressive structure in which the taxes of higher-income families rose in
comparison to the taxes of low-income families. The tax cuts of 2001 reduced taxes for everyone
but more so for high-income families than for others. The debate about taxes continues today,
with one side arguing that the rich should be taxed more and the other side arguing that taxes
should be cut for the wealthy because they believe such cuts will stimulate the economy.
Although families with inherited wealth do not represent a completely closed status
group, they do have an overrepresentation of Anglo, Protestant members who were born in
the United States. They tend to intermarry with other members of the upper class. They are
well educated, although a college degree is not essential. The educational mark of prestige
is attendance at elite private prep schools and prestigious private colleges and universities.
Greater assimilation of lifestyles and values has occurred within this class than in any other.
Although diversity exists among them, members of the upper class may be the most homo-
geneous group, and they are likely to remain so as long as their cross-cultural and cross-class
interactions are limited.
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72 Chapter 3 Class and Socioeconomic Status
economic inequality
Income inequality is higher in the United States than in all other developed countries except
Chile, Mexico, and Turkey (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,
2014b). International studies report that the United States has the highest poverty rate and an
institution of social policies that limit opportunities for moving out of poverty. Low-income
workers in the United States earn less than low-income workers in other developed countries.
Other countries have stronger unions, higher minimum wages, and more generous benefits,
including more vacation days. The policies of other countries provide a social safety net for
families through maternity leave, family leave, and child care (Caldera Sánchez, Lenain, &
Flèche, 2014).
Over 45 million people, or 14.5% of the population and 11.2% of all families, were living
in poverty by federal standards in 2013 (DeNavas-Walt & Proctor, 2014). Poverty is most likely
to be a condition of the young, people of color, women, and full-time workers in low-status
jobs, as shown in Figure 3.7.
The poor are a very heterogeneous group. They do not all have the same values or
lifestyles. They cannot be expected to react alike to the conditions of poverty. To many,
their ethnicity or religion is the most important determinant of the way they live within the
economic constraints of poverty. To others, the devastating impact of limited resources is the
greatest influence in determining their lifestyles, which are limited severely by the economic
constraints that keep them in poverty.
racial and ethnic inequality
Although equality is an important American value, some differences in income among workers
is expected. Income differences among groups should be minimal in a society that values equal-
ity. However, income differences between whites and persons of color and between men and
0.0% 10.0%5.0% 15.0% 20.0% 25.0% 30.0% 35.0%
Female-headed Families with no Husband
All Races & Ethnic Groups
African Americans
Asian Americans
White, not Hispanic
With a Disability
65 Years & Older
Younger Than 18 Years
figure 3.7 U.S. Population in Poverty
Source: Based on DeNavas-Walt, C. & Proctor, B. D. (2014, September). Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in
the United States: 2013 (Current Population Reports, P60 –238). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
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Economic Inequality 73
women continue to exist, regardless of their education level. In 2013 African American families
earned 57% ($41,505) of the median income of white families ($72,624), Hispanics 58%
($42,269), and Asian American and Pacific Islander families 106% ($76,755) (U.S. Census
Bureau, 2014k). One of the reasons for these differences is that people of color are more likely
to be concentrated in low-paying jobs, as shown in Figure 3.8. The percentage of African
Americans in the higher-paying and higher-status jobs is much lower than for whites. African
Americans and Hispanics are heavily overrepresented in the semi-skilled and unskilled
Although more whites than any other group are in poverty (19.5 million), the percentage
of whites in poverty is smaller compared with other groups except for Asian Americans. Of the
white, non-Hispanic population, 10% fall below the poverty level, compared with 27% of African
Americans, 24% of Latinos, and 11% of Asian Americans (DeNavas-Walt & Proctor, 2014).
This inequitable condition is perpetuated by several factors. Students from low-income
families are more likely not to graduate from high school. Students of color drop out of school
in greater proportions than white students, limiting their income potential. High school com-
pletion and college attendance are more correlated with the income and education of the
parents than any other factors. In 2013, 7% of the white and 5% of the Asian American popu-
lation were unemployed, compared with 13% of African Americans, 13% of American Indians
and Alaska Natives, 10% of Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders, and 9% of Hispanics
(U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014b). Continuing discrimination against groups of color
contributes to fewer opportunities to learn at high levels, which results in lower academic
achievement, lower educational attainment, and lower-status jobs.
The historical experiences of ethnic groups have had a great impact on their gains in SES.
For example, the absolute class position (income, occupation, rate of employment) of African
Americans improved as a result of their migration to America’s large cities, where they could
find jobs paying higher wages during the first half of the twentieth century. Their educational
attainments have narrowed the formerly enormous gap between blacks and whites with regard
to completion of high school; median number of school years completed; and, to a lesser
degree, standardized test scores and prevalence of college attendance. Even though the gaps in
educational attainment have narrowed among racial and ethnic groups, only 68% of African
Hispanic White Not
Professional, & Related
Sales & Office
Natural Resources,
Construction, & Maintenance
Production, Transportation,
& Material Moving
figure 3.8 Workers by Specific Ethnic Group and Job Category
Source: Based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014b). Labor force characteristics by race and ethnicity, 2013.
BLS Reports No. 1050. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from .
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74 Chapter 3 Class and Socioeconomic Status
American and American Indian/Alaska Native students graduate from high school within four
years after entering as freshmen (Kena et al., 2014).
Other oppressed groups with disproportionately low SES have had different historical
experiences from African Americans but suffer similarly from discrimination. Mexican Amer-
icans are highly overrepresented as farm laborers, one of the lowest-status occupations. Many
American Indians have been isolated on reservations, away from most occupations except
those lowest in prestige, and the numbers of such positions are limited. Asian Americans,
who as a group have a high educational level and relatively high SES, often reach middle-
management positions but then face a glass ceiling that prevents them from moving into
upper management.
gender inequality
As a group, women earn less and are more likely to suffer from poverty than any other group,
with women of color suffering the greatest oppression. The origins of such inequality, however,
are very different from inequality based on race and ethnicity. Institutional discrimination based
on gender began in a patriarchal society in which women were assigned to the traditional roles
of mother and wife and, if they had to work outside the home, to jobs in which subordination
was expected. This status has limited their job opportunities and has kept their wages lower
than those of men. Overt discrimination against women has resulted in the use of gender to
determine wages, hiring, and promotion of individuals using mechanisms similar to those that
promote inequality for members of other oppressed groups.
Women, especially those who are the heads of households, are more likely than men to
fall below the poverty level. Almost 1 in 3 families maintained by women without a husband
earn an income below the official poverty level (DeNavas-Walt & Proctor, 2014). The large
number of families in this group is a result of a combination of low-paying jobs and an increase
in divorces, separations, and out-of-wedlock births. Households headed by women without a
husband earn an average of $35,154, which is only 69% of the median income of men without
spouses who head households (DeNavas-Walt & Proctor, 2014).
age inequality
Both women and men earn their maximum income between ages 45 and 54. The median
income of people 14 to 19 years old is lower than for any other group, primarily because most
of them are just beginning to enter the workforce at the end of this period, and some may not
enter for several more years, especially if they attend college. Income then increases steadily
for most people until they reach 55 years of age. The income of women remains fairly constant
throughout much of their working lives, whereas the income for a large percentage of men
increases dramatically during their lifetimes.
The highest incidence of poverty occurs for young people, as shown in Figure 3.9. Chil-
dren’s class status depends on their families, leaving children little or no control over their
destiny during their early years. In the United States, 1 in 5 children live in families that are
officially considered poor. However, researchers find that an income twice that of the poverty
level is needed to pay for housing, food, and other basic needs. When the near poor are added
to the students living below the poverty level, 44% of the nation’s children live in low-income
families (Jiang et al., 2015), limiting their opportunities for enriched educational activities such
as summer camps on technology and science that students in more affluent families can access.
The United States has one of the highest child poverty rates among developed countries
in the world (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2014a). The degree
of child poverty varies across states, with Arizona, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Missis-
sippi, and New Mexico having rates that exceed 20%. Poverty rates are much higher for most
children of color. Nearly three times as many African American, Hispanic, and American Indian
children under 18 years old as compared to white and Asian American children live in families
who fall below the official poverty level. Children in immigrant families are 1.3 times more
likely than children with native-born parents to live in low-income families (Jiang et al., 2015).
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Economic Inequality 75
In schools poverty is tracked by the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price
lunches (FRPL). Children who are eligible for free meals are in families with incomes that are 130%
of the poverty level. If they are in families with incomes between 130% and 185% of the pov-
erty level, they are eligible for a reduced-price meal. Over half of U.S. students are eligible
for FRPL. Although the percentage of low-income families with children is higher in urban
areas, low-income families are also found in suburbs, towns, and rural areas (Kena et al., 2014).
Low-poverty schools are defined as those in which fewer than 25% of the students are
eligible for FRPL; in high-poverty schools more than 75% of the students are eligible. Nine-
teen percent of the nation’s public school students attended a high-poverty school and 28%
attended a low-poverty school in the 2011–2012 school year. African American students were
6 times more likely than white students to attend a high-poverty elementary school and
10 times more likely to attend a high-poverty secondary school. Hispanic and American
Indian/Alaska Native students are 5 times more likely to attend high-poverty schools than
white students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013a).
What is the impact of poverty on students in schools? Low-poverty schools are twice as
likely to have no reported violent incidents. There is greater ethnic and racial diversity among
staff in high-poverty schools, with more African American and Latino principals and teachers.
The real inequality is in the academic area. On average, students in high-poverty schools do
not perform as well as their peers in other schools on the National Assessment of Educational
Progress (NAEP) reading, mathematics, music, and art assessments (Aud et al., 2010), limiting
their opportunities for participating in the high-quality postsecondary education that could
give them greater access to jobs with incomes that could pull them out of poverty.
Researchers have found that the combination of poverty and low reading skills places
children at three times the risk of not graduating from high school as students from fami-
lies with higher incomes. Students from low-income families who are reading at a proficient
level in third grade have a much better chance of completing high school (Hernandez, 2011).
Unfortunately, 17% of low-income students were reading at the proficient or advanced level
in fourth grade in 2013 compared to 37% of higher-income students, as shown in Figure 3.10
(National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2013). A number of factors contribute to this
low performance. For example, students from low-income families are more likely to be absent
from school, which is associated with lower academic performance. Research also finds that
Under 18 years 18–64 years 65 years & Over
Whites, not Hispanic
African Americans
Asian Americans

Watch the video
“More Students Living
in Poverty Strains Education
System” (
to learn about the degree of
child poverty in the United
States and some of the policy
figure 3.9 Persons in Poverty by Age, Race, and Ethnicity
Source: Based on U.S. Census Bureau. (2014b). Table 3. Poverty status of people, by age, race, and Hispanic origin:
1959 to 2013 (Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements). Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved
February 22, 2015, from
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76 Chapter 3 Class and Socioeconomic Status
students’ reading proficiency level drops over the summer unless they are engaged in reading
(Hernandez, 2011).
Students from low-income families often begin kindergarten with lower cognitive skills
than their peers in families with middle and high incomes (Berk, 2012b). To compound the
problem, many kindergartners in low-income families begin their schooling in high-poverty
public schools with low-quality teaching and discriminatory practices such as ability grouping
(Darling-Hammond, 2010). These children will be disadvantaged in developing their adult
earning power by inferior schooling, an oppressive financial environment, and poor health.
teaching for equality
Many social reformers, educators, and parents view education as a powerful device for achieving
social change and reducing poverty. From the beginning of the public school movement in the
early nineteenth century, low incomes and immorality were believed to result from inadequate
education. Thus, children from low-income families were encouraged to attend charity schools
and public common schools to learn the Christian values that would help them develop the
discipline for working.
By the 1960s, many students from low-income families still were not achieving academi-
cally at the same levels as their more economically advantaged peers and were still dropping out
of school at higher rates. As part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, the federal
government attempted to decrease poverty through the establishment of Head Start, Title I
(compensatory education), Upward Bound, Job Corps, Neighborhood Youth Corps, and other
educational programs. However, academic achievement as measured by test scores has not
improved as much as expected, and the economic equality of families has not been realized.
Students from low-income families typically take fewer courses in mathematics and sci-
ence than their more affluent peers, which contributes to later disparities in college enroll-
ment and vocational choices. In many schools with large numbers of low-income students,
Eligible for
Free or Reduced
Price Lunch
Not Eligible
for FRPL
Below Basic
figure 3.10 Performance on Fourth-Grade Reading Tests by Income Level in 2013
Source: Based on National Assessment of Educational Progress. (2013). 2013 reading assessment. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved on February
22, 2015, from
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Teaching for Equality 77
advanced courses in these subjects may be offered, but they lack the academic rigor of the
more advantaged schools. Thus, low-income students who are achieving at a level equal to
students from higher-income families are stifled in their attempts to move to higher levels in
the advanced courses available at their schools. It is no wonder that they don’t score as high
on standardized assessments: They lack the opportunity to take the same high-level courses as
their middle-class peers.
This lack of progress in overcoming the effects of poverty on students should not be taken
as evidence that educational reforms are not worthwhile. Some changes make schooling more
attractive to students and even increase the achievement of many students. In a number of
states, educational resources have become more equitably distributed as a result of court cases.
Nevertheless, the initial goal of programs aimed at increasing income equity and eliminating
poverty has not been realized. More than school reform will be needed to raise the academic
achievement of low-SES students. The social and economic conditions of their families’ lives
must be improved through higher wages and social policies that support low-income families
(Stiglitz, 2013).
Different sociohistorical interpretations of education are presented to explain the role of
schools in society and the degree to which this goal and others are being met. In one view,
schools are an agent of social reform that can improve the chances of economic success for their
graduates. The second view posits that schools exist as agents of the larger social, economic,
and political context, with the goal of inculcating the values necessary to maintain the current
socioeconomic and political systems.
Supporters of the first view are much more benign in their description of the role of
schools in helping students become socially mobile. They are optimistic that social reform can
be achieved by providing low-income students with more effective schools. The other view
sees schools as preparing students to work efficiently at their jobs in corporate organizations.
The needs of business and industry are met by preparing students from low-income families
for low-wage jobs that will be managed by college graduates from middle- and high-income
Rather than provide equal educational opportunity, many schools perpetuate existing
social and economic inequities in society. In this section, we examine four areas that influence
inequities in schools: teacher expectations, tracking, curriculum, and funding.

Watch the video “An
Education Masterpiece
in Baton Rouge” (https://www
rNZVU), in which a school has
focused on the creative arts to
build a blue ribbon school in an
economically depressed
Suburban schools are more
likely than inner-city schools
to have the technology,
resources, extracurricular
activities, and attractive
playground space that make
a school welcoming to
students. (© Steve Debenport/
E+/Getty Images)
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78 Chapter 3 Class and Socioeconomic Status
teacher expectations
Ethnographic studies of schools document how students are classified, segregated, and taught
differently, starting with their first days in school. Most teachers can identify the personal
characteristics of students that will lead to academic success. They then develop instruction and
interactions with their students to ensure that the students will, in fact, behave as the teachers
expect—a phenomenon called the self-fulfilling prophecy, or Pygmalion effect. The kinder-
garten teacher who divides her class into three reading and mathematics groups by the third
week of school has limited knowledge about the academic abilities of the students. Too often,
the groups are organized according to nonacademic factors. Students in the highest group may
be dressed in clean clothes that are relatively new and tidy. They interact well with the teacher
and other students, are quite verbal, and use standard English. Students in the lower two group-
ings may be poorly dressed and use a dialect or be English language learners. Their families
may appear to be less stable than those of students in the highest group.
If the teacher’s goal is to spend time with students in the lower group to ensure that they
develop the language and reading skills they will need to be successful in first grade and to
ensure that they develop the skills to make them less distinguishable from students in the
higher groups, this grouping strategy may be successful. The problem is that many teachers
do not expect the students who are in the lower academic group at the beginning of the year to
perform at high levels by the end of the year. The result is that students in the highest group
continue to perform better academically and to behave in a more acceptable manner than stu-
dents in the other two groups. As the teacher had projected, these students are more successful
throughout their schooling than students from lower socioeconomic levels.
When teachers make such judgments about students, they are taking the first step in
preventing students from having an equal opportunity for academic achievement. Rather than
ensure that students have access to an egalitarian system, such classification and subsequent
treatment of students ensure the maintenance of an inequitable system. This action is not
congruent with the democratic belief that all students should be provided equal educational
opportunities. All students can learn, including those in the lower-ability group; they can learn
at the same level as many other students with the assistance of effective teachers.
How can the development of negative and harmful expectations for students be prevented?
Teachers, counselors, and administrators can unconsciously fall into such behavior because they
have been taught that poverty is the fault of the individual. As a result, students are blamed for
circumstances beyond their control. Instead, educators should see as a challenge the opportunity
to provide these students with knowledge and skills to overcome poverty. Educators should select
approaches they would use for the most gifted students. The goal should be to improve the educa-
tional experience for students who previously would have been tracked into the low-ability classes.
Too many teachers blame the students, their families, and their communities for students’ failure
to learn rather than examine and change their own teaching practices to improve student learning.
Effective teachers do make a difference (Darling-Hammond, 2010).
In helping to overcome the stigma of poverty, educators must consciously review their
expectations for students. Students’ feelings of low esteem should not be reinforced by teach-
ers. Seeing students as individuals rather than as members of a specific socioeconomic group
may assist educators in overcoming the classism that exists in the school and the community.
Information about a student’s family background can be used in understanding the power of
environment on a student’s expression of self; it should not be used to rationalize stereotypes
and label students. Educators should become aware of any prejudices they themselves hold
against members of lower socioeconomic groups and work to overcome their biases. Other-
wise, discriminatory practices will surface in the classroom in the form of self-fulfilling proph-
ecies that harm students and perpetuate societal inequities.
Tracking students into different groups or classes based on their intellectual abilities is a com-
mon educational practice. Teachers divide a class into smaller groups for instructional purposes.
These groups could have a heterogeneous makeup, with each group containing girls and boys
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Teaching for Equality 79
from different ethnic groups and students who are currently high and low achievers. In these
groups students could help each other. In other cases, teachers may assign students to a group
based on their perception of the students’ academic abilities, which may be based on students’
latest standardized test scores. Teachers may use different instructional strategies in these
groups and may have different expectations for learning outcomes.
Tracking occurs when students are assigned to courses based on their perceived intellectual
abilities or other characteristics, such as speaking a language other than English or having a
disability. Middle and high school students either choose or are assigned to college preparatory,
vocational, general, and advanced courses based, in great part, on how their teachers or coun-
selors judge their future potential. Some students are placed in gifted courses or programs, and
others are placed in courses that are clearly meant for low-ability students.
Supporters of tracking argue that separating students based on their perceived academic
abilities allows teachers to better meet the needs of all students. Critics argue that tracking and
homogeneous grouping based on ability is discriminatory and prevents many students from
developing their intellectual and social potential.
Tracking is an area in which class matters. High ability appears to be more closely related
to race and class than to intellectual potential. Students whose families are already privileged
benefit the most from tracking. Students in the gifted and advanced programs are academically
challenged in their courses, with enrichment activities that encourage them to develop their
intellectual and critical thinking skills. At the other end of the learning spectrum, the learning
environment is often uninviting, boring, and not challenging. Rather than prepare students
to move to higher-level courses, these courses keep them at the lowest levels of academic
Being in the low-ability group diminishes student achievement. Students in this group
have limited access to rigorous courses and to rich and creative experiences that will enhance
opportunities for learning (Darling-Hammond, 2010). Critical thinking tasks are reserved for
the high-ability groups. Oral recitation and structured written work are common in low-ability
groups. Students are exposed to knowledge at a slower pace than their peers in higher-ability
groups, and the knowledge is low in status, helping them fall further behind in subjects like
mathematics, foreign languages, and sciences.
Teachers in low-ability classrooms spend more time on administration and discipline and less
time actually teaching. As one might expect, student behavior in low tracks is more disruptive than
in higher-level groups. However, this probably happens, in part, because students and teachers
have developed behavioral standards that are more tolerant of inattention and not because of stu-
dents’ individual abilities. To compound the problem, the more experienced and more successful
teachers are disproportionately assigned to the higher-ability groups. Unfortunately, many teach-
ers generally view high-track students positively and low-track students negatively.
Disproportionately large numbers of students from lower socioeconomic levels are
assigned to low-ability groups beginning very early in their school careers. Even more tragic is
the fact that the number of students from low-income families who are classified as being men-
tally challenged is disproportionately high. This inequitable classification places students of
color in double jeopardy because they also disproportionately come from low-income families.
In many schools with diverse student populations, students are segregated based on race,
class, and language into separate tracks within the school. White middle-class students have
disproportionately high representation in gifted and talented programs, while African Amer-
icans, Hispanics, students from low-income families, and English language learners comprise
the majority of the students in low-ability classrooms. For the most part, the courts have agreed
with plaintiffs that tracking students into low-ability courses and programs is a discriminatory
practice that limits their educational opportunities and their potential for later occupational
and economic success. Even when students and parents are encouraged to choose courses, a
school district may be liable for discriminatory action if parents have not been appropriately
informed of the prerequisites for advanced courses. Other discriminatory practices that are
being reviewed by courts today are the inadequate preparation of low-income students and
students of color to pass standardized tests and the assignment of unqualified teachers to the
schools in which these students are concentrated.

Watch the video “Ability
Grouping, Tracking
and Grouping Alternatives”
/watch?v=tItvMjRxL_c) for a
discussion of tracking in
schools and recommendations
for a balanced approach to
grouping students.
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80 Chapter 3 Class and Socioeconomic Status
Dismantling tracking systems in schools is not an easy undertaking. Some teachers fight
detracking, in part because they do not believe that heterogeneous groupings contribute to the
learning of all students. They may believe that gifted students will suffer if they are integrated
with students who do not perform at the same academic level.
Middle-class parents, especially upper-middle-class parents, sometimes fight efforts to
detrack schools and integrate their children with students who they think are not as smart or
deserving of the best educational resources (which are often limited to gifted and talented stu-
dents). Many of these parents believe that their success should be passed on to their children
by ensuring that they receive the highest-quality education possible. To prevent detracking,
these parents employ strategies to hold on to the privilege that their children can gain from
education. They use their power to force administrators to respond to their demands. They
have been known to threaten to remove their children from public schools and to hold out for
other special privileges for their children. At times, they co-opt parents from the middle class
to support their stand. Nevertheless, some schools have been able to detrack their programs
with the goal of improving the education of all students, regardless of the socioeconomic level
or race of their parents.
Focus Your Cultural Lens
Debate / Detracking
Data in many schools show that the children of upper-middle-class families are overrepresented in high-ability
programs for the gifted and talented and underrepresented in low-ability special education and general education
courses. School officials are being pushed by the courts to change their practices that segregate students by SES
or race. One of the remedies for eliminating these discriminatory practices is detracking, or dismantling tracks for
students based on ability, as determined by standardized tests or teachers’ perceptions. Some teachers and
middle-class parents resist the move to a single track in which students from different ability groups are mixed.
Opinions about these strategies differ. Some people believe that detracking will provide greater equality of
opportunity across economic and racial groups. Opponents believe that it will lead to a lower quality of education
overall. These arguments are outlined below.
1. How do schools ensure that the voices of low- and middle-income families are included in discussions about
detracking and the provision of educational equity in schools?
2. How does detracking schools contribute to the provision of equal educational opportunity?
3. What other steps could school officials take to provide low-income students greater access to advanced courses?
4. What are your reasons for supporting or not supporting detracking strategies in schools?
Eliminates discrimination against students from low-
income families and students of color.
Integrates students from different ability levels.
Encourages classroom instruction that is challenging
and interesting for low-income as well as upper-middle-
class students.
Supports a classroom environment in which high-ability
students learn while assisting peers who may not be at
the same academic level.
Provides low-SES students greater access to good
teachers, improving their chances for learning at higher
Is not fair to high-ability students, who need to be
challenged at advanced levels.
Makes it more difficult for teachers to provide
appropriate instruction for all students, whose abilities
differ greatly.
May lead to pressure from upper-middle-class parents,
who may withdraw their children from public schools.
Waters down the curriculum for high-ability students.
Prevents high-ability students from participating in
gifted and talented programs and advanced-level
courses that will give them the advantage needed to be
admitted to elite colleges and universities.
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Teaching for Equality 81
Curriculum for equality
Inner-city schools are populated by many low-income and working-class students whose envi-
ronment outside the school is very different from that of students in most suburban and rural
schools. For many students, schools are safe places compared to the atmosphere of abuse and
crime that may be part of the daily lives of students in a neighborhood characterized by poverty.
These students have strengths that are not recognized or supported by many educators. Many
are very resilient under conditions that present obstacles to their well-being and academic
achievement. Although it is essential to ensure that all students learn the subject matter, how
these skills are taught should vary depending on the environment in which students live in order
to make the curriculum both engaging and meaningful to students by recognizing and building
on their lived experiences. Helping students achieve academically in schools that serve students
from low-income families requires competent educators who know the subjects they are teach-
ing as well as believe that all students can learn.
Equality in student achievement could be increased by raising the level of instructional con-
tent and instructional discourse in all courses at all levels. Achievement is improved when teachers
help students interact with the academic content through discussion and authenticity—relating
the content to students’ prior experiences and real-world applications. These strategies work
for all students, not just those in advanced placement and honors courses.
The curriculum should reflect accurately the class structure and inequities that exist in
the United States. The existence of nearly half the population is not validated in the curric-
ula of most schools. Curricula and textbooks usually focus on the values and experiences of a
middle-class society. They highlight the heroes of our capitalist and political system, who were
primarily white males from economically privileged families. They usually ignore the history
and heroes of the labor struggle in this country, in which laborers resisted and endured under
great odds to improve their conditions. They do not discuss the role of the working class in the
development of the nation. The inequities based on the income and wealth of one’s family are
usually neither described nor discussed. In classrooms, students should learn of the existence
of these differences. They should understand that the majority of the population does not live
the middle-class myth.
Often overlooked are the experiences that students bring to the classroom. School is not
the only place where students learn about life. Differences in school behavior and learning
among students from dissimilar socioeconomic levels are strongly dependent on the knowl-
edge and skills needed to survive appropriately in their community environments. Most
low-income students, especially those in urban areas, have learned how to live in a world that
is not imaginable to most middle-class students or teachers. Yet the knowledge and skills they
bring to school are not always valued. Educators should recognize the value of the community’s
informal education in sustaining its own culture and realize that formal education is often
viewed as undermining that culture.
Students need to see some of their own cultural experiences reflected in the curriculum.
They need to see ordinary working people depicted as valued members of society. These stu-
dents and their families need to be helped to see themselves as desirable and integral members
of the school community rather than as second-class citizens who must learn the ways of the
more economically advantaged to succeed in school.
If students never see their communities in the activities, films, and books used in class,
their motivation and acceptance may be limited. All students should be encouraged to read
novels and short stories about people from different socioeconomic levels. When studying his-
torical or current events, they should examine the events from the perspective of the working
class and people in poverty, as well as from the perspective of the country’s leaders. Teaching
can be enhanced by drawing examples from experiences with which students are familiar, espe-
cially when the experiences are different from the teacher’s own.
All students, no matter what their SES, should be helped to develop strong and positive
self-concepts. Many students do not realize the diversity that exists in this country, let alone
understand the reasons for the diversity and the resulting discrimination against some groups.
Middle-class children tend to believe that most people live like their families. Educators are
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82 Chapter 3 Class and Socioeconomic Status
expected to expand their students’ knowledge of the world, not to hide from them the reali-
ties that exist because of class differences. In a classroom in which democracy and equity are
important, low-income students should receive priority time from teachers and have access
to the necessary resources to help them become academically competitive with middle-class
Finally, all students should be encouraged to be critical of what they read, see, and hear in
textbooks, through the mass media, and from their parents and friends. The curriculum should
encourage the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Although teachers
traditionally talk about the democratic vision, they generally are unwilling to model it. Stu-
dents and teachers who become involved through the curriculum in asking why the inequities
in society exist are beginning to think critically about our democracy.
School funding
At the beginning of this chapter, Mr. Juarez found great differences in the conditions of schools
in the inner city versus the suburbs. The problem is greatly exacerbated by the fact that the
current system for funding schools mirrors these inequities. Education is financed by local,
state, and federal sources but primarily by local and state sources, at 43.4% and 44.1%, respec-
tively; federal support is at 12.5% (Cornman, 2013). Property taxes are the primary source of
local funding for schools, which contributes to the disparities in education from one community
to another. Communities with high-income families will generate much more in property taxes
than low-income communities to support their schools.
The average per-pupil expenditure for the United States was $10,658 in 2011, but the
amount varied greatly across states, ranging from $6,326 in Utah to $16,855 in New York
(Cornman, 2013). The United States spends more per pupil than other industrialized coun-
tries, but fewer three-year-olds are enrolled in early childhood education, teachers work longer
hours, and teacher salaries are below the average of other industrialized countries (Organisa-
tion for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2014c).
Researchers and policymakers disagree as to how much money is needed by schools to
improve academic achievement. Some researchers suggest that higher per-pupil expenditures,
better teacher salaries, more educated and experienced teachers, and smaller class and school
sizes are strongly related to improved student learning. If we agree that more money would help
reduce the inequities across groups in schools and that greater resources are needed in low-wealth
school districts, what areas would provide the greatest payoff for improving student achievement,
especially for students from low-income families? Among the recommendations from researchers
and educators are smaller class sizes, prekindergarten programs for four-year-olds, tutoring for
students having difficulty, cooperative learning, family support systems, more qualified teachers,
and extensive staff and teacher development for delivery of effective programs.
Social stratification is possible because people occupy dif-
ferent levels of the social structure. People of color, women,
the young, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities are
disproportionately represented at the low end of the social
stratification system.
Socioeconomic Status
Socioeconomic status (SES) is a composite representing the
economic status of a family or of unrelated individuals, based
on income, wealth, occupation, educational attainment, and
power. Families range from the indigent poor to the very
rich. Where a family falls along this continuum affects the
way its members live, how they think and act, and the way
others react to them. Although a family may actively par-
ticipate in other cultural groups centered around ethnicity,
religion, gender, exceptionality, language, or age, the class
to which a family belongs is one of the strongest factors in
determining how one lives.
Class Differences
The population is often divided into classes based on income
and occupation. Individual choice is most limited for those
who are in poverty and who can barely meet essential needs.
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Summary 83
Chapter Quiz: Click here to gauge your understanding of chapter concepts.
People of color and women who head families are more likely
than other groups to be unemployed and homeless. The
working class and middle class are distinguished by the type
of work their members do, but the majority of the population
considers themselves middle class. The affluent in society are
the upper middle class of professionals and administrators
who have many advantages but not as many as the members
of the upper class, who protect their power and privilege.
economic inequality
The populations that are most likely to suffer from income
inequality are persons of color, children, and single mothers
with children. Forty percent of the population are low income
or near poor, struggling to meet their basic needs from week
to week. In the United States, 1 in 5 children under the age
of 18 years is in poverty, which is among the highest poverty
rates in developed countries.
teaching for equality
Disproportionately large numbers of students from lower-
SES levels are tracked in low-ability groups in their early
school years. Too often, low-income students are placed in
remedial programs because of discriminatory testing and
placement. Educators should consciously review their expec-
tations for students and their behavior toward students from
different SES levels to ensure that they are not discriminating.
In addition, the curriculum does not serve students well if it
reflects only the perspective of upper-middle-class America.
Low-income students need to see some of their own cultural
experiences reflected in the curriculum. Financial support for
more equitable funding of schools, no matter where they are
located or which students attend them, is likely to reduce the
achievement gap between groups of students. The current
property tax system for supporting schools gives the advan-
tage to families with high incomes.
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LearninG OutcOmes
As you read this chapter, you should be able to:
4.1 Explain the physical and socially constructed differences between males and
4.2 Differentiate between the expectations of society for masculinity and femininity,
including the influences of religion.
4.3 Discuss the early and current struggles to gain gender equity and provide some specific
examples of today’s struggles and some of the progress that has been made.
4.4 Explain the costs of sexism and gender discrimination to men as well as to women, as
well as how it has affected women in their career choices and ultimately their
4.5 Cite specific examples of how gender equity has been brought into the classroom and
provide specific details of the impact of Title IX and the dramatic changes it has brought
to the face of American education and athletics.
What made me think that I wanted to spend my days with middle schoolers?” thought Ms. Carson. “They are driving me crazy today. Jack keeps bothering Jason, who is trying to
read his assignment. In fact, all of the boys are fidgety. The girls seem to like the story they are
reading and are anxious to discuss it. The boys, on the other hand, seem to want nothing to do
with it.”
“Why do we have to read this story?” Jason blurted out. “It’s only about some sissy girl who
thinks she can hit a baseball. Why don’t we play baseball? The boys against the girls. That’ll
show who can play baseball.”
Ms. Carson was frustrated. “What am I to do? I selected this story so that the girls could
see themselves as athletes who can be competitors. Now the boys don’t see themselves in the
story. Maybe boys and girls should be taught in separate classrooms.”
1. Why is Ms. Carson concerned about how girls are portrayed in the literature that her
middle-schoolers read?
2. Characterize the difference between the girls’ and boys’ behavior in this classroom.
3. What could Ms. Carson do to engage both the girls and boys in the same literature

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Male and Female Differences 85
Male and Female Differences
We can fairly easily distinguish males and females by their physical appearance alone. Girls
tend to have lighter skeletons and different shoulder and pelvic proportions than boys. There
are major differences in hormonal levels of estrogen and testosterone, which control the
physical development of the two sexes. Soon after birth, boys and girls have similar hormonal
levels; they are similar in terms of physical development through the early years of elementary
school. The onset of puberty brings major changes in the hormonal levels of the two sexes. At
this time, the proportion of fat to total body weight increases in girls and decreases in boys.
The differences in physical structure generally contribute to the male’s greater strength, greater
endurance for heavy labor, greater ease in running and overarm throwing, and lesser ability to
f loat in water. However, the extent of these physical differences can also be inf luenced by
environment and culture. They can be altered with nutrition, physical activity, practice, and
behavioral expectations.
Most researchers have found little evidence that our brains are hardwired to make the
sexes behave differently from each other (Fine, 2010; Jordan-Young, 2010; Renzetti, Curran,
& Maier, 2012). Why, then, do we see differences in behavior between the two sexes? Women
and men often segregate themselves at social gatherings. They dress and groom differently.
The topics of their conversations often differ. They participate in sex-specific leisure activities.
In classrooms, students are sometimes segregated by sex for school activities. Boys tend to be
more rambunctious in their play. Girls and boys often choose different games at recess: Girls
may jump rope as boys throw balls with each other. These choices extend into adulthood;
many men are fascinated with sports, watching every TV broadcast of their favorite sports
teams. They may even play touch football or pick-up basketball with friends. Women, on the
other hand, are more likely to watch ice skating or gymnastics on a different channel, although
more women are being attracted to traditional male-oriented sports such as football.
Are these behaviors and choices due to one’s being male or female? Do we learn our male
and female behaviors through socialization patterns based on sex? Are we born to behave,
think, and act differently (i.e., nature), or do we learn these differences (i.e., nurture)? How can
understanding these differences help us support, protect, and provide fair treatment to boys
and girls as they grow up and move through school? Let’s begin by looking at what we know
about the differences between the two sexes.
Differences Based on Nature
Research on biological differences between the sexes has led to contrasting conclusions about
the role of biology after birth in defining female and male differences. The X and Y chromo-
somes that determine our sex represent a very small proportion of our total gene pool; males
and females share roughly 99.8% of their genes (Eliot, 2012). The differences in psychological
traits (e.g., empathy, ambition, compassion, aggressiveness, and being responsible) and aca-
demic abilities between the average female and male are quite small. The differences are much
greater within the male and female populations than between males and females in general
(Eliot, 2012). In spite of these research findings, many parents and educators believe that there
are innate differences between boys and girls, which can lead to stereotypes and the develop-
ment of different expectations for their behavior, academic achievement, and future
Eliot (2012) concludes that speaking, reading, mathematics, mechanical ability, and inter-
personal characteristics such as aggression, empathy, risk taking, and competitiveness are
learned, not innate. Rather than explaining our differences primarily by nature, we are learn-
ing that the environment has a great influence on our behaviors. Girls and boys can learn to
use both hemispheres of the brain so that they can effectively develop the full range of skills.
At one time it was assumed that men had more intelligence than women due to larger
brain size. Today we know that brain size is related to body size, not to intelligence (Renzetti
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86 chapter 4 Gender
et al., 2012). When Alfred Binet developed the first intelligence test at the beginning of the
twentieth century, no differences were found in the general intelligence level between females
and males. However, many studies have found gender differences in mathematical and reading
skills, with females performing at higher levels on reading tests and males performing better
on assessments of mathematics. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)
collected data for a decade, including mathematics and reading performances for nearly 1.5
million 15-year-olds in 75 countries. Across nations, boys scored higher than girls in math-
ematics and lower than girls in reading. The gender difference in reading was three times as
large as that in mathematics (Stoet & Geary, 2013).
Researchers on both sides of the argument recommend that different types of classroom
activities are needed to engage boys and girls in the academic areas in which they are not per-
forming proficiently. Boys are in greater need of one-on-one verbal engagement than girls.
They need literary immersion, as well as opportunities for physical play and hands-on learn-
ing (Eliot, 2012). Girls need to be engaged in similar activities to develop their mathematics,
science, and spatial skills at higher levels. Expectations for both girls and boys need to be high,
no matter the subject area. Excuses that they are not performing well because of their sex are
no longer acceptable in an educational environment in which schools are expected to ensure
that all students perform at their grade level.
socially constructed Differences
Although nature determines our sex at the beginning of life, it does
not have to limit our abilities to the stereotyped roles of male or
female. How children spend their time and what they are taught can
help them either live the stereotypes or break out of the parameters
that privilege one group over another. The recreational and inter-
personal differences between girls and boys are much greater than
their cognitive and academic differences (Eliot, 2012).
Parents, siblings, teachers, and peers teach individuals from
birth throughout life their perceptions of the meaning of female-
ness and maleness. As soon as we know a baby’s sex, everything
from clothing to furniture to activities is gender driven. Even when
parents are determined not to reinforce the stereotypes, society
works against them. Gender-specific toys and the actions of girls
and boys on the pages of children’s books and magazines, on tele-
vision, and on the Internet as well as in play with their peers rein-
force the gender expectations. Through this socialization process,
children develop social skills and learn their socially prescribed
roles and expectations.
In a university early childhood demonstration class, the stu-
dents were given their daily free period time to engage in the activ-
ity of their choice. Two girls moved directly to an area where there
were dolls and began combing the dolls’ hair. One of the boys fol-
lowed them there and also began combing the hair of a doll. Before
the university master teacher could intervene, a university intern,
observing this, immediately picked up a model airplane, removed
the doll from the stunned boy’s hands, and said sternly, “Boys don’t
play with dolls; they play with airplanes.”
the influence of media on Perceptions of Gender roles. By high school
graduation, the average child will have spent more hours in front of the television than in
a classroom. On television, a woman’s beauty can count for more than intelligence. Adult
working women are commonly portrayed, but strong, intelligent, working-class women are
generally invisible. Neither female heroines nor male heroes are social workers, teachers, or
secretaries. They may be superhero crime fighters or CSI lab technicians, but few women on
Children learn at an early
age what type of activities
are considered socially
acceptable for their gender.
Little girls may dress up as
princesses, become little
ballerinas, or play with doll
houses. (© Elodie Lois Chinn)
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Male and Female Differences 87
television today are the full-time, stay-at-home mothers who populated the sitcoms of earlier
days. A growing number of women are news anchors, although they are often paired with a
male anchor on local news shows. Women’s sports can be found on television, but the range of
coverage is minuscule compared to men’s football, basketball, soccer, and baseball.
Women’s magazines often focus on women who are successful professionals while exhib-
iting the feminine attributes of beauty, caring, and housekeeping. Working mothers are super-
moms who not only work but are devoted mothers who meet the needs of their children in
much the same way as stay-at-home mothers do. Most magazines for young women focus on
celebrities, fashion, and attracting men (Douglas, 2010). Sex, sports, and automobiles are the
focus of most men’s magazines. Articles on being a good father or husband seldom find their
way into these magazines.
Children are not immune to the influence of the media. Cartoon characters, children’s
movies, and toys help determine their gender identities, which are reinforced by their same-
sex peers. For example, many preschool girls are enamored with the princesses of the Disney
movies, convincing their parents to purchase the gowns, shoes, jewelry, and makeup of their
favorite characters. Not only do they play dress-up at home, they dress as princesses for pre-
school and when they attend the Disney movies. Toys, games, books, and activities continue
to be sorted into the traditional pink for girls and blue for boys. Retailers have learned how to
market their products for each sex and reinforce stereotypical roles and expectations. Girls are
pretty and sweet; boys are active and aggressive (Orenstein, 2011).
socialization Patterns in school. When a child enters school, educators usually con-
tinue the socialization patterns initiated by parents that reinforce the stereotyped behaviors
associated with males and females. The attitudes and values about appropriate gender roles are
embedded in the curriculum of schools. Elementary schools with a predominance of female
teachers may reinforce maternal roles with an emphasis on obedience. In classrooms, boys and
girls receive different feedback and encouragement for their work. Boys often control class-
room conversations by answering questions quickly. Teachers are more likely to praise boys for
their intellectual responses. At the same time, boys are more likely to be publicly criticized by
teachers when they break a rule (Sadker, Sadker, & Zittleman, 2009).
Children are also active participants in the socialization process. Play groups are often
determined by the sex of the children, especially in the elementary and middle grades (Oren-
stein, 2011). Even when girls and boys play the same game, they often play it differently, with
the boys being more aggressive. However, not all boys and girls follow the socially acceptable
ways of their gender. Not all boys participate in large-group activities and are aggressive. The
forgotten boys whose voices have been silenced and marginalized may follow behavior pat-
terns generally associated with girls, but they risk being labeled as effeminate and can become
isolated from other boys. Much the same is true for girls. Everyone has probably known a
tomboy who chose to play with the boys rather than the girls. However, girls who excel in
athletics, even against the boys, usually do not suffer serious consequences (e.g., Little League
pitcher Mo’ne Davis).
combating Gender stereotypes in the classroom. Critics of elementary class-
rooms indicate that instruction is designed around the behaviors, interests, and needs of girls
to the detriment of boys. Teachers should consciously ensure that classroom activities do not
favor one group over another. Both boys and girls can learn the skills and attitudes that seem
to be more natural to the opposite sex through participating in the preferred activities of the
other group. Cooperative projects in classrooms in which girls and boys work together can
undermine sexual opposition if the students share the work rather than one group always
dominating. Teachers need to pay attention to the leadership in these small groups and may
sometimes have to assign girls to the leadership role to guarantee that both boys and girls are
developing leadership skills. As girls participate in boys’ activities that require more move-
ment, their brains begin to adopt the skills needed for better performance in spatial tasks.
Whereas adults read newspapers, magazines, and books, children spend much of their read-
ing time with textbooks. How do the genders fare in terms of the resources used in classrooms
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88 chapter 4 Gender
across the nation? Studies show that great improvements have been made over the past 30 years.
Textbooks are not as racist and sexist as in the past, and perspectives are better balanced. How-
ever, teachers still need to be cognizant of the gender and ethnicity of the authors being read
by students. The non-sexist literature read by children and young people tends to show girls
with masculine traits appropriate for a protagonist. Male protagonists do not normally reflect
feminine characteristics (Fine, 2010). What can teachers do when classroom resources primarily
reflect stereotyped portrayals and perspectives of females and males? They have to identify other
resources for their students. The Internet may be helpful in identifying different role models for
students, games for boys and girls to develop skills at which the other sex is generally more adept,
and interesting readings that provide different perspectives from those in the textbook.
Gender identity
Generally, sex is used to identify an individual as male or female, based on biological differences.
If we believe, as most research shows, that we are not hardwired for the differences between
the sexes that we see in society, the major biological differences are that women can bear chil-
dren, and men have penises. The differences we observe are based primarily on gender, or the
cultural differences between men and women, which define the characteristics behind the
meaning of being female or male. These are usually defined as femininity and masculinity,
which are culturally determined and learned through socialization.
Most of us take our gender identity for granted and do not question it because it cor-
responds to our sex. One’s recognition of the appropriate gender identity occurs uncon-
sciously early in life. It becomes a basic anchor in the personality and forms a core part of one’s
self-identity. Children begin selecting toys associated with their gender by the time they start
walking. By the age of 3 years, they realize that they are either boys or girls and have begun to
learn their expected behaviors (Eliot, 2012). By the time they enter school, children have clear
ideas about gender. Most children know that girls and boys are supposed to behave differently.
When they don’t follow the rules for their gender behavior, they are often reminded by parents
or their peers, and sometimes their teachers. Many are prepared to strive for conformity with
these gender-stereotyped roles. However, not everyone’s gender identity matches that person’s
sex. Some identify themselves as of the opposite sex, sexless, or somewhere in between. Some
are transgender individuals who cross-dress and sometimes physically alter their sex to match
the one with which they identify.
masculinity and femininity
Most cultures value masculinity over femininity. Masculinity is often measured by a man’s inde-
pendence, assertiveness, leadership, self-reliance, and emotional stability. Men are expected to
demonstrate tough, confident, and self-reliant behaviors as well as being aggressive and daring
(Kivel, 2013). Femininity is stereotypically characterized as emotional, dependent, compliant,
empathetic, and nurturing. As a result, men have been bestowed with greater power than women,
leading to their being identified by some as the superior sex. When these differences became
translated into the work environment, women were tracked into the nurturing fields of teaching,
health care, and social services. They were supervised by men with assertive leadership skills and
higher incomes. This pattern may be economically viable for families where both the wife and
husband work, but it leaves many single mothers and their children in poverty.
Few people fall solely at one or the other end of the feminine–masculine continuum.
Most of us possess some characteristics of each. However, culture and society often expect us
to mirror the gender behaviors associated with our sex, which could be detrimental to how we
see ourselves and to fulfilling our potential in the work that we select. Generally, females are
allowed more flexibility in their gender identification than males. Even young girls receive
positive reinforcement for acting like boys by being physically active, participating in sports,

Watch the video
“Dr. James Garbarino
on the Different Socialization
of Boys and Girls in Society”
/watch?v=SWVSlga61XI) for
an explanation of the different
expectations boys face from
society compared to girls.
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Gender Identity 89
and rejecting feminine stereotypical behavior. However, males are particularly susceptible to
societal pressures. As a result, they sometimes go overboard in proving their masculinity.
Many of us do not fit the stereotypical profile associated with our sex. Many men are
empathetic and caring, and many women are tough and assertive. People show different fem-
inine and masculine characteristics, depending on the circumstances, as shown by recent male
presidents and members of Congress who may cry in times of sadness and yet are tough and
assertive when needed. Some conservatives argue that men are losing their masculinity and are
being harmed as they become more feminine.
Life is not easy for young men, as supported by statistics indicating they are much more
likely than girls to commit suicide, binge-drink, use steroids, suffer from undiagnosed depres-
sion, and be killed by gunfire or in a car crash (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
2014e). However, these problems cannot be attributed to boys becoming more feminine. Boys
hold each other to a culturally determined gender identity, with little room for divergence.
Smith (2011), in citing the work of William Pollack, suggests that there are certain expecta-
tions for males. Boys must learn that they must be as sturdy as an oak, and behaviors such as
whimpering, crying, complaining, or any sign of weakness are unacceptable. In addition, risk
taking, “give ’em hell,” and macho behavior are valued. Boys should dominate others and not
reveal any feelings of failure or that life may be out of control. Finally, no “sissy” stuff: Boys
must avoid feminine expressions of dependence, warmth, and empathy.
As boys become young men, this “guy’s code” is often perpetuated, as young men feel that
they are forced to repudiate the feminine side of their personality and confirm their mascu-
linity. They want to be viewed as masculine by their peers, fathers, brothers, and coaches, and
among the worst things that can happen is to be considered effeminate and to demonstrate
feminine values. It can be an awful burden for males to carry when they personally value car-
ing, nurturing tendencies that some people associate with femininity.
We are, however, living in an era of changing norms in which many people are rejecting
old, unequal roles. Some individuals are modifying or even rejecting Pollack’s views of expected
masculine behavior. Both men and women are often able to move to more androgynous
behaviors without social repercussions. These changes are resulting in new uncertainties where
the norms of the gender role are no longer so distinct. As new norms develop, more flexible
roles, personalities, and behaviors are evolving for both females and males. However, we are
likely to see adolescents struggling with their gender identity, especially in the middle and high
school years.
transgender identity
The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that transgender is a term used for
persons whose gender identity or behavior does not conform to or is not associated with the
sex to which they were assigned at birth. One’s gender identity refers to the individual’s internal
sense of being male or female. APA further suggests that gender expression refers to how the
individuals express themselves to others by the way they communicate characteristics such as
their attire, voice, hairstyle, body characteristics, and general behavior (American Psychological
Association, 2015).
An individual’s sex is assigned at birth, based on biological status of male or female, as
determined primarily by physical attributes such as chromosomes and internal and external
anatomy. Gender, on the other hand, refers to the socially constructed roles, activities, and
attributes that each given society assigns as appropriate for males or females. Variations from
these expectations, especially if they are significant, may have severe social consequences for
an individual.
Some individuals are born with the biological trappings (e.g., vagina or penis) of one sex
but think and behave like the other sex. For example, a child may be born in a boy’s body but
be a girl in every other aspect of life. When someone’s identity, appearance, or behavior falls
outside the conventional gender norms, that person is described as transgender. In some cases,
transgender individuals have surgery or use hormones to transform their bodies to match the
sex with which they identify—a process called sex or gender reassignment or gender affirmation.
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90 chapter 4 Gender
Some of these individuals are transvestites—people who cross-dress. Transgender students
may choose names that denote their identity rather than their sex. Family members, educators,
and significant others can be supportive of transgender students by educating themselves about
transgender issues, consulting experts, and using names and pronouns appropriate to the indi-
viduals’ gender identity. The protocol is to interact with a transgender student as if the student
is of the sex with which he/she identifies. In other words, you would interact with a male student
who identifies as female by using female pronouns such as she and her and interacting with the
person as you would with other females in your class.
Transgender students often face sexual harassment similar to that faced by many gay stu-
dents. Educators should be aware of possible harassment and intervene appropriately to protect
the legal rights of these students and ensure safety in their classrooms.
influence of ethnicity and religion
The degree to which a student adheres to a traditional gender identity is inf luenced by the family’s
ethnicity, class, and religion. For many women of color, racial discrimination has such an impact
on their daily lives and well-being that gender is often secondary in their identity. In some reli-
gions, gender identity and relations are strictly controlled by religious doctrine. Thus, gender
inequality takes on different forms among different ethnic, class, and religious groups. The degree
to which traditional gender roles are accepted depends, in large part, on the degree to which the
family maintains the traditional patterns and the experiences of their ethnic group in this country.
Families that adhere to traditional religious and cultural patterns are more likely to encourage
adherence to rigid gender roles than are families that have adopted bicultural patterns.
Women of color, no matter their socioeconomic status, have current and historical expe-
riences of discrimination based on their race and ethnicity. Identification with one group may
be prevalent in one setting but not another. It is often a struggle to develop an identity that
incorporates one’s gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, class, and religion into a whole
with which one feels comfortable and self-assured. Most students of color are likely to identify
themselves by their ethnic or racial group rather than by their sex or gender.
Religions generally recognize and include masculine and feminine expectations as part of
their doctrines. Regardless of the specific religion, rituals sometimes reflect and often reinforce
systems of male dominance. The more conservative religious groups usually support a stricter
adherence to gender-differentiated roles. Their influence extends into issues of sexuality, marriage,
and reproductive rights. They may have successfully organized politically to control state and
federal policies on family and women’s affairs. On the other hand, more liberal religious groups
may support the marriage rights of gays and lesbians and the right of a woman to choose abortion,
and they may encourage both males and females to lead their congregations. These issues are
discussed extensively in Chapter 8, which addresses religion and culture. Religious perspectives
on the appropriate roles of females and males can conflict with the school culture in designating
the ways girls and boys are allowed to interact with each other in the classroom and hallways. For
example, the dress of girls and young women in physical education classes may clash with religious
dictates. Educators should be alert to religious perspectives as they discuss gender issues in class-
rooms, plan lessons on sexuality, and interact with females and males in the classroom.
struggles for Gender equity
Most major changes in society do not occur quietly. Throughout most of history (and still in
many parts of the world today), women were not considered equal to men. In fact, most were
subordinate to men. They were dependent on them for financial well-being as their daughters
and their wives. For women on their own, jobs were neither plentiful nor well paid. With some
education, women could be hired as teachers if they could convince school authorities that they
were moral, upstanding young women. Once they married, some were no longer allowed to
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Struggles for Gender Equity 91
teach; they became the responsibility of their husbands. Without laws that provided them
autonomy from their spouses or fathers, women could not file for divorce, own property, or
apply for men’s jobs.
early struggles for Gender equity
The desire for independence and equal rights has fired the struggles of women and their male
allies for gender equity since the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. During the mid-nineteenth
century, women activists were part of the antislavery movement. They were also trying to raise
the public’s awareness about women’s issues, including the right to divorce, own property, speak
in public, prevent abuse by husbands, work, and vote. At the Seneca Falls Convention, women
organized to fight against their oppression. This effort involved some male supporters, including
Frederick Douglass and white abolitionists who were fighting against slavery and for the human
and civil rights of all people. However, even most women did not support the women’s movement
at that time. They did not view their conditions as oppressive and accepted their roles as wives
and mothers as natural.
Later in the century, protective legislation for women and children was enacted to make
some manual jobs inaccessible to women because of the danger involved. The legislation also
limited the number of hours women could work and the time at which they could work—much
like today’s child labor laws. Such legislation did little, however, to extend equal rights to
women. During this period, the members of women’s groups were predominantly European
Americans. They segregated their fight for equal rights from the struggles of other oppressed
groups and refused to take a stand against Jim Crow laws and other violations of the civil rights
of ethnic and racial groups. It was 50 years after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment,
which granted African American men the right to vote, before women would be granted the
right to vote following hard-fought battles that included organizing, picketing, arrests, hunger
strikes, and forced feedings in jail.
the second Wave
The most comprehensive advances in the status of women were initiated in the 1960s, when
feminists were able to gain the support of more women and men than at any other time in
Women have finally been
able to work together and
gain support from men and
other significant groups.
(© Ramin Talaie/AP Images)
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92 chapter 4 Gender
history. As in the previous century, this movement developed out of the struggle for civil rights
being waged by African Americans. The 1963 Equal Pay Act required that men and women
receive equal pay for the same job, but it did not prevent discrimination in hiring. In an attempt
to defeat the Civil Rights Bill in Congress, a southern congressman added the words “or sex”
to Title VII, declaring that discrimination based on “race, color, national origin, or sex” was
prohibited. This legislation, which passed in 1964, extended equal rights to women for the first
time. Soon afterward, President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order that required busi-
nesses with federal contracts to hire women and people of color, creating the first affirmative-
action programs.
Women’s groups pushed for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which read,
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or
by any state on account of sex.” After the ERA was passed by Congress in 1972, conserva-
tive groups concerned about family values lobbied state legislatures to reject the amendment.
Although two-thirds of the U.S. population supported the ERA, it was not ratified by the
required number of states. By the 1980s political leaders were no longer disposed to extend
full equal rights to women.
The 1990s ushered in a change in the feminist movement toward broader support for the
civil rights of all groups rather than just women. As an example, the nation’s largest feminist
organization, the National Organization for Women (NOW), today includes in its agenda fight-
ing racism and supporting welfare reform, immigrant rights, and affirmative action. A growing
number of articles and books on equity by modern feminists, sociologists, and critical theorists
address the interaction of race, gender, and class in the struggle for equity for all groups.
today’s challenges
Equal rights for women, men, gays, and lesbians continue to be contested. Feminists fight for
equality in jobs, pay, schooling, responsibilities in the home, and the nation’s laws. They believe
that women and men should have a choice about working in the home or outside the home,
having children, and acknowledging sexual orientation. They believe that women should not
have to be subordinate to men at home, in the workplace, or in society. They fight to eliminate
the physical and mental violence that has resulted from such subordination by providing sup-
port groups and shelters for abused women and children, as well as by pressuring the judicial
system to outlaw and severely punish such violence. In addition, they promote shared male and
female responsibilities in the home and the availability of child care to all families.
While the movement has been slow in emerging, women have started finding their place
in leadership positions in professional fields. Women have run for president of the United
States; the first to do so was Shirley Chisholm, in 1972. Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin
were candidates for vice president. Two previous secretaries of state—Condoleezza Rice and
Hillary Rodhan Clinton—were women, interacting with leaders from around the world.
As of 2015, there were 20 women serving in the U.S. Senate, a historic high. An additional
84 women were serving in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2015. Even more indicative
of change, Nancy Pelosi served as the first and only female speaker of the House from 2007 to
2011 and was therefore third in line for the presidency; she still served as the House minority
leader in 2015 (Pew Research Center, 2015b).
At one time, it would have been unheard of for a woman to serve as a CEO of a Fortune
500 company. Today, 26 women are serving in these positions, but this is still a very small per-
centage. One example is Mary Barra, who became the first female leader of an automaker in
the world in 2014 when she became the CEO of General Motors, the largest U.S. corporation.
Other noteworthy U.S. women in industry leadership positions include Marillyn A. Hewson, the
chairperson, president, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Lockheed Martin Corporation, the
world’s largest defense firm; Phebe Novakovic, the chairperson and CEO for General Dynamics,
the world’s fifth-largest defense contractor; and Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM. It might be
noted, however, that on the Forbes list of most powerful individuals in the world, there are only
three U.S. women—Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve Board, Ginni Rometty, and Mary
Barra—out of a total of eight women, with the vast majority on the list men (Forbes, 2014).
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The Cost of Sexism and Gender Discrimination 93
The business world is still male dominated, with only 16.9% of women sitting on the
boards of Fortune 500 companies in 2014 (Pew Research Center, 2015b). Men continue to
dominate the senior professorial ranks in higher education and as university presidents. In
2011, only 26.4% of university presidents were women (American Council of Education, 2012).
In 2015 five women served as state governors—two Democrats and three Republicans.
During the Clinton administration, 41% of the cabinet-level positions were held by women.
George W. Bush appointed Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, the first African American
female to hold that position. Two other women served in the Bush second-term cabinet. In
2015, 35% of the Obama administration cabinet members were women (Pew Research Cen-
ter, 2015b). Three of the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are women.
To date, no U.S. woman has served as president, though there have been presidential and
vice presidential candidates representing the two major political parties in the general election.
Internationally there have been and continue to be many female heads of state, such as Germany’s
Angela Merkel, Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and South Korea’s Park Geun-hye.
the Boy crisis
In the past several years, much has been written about the “boy crisis” in our schools. Some of this
has been blamed on feminist reforms in schools to the detriment of males. Concerned observers
indicate that boys have been short-changed as schools have turned their focus to improving the
academic performance of girls. The backlash is over the belief that there is now an advantage for girls
in U.S. classrooms. Some say that, under the guise of supporting girls, boys are penalized in class-
rooms that now favor girls (Lindsey, 2015). Today, more girls than boys are in advance placement
(AP) classes, more are completing higher education at all levels, including doctoral degrees, and more
boys are being disciplined in school than females. In addition, more boys than girls are in special
education classes for students with intellectual disabilities and severe emotional disturbances.
Warner (2013) acknowledges that girls indeed take more AP classes, earn higher grades,
and earn more college degrees than males. This is not a new phenomenon. Girls have been
outperforming boys in schools for decades. Girls spend more time studying than boys and are
more likely to say that good grades are important to them. Black males who excel academically
are sometimes faced with accusations of “acting white.”
Girls are getting the message that hard work will lead to success in college and also in
the workplace. That message is not getting through to boys, particularly if their parents do
not value a college education. Warner (2013) suggests that a lot of boys are doing fine. If they
are from white or Asian educated families, they are not dropping behind girls. Warner further
states that once they enter the labor market, males will still outperform and out-earn females.
She believes that the crises are of income and education level, not gender. Covert (2014b) sug-
gests that with respect to well-behaved girls who excel in school, the racial achievement gap and
the fact that black children are likely to be disciplined more severely in school works against
them. Nearly 40% of black and Hispanic girls will not graduate from high school as scheduled.
If there is a degree of truth in the “boy crisis,” Covert (2014a) predicts that in 50 years, women
will earn more than men and will not only achieve pay equity but actually reverse it.
the cost of sexism and Gender Discrimination
Sexism is the belief that males are superior to females. Often, it occurs in personal situations
of marriage and family life where the husband or father “rules the roost.” It also occurs in the
workplace when women hold lower-status jobs, work for men, and receive lower wages than
men for the same work.
Only a century ago, most women could not attend college, had no legal right to either
property or their children, could not initiate a divorce, and were forbidden to smoke or drink.
Because these inequities no longer exist and laws now protect the rights of women, many
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94 chapter 4 Gender
people believe that men and women are today treated equally in society. However, society’s
deep-rooted assumptions about how men and women should think, look, and behave can lead
to discriminatory behavior based on gender alone.
Many of us discriminate on the basis of gender without realizing it. Because we were
raised in a sexist society, we think our behavior is natural and acceptable, and we often don’t
recognize discrimination when it occurs. Women may not be aware of the extent to which they
do not participate equally in society, and men may not acknowledge the privilege that maleness
bestows on them—signs that the distinct roles have been internalized well during the socializa-
tion process. Most parents do not directly plan to harm their sons and daughters by teaching
them to conform to stereotyped roles. For example, some young women are encouraged to
seek fulfilment through marriage rather than by their own achievement and independence,
which may prevent them from achieving social and economic success at the same levels as men.
Parents may be unaware that their sons may never learn to be compassionate and empathetic
if they are taught that they must always meet the masculinity standard.
Educators have the opportunity to help students break out of group stereotypes and provide
them with opportunities to explore and pursue a wide variety of options in fulfilling their poten-
tial as individuals. They can help girls and young women develop some of the traits traditionally
thought of as masculine and help boys and young men become caring and compassionate.
Gender discrimination is not only practiced by individuals but also has been institutional-
ized in policies, laws, rules, and precedents in society. These institutional arrangements benefit
one gender over the other, as described in the following sections.
Women continue to be overrepresented in the traditional female occupations, although we are
seeing more women entering jobs traditionally held by males, as shown in Table 4.1. However,
Table 4.1 the ParticiPatiOn rates Of WOmen in seLecteD JOB rOLes
Occupation Women’s Participation (%)
Speech and language pathologist 98.4
Preschool kindergarten teacher 97.2
Dental hygienist 97.1
Hairdresser or cosmetologist 94.6
Secretary or administrative assistant 94.2
Dietitian or nutritionist 92.4
Occupational therapist 92.4
Bookkeeping, accounting, or auditing clerk 90.2
Registered nurse 90.0
Flight attendant 75.8
Dentist 29.1
Clergy 18.6
Mechanical engineer 8.8
Airline pilot or flight engineer 7.2
Firefighter 5.7
Machinist 4.5
Aircraft mechanic or service technician 3.3
Construction laborer 2.5
Electrician 2.4
Brick, block, or stone mason 0.07
Source: From Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014), Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, U. S.
Department of Labor,
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The Cost of Sexism and Gender Discrimination 95
even though more young women are finishing high school and college than their male peers,
they are still not making inroads into many traditional male jobs. The jobs in which women
predominate are accompanied by neither high prestige nor high income. People in professional
positions, such as teachers and nurses, do not compete in income or prestige with architects
and engineers. Women continue to be overrepresented as clerical and service workers and
underrepresented as managers and skilled workers.
In 2015, however, Sarah Thomas was selected as the first National Football League
(NFL) full-time official. Thomas earned her reputation and her way into the coveted position
through over 20 years of officiating high school and college football games. Some consider
getting that job even more difficult than becoming a player in the NFL. NFL officials must
pass rigorous physical and psychological examinations and must master what is considered the
most difficult rule book in all of major sports. Thomas became the first woman named to such
a position in the 90-plus years of the league.
It has been difficult for women to enter administrative and skilled jobs. These jobs have
fewer entry-level positions than the less prestigious ones. The available jobs for many women
are those with short or no promotion ladders, few opportunities for training, low wages, little
stability, and poor working conditions. Clerical and sales positions are examples of such jobs,
but even professions such as teaching and nursing offer little opportunity for career advance-
ment. To earn the comfortable living that is the “American dream” often requires a woman to
seek either a traditionally male occupation or a husband with a good income.
When men enter traditionally female fields, they typically do not hold the same positions
as women. In 2014 men accounted for fewer than 3% of preschool and kindergarten teachers
and 19.1% of public elementary and middle school teachers (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,
2014c). Bitterman, Goldring, Gray, and Broughman (2013) indicate that in 2011–2012, 47.l6%
of all principals in the United States were male, and 52.4% were female. In the primary schools,
36.2% were male, and 63.8% were female. In middle schools, 57.7% of the principalships were
held by men and 42.3% by women. At the high school level, 69.9% of principals were male,
and 30.1% were female.
The participation gap between men and women in a number of high-prestige profes-
sions has narrowed over the past few generations but has not been eliminated. Women are
still underrepresented in mathematics, science, and technology fields. In 1950 only 6.5% of
all physicians and surgeons were women; in 2014, 37.6% were women. The percentage of
female lawyers has increased from 4% to 32%, but only 12.3% of electrical engineers, 16.5%
of civil engineers, and 12% of astronomers and physicists are women (U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics, 2014c). The number of women in some professional jobs should continue to rise
because women are receiving an increasing number of degrees in these fields. In the 2013
U.S. workforce, 57% of professional occupations were held by women, including 26% of the
professional computing occupations. Another encouraging statistic is the fact that 56% of AP
test takers were female, including 46% female calculus and 19% female computer science
test takers. In 2012, 18% of computer science undergraduate degree recipients were women
(National Center for Women in Technology, 2014).
Males have been underrepresented in fields traditionally dominated by women. However,
some are beginning to make inroads into those professions. Currently only 6.8% of nurses
are males (Anderson, 2014). Male social workers comprise 18.1% of that workforce, 12.7% of
paralegals and legal assistants, 15.2% of librarians, and 7.6% of occupational therapists (U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014c).
What do these trends suggest to educators? First, schools have prepared a growing number
of young women to see themselves as professionals and have helped them obtain the knowl-
edge and skills to pursue those fields. At the same time, a limited number of young men are
pursuing jobs that are traditionally female. Why are they not choosing those fields? These
figures also clearly indicate that young women are either not preparing themselves for the
higher-paying and prestigious jobs in engineering and computer science or are not choosing to
pursue those fields after high school. What educational strategies could equalize the numbers
of males and females pursuing the fields in which the respective groups currently have limited
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96 chapter 4 Gender
Historically, men in U.S. society have usually been expected to work. In past years, many
women remained in their homes as the primary care providers for their children and home-
makers. In more recent years, the higher educational levels of women, the high cost of living
and other factors have seen higher percentages of women in the workforce. Only 16.7% of
all married women worked outside the home in 1940; by 2012, 59.4% of women were
employed (Berman, 2014b).
Most of the literature, including speeches by President Obama, suggests that in 2013,
women who work full time in the United States make 78% of the income men are paid. This
implies that women must work 60 additional days a year (or three months) to equal the earn-
ings of men. However, Patten (2014) estimates that based on hourly earnings and including
both full- and part-time workers, the pay differential is in reality closer to 84% in favor of men.
The wage gap has narrowed over the years—it was 36% in 1980—but it persists. Pew offers
some explanations for the gap. Women are more likely to take career interruptions, including
time off to take care of family issues such as children. Women indicate that they have taken
significant time off from work or reduced their work hours to provide for their children’s needs
or other family matters Even though more women have entered traditionally higher-paying,
male-dominated professional and managerial positions, as a group they still tend to work in
lower-paying occupations. It is possible that the pay differential may also be related to dis-
crimination, as more women (18%) report discrimination than do men (10%) (Patten, 2014).
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) (2015) found that one year
after college graduation, women were making 82% of their similarly educated and experienced
male counterparts. In an earlier report, AAUW had found that 10 years after graduation, the
gap widened, and women were making 69% of what the men were paid (Dey & Hill, 2007).
Figure 4.1 provides a comparison of male vs. female median weekly salaries in 2005 and 2015.
AAUW does suggest that to some extent the gap reflects choices, and women are more likely
than men to go into fields such as teaching, resulting in lower salaries. However, AAUW
2005 2014
Percentage of Women’s to Men’s Salary
2005 80.54%
2014 82.62%
900 Men
fiGure 4.1 Median Usual Weekly Earnings of Full-Time Wage and Salary Workers by Sex, Fourth
Quarter Average in 2005 compared to 2014
Source: From Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers, U. S. Department of Labor,
.release/pdf/wkyeng .
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The Cost of Sexism and Gender Discrimination 97
suggests that they may encounter a “motherhood penalty” that extends beyond their time
out of the workforce. Research studies have documented that employers are less likely to hire
mothers compared than to hire childless women. When offers are made to mothers, they also
come with lower salaries than offers made to other women. Fathers, on the other hand, seem
to suffer no such penalties (AAUW, 2015).
Patten and Parker (2012) did find that young women (66%) have become more likely
than young men (59%) to indicate that having a high-paying career or profession is a very
important aspect of their life. According to Patten and Parker, this represents a significant
reversal from a 1997 study, in which equal numbers of young men and women indicated
that career success was a high priority. Patten and Parker further state that middle-aged
and older women were also found to be placing greater emphasis on career success than
they had in 1997. They add that women continue to value both marriage and parenting,
suggesting that their aspirations for their careers does not necessarily negate their value
on family.
Even when accounting for nearly all of the justifications for lower salaries, including
the student’s major, choice of institution, occupation, grade point average, age, geograph-
ical region, and marital status, there was still a 7% differential that could not be explained
(AAUW, 2015).
The salary differential is less for younger women than for older women. In 2013 women
ages 20 to 24 working full time were making 90% of what men were making. However, by
age 35, the median salaries for women were found to start lagging behind those of men. From
that age until retirement, women are typically paid 75% to 80% of what men are paid. While
education typically increases earnings, it is not a deterrent to the gender pay gap. AAUW
(2015) found that at each level of enhanced academic achievement, the median income for men
exceeded that of women. The same study found that race was also a factor in women’s salaries,
with both white and Asian women’s salaries exceeding those of Hispanic and African American
women at all levels of education.
Only when apples are compared with apples and oranges with oranges can we definitively
determine that there is gender pay discrimination. One such study (St. Louis, 2015) reported
that in the traditional female-dominated nursing field, male nurses made $5,100 more per
year than their female colleagues in similar positions. The data were not from a small iso-
lated study; the research team, which included experts at the Yale School of Public Health
and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, utilizes data from two surveys—on more than
290,000 nurses. Male cardiology nurses were paid more than $6,000 per year more than their
female counterparts. Male nurses specializing in chronic care earned roughly $3,800 more
than women who did the same work. Even more dramatic was the differential between male
and female nurse anesthetists, 40% of whom were men and were paid $17,290 more a year
than female nurse anesthetists. Possible reasons offered for the salary gap followed the usual
possibilities previously cited. However, a professor of nursing at Hunter College and former
editor of the American Journal of Nursing concluded that “a man is more of an expert because
he is a man” (St. Louis, 2015).
Even as we are beginning to see improvements in income and job equity, Conley (2014)
provided a troubling report that one-third of American women are on the verge of poverty.
Almost 42 million adult women lived in situations that were 200% below the federal poverty
threshold in 2012, essentially living between poverty and the middle class.
If a goal of educators is to enhance the incomes of women, then curricula that lead to the
more lucrative professions could be explored by students. Science, technology, engineering
and mathematics (STEM) disciplines have tended to provide individuals with these academic
backgrounds some of the most financially rewarding careers. However, as most educators are
aware, these disciplines are not necessarily areas that all individuals find personally rewarding.
Students should be helped in exploring fields that will provide them with career choices lead-
ing to satisfying lives.
Since 2005, a larger number and percentage of females have either completed or are pro-
jected to complete associate’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees than men. Women were projected
to receive 60% of the 1,046,000 associate degrees, 57.6% of the 1,835,000 bachelor’s degrees,

Watch the video
“Straight Talk about
the Wage Gap” (https://www
=mH4lb88DMeo) for a
discussion about the factors
contributing to the wage gap
and advice on how to
maximize earning potential.
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98 chapter 4 Gender
and 50.5% of the doctoral degrees in the 2014–2015 academic year. This data is provided in
Figure 4.2. As more women pursue postsecondary degrees, it remains to be seen if this will
eventually translate into greater parity in the gender pay gap (National Center for Education
Statistics, 2014a).
sexual harassment
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that has long existed in the workplace, where
women have been the recipients of unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior. Sometimes the
perpetuator is in a position of power over the woman and uses that power to secure favors or
to make sexual advances. In other cases, it is a co-worker who makes unwanted advances. As in
other areas related to gender socialization, schools mirror society in the perpetuation of sexual
harassment. Both boys and girls report receiving unwanted sexual attention in schools. Bidwell
(2014) indicates that researchers from the University of Illinois–Champagne Urbana studying
1400 middle school students in four Midwestern middle schools found that more than one in
four students (27% of girls and 25% of boys) report unwanted verbal or physical sexual harass-
ment on school grounds or violence.
Sexual harassment occurs in the halls and classrooms of our schools, often while other
students watch. Perpetrators of sexual harassment include male and female teachers, school
administrators, janitors, and coaches as well as other students. It is not only boys who harass
others; girls are also guilty, but less often. The harassment can be verbal (e.g., making insult-
ing remarks or jokes, spreading sexual rumors), visual (e.g., sharing naked pictures, making
obscene gestures), or physical (e.g., pinching, fondling, or flashing). At worst, the victim is
sexually abused or raped. Teachers who offer higher grades to a student for sexual favors or
dates are sexual harassers. If actions by another student or adult are unwelcome by the victim
and make him or her uncomfortable, scared, or confused, they constitute harassment.
Sexual harassment can be very damaging to its victims, having an impact on their emotions
and subsequent behavior. They may feel self-conscious, embarrassed, afraid, and confused. It
can also affect students’ school performance. They may participate less in classrooms and find it
difficult to pay attention. They may skip school to avoid facing the harasser (National Women’s
Law Center, 2007).
Associate Bachelor’s Master’s Doctoral
Men Women

Associate Bachelor’s Master’s Doctoral
Men Women
fiGure 4.2 Percentage of Men and Women Completing or Projected to Complete Degrees in 1975 and in 2015
Source: National Center for Education Statistics: Degrees conferred by degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by level of degree and sex of student,
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The Cost of Sexism and Gender Discrimination 99
Elementary school boys and adolescent males are also victims of sexual harassment. They
frequently challenge each other to prove their masculinity. They harass new students; haze
the rookies on the basketball, football, or other sports teams; and initiate new members of a
fraternity through drinking rites and sexual games that can be dangerous to their health and
well-being. These young men operate on a code that denigrates females, gays, lesbians, and
anybody else who they feel threatens their privileged gender role. They may do everything
possible to prove their masculinity, even if that requires harassing females and each other.
Those boys who do not meet these gender expectations try to avoid settings in which they may
be bullied, beaten, or humiliated; these settings could include school or another place in which
students congregate. While some boys do stand up to these pressures, many practice a code of
silence where they watch their peers bully others without intervening or reporting incidents to
a teacher or parent. As addressed in Chapter 10, young men between 16 and 24 years old suffer
from the emotional stress that these actions elicit, resulting in a suicide rate that is higher than
that of any other age group.
Educators and parents alike may try to explain away sexual harassment on grounds that
this is typical adolescent behavior for boys and place the blame on a few bullies. Young men
may be confused by accusations of sexual harassment, in part because the behavior has for too
long been viewed as typical for male adolescents. Many principals and teachers either don’t
know that harassment is occurring in their schools or ignore it. Most students say they are not
comfortable reporting incidents to teachers or other school personnel. They are most likely
to tell a friend, but many, especially boys, tell no one. However, harassment and sex discrim-
ination are social justice issues and are included under civil rights laws. Students who have
Critical Incidents in Teaching
the Boys’ code
“Assault in the Locker Room” was the headline in the newspaper, surprising most members of the Clarke High
School community. Clarke High School was not an inner-city school; it was located in an affluent community. Its
basketball team had been a powerhouse for the last decade. What had gone wrong?
The family of a freshman student reported to the school administration that their son had been abused in
the locker room by the three star players. On one occasion, they caught him coming out of the shower, duct-taped
his genitals to his body, taped him to the wall, and brought in his former girlfriend to have a look. And the abuse
did not stop there. He and another rookie on the reserve team were harassed by older teammates on the bus
returning from an away game the previous month. They were punched, called “faggots,” and used as the objects of
simulated sex. While only two of the players were the direct perpetrators of the abuse, others cheered them on.
In the investigation that followed, the basketball players denied the abuse. They said the older players were
just horsing around. They didn’t mean anything by it. All rookie athletes were initiated into their sports this way
and had been for years. Their parents said it was just “boys being boys.” They had gone through the same type of
hazing when they were in high school, and they turned out all right. Why was this kid suing the school? Why was
he ruining the school spirit that was at an all-time high with an outstanding basketball season?
The three star players were suspended with three games left in the season—games that, if won, probably
would have guaranteed the school’s best season ever. The coach was under investigation. What did he know
about these initiation rites? Adults in the community were asking, “What has gone wrong in our school?” Why did
other players maintain a code of silence about the abuse? Why did the ex-girlfriend not report the abuse? How
can the community recover?
QuestiOns fOr cLassrOOm DiscussiOn
1. What action should school administrators have taken when the freshman first reported the abuse?
2. If you were the basketball coach, what would you have done to prevent this type of abuse in the locker room
and on the bus?
3. How would you help students have an honest discussion about this incident?
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100 chapter 4 Gender
suffered from such harassment are beginning to fight back through the courts. Educators,
school staff and students need to be aware that all states have laws governing sexual assault,
and with certain type of assaults (referred to as statutory rape in some jurisdictions), the pen-
alties for offenders can be extremely severe, even if the relationships are consensual. When
the younger party is under the legal age for consent and the offender over the prescribed age,
penalties may result in years of imprisonment and the requirement of registering as a sex
offender, sometimes for life.
School officials are no longer allowed to ignore the sexual harassment and abuse of stu-
dents and may be forced to pay damage awards if they do. An educator most likely will be fired
if found to be harassing a student, and the educator’s actions are likely to be reported in the
news media. Schools and school districts are legally required to protect students from sexual
harassment by Title IX (more on that later in the chapter). Any school receiving federal finan-
cial assistance must have an anti-discrimination policy and grievance procedures that address
sex discrimination, including sexual harassment.
Policies and practices within schools may need to be revised, but discussions should
involve the broader community of students and parents.
Educators can assist in the elimination of harassment, bullying, and other youth violence.
They can start by modeling appropriate behavior by avoiding sexual references, innuendoes,
and jokes. They should monitor their own behaviors to ensure that they are not using their
power as an authority figure to harass students.
Educators can also encourage students to form or join school leadership groups that work
to educate others about and prevent sexual harassment. Educators can help young men feel
empowered enough to resist being bystanders to sexual harassment and other bullying. The
positive attributes of masculinity and femininity, such as honor, respect, integrity, ethics, and
doing the right thing, should be reinforced in schools. They can help both female and male
students be resilient, especially when they do not meet the stereotyped expectations of their
Bringing Gender equality to the classroom
and Beyond
Education is a key to upward mobility and financial security in adulthood. The occupational
roles that individuals pursue will inf luence the way they are able to live in the future. Stu-
dents’ chances to pursue postsecondary education are greatly inf luenced by their education
in elementary and secondary schools. By the time students are in high school, they have
made their choices, or have been placed in a track that will determine their chances of going
to college.
The National Assessment for Education Progress has monitored 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old
students since the 1970s. In 2012, female students scored higher on average than the male
students at all three levels. However, there were no significant gaps at ages 9 and 13 in math
between the male and female students. At 17, however, male students scored higher than the
females, although the gap was smaller than it had been in the 1970s (National Center for Edu-
cational Statistics, 2013c).
The data indicate some differences in the academic achievement of females and males
that might be eliminated if educators improved male performance in literacy and female per-
formance in mathematics and science. There is not common agreement, however, on how to
accomplish this goal. Some researchers have proposed that teachers develop classroom envi-
ronments that take advantage of the learning styles of boys and girls. Professional development
programs on gender equity focus on changing the content of curriculum and the behavior
of teachers toward students. Teachers, counselors, teacher aides, coaches, and principals all
have roles in eradicating the inequities that result from sexism. Let’s examine some of the
approaches supporting gender equity in schools.
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Bringing Gender Equality to the Classroom and Beyond 101
title iX
Title IX of the Educational Amendments of Public Law 92-318, passed in 1972, is among the
most significant legislation enacted regarding gender equity in the United States. The law
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation
in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education
program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
Title IX addresses the differential, stereotypical, and discriminatory treatment of students
on the basis of their gender. It protects students and employees in virtually all public school
systems and postsecondary institutions in the United States. The law prevents gender discrim-
ination in (1) the admission of students, particularly to postsecondary and vocational education
institutions; (2) the treatment of students; and (3) the employment of all personnel.
Title IX makes it illegal to treat students differently or separately on the basis of gender. It
requires that all programs, activities, and opportunities offered by a school district be equally
available to males and females. All courses must be open to all students. For example, boys
must be allowed to enroll in family and consumer science classes, and girls must be allowed in
technology and agriculture courses. Regarding the counseling of students, Title IX prohibits
biased course or career guidance; the use of biased achievement, ability, or interest tests; and
the use of college and career materials that are biased in content, language, or illustrations.
Schools cannot assist any business or individual in employing students if the request is for a
student of a particular gender. There can be no discrimination in the type or amount of finan-
cial assistance or eligibility for such assistance.
Membership in clubs and other activities based on gender alone is prohibited in schools,
with the exceptions of YWCA, YMCA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Boys’ State, Girls’ State, Key
clubs, and other voluntary and tax-exempt youth service organizations that have traditionally
been limited to members of one gender who are 19 years of age or younger. Rules of behavior
and punishment for violation of those rules must be the same for all students. Honors and
awards may not designate the gender of the student as a criterion for the award. While the law
has also been intended to provide access to schooling for pregnant and parenting teenagers,
data suggest that only half of women who gave birth as teenagers get a high school diploma by
age 22. It has been suggested that these young women are too often deprived of equal oppor-
tunities in part because of ignorance about Title IX’s application to this group of students. As
recently as 2011, a Michigan law prohibited pregnant students from getting the same at-home
educational services as students unable to attend school for other medical conditions (Shah,
2012b). While it is important to remember that Title IX is more than athletics, athletics is
where the most visible strides in the law have been made.
The most controversial section of Title IX concerns athletic programs. Provisions for
girls to participate in intramural, club, or interscholastic sports must be included in a school’s
athletic program. The sports offered by a school must be coeducational, with two major excep-
tions: (1) when selection for teams is based on competitive skill and (2) when the activity is
a contact sport. In these two situations, separate teams are permitted but are not required.
Although the law does not require equal funding for girls’ and boys’ athletic programs, equal
opportunity in athletics must be provided. The courts apply the following three-part test to
determine equal opportunity:
1. The percentage of male and female athletes is substantially proportionate to the percent-
age of females and males in the student population.
2. The school has a history of expanding opportunities for females to participate in sports.
3. A school fully and effectively meets the interest and abilities of female students even if it
may not be meeting the proportionate expectation of the first requirement.
Participation in sports tends to provide physiological and psychological benefits to partici-
pants. The United States had a limited early history of outstanding female athletes such
as all-around athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias, tennis great Althea Gibson, and figure skater

Watch the video
“Title IX” (https://
3Jqj40dybSQ) to understand
the impact that this law has
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102 chapter 4 Gender
Peggy Fleming. There were relatively few world-class female athletes prior to the 1970s in
track and field, soccer, basketball, or sports such as speed skating and auto racing. Today,
basketball greats such as Diana Taurasi, track stars like Jackie Joyner-Kersee, speed skater Bonnie
Blair, soccer greats like Carli Lloyd, swimmer Missy Franklin, and race car driver Danica Patrick
have become household names.
Title IX was initially met with resistance from some schools that had invested heav-
ily in men’s athletic programs. Some of these schools benefit financially from their ath-
letic programs, especially from football and basketball. Sharing athletic budget resources
with women’s athletic teams meant considerable adjustments to the budgets and in some
instances the elimination of some programs, especially those that did not generate a fan
base or revenue for the schools. While women’s athletics seldom bring in the same atten-
dance as men’s teams, interest in women’s athletics has increased. For example, women’s
basketball attendance at the University of Tennessee averaged over 11,000 a game in 2014,
while the Iowa State women’s team averaged just under 10,000 that same year (National
College Athletic Association, 2014).
When Title IX was passed in 1972, there were 3,666,917 young men and 294,015 young
women participating in high school sports, a ratio of 12:1 boys to girls (Toporek, 2012). By the
2013–2014 school year, that number had increased, with 4,527,949 boys and 3,267,664 girls
participating in high school sports, for a 1.38:1 boys to girls ratio
(National Federation of State High School Associations, 2014).
By 2012, there were 13,792 female professionals employed
within intercollegiate athletics (e.g., coaches, athletic admin-
istrators, etc.). There were 9,274 women’s intercollegiate
teams, or 8.73 teams per school. There were 3,974 female head
coaches, and 20.3% of athletic directors were female. Prior to
1972, there were 16,000 female athletes in the United States.
Forty years after the signing of Title IX there were more than
200,000 female intercollegiate athletes in the United States
(Acosta & Carpenter, 2012). However, the gap between female
and male athletic participation may prove difficult to overcome
as long as football remains in the equation. In the 2013–2014
school year, roughly 1.1 million high school boys took part in
football, compared to 1,175 girls (National Federation of State
High School Associations, 2014).
The law alone has not changed the basic assumptions and
attitudes that people hold about appropriate female and male
roles, occupations, and behaviors, but it has equalized the rights,
opportunities, and treatment of students within the school setting.
Experience has shown that once discriminatory practices are elim-
inated and discriminatory behavior is altered, even unwillingly,
changes in attitudes often follow. Equal treatment of students from
preschool through college will encourage all students to explore
available career and life options.
improving academic achievement
The achievement test scores of 9- and 13-year-olds have increased since the National Assess-
ment of Education Progress (NAEP) began testing in 1970, but the performance of 17-year-
olds has not. The problem is that the majority of these students, female and male, are not
performing at a proficient level. Students from the United States are performing in the middle
of the pack or lower on international tests. In fact, students in most industrialized countries
outperform U.S. students. The real gap in achievement in the United States is not between
boys and girls but among white, African American, and Hispanic students.
Girls are currently participating in mathematics and science courses at about the same
level as boys. In fact, girls are more likely to complete advanced academic courses in science
Since the passage of Title IX
in 1972, more than 3 million
girls are participating in high
school athletic programs,
which include sports that
were not previously available
to girls, such as lacrosse and
even wrestling. Thousands
more women have
participated and continue
to participate in college
athletics. (© Shelby Lang)
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Bringing Gender Equality to the Classroom and Beyond 103
and mathematics than boys (Warner, 2013) but are less likely to select science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (STEM) areas as college majors and thus are less likely to
have jobs in these fields, which have higher salaries than the traditional female professions.
What can teachers do to increase girls’ interest in the STEM fields? One strategy is to
help female students develop the right hemisphere of their brains. Beginning in preschool,
teachers could encourage girls to build things. At all levels, girls should be encouraged to
be more physically active, including participating in organized sports. The more hands-on
mathematics and science work can be, the more interested both girls and boys will be in the
subjects (Eliot, 2012).
While girls may be less accomplished in math and sciences, boys trail girls in reading and
language arts tests. To help balance the playing field, teachers should develop strategies for
engaging boys in reading and language arts. Boys may need a greater focus on phonics than
girls (Eliot, 2012). Selecting books that will hold the interest of the boys is important, as shown
in the scenario that began this chapter. In addition to finding books to hold the interest of
boys, teachers may want to divide students into different reading or work groups. There may
be other art and music projects that would engage boys and girls with words that contribute to
the development of their literacy skills.
Girls and boys use computers and the Internet at home and at school at about the
same rate. However, there are differences in the ways they use technology. Boys play more
computer games and begin playing them at an earlier age. They are also more interested
in programming and designing, and they leave high school with a greater interest in com-
puters. This interest in computers can translate into a job in one of the fastest-growing
occupations with some of the highest salaries. Women are not preparing for jobs in this
field at the same rate as men; currently only about 25.6% of the computer/mathematical
occupations are held by women (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014c). Obviously,
neither males nor females should be channeled into occupations simply because they are
more lucrative. However, the challenges for educators are increasing the interest of girls
in technology and the sciences and enabling them to see that they too have options in
those fields.
Different approaches to schooling and teaching may increase the participation rates of
females. Both male and female students today use technology in different ways than most of
their teachers. They are constantly engaged with social networking. Their cell phones keep
them connected 24/7. Most actively use technology to learn. The challenges for teachers are
encouraging their students to use these tools to continue learning and opening the world of
knowledge to them.
nonsexist education
Nonsexist education is designed to ensure that the two sexes are treated fairly and equitably in
the curriculum, their interactions with teachers, and instructional and extracurricular activities.
To promote nonsexist classrooms, teachers require readings that include women authors as well
as male authors. Males and females should appear on bulletin boards and in teacher-prepared
materials in nonstereotypical jobs and roles. Male students need to participate in stereotypically
female activities and vice versa.
Portrayal in the curriculum. All students should be exposed to the contributions of
women as well as men throughout history. History courses that focus primarily on wars and
political power tend to focus more on men; history courses that focus on the family and the
arts more equitably include both genders. Science courses that discuss all of the great scientists
often neglect to discuss the societal limitations that prevented women from being scientists.
Women scientists and writers of the past often used male names or were even required to
turn their work over to male supervisors who either published the work under their names
or assumed lead authorship. Because teachers control the information and concepts taught to
students, it is their responsibility to present a view of the world that includes women and men
and their wide ranges of perspectives.
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104 chapter 4 Gender
Students are bombarded by subtle influences in schools that reinforce the notion that boys
are more important than girls. This unplanned, unofficial learning—the hidden curriculum—has
an impact on how students feel about themselves and others. The curriculum is infused with tra-
ditional male norms (Dowd, 2010). Sexism is often projected in the messages that children receive
in the illustrations, language, and content of texts, films, and instructional materials. Boys are
stereotypically portrayed as more active, smarter, more aggressive, and exerting more control over
their lives than girls, while girls are assigned more passive characteristics that may not serve them
well in the future. Boys who are expected to behave in stereotypically masculine ways also suffer.
incorporating student Voices. One of the goals of nonsexist education is to allow
girls and young women to be heard and to understand the legitimacy of their experiences.
Girls are often silenced as they enter adolescence and take on their more feminine roles, being
less assertive and letting boys control discussions in the classroom. Young men are not often
encouraged to break out of the expected masculine role, with its own rules of what is required
to be a man. They may become depressed and have lower self-esteem as they try to conform
to the rules (Cleveland, 2011).
Young men should have opportunities to explore their role in our inequitable society and
learn to speak for the equity of girls and women. Teachers will not find it easy to provide such
opportunities. Many students resist discussions of power relations and how they stand to benefit
or lose within those relations. However, the value to students and society is worth the discom-
fort that such discussion may cause students—and perhaps teachers. The classroom may be the
only place in which students can confront these issues and be helped to make sense of them.
interacting with students. An area over which all educators have control is their own
interactions with students. Researchers consistently find that educators treat boys and girls dif-
ferently in the classroom, on the athletic field, in the hall, and in the counseling office (Sadker
et al., 2009). While teachers may not think they respond differently to boys and girls, when
they critically examine their interactions, most find that they do, in fact, respond differently
based on a student’s gender. To overcome the common problem of letting boys respond more
often to questions, teachers should focus on making sure they give equal voice to female stu-
dents in the classroom. Also, teachers should pay attention to the type of feedback they provide
to female and male students, including how much time they take to provide oral feedback and
encouragement to female versus male students.
One of the goals of nonsexist education is to eliminate power relationships based on gen-
der in the classroom. Teachers can monitor the tasks and activities in which students partici-
pate in the classroom. Males often receive more attention because of their misbehavior than
for their academic performance (Sadker et al., 2009). Female and male students should share
the leadership in classroom activities and discussions. Girls and young women may need to be
encouraged to participate actively in hands-on activities, and boys may need encouragement
in reading and writing activities.
Learning together. If left alone, many girls and boys choose to sit with and participate in
group activities with members of the same sex (Orenstein, 2011). To ensure that boys and girls
work together in the classroom, a teacher may have to assign seats and groups. Small, heteroge-
neous, cooperative work groups reduce the emphasis on power relationships that characterize
competitive activities. These activities can be designed to provide all students, even those who
are often marginalized in the classroom, opportunities to participate at a more equitable level.
Nonsexist education does not ignore gender in the classroom. It does not require that
boys and girls be treated the same in all cases. Gender may need to be emphasized at times to
ensure equity. Instructional strategies should be varied to engage both girls and boys with the
subject matter, as discussed earlier. Girls may be more comfortable than boys with cooperative
group work, reading, listening, and seat work. Engaging more boys in the subject matter may
require the use of spatial and graphic aids such as manipulatives in mathematics. A wide reper-
toire of instructional strategies should include some that are more engaging to girls, some to
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Bringing Gender Equality to the Classroom and Beyond 105
boys, and some to both groups. Girls and boys will learn to operate in one another’s cultural
spheres, and the teacher can avoid the disengagement of one group that typically results with
the use only instructional strategies that are geared to the other group.
single-sex education
Single-sex schools focus on developing the confidence, academic achievement, and leadership
skills of young women or men by focusing on their unique learning styles and cultural experi-
ences. Although most single-sex schools are for females, some private schools are for boys only.
Schools in some urban areas have been established for young African American men. These
schools often make African American culture the center of the curriculum, with the goal of
developing self-esteem, academic achievement, and leadership in students who often confront
a hostile environment.
Focus Your Cultural Lens
Debate / separate education for Boys and Girls
Editorials in the community in which your school is located are calling for the school district to create an all-boys
middle school and high school that will provide parents an alternative to the coeducational schools that exist
across the city. The editorial writers argue that too many young men in the city are not graduating from high
school in four years and are not attending college at the rates they should. They say local employers report that
many of the high school graduates are not prepared for the jobs that are available. They think that an all-boys
school can more effectively develop the self-esteem and the academic and vocational skills of the young men
who are currently not being served well by the schools.
The leaders of your local neighborhood organization have asked you to discuss the educational advantages
and disadvantages of schools that are segregated by sex. They also want you to make a recommendation on
where they should stand on the issue as the school district develops a proposal for these schools.
1. What reasons for establishing a boys-only middle school and high school are the most compelling to you?
2. Even though the research on single-sex schools generally does not show significant improvement in the
achievement of boys or girls, are there other reasons that the approach may be viable? Why or why not?
3. What will be your recommendation to your neighborhood organization? Why?
The classroom can address the needs and learning
styles of boys, which are very different from those of
girls, without doing a disservice to the girls in the
The instruction in a segregated setting can focus on
fulfilling boys’ academic potential because girls will not
be there to distract them from the subject matter.
Because the teachers in the all-boys school will be
primarily male, these young men will have positive role
models who can more effectively prepare them for
The single-sex environment will encourage young men
to more openly discuss issues that are critical to their
social and academic development.
Research shows little or no difference in the
achievement of boys or their attitudes toward the
subject when they are in boys-only instead of
coeducational courses.
Single-sex courses reinforce gender stereotypes.
This approach lets the teachers in coeducational
schools off the hook when the school system should be
helping all teachers provide an equitable education for
boys and girls.
When the boys go to college or enter the workforce,
they most likely will be with both men and women. A
school with boys only does not mirror the real world.
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106 chapter 4 Gender
Early in U.S. history, education for girls and boys was segregated, but by 1850 public
schools had quietly become coed (Tyack, 2003). Since then, most single-sex schools and
colleges have been private. Over time, the courts have required public men’s colleges to
open their doors to women. One of the most recent examples was the Virginia Military
Institute, which admitted women for the first time in 1997. Public schools have also not
been allowed to segregate schools or classes by sex. However, when the No Child Left
Behind Act was passed by Congress in 2001, public schools were allowed greater flexibility
in experimenting with single-sex education to improve the achievement of both girls and
boys. A number of public schools and academies have now been established. A more com-
mon and expedient way to offer single-sex environments is to establish segregated courses
within a coeducational school. According to Rivers (2012), there were 2 single-sex public
schools in the mid-1990s. By 2012, there were more than 500 public schools in 40 states
offering single sex classes.
Some research shows that girls are more likely to participate in advanced mathemat-
ics and science courses when they are in single-sex classes. Girls in single-sex schools
report being more valued and supported (Sadker et al., 2009). Teachers are more likely to
use strategies such as cooperative teaching. However, little is known about whether the
instruction in single-sex courses and schools differs from that in coeducational settings.
Reviews of the research show that students in single-sex settings do have generally higher
self-esteem than their peers in coeducational settings. However, little or no difference in
achievement and attitudes about the academic subject has been found (Sadker et al., 2009).
Park, Behrman, and Choi (2011) report that in Korean STEM career schools, significant
causal effect was found in all-boys schools but not in the all-girls schools. Aedin, O’Neill,
and Sweetman (2012) found that in Irish schools, boys performed better than the girls,
regardless of the school type, although the gap was more pronounced for the boys in
single-sex schools. Little difference was found among the girls in either the single-sex or
coeducational schools.
Opponents to single-sex classes and schools argue that they are more likely to rein-
force traditional, stereotypic gender roles. Sparks (2012) indicates that researchers are
finding that more-equitable classrooms can have social and academic benefits for boys and
girls alike. Eliot (2012) adds that while children of both sexes play together as toddlers, by
the end of kindergarten, they spend only 9% of their playtime with children of the other
sex. Eliot further suggests that while separation is a fact of human childhood, this separa-
tion creates separate cultures. Sparks also reports on a federal longitudinal study involv-
ing 21,000 students in an early childhood kindergarten cohort study. As the percentage
of girls in kindergarten and first grade increased, the reading and math achievement of
both boys and girls increased by the end of first grade. Boys and girls in classes near sex
parity had better self-control than those of either sex in which they were the dominant
Halpern et al. (2011) strongly suggest that there was no well-designed research available
to support the contention that single-sex segregation either increases gender stereotyping or
legitimizes institutional sexism.
Gender equity: a universal issue
In 1995, the UN Fourth World Conference on women met with leaders from 189 countries,
along with civil society organizations, to declare that women’s rights are human rights and
human rights are women’s rights. (Clinton Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,
2015). Twenty years later in 2015, these foundations jointly released their “No Ceilings: The
Full Participation Report.” The report indicates that much progress has been made in the past
20 years. However, much more can and must be done to enhance gender equity, which in turn
will enhance the lives of both men and women worldwide. The following are just a few of the
highlights of the report.
While much progress has been made for women’s rights in much of the world, even when
the laws are present, implementation and enforcement are often lacking. Progress is far from
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Bringing Gender Equality to the Classroom and Beyond 107
universal. An example in the report states that a girl in Latin America has a far greater chance
of finishing secondary school than a girl in sub-Saharan Africa. We in the United States often
pride ourselves on our women’s rights, but we pale in comparison to many European countries
in terms of issues such as paid maternity leave.
Gender equality isn’t limited to the betterment of women and girls. When women and
girls are educated, entire families prosper. Communities, economies, and society in general all
benefit. One extra year of education can increase an individual’s wages by 10%, and women
obtaining secondary education can enhance economic growth for their communities. Women
who are better educated have less likelihood of dying during pregnancy and childbirth. The
significant reduction in child mortality rates since the 1970s is attributed to the increased edu-
cational attainment of women together with the increased access to quality health services and
information, as well as family planning.
The report strongly suggests that when women participate in the economy, poverty
decreases, and gross domestic product (GDP) grows. Estimates suggest that closing the gap
in the women’s labor market can result in significant GDP gains—on the order of 10% in
the United States, nearly 20% in Japan and Korea, and 22% in Italy in the next 15 years. In
addition, a study of 31 countries indicated that higher female participation in legislatures cor-
related with higher perceptions of government legitimacy among both men and women and
higher corporate profits for organizations with women on boards.
Perhaps one of the most significant findings in the report was that when women partici-
pate in peace processes, they are more likely to raise key issues related to long-term peace and
security, such as human rights, justice, and health care.
While the report describes significant encouraging improvements that have occurred over
the past 20 years, much is yet to be done. Family and civic life, health, and education must
continue to improve. Progress, however, has been uneven, and there are wide disparities both
among and within countries. The legal rights gained in gender equity are too often unen-
forced. Some countries still allow customary or religious law to supersede some or all consti-
tutional provisions that guarantee women’s rights, and there are still 32 constitutions that do
not explicitly guarantee women’s equity. Some countries continue to restrict women’s freedom
of movement. In 61 countries, nearly half the men and even some women believe that women
should not be able to initiate divorce.
The health of women and girls has improved in the past 20 years. Women are living lon-
ger and in low-income countries have made significant improvements, with a 14% increase.
Clean drinking water and sanitation have improved dramatically in the past 20 years. However,
2.5 billion individuals do not have access to toilets and continue to defecate outdoors. Millions
of hours are spent daily by men, women, and children collecting drinking water, often reduc-
ing both study and school time for children.
Better nutrition and improved immunization have significantly reduced the mortality
rates of children; these rates have fallen by about half in both South Asia and sub-Saharan
Africa. The mortality rates of pregnant women have dropped by at least 40% in 76 countries
and by 60% in South Asia in the past 20 years. Increased use of health services and enhance-
ments in these services are credited in part with these advances. In spite of all these advance-
ments, though, the work to enhance the lives of women and girls has just begun. In 2013,
10 countries were responsible for 60% of maternal deaths, including China, Democratic
Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania, and
While the gender gap in primary education has come nearer to closing globally in the past
20 years, the gap remains among the girls from the poorest homes. In secondary schools the
education gap has also improved, but in some regions, some girls continue to be disenfran-
chised with respect to a secondary education. Fewer than half the girls in South Asia and fewer
than 1 in 3 girls in sub-Saharan Africa are enrolled in secondary schools.
It is encouraging to note how much progress has been made since 1995, but it is clear that
there remains much more work to be done to bring equity for women and girls worldwide.
Gender equity is everyone’s issue. When the lives of women and girls improve worldwide,
everyone benefits.
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108 chapter 4 Gender
male and female Differences
The most obvious difference between males and females is
the physical difference. Sexual difference is noticeable imme-
diately at birth, but the two sexes have skeletal and hormonal
differences as well.
Society has different expectations for boys and girls.
Expectations for boys are more aggressiveness and for girls
supportive and empathetic personality development. The two
genders form distinctively different cultural groups.
Gender identity
Gender differences are determined through socialization,
relating to the masculinity or the femininity of the individual.
The socialization process begins at birth and is reinforced in
both the home and in schools, with girls taught to be more
nurturing and empathetic. Women are usually allowed more
latitude, while some people advocate a guys’ code of always
being aggressive, tough, and daring.
One’s gender identity relates to one’s internal sense of being
male or female. One’s sex is determined by physical and biological
attributes, while gender refers to the socially constructed roles
and attributes society assigns as appropriate for each gender.
Deviation from the norms can have severe social consequences.
struggles for Gender equity
The struggles for gender equity came neither easily nor qui-
etly. Throughout history and even in many parts of the world
today, women have been subordinate to men, and those in
power usually try to maintain the status quo.
It was not until the 1960s that women’s groups began to
work in unison and were given support by some men, much
of it following the civil rights struggles for racial equality.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the 1964 Civil Rights Bill
were major stepping stones. By the 1990s the National Orga-
nization for Women (NOW) was able to appeal to a broader
group united in the struggle for equity for all groups, includ-
ing men, women, gays, and lesbians. A handful of women are
now heading Fortune 500 companies, and there are increased
numbers of women in the U.S. Senate, in the House of Rep-
resentatives, on the Supreme Court, and in governorships.
As progress was made for women and girls, some raised an
alarm about a “boy’s crisis,” suggesting that feminism has come
at a great cost to boys in schools, who are lagging in advance
placement classes and in college and graduate school admissions.
the cost of sexism and Gender Discrimination
Sexism is the belief in male superiority over women, whether
in the home or in society. Despite laws prohibiting certain
forms of discrimination, many continue to discriminate on
the basis of deeply ingrained discriminatory practices, some-
times without even realizing it. Some young women are still
encouraged to seek fulfillment through marriage rather than
through their own accomplishments, while some boys are
never taught to be compassionate and empathetic.
More females than males are taking advance placement
classes; more women are completing associate, undergraduate,
and graduate degrees than men. However, while more females
are seeking degrees in math and technology than in past years,
their enrollments are still not on par with their male counterparts.
Sexual harassment affects both sexes and continues to be
a problem in both schools and the workplace. Sexual harass-
ment is a clear violation of the law and must be reported and
stopped. The consequences for the victims are often severe.
Penalties for sexual violations, even those that are consensual,
can be extremely severe for violators.
Bringing Gender equality to the classroom
and Beyond
Title IX, passed into law in 1972, is among the most sig-
nificant legislation enacted providing gender equity in the
United States. It prohibits differential, stereotypical, and
discriminatory treatment of students on the basis of their
gender. Perhaps the most visible and controversial section of
Title IX involves athletics. There were well over 3.6 million
boys participating in high school athletics and fewer than
300,000 girls prior to Title IX. Today, there are 4.5 million
boys and 3.2 million girls in high school athletics programs.
Nonsexist education is designed to treat both sexes fairly
and equitably in the curriculum, in interactions with teachers,
and in instructional and extracurricular activities. To ensure
this, required readings and instruction should be devoid of
sexual bias, and history lessons should include the contribu-
tions of both men and women. Female and male students
should share leadership in classroom activities and discussions.
Single-sex education has taken place in the United States
and elsewhere for centuries. The results of studies on the
efficacy of single-sex classes are inconclusive.
In 1995, the UN Fourth World Conference on women
met with leaders from 189 countries along with civil society
organizations to declare that “Women’s rights are human
rights” (Clinton Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation, 2015). While the progress of women’s rights
has been impressive, the work is far from being completed.
Gender equity benefits everyone—every woman, girl, boy, and
man, as well as families and nations. It is incumbent on educa-
tors to help the world’s population realize that gender equity is
a universal issue and can benefit all of humankind.
Chapter Quiz: Click here to gauge your understanding of chapter concepts.
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5 Sexual OrientationLearning OutcOmeSAs you read this chapter, you should be able to:5.1 Describe the diversity of sexual orientation and stages through which people move to
clarify their sexual identity.
5.2 Identify the discrimination historically faced by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders,
and queers (LGBTQ) and the struggles they have made for equality in the United
5.3 Analyze the toll that heterosexism takes on LGBTQ youth and educators.
5.4 Design strategies that value the sexual diversity among students and support LGBTQ
students in classrooms and schools.
From the first day she entered middle school, Destin was called names and taunted by her classmates. She wore baggy pants, polo shirts, and a baseball cap. Destin was a lesbian, but
her teachers saw her as a transsexual or in between the two sexes. They referred to her as “he”
even though she continually told them she was a girl.
Both teachers and her peers called her “it,” “queer,” and “he-she.” Some of her classmates
called her a “dyke.” She was not allowed to use the girl’s restroom.
When Destin’s father asked the principal to stop the harassment of his daughter, he was told
that “if she’s going to dress like a boy, she’s going to be treated like a boy.” The harassment
continued, and she attempted suicide two months later. The torment eventually led Destin to
withdraw from the middle school. She is now being home schooled by her grandmother (Southern
Poverty Law Center, 2013).
1. How should teachers in the school have handled the fact that Destin did not conform to the
gender-specific dress and behavior expected by the principal and community?
2. If students begin calling students names and harassing them, how should you
3. If you were a teacher in this school, how would you ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender (LGBT) students are treated respectfully and fully integrated into your
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110 chapter 5 Sexual Orientation
Sexual identity
The fact that the population is not solely heterosexual is much more obvious today than at
any time in the past. The visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or question-
ing (LGBTQ) individuals as a group is higher than ever, and issues of the LGBTQ community
are now common in the news. When Indiana and Arkansas passed legislation in 2015 on reli-
gious freedom that would allow businesses to deny services to same-sex couples, chief executive
officers (CEOs) of major corporations threatened boycotts of the states, forcing the states to
revise the language of the laws. In the same year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex
couples have a constitutional right to marry no matter where they live in the United States.
The U.S. population has become much more accepting of LGBTQ people than it was in
the past. For example, in 2003, a gay Episcopal priest was selected bishop of New Hampshire,
and this decision led to a division in the church. In 2011 the military eliminated its “Don’t
Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, allowing personnel to be openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual. However,
LGBTQ people continue to be harassed in schools and on the streets. They are imprisoned in
Uganda for their homosexuality and are not accepted across most of Africa, the Middle East,
and Asia. Days of silence, gay–straight alliances (GSAs) in schools, and court cases against
school districts for not protecting LGBTQ students from harassment have highlighted the
plight of LGBTQ students in the nation’s schools. Although the population is more accepting
of diverse sexual identity, local communities, religious communities, and state and national
policymakers continue to debate sexual diversity and the rights of LGBTQ people.
Knowledge about sexual orientation other than heterosexuality is generally limited,
leading to misconceptions and myths about LGBTQ people. What is sexual orientation? The
American Psychological Association (APA) (2008) defines it as an “enduring pattern of emo-
tional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes” (p. 1). The APA
further indicates that different sexual orientations are normal forms of human bonding.
After personal interviews about the sexual behavior of more than 11,000 white adults in
the 1940s and 1950s, zoologist Alfred Kinsey reported that 10% of the male population and
2% to 6% of the female population were predominantly homosexual (Kinsey Institute, n.d.).
The figure of 10% continues to be commonly used to designate the percentage of gays and
lesbians in the population. However, recent data indicate that 3.5% of the population identify
themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (Keen, 2011).
Sexual Differences
Most people do not think about their sexuality except in terms of the opposite sex and the stages
their families expect them to progress through—dating, getting married, and having children.
For most young people, no other options for their sexuality exist. They have not chosen to be
heterosexual, and they have always been attracted to the opposite sex. They may not know
people with a different sexual orientation than their own and have little or no knowledge about
other sexual orientations. Heterosexuality has been the norm, with any other sexual orientation
being identified as abnormal or even deviant.
The term homosexuality was first used by Karl-Maria Kertbeny, a Hungarian social
reformer in 1868 (Bronski, Pellegrini, & Amico, 2013) and had become accepted in the pro-
fessional literature by 1880. Over the next 100 years, the terms homosexual and heterosexual
became identified with the sex of two persons who were sexually attracted to each other. Many
people viewed homosexuality as a sin, a moral failure, a sickness, or a crime. Until 1973 the
American Psychiatric Association classified it as a mental illness.
Why are some people gay, lesbian, or bisexual (LGB)? Many people believe that biology
has something to do with sexual orientation, and it may well play an important role. In pur-
suit of scientific proof for a biological explanation, researchers have explored genes, the brain,
hormones, and prenatal chemistry to explain why some people are LGB. In the July 1993 issue
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Sexual Identity 111
of Science, molecular biologist Dean Hamer reported finding a DNA marker (Xq28) on the
X chromosome of women. Hamer connected that marker to male sexual orientation, but his
research has not been replicated, calling into question the existence of a “gay gene.” Hormonal
differences, especially concerning the role of testosterone, have been investigated, but the great
majority of LGBs have hormonal levels that match the heterosexual population. Some research-
ers believe that the hypothalamus—a small mass of cells at the base of the brain—has something
to do with it. Others have found evidence that there is a higher incidence of homosexuality
in some families than the general population, suggesting that it is hereditary. Environmental
influences such as child rearing have also been proposed as a contributing factor to one’s sexual
orientation, but research has not confirmed this theory (Bronski et al., 2013; LeVay, 2011).
One perspective within the LGB community is that the reason one is gay or straight
should not make a difference. Sexuality and our identity along a sexual orientation contin-
uum from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual are much more complex than
the political debates and scientific studies suggest. A biological explanation could undermine
social justice initiatives, such as equity and the right to be gay without being abused, which
are important in the community. Identifying a genetic link could have negative impacts on the
LGB community if, for example, insurance companies refused to cover people with that gene
because they may have a greater chance of having AIDS. Issues of social justice are important
in the daily lives of LGBTQ people and their families.
Diversity of Sexual Orientations
Terms to describe sexual identity differ depending on the context and individual. Heterosexual,
straight, homosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer are terms commonly used
today. However, some youth don’t like any of the current labels for describing their own sexu-
ality; instead, they are developing their own terms to describe themselves. Educators should
know the terms in current use, but they should not themselves apply labels to students. Students
and colleagues must have the freedom to determine their own sexual identities, using the terms
that have the most meaning for themselves.
The majority of the population is heterosexual, sometimes referred to as straight, which
is defined as being sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex. Persons who are sex-
ually attracted to members of the same sex have been labeled as homosexuals. Today that
term has largely been replaced with lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Although gay refers to men
who are sexually attracted to other men, it is also used as a general term that applies to all
LGB persons, and it is sometimes used in this textbook for that purpose. Lesbian refers to
women who are sexually attracted to other women, and bisexual refers to people who are
sexually attracted to both men and women.
Sexual orientation includes not only the gender to whom one is sexually attracted but also
gender diversity such as transgender or intersex. Cisgender refers to a person who identifies
with the gender he or she was assigned at birth. Transgender persons have a psychological
sense of being of the gender (male or female) that does not match their genetic sex (for example, a
biological woman identifying herself as a man or vice versa). Transgender youth and adults may
choose to live their lives as the male or female with which they psychologically identify rather
than the sex with which they were born. Over the past few years the public has been introduced
to transgender celebrities. Laverne Cox, the transgender actress who plays Sophia Burset on the
popular Netflix series Orange is the New Black, appeared on a 2014 cover of Time in the cover
story “The Transgender Tipping Point.” Nearly 17 million viewers watched Diane Sawyer’s
2015 interview of former Olympic athlete and reality star Bruce Jenner when he revealed that
“for all intents and purposes, I am a woman.”
The broad category of transgender also includes transvestites, or cross-dressers, and
transsexuals, who surgically change their genitals and alter other characteristics to match
their gender identity. Transgenders are included in LGBTQ because many of the issues
and obstacles that they face in society are similar to those encountered by gays, lesbians,
and bisexuals (Savage & Harley, 2009). Researchers indicate that about 0.5% of the population
is transgender.

Watch the video
“Exclusive: A
Transgender Child Fights to be
Recognized as a Girl”
/watch?v=mTRw2QiOfOM), in
which the girl and her parents
discuss with Katie Couric
when they knew their son was
a girl.
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112 chapter 5 Sexual Orientation
Intersex individuals were born with an atypical anatomy that does not clearly identify their
sex (Newton, 2014). For example, they may have one testis and one ovary, or testes and some
female genitalia, or ovaries and male genitals. In the past, medical doctors and parents some-
times determined what the sex of an intersex child would be and resorted to surgery to make the
genitals conform to that decision. In some notable cases, the gender identity of these children
later in life did not match the sex that had been chosen for them.
The Q in LGBTIQ stands for questioning or queer. The questioning category includes
individuals who are wondering about their sexuality, who are not sure of their sexual orienta-
tion, or who are not ready to claim a label for their identity (Newton, 2014). Queer is a term
applied by some members of the LGBTIQ community to anyone who is not heterosexual.
Queerness allows fluidity across categories, is political, challenges the status quo, and rejects
assimilation into mainstream society (Whitlock, 2007). Younger people view the term as more
empowering than other terms that describe them, but some members of the LGBTIQ com-
munity remember queer as a derogatory term used against them in the past, which leads them
to reject the term (Newton, 2014). Nevertheless, educators should be aware of the terms and
be able to figure out the communities in which “queer” and other terms are acceptable.
Queer theory critically examines relationships, identity, gender, sexuality, sexual ori-
entation, and sexual identity. It challenges the binary categories of man/woman, masculine/
feminine, and gay/straight, pushing educators and others to think about the world differently
(Meyer, 2007). It includes discussions of “queering the curriculum” or “queering straight
teachers” to move away from a conception of heterosexuality as the norm against which we are
measured and evaluated.
The idea that sexual orientation plays out along a continuum is not new. In his famous study
of sexual behavior nearly 70 years ago, Alfred Kinsey used a 7-point scale between absolute hetero-
sexuality and absolute homosexuality to categorize his interviewees. Kinsey found that some people
are bisexuals and are in the middle of the scale. Others have been attracted to or had sexual rela-
tionships with people of the same sex at some time but are not exclusively gay or lesbian. Others are
exclusively heterosexual. Young people who are communicating online reject labels and are finding
new ways to describe their sexual identities across a continuum (Crowley, 2010).
Our sexual identity is based on sexual attractions, related behaviors, and a connection with others
with the same orientation (American Psychological Association, 2008). It is about how people
decide to identify themselves. Most researchers agree that sexual orientation is established early
in life. As early as six years old, some boys and girls have a sense that they are sexually different
from their peers. With the onset of puberty, they are likely to be attracted to a peer of the same
or different sex. Young people are identifying themselves as LGBTQ as early as middle school.
Similar to racial and ethnic groups, LGBT individuals appear to move through stages
of development as they become comfortable with their sexual identity. Because heterosexuals
are in the privileged sexual identification category in our society, they may not identify their
sexuality unless they become aware of their privilege or become an LGBT ally. The first step
for LGBT students is to realize that they are sexually attracted to same-sex individuals, which
distinguishes them from most of their peers. Their feelings may confuse them and lead them
to question the reality of their developing sexual identity.
The next stage often includes exploration and experimentation as they determine whether
they are LGBT, which could include testing relationships with those of the opposite sex. Even-
tually they begin to identify themselves with a label or decide that none of the current labels
describe them. When they feel comfortable with their sexual identity and are willing to face
the possible discrimination and alienation that can accompany their disclosure as LGBT, they
come out to others. The last stage of the process is to develop pride in their sexual identity
(Joyce, O’Neil, & McWhirter, 2010). New research suggests that identity develops along dif-
ferent trajectories rather than in these distinct stages, depending on the individual, his or her
contexts, and the support he or she elicits from family members, peers, and members of the
broader LGBTQ community (Joyce et al., 2010).
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Sexual Identity 113
During the stages of struggling with their identity, some LGBTQ people may feel
depressed, isolated, and not valued. The messages that they receive from others may indicate
that they are abnormal and are making choices that will not serve them well in the future.
They are not likely to know that multiple sexual orientations have been characterized by psy-
chologists as “normal forms of human experience” (American Psychological Association, 2008,
p. 3). Though many LGBTQ students are happy, well adjusted, and liked by others, some
students who are LGBTQ, or are perceived to be, are harassed by other students in schools.
These pressures to be different from who they are contribute to LGBTQ students missing
school, underperforming academically in school, dropping out of school, and attempting sui-
cide at a higher rate than heterosexual students (Kosciw, Greytak, Palmer, & Boesen, 2014).
The classroom teacher is likely to find students falling at different points along the gender
and sexual identity continuum, both in their beliefs about female and male roles and in their
actual behavior. Lesbian and gay adolescents are struggling with their sexual identity and its
meaning in a heterosexist climate. Heterosexual students also struggle with issues about their
sexuality and how to express it appropriately, often receiving mixed messages from their parents,
their peers, and the media. Understanding the influence of students’ cultural memberships will
be important as teachers try to open up the possibilities for all of them, regardless of their gender
and sexual identity. Having teachers who are supportive of LGBTQ students and who intervene
on their behalf contributes greatly to successful school experiences for these children and youth.
Some religious groups have identified homosexuality as a sin or disease that can be elim-
inated or cured. They believe that people choose their sexual orientation. Antigay activists
and parents may push youth and adults into programs designed to make them “normal” by
denouncing their LGBTQ identity and choosing to be heterosexual. Organizations such as
the American Psychological Association (1997) and American Psychiatric Association (2000)
report that such reparative or conversion therapy reinforces negative stereotypes about gays
and lesbians and contributes to an unsafe climate for them. In 2015 President Barak Obama
also called for a ban on therapies to return LGBT youth to heterosexuality (Shear, 2015).
Critical Incidents in Teaching
Same-Sex Parents
Maureen Flynn is a third-grade teacher in a suburban public school. Each year, she looks forward to Parents’ Night,
when she can meet the parents of her students. As she inspects her room one final time, the door opens, and two
nicely dressed women appear. “Good evening,” they say, almost in unison.
“Good evening. Welcome to the third grade. I’m Maureen Flynn.”
“We’re Amy Gentry and Kirsten Bowers. We’re Allison Gentry-Bowers’s mothers.”
“Oh,” says Ms. Flynn, trying not to show any surprise. “Let me show you some of Allison’s artwork and where
her desk is.”
The rest of the evening is routine. Ms. Flynn introduces herself, welcomes the parents, and asks them to
introduce themselves. As the parents exchange names and greetings, there are a few questioning looks as Allison’s
two mothers introduce themselves. Ms. Flynn explains what the class is currently doing and what the goals and
activities are for the remainder of the year. The parents and Ms. Flynn exchange pleasantries and then all go home.
The next morning as class begins, Colleen Burke blurts out, “Miss Flynn, my mommy said that Allison has two
mommies. How can that be? How can anyone have two mommies? Everyone is supposed to have a father and a
mother.” All of the students look to Ms. Flynn for her response.
QueStiOnS fOr cLaSSrOOm DiScuSSiOn
1. How should Maureen Flynn respond to Colleen’s question?
2. How could Ms. Flynn use this opportunity to discuss diverse family structures?
3. How should she plan to interact with Allison’s and Colleen’s parents in the future?
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114 chapter 5 Sexual Orientation
Most LGBTQ youth and adults are very resilient and have established happy and fulfilling
lives. In a survey of 553 gays and lesbians, only 1% of the respondents indicated that there was
nothing positive about their sexual orientation. Coming out, which requires disclosing one’s
sexual identity to others, was identified as a critical step in developing a positive identity. Three
in five participants in this survey reported that their families had been supportive as they clar-
ified their sexual identity. Having a supportive gay and lesbian community in which they can
participate was seen as a positive aspect of being gay or lesbian.
Coming out often requires a great deal of personal insight and reflection as individuals
struggle with who they are and develop the courage to share their identity with others. Some
gays and lesbians find that going through this process has strengthened them, made them
more empathetic to other oppressed groups, and increased their activism for social justice.
Others reported positive outcomes of being gay and lesbian as the freedom they felt from the
gender-specific roles often expected of women and men (Riggle et al., 2008). These findings
demonstrate the importance of schools’ creating safe places for young people to come out and
realize their full human potential.
Struggles for Sexual equity
Until World War II most gays and lesbians hid their sexual identities, often marrying someone
of the opposite sex, having children, and living as heterosexuals. States had laws that criminal-
ized homosexuality, allowing gays to be arrested in their homes as well as public places. Gays
and lesbians were often not allowed to teach because parents and school leaders believed that
they would have a negative impact on children and youth.
When Alfred Kinsey released his books on male sexuality in 1948 and female sexuality in
1953, it was self-affirming for many gays and lesbians as they realized they were not the only
ones whose sexual orientation did not match societal expectations. Kinsey’s conclusions were
widely attacked. Most people had believed that few people were homosexual, and they now
worried that the culture would be destroyed by them. Politicians and religious leaders became
even more overt in their condemnation of those who deviated from the heterosexual model.
Coming out is much
easier for students when
they have the support of
family members and other
students. (© Custom Life
Science Images/Alamy)
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Struggles for Sexual Equity 115
fighting for Sexual equity
Between 1927 and 1967, the state of New York banned what it called “sexual perversion” as a
dramatic theme in plays. Similar bans were placed on movies. Noted writers ignored the ban,
continuing to include gays and lesbians in their books and screenplays. The rock ’n’ roll era that
began in the 1950s with artists such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard celebrated
sensuality and rebellion against society’s rules, but it was predominantly within a heterosexual
context. However, literature and music did become sources of expression for the youth who broke
the sexual norms. The Beats were young straight and gay poets and writers who congregated at
the bookstores and small galleries in San Francisco during this period. Sexual freedom and the
celebration of their gayness were hallmarks of their subculture, contributing to San Francisco
becoming a mecca for gays and “beatniks” during the 1950s and 1960s. One of the most famous
works during this period was the poem Howl by Allen Ginsberg, with its references to drugs and
gay sex. The poem became known to the broader public when the owner of the City Lights
Bookstore, which published the poem, was charged with obscenity (Hirshman, 2012).
In the 1950s Evelyn Hooker began to question the pathological explanations for homo-
sexuality as a result of her study of gay men. Using standard psychological research tools, she
found that gay men were as well adjusted as straight men, and sometimes more so (Hirshman,
2012). Her findings set the stage for gays and their allies to fight popular psychiatric treat-
ments that often involved electroshock therapy. Although Dr. Hooker presented her findings
at a 1956 meeting of the American Psychological Association, it took nearly two decades for
the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.
the Lavender Scare. A period known as the Lavender Scare (or Pink Scare) began in
the 1950s. When Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act (McCarran-Walter
Act) in 1952, it banned homosexual immigrants from entering the country. At a time when
homosexuals were thought to be more of a threat to national security than Communists,
Congress worried that homosexuals could be blackmailed and forced to give up state secrets.
The U.S. Senate called for a purge of homosexuals from the government, and President
Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an executive order in 1953 to dismiss homosexuals from the
government—a practice that continued into the 1970s. Within a year, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI), under Director J. Edgar Hoover, had identified more than 400 federal
employees to be fired. Historians have estimated that at least 5,000 employees lost their jobs
(Hirshman, 2012). Lesbians and gays were also being dismissed from the military at a rate
that rose to 3,000 annually in the early 1960s.
In addition to losing their jobs, gays and lesbians were arrested by the hundreds in bars,
parks, and theaters, as well as at parties in their own homes. In some communities, citizens
were summoned to call out their homosexual neighbors and work colleagues. Many citizens
confused homosexuality with pedophilia and child molestation and feared the recruitment of
others into their ranks. Homosexuals’ demands for justice were ignored by most of the pop-
ulation. Civil rights groups did not intervene to support gays and lesbians who were losing
their jobs or being harassed in other settings. To support each other and their struggles for
acceptance and equity in society, gays and lesbians began organizing in San Francisco, Detroit,
Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C. (Eaklor, 2008). One of their goals was to elim-
inate the pathological diagnosis that was prevalent in the dominant culture.
movement for gay rights. The 1950s marked the beginning of the civil rights revolu-
tion led by African Americans. Soon after the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, which
rallied a quarter of a million people for human, civil, and economic rights, critical legislation
for civil rights was passed by Congress, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Vot-
ing Rights Act of 1965. Other oppressed groups, including the LGBTQ community, followed
with calls for the recognition of their civil rights. The counterculture and antiwar movements
increased the questioning of the norms, values, and assumptions of the dominant society. This
was the era in which gays and lesbians began picketing government agencies, including the
White House, the United Nations, the Pentagon, and the State Department.
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116 chapter 5 Sexual Orientation
On June 28, 1969, the gay rights movement gained new momentum when police raided
New York City’s Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. Stonewall Inn was a refuge for gays, who
were not welcome in other bars. Its patrons were mostly males and drag queens of different
ages and economic levels. Police arrived around 1:00 a.m. to close the bar, purportedly because
it was operating without a license, but raids on gay bars were not unusual. The bar was closed,
employees arrested, and patrons pushed outside. As those arrested were placed in police wag-
ons, the ousted patrons and the crowd that had gathered began throwing coins, bottles, and
bricks at police. It soon escalated into a riot, with everything in the bar being destroyed. This
initial riot lasted only a few hours, but the crowd had fought back against the police. Crowds
reconvened the following night at the Stonewall Inn and on the street outside. They began
shouting for “gay power” and cheering for gay liberation. It took police hours to disperse the
crowd, which reassembled to battle the police for the next four nights (Eaklor, 2008). Within
a few months, the radical Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was formed.
Gays had rioted earlier in Los Angeles and San Francisco against police raids, but those
riots had been carefully organized by gay leaders. Stonewall Inn was different. Participants
were gays who were rejected not only by society but by more conservative gays who lived as
if they were heterosexual. At Stonewall the riot was spontaneous, full of emotion, and bloody.
It became the symbol for the fight against the inequities faced by LGBTs. Soon afterward, the
number of LGBT groups grew from 50 to more than 800.
As shown in Table 5.1, progress for gay rights and the elimination of discrimination against
gays has been made since 1969, although numerous obstacles periodically forestalled significant
changes. After the Stonewall riot, it became somewhat easier for gays and lesbians to openly admit
their homosexuality, especially if they lived in cities. A number of gay activists turned to the
establishment of organizations concerned with law and policy to attack discrimination. In 1973
the National Gay Task Force and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund were created.
The National Gay Task Force was renamed the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force within a few
years, with the goal of politically fighting the antigay backlash. Lambda Legal began to fight the
federal government’s antigay policies in the courts. It has continued to be at the center of legal
cases related to AIDS, domestic partnerships, and other civil rights issues (Eaklor, 2008).
LGB politicians began to run in and win elections in the 1970s. Allan Spear was elected to
the Minnesota state senate and Barney Frank to the Massachusetts House in 1972, but neither
of them had come out at that time. In the following two years, Gerry Studds (D-MA) and
Robert Bauman (R-MD) were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Harvey Milk was
among the first openly gay citizens to win an election when he was voted onto the San Francisco
Board of Supervisors in 1977. The first openly lesbian senator, Tammy Baldwin, was elected
to the U.S. Senate in 2012. The number of elected LGBTQ legislators has increased over the
past four decades at the local, state, and national levels.
a Backlash and a Disease. The 1980s saw a backlash against the feminist and LGBTQ
gains achieved over the previous decade. Conservative Christians began to influence politics, call-
ing for a return to “family values,” which they believed should be built on the nuclear family and
marriage between a male and a female. Feminists and gays were blamed for the destruction of the
family as they fought for the equal rights of women, lesbians, and gays, which many conservatives
blamed for the increasing number of divorces and immoral behaviors to which they did not want
their children exposed. These differences between conservatives, feminists, and LGBT people
fueled the “culture wars” in society. Activists on both sides rallied to their causes and lobbied
Congress and state legislatures for change. The Human Rights Campaign Fund was established
as the first political action committee (PAC) to lobby on behalf of gays and lesbians (Eaklor, 2008).
A report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1981 reported
that young men in a number of large U.S. cities had contracted a type of pneumonia that was
usually found in cancer patients. The victims in all of the reported cases were gay. As the story
spread across the country, rumors and theories also spread about the disease being contagious
and propagated by gays with multiple partners. It was another year before researchers deter-
mined that the condition was an infection, designated it as AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency
syndrome), and reported that it was not spread by casual contact.
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Struggles for Sexual Equity 117
Table 5.1 Milestones in the MoveMent for Gay riGhts
June 28, 1969 Police raid the Stonewall Inn, which was subsequently followed by a riot in Greenwich
Village, New York City.
1970 Thousands march in a New York gay parade to celebrate the anniversary of the
Stonewall Inn riot.
1975 The Civil Service Commission lifts its ban on employment of homosexuals.
Police stop raiding bars but continue to arrest gays in other areas.
1977 The Save Our Children campaign that was initiated by former Miss America Anita Bryant
fights to repeal protection for gays.
1978 A California proposal, the Briggs Initiative, calls for a ban on gay teachers working in
public schools. It was defeated.
1979 100,000 gay men and lesbians participate in the March on Washington to call for
gay rights.
1980 The Moral Majority organizes to oppose homosexuality.
In Fricke v. Lynch the judge rules that a male student at Cumberland High School in
Rhode Island can take a male friend as his date to the school prom.
1981 Gay men with a mysterious illness begin appearing in emergency rooms. The
disease will later be identified as AIDS, and it provides a unifying cause for the gay
community through the 1980s.
1982 Wisconsin passes a gay civil rights law that was introduced by an openly gay
1984 The U.S. Congress passes the Equal Access Act, which guarantees high school
students the right to establish school clubs on religion and also applies to LGBT clubs.
1986 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Bowers v. Hardwick to uphold a Georgia anti-sodomy
law that criminalizes gay sex.
1987 During the second Gay and Lesbian March on Washington, the AIDS quilt is spread
out on the Mall.
ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) is founded in New York City.
1989 Massachusetts passes a gay civil rights law sponsored by an open lesbian and
closeted gay man.
1993 The third Gay and Lesbian March on Washington protests the military ban against
gays and lesbians.
1996 In Nabozny v. Podlesny, Davis, Blauert, the court finds that school officials had not
protected a student against harassment.
The U.S. Supreme Court rules that states cannot prevent gays and lesbians from
being a protected class in discrimination cases in Romer v. Evans.
1998 University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard is found beaten and tied to a fence
to die.
2000 Vermont approves civil unions between gay couples and lesbian couples.
The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5–4 in Boy Scouts of American v. Dale that a private
organization has a right to discriminate against homosexuals.
2003 The U.S. Supreme Court ends laws against sodomy in Lawrence v. Texas.
2004 Massachusetts allows gay couples and lesbian couples to marry.
2008 Connecticut legalizes same-sex marriage.
Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage in California, passes.
2009 Congress passes the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Iowa, New Hampshire, and Vermont legalize same-sex marriage.
2010 A federal district judge in California finds Proposition 8 unconstitutional.
Congress repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” allowing lesbians and gay men to serve
openly in the military.
2013 The U.S. Supreme Court dismisses the appeal on same-sex marriages in California,
allowing same-sex marriage to resume in the state.
2015 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in a 5-4 decision that same-sex couples have a
constitutional right to marry.
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118 chapter 5 Sexual Orientation
In 1984 scientists discovered the virus that was responsible for AIDS. Within two years
the virus was labeled human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and scientists had developed a
blood test to determine whether an individual is HIV positive. They learned that the virus
is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids during sexual activity, needle sharing by drug
users, and blood transfusions. Between 1981 and 1986, 12,000 deaths from the disease were
reported (Eaklor, 2008). Even after non-gays had been diagnosed with the disease, the general
public continued to identify it as a gay disease. AIDS has become a global disease that dispro-
portionately affects women (Eaklor, 2008).
During this period, the LGBT community mobilized against AIDS and the growing
homophobia in society (Eaklor, 2008). They engaged in raising awareness about the disease,
lobbying for funds to support research about it, and raising funds to care for the growing
number of people suffering from the disease. Members of one of the best-known anti-AIDS
organizations, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), became angry at the inaction
of the government and other groups to find a cure for AIDS. They were known for their tac-
tics to disrupt or shut down businesses or government offices, including Wall Street and the
National Institutes of Health (NIH). In San Francisco a group began a project to memorialize
those who had died of AIDS by designing 3 × 6 panels, one for each victim, and joining them
into the AIDS Memorial Quilt. When the quilt was first displayed on the National Mall in
Washington, D.C., in 1987, it had 1,920 panels; by 2006 it had 45,000 panels (Eaklor, 2008).
One Step forward and One Step Backward. Not all members of the LGBT com-
munity agreed on the tactics and direction for their activism. Lesbians often felt neglected in
the work. The place of bisexuals in the movement was not clear, and transgender individuals
were forming their own groups, usually based on their gender identity (e.g., male-to-female or
female-to-male). Although groups and individuals within them may have disagreed on strategies,
they generally agreed that they should be fighting to protect LGBT people from discrimina-
tion, counter antigay legislation, and repeal sodomy laws in the states (Eaklor, 2008). Progress
was being made in the 1980s. Wisconsin passed the first bill to ban discrimination based on
sexual orientation. Six states and a number of cities and communities passed similar legislation
soon after (Eaklor, 2008). The FBI was required to collect data on antigay violence by the Hate
Crimes Statistics Act signed by George H. W. Bush in 1990.
The culture wars continued to influence school policies into the twenty-first century.
Books about lesbians and gays were removed from school libraries. In 1992 antigay activists
and some parents in New York City contested a school district’s adoption of the “Rainbow
Curriculum,” which supported diversity, including gays and lesbians. When the curriculum
was finally adopted, the references to lesbians and gays had been removed (Mayo, 2014).
While a number of colleges and universities eliminated ROTC programs and refused to allow
recruiters from the military on campus because of their “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, others
refused to allow students to establish gay and lesbian groups on campus.
The LGBT community was optimistic that the political landscape would change with the
election of Bill Clinton as president. Clinton was the first president who had solicited their
support in his election and indicated that he would lift the ban on homosexuality in the armed
services. Faced with strong resistance to lifting the ban by military officials, Clinton compro-
mised by establishing a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to allow gays and lesbians to serve in the
military only if they remained closeted. The hopes of the LGBT community were crushed as
their right to be open about their sexual identity was again denied.
On another front, marriage between same-sex individuals was being tested. Three same-
sex couples in Hawaii sued for the right to receive marriage licenses in 1991. The couples
lost their case, but the Hawaii Supreme Court found that the denial of marriage licenses to
these couples was discriminatory. The state legislature responded quickly by defining marriage
as taking place only between a man and woman, a decision that led to another suit. Rather
than wait for the Hawaii case to be resolved, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act
(DOMA) in 1996 to forbid same-sex marriages. The voters of Hawaii ratified the legislature’s
definition of marriage in 1998. At the same time, Alaskan voters approved a constitutional
amendment restricting marriage to a man and woman.
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Struggles for Sexual Equity 119
Prior to the 2004 national elections, 11 more states passed anti–gay marriage legislation
(Miller, 2006). By 2006, 40 states had passed similar amendments (Johnson, 2006). As part of
the 2008 national elections, California voters approved by a 52% to 48% margin Proposition
8, overturning the California Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex couples have a constitu-
tional right to marry. An analysis of the characteristics of the people who voted in favor of
Proposition 8 found that by large margins they were Republican, were conservative, attended
a religious service weekly, and were over 65 years old (Eagan & Sherrill, 2009). Proposition 8
was overturned by a Federal District Court judge in 2010 but was appealed. In 2013, the U.S.
Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, allowing same-sex marriages to resume in California.
Although 41 states had defined marriage as limited to a man and woman by March 2011, other
states were taking different action. In 2000 the Vermont legislature approved civil unions between
gay and lesbian couples that would allow them the benefits and responsibilities of marriage with-
out sanctioning marriage. Connecticut followed suit in 2005. The movement for gay marriage
received a boost when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in November 2003 declared that
gay and lesbian couples had a right to marriage. By 2004 gay and lesbian couples were marrying
in San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), and a few other cities. However, state legislators intervened,
eventually declaring those marriage licenses void. On May 17, 2004, gays and lesbians were mar-
ried in Massachusetts for the first time. Congress considered an amendment to the U.S. Consti-
tution in July 2004 to ban same-sex marriages, but the Senate failed to adopt it. Other countries,
particularly in Europe, were more open to gay marriages. By the time that the Supreme Court
ruled that marriage between same-sex couples was a constitutional right in 2015, 36 states and
the District of Columbia had already allowed same-sex couples to marry (Pew Research Center,
2015a), and 780,000 gay and lesbian adults had been married (Gates & Newport, 2015).
Debates about civil unions and marriage between gays continue in religious arenas. As of
September 2014, 60% of mainline Protestants supported same-sex marriages (Masci, 2015b).
The Reform and Conservative Jewish movements, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and
the United Church of Christ had allowed same-sex marriages for a number of years. Other
mainline churches conduct blessings but not marriage ceremonies. The Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) became the latest mainline church to sanction gay marriages when its new constitution
was adopted in 2015. However, the policy allows clergy to opt out of performing marriages.
Other large religious institutions remain firmly against same-sex marriage, including the Roman
Catholic Church, Orthodox Jewish Movement, Southern Baptist Convention, and Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Masci, 2015b).
The public is becoming more accepting of gay and lesbian relationships. The Pew
Research Center (2013d) found that 3 in 5 Americans now believe that homosexuality should
be accepted by society. Leading up to the Supreme Court ruling, support for same-sex mar-
riages increased from 37% in 2009 to 52% in 2014 (Masci, 2015a). Women, Hispanics, adults
under 30 years of age, college graduates, Democrats, and independents were more likely to
favor gay marriages than other groups (Pew Research Center, 2013d).
continuing challenges for equity
Even though a growing number of gays and lesbians are open about their sexual identity, many
continue to fear reprisal from employers, neighbors, or friends. In many areas of the country
and in many classrooms, gays are harassed and abused if they openly acknowledge their sexual
identity. A number of families, religious leaders, and teachers not only reject them but label
them as immoral and deviant. Unlike one’s racial identity, which can be easily identified by
others, gays and lesbians can hide their identities from a hostile society. As a result, many of
them suffer loneliness and alienation by not being able to acknowledge their sexuality.
A number of policy and political advances have been made over the past two decades, but
these changes have in large part been limited to a few communities or states. Many employers
include sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies. Lesbians and gays are parents
to more than 4% of all adopted children (Human Rights Campaign, n.d.). Nevertheless, gays
and lesbians in some states cannot adopt children, or they lose custody of their natural-born
children when they enter a relationship with someone of the same sex.
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120 chapter 5 Sexual Orientation
As more people come to recognize and accept gay relations and gay rights over the coming
years, antigay legislation should gradually be overturned. Current LGBTQ organizations will
be supported in moving their agenda forward by other civil rights and social justice organiza-
tions as those groups become more inclusive in their membership and issues.
heterosexism’s toll on Students and adults
Heterosexism, which is the fear of or aversion to LGBTQ youth and adults, has historically
resulted in laws that prevented them from openly acknowledging their sexual orientation or
gender identity. State laws have prevented them from being together, marrying, and adopting
children. They have been the victims of hate crimes and the targets of bullying and discrimi-
nation from their early school days, sometimes in their own homes. The way they have been
treated in society has affected their self-esteem, participation in school, academic achievement,
and college attendance. A great deal of progress has been made over the past two decades to
overturn heterosexist laws, but much work is left to eliminate the prejudice and discrimination
that prevents LGBTQ youth from participating equally in the education process.
a targeted minority
In the past, heterosexuality was so highly valued that laws were written to prohibit any other
sexual behavior or identity. When the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) that all
sodomy laws were unconstitutional, 13 states still had them on their books (Stein, 2010). Many
regions of the country do not have legislation or policies to prevent discrimination against
LGBTQ persons. LGBTQ people are frequently not admitted to “straight” clubs and are vul-
nerable to attacks on city streets and country roads.
LGBTQ people are victimized by hate crimes in 20% of the cases reported to the FBI,
second only to hate crimes against African Americans (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2014).
The hope is that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Crimes Prevention Act of 2009
will lead to the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes that target LGBTQ people, African
Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, persons with disabilities, and members of other groups.
LGBTQ groups and their allies
periodically join together
to protest discrimination,
harassment, and antigay
legislation and politics.
(© Cal Vornberger/Alamy)
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Heterosexism’s Toll on Students and Adults 121
Currently, statistics on hate crimes are voluntarily reported
by state and local jurisdictions, but thousands of agencies are
not yet reporting data. Most hate crimes will continue to be
prosecuted at the state level. At this point, only 30 states have
hate crimes prevention laws that include sexual orientation,
and only half of those states address hate crimes against
gender identity or expression (Human Rights Campaign,
2014). Transgender women of color have been particularly
vulnerable to attacks. In 2014, at least 13 transgender women
were killed (Human Rights Campaign, 2015).
LGBTQ youth may experience invisibility and isolation
in their homes, communities, and schools (Savage & Harley,
2009). They do not see positive images of LGBTQ people
in their schools. The school and local library may not have
books or other information on LGBTQ issues. They learn
that they are not “normal” and are often hated by others.
When LGBTQ identities are included in the school curric-
ulum, the focus is often on negative contexts that indicate
all of the problems with being LGBTQ (Savage & Harley,
2009). LGBTQ youth do not learn that LGBTQ people
have contributed to the history and culture of the nation and
that their predecessors have struggled for decades for equal-
ity and the elimination of antigay policies and practices.
Feeling positively about one’s sexual identity fosters
well-being and mental health (American Psychological
Association, 2008). However, many LGBTQ young people and adults worry incessantly
about “coming out” or being open with friends, family, and colleagues about their sexual
orientation. They may worry about being thrown out of their homes, losing friends, being
harassed or physically attacked, or facing discriminatory actions such as losing a job or being
expelled from a club. Because urban areas are generally more tolerant of sexual diversity
than rural areas, gays and lesbians are more likely to be open about their sexual identity in
metropolitan areas where social outlets and support services exist. As acceptance of sexual
diversity increases in society, the need to hide one’s sexual identity should decrease.
the School climate
Heterosexism can lead to harassment in schools, which is more common than most educators
would like to admit. The 2013 National School Climate Survey by the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight
Education Network (GLSEN) found that LGBT students face violence, bias, and harassment
in schools (Kosciw et al., 2014). In the survey, 3 in 10 LGBT students reported that they had
been pushed or shoved at school. Sixteen percent had been punched, kicked, or injured with a
weapon by another student. Fifty-six percent of LGBT students felt unsafe at school because
of their sexual orientation and 38% because of their gender expression. In addition, 1 in 3
missed school because they were uncomfortable or felt unsafe, and nearly 2 in 3 said that they
avoided school functions and extracurricular activities. Verbal abuse in which students were
called names or were threatened was the most common form of harassment. “That’s so gay”
may be one of the most used phrases in the nation’s schools, but other terms, like “dyke,” “fag-
got,” “tranny,” or “he/she,” are also used. Over half of the students in the survey indicated that
teachers and other school staff also used this language against LGBT students (Kosciw et al.,
2014). One does not necessarily have to be LGBT to be harassed; students who are perceived
to be gay, whether or not they are, are also targets of these attacks.
LGBTQ students are over three times as likely to think about suicide and three times as
likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers (Robinson & Espelage, 2012). A rash of
suicides at the beginning of the 2010–11 school year brought public attention to the problem
of bullying and rejection of LGBTQ students. Even with all the attention after these suicides
LGBTQ students do
not always conform to
society’s heterosexual
expectations for behaviors
and appearance. They
are often very proud
of being different and
nonconforming. (© Hassan

Watch the video “Out
High School Students”
/watch?v=PpnA0Ff3soM) to
hear students talk about the
bullying and harassment they
have experienced and their
recommendations for
improving school climates.
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122 chapter 5 Sexual Orientation
to the damage bullying can cause, they continued in 2015. Seventeen-year-old Leelah Alcorn
killed herself by stepping into traffic. She had reported being rejected by her family, who con-
tinued to call her Joshua through her funeral. The family’s religious background was intolerant
of what they perceived as sexual deviance. Zander Mahaffey, a 15-year-old in Georgia, blamed
his suicide on his mother for not accepting her transgender identity. The mother of Ash
Haffner blamed bullying for her daughter’s suicide (LGBTQ Nation, 2015).
Harassment is not always face-to-face. Nearly half of the students in the GLSEN study
reported being harassed or threatened by classmates through electronic means such as text
messages, e-mails, and postings on the Internet (Kosciw et al., 2014). Cyberbullying has also
contributed to the suicides of young people. In 2015 an 18-year-old transgender activist, Blake
Brockton, committed suicide after he had become the homecoming king and hateful com-
ments were posted on the Internet. A 22-year-old game developer, Rachel Bryk, jumped off
the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey after “constant transpho-
bia” on the Internet (LGBTQ Nation, 2015).
After a number of similar suicides in 2010, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage
initiated the project “It Gets Better,” in which people were encouraged to send messages of
hope to LGBTQ youth. Hoping for 100 videos, the project received over 10,000 within six
months, including videos from a number of celebrities in which they encourage youth to be
strong and to understand that life will be better in the future.
Where are school officials when students are harassed at school? LGBT students reported
that 61% of the teachers or school staff took no action when a student reported harassment or
assault and often told them to ignore the incident. In 10% of the cases, the reporting student
was disciplined. Most LGBT students did not report these incidents to school officials because
they thought no action would be taken or that the situation would become worse. In one-third
of the cases reported to officials, students reported that the action taken was effective, but most
cases were ignored or not effectively handled (Kosciw et al., 2014).
Hostile climates for LGBT students affect their academic performance, college aspi-
rations, and psychological well-being. When school officials and teachers are supportive of
LGBT students, the students feel safer in school, miss fewer days of school, and are more
likely to attend college (Kosciw et al., 2014). The number of supportive staff members is
growing. Almost all of the LGBT students in the GLSEN study could identify one supportive
staff member in their school, and nearly 2 in 3 students could identify six or more supportive
staff. The study also found that LGBT students were safer in schools that had adopted policies
against bias, violence, and harassment of LGBT students. One in 10 students reported that the
school had a comprehensive policy that included both sexual orientation and gender identity.
Victimization of LGBT students was also reduced when the school had student clubs such as
gay–straight alliances to provide support for and be allies to LGBT peers. However, only half
of the students reported that such a club existed in their schools (Kosciw et al., 2014).
Professional educators have the responsibility to provide a safe and inclusive environment at
school by eliminating homophobia in the school climate. High school is a difficult time for many
adolescents, but it is particularly stressful for gays and lesbians as they struggle with the knowl-
edge that they are members of one of the most despised groups in society. They have few, if any,
support systems in their schools or communities. They are often alone in making decisions about
acknowledging their sexual orientation and facing attacks by others. Educators must not limit the
potential of any student because of her or his sexual orientation or gender identity. Teachers and
administrators should confront colleagues and students who engage in name calling and harass-
ment. The courts agree. In Nabozny v. Mary Podlesny, William Davis, Thomas Blauert, et al. (1996),
a Wisconsin court awarded a gay student nearly $1 million in damages for the physical abuse and
verbal harassment he endured as school administrators looked the other way. School districts will
continue to be held accountable for ensuring the safety of all of their students.
LgBtQ teachers
Teachers have always been expected to be positive role models for students, which requires
them to be very careful about their social activities and relationships. Single teachers were often

Watch the video
“Target of LGBT
Bullying in Ohio School Tells
His Story” (https://www
_KvoAvI), in which a mother and
her son describe the bullying
the son faced at school and
the inaction of school
administrators to stop it.
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Heterosexism’s Toll on Students and Adults 123
warned about sharing residences with adults of the same sex, or of the opposite sex if they were
not married. Such behavior could be declared immoral and could lead to dismissal from a job,
especially teaching. In a 1932 education foundations textbook, The Sociology of Teaching, the
author told teacher candidates that homosexuality was a contagious disease (Tierney & Dilley,
1998). Teachers whose LGBT identity was discovered could be fired in many school districts.
During the civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s, teachers who had been fired began
to fight back in the courts, which usually sided with school districts that used immoral behavior
as the reason for the firing (Eckes & McCarthy, 2008). The tide began to turn with the
California case Morrison v. Board of Education (1969), when the judges found a teacher’s sexual
orientation a valid reason for dismissal only if it contributed to poor job performance.
Many gay and lesbian educators separate their personal and professional lives for fear of
losing their jobs. They worry that they might be accused of molestation or touching students
inappropriately, charged with recruiting their students into being homosexual, or caught in a
homosexual liaison. In addition, they worry about threats; harassment; vandalism to their cars
and homes; and violence by students, parents, colleagues, and other members of the commu-
nity. Although courts usually protect their jobs, they cannot provide the security and comfort
that is needed by teachers who openly acknowledge their homosexuality (Biegel, 2010).
When lesbian and gay teachers are silent about their sexual identity, they do not serve as
role models for gay and lesbian students nor provide the support needed by students whose
needs may be ignored by school officials. Heterosexual teachers who are willing to support gay
and lesbian students also may face discriminatory retaliation by others.
In the last two decades of the twentieth century, lawyers argued against the dismissal of gay
and lesbian teachers by drawing on the constitutional protections of an educator’s lifestyle (Eckes
& McCarthy, 2008). The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses
provided the primary support for these cases when teachers could prove that their dismissal was
based solely on their sexual identity. The landmark case Lawrence v. Texas (2003), in which the
U.S. Supreme Court found that homosexuals have a right to privacy in their sexual lives, and the
1969 California case Morrison v. Board of Education provided the precedents that would generally
favor teachers. As a result, the courts began to rule in favor of LGBTQ teachers unless a school
district could successfully make the argument that the teacher’s private sexual behavior had a
negative impact on his or her effectiveness as a teacher (Eckes & McCarthy, 2008).
More recent court cases are focusing on working conditions related to a teacher’s sexual
orientation (Eckes & McCarthy, 2008). For example, a New York teacher sued her school
district because the principal did not respond to her complaints of harassment by students.
In Lovell v. Comsewogue School District (2002), the court used the Fourteenth Amendment to
hold school officials responsible for protecting teachers from harassment by students, parents,
and colleagues, no matter what the teacher’s sexual identity. In Schroeder v. Hamilton School
District (2002) in Wisconsin, the court ruled in favor of the school district because it had
taken some minimal action to discipline the students. The findings of courts have also differed
when teachers have been dismissed because they surgically changed their gender. A California
school district was allowed to provide a substantial financial settlement for a teacher to resign.
Educators in Illinois and New York were allowed to retain their positions after such surgery
(Eckes & McCarthy, 2008). Until federal laws specifically protect LGBTQ educators, court
decisions are likely to vary across the country.
Even today, gay and lesbian teachers do not feel welcome in a number of school districts,
which is likely to lead to the loss of some very competent teachers. Even in schools in which
sexual diversity is accepted, teachers have to determine when, how, and whether to share their
sexual identity with school administrators, colleagues, parents, and students. For LGBTQ
students, knowing that a teacher has the same sexual identity as theirs could be very helpful.
Some LGBTQ teachers choose and are honored to provide support to LGBTQ students who
are struggling with their own identity. The teacher publication Rethinking Education includes
a number of articles by gay, lesbian, and transgender teachers who have decided to be open to
their students about their sexual identity. The book One Teacher in 10: LGBT Educators Share
Their Stories (2015), edited by the former executive director of GLSEN, Kevin Jennings, also
includes teachers’ stories about being open about their sexual identity.
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124 chapter 5 Sexual Orientation
Schools that value Sexual Diversity
Schools have a very important role in promoting a nation’s culture and its values. Educators
accomplish this task through the formal curriculum that they teach and through the informal
curriculum of value-laden rules that guide the daily activities of a classroom and a school. Both
the formal and informal curricula usually reinforce the values of the dominant culture, which
is white, middle class, heterosexual, English speaking, able-bodied, and Christian. When it
comes to the diversity of sexual identity, heterosexuality has historically been the identity that
is most valued and supported in schools.
Think of the ways that heterosexuality is supported in the informal curriculum. The sys-
tem approves of dating between boys and girls, and it sponsors dances in which boys and girls
dance together. A queen and king are often elected for the springtime prom. Girls and boys
may be allowed to hold hands in the hallways or at school events. Nuclear families with a
mother and father are depicted on bulletin boards and discussed in units on the family in pri-
mary grades. What if you are an LGBTQ student? Will the school system allow you to hold
hands with a person of the same sex or dance with a person of the same sex at a school-spon-
sored dance? Would the school system allow the student body to elect two kings or two queens
for the prom? How often would you see a photo or an illustration of children with same-sex
parents? How comfortable would same-sex parents feel when they attended a school event?
As a teacher, you may receive resistance from some parents and school officials once you
begin to recognize the sexual diversity of students in a positive and accepting way or you begin
to incorporate content about LGBTQ people in the curriculum. You should know that your
students are likely to be at very different places in terms of acceptance of sexual diversity. With
the existence of these types of obstacles to reflecting sexual diversity in the classroom, why
should teachers tackle this project? Long-time educator Elizabeth J. Meyer (2010) identifies
four reasons for taking on this challenge:
1. Student safety. Bullying and harassment are often gendered in nature, directed at students
who are gay or perceived to be gay and students who do not conform to the heterosexual
behavioral expectations associated with their biological sex, including boys who are effem-
inate and girls who are tomboys. In a school that values sexual diversity, students would
respect and support each other regardless of their sexual identities.
2. Physical and emotional health. LGBTQ students often feel ostracized and isolated in
schools because teachers and other students do not see them as normal. They may be
hiding their sexual identity because they fear possible harassment as a result of their being
open about their sexual identity. Consequently, they are more likely than their heterosexual
peers to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors or drug and alcohol abuse.
3. Diversity and equity. Although most schools now have incorporated diversity into the
curriculum, that diversity does not always include sexual identity. LGBTQ students feel
excluded from textbooks, the curriculum, and class discussions. Their issues are usually
not addressed even when they are receiving national or local news coverage.
4. Student engagement and academic success. Students need to be engaged in classroom work
to achieve academic success, which will be critical to their future education, jobs, and earn-
ings. Students who have to worry about the hostile environment of a school may disengage
by cutting classes and skipping school—acts that have a negative impact on their academic
achievement. Dropout rates for LGBT students are also higher than those of their peers.
Queering the curriculum
Although research indicates that the incorporation of LGBTQ issues in the curriculum pro-
motes feelings of inclusivity and safety (Meyer, 2010), fewer than 20% of LGBTQ students
report that they are taught anything about their culture or identity (Kosciw et al., 2014). If sexual
identity is discussed at all in schools, it is usually in health and sex education class (Meyer, 2010).
It is generally a part of class discussions of HIV, in which gays are sometimes blamed for the
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Schools That Value Sexual Diversity 125
spread of the disease. Sex education programs may become embroiled in controversy between
families and school officials, especially when the curriculum includes discussion of LGBTQ
identity. In many districts, parents can request that their children be excused from sex education
classes when topics such as sexual orientation and birth control are discussed.
In schools that value sexual diversity, educators incorporate factual information on sexual
identity in the curriculum. The focus is not on what causes LGBTQ identity but on the factors
that contribute to heterosexism and homophobia that make it so difficult for people who are
LGBTQ to cope with their sexual identity. LGBTQ students should be able to see themselves
not only in textbooks, but in the topics that are discussed. Sexual identity should not be a taboo
subject in the classroom. Teachers should be able to help students develop greater awareness
and understanding of it when the topic arises. Finding themselves in the curriculum helps to
increase the self-esteem and feelings of affirmation of LGBTQ students (Savage & Harley, 2009).
Inquiry-based activities encourage students to explore topics individually and in small groups as
they prepare to share their findings with the full class. This approach can allow for multiple
perspectives on topics being studied, including the perspectives of LGBTQ people (Meyer,
2010). Involving students in developing their own auto-ethnographies will allow them to explore
their identities and the privileges they may have as a result of their identity (Meyer, 2010).
middle School and Secondary curriculum. Social studies could explore the privi-
lege of heterosexuality in society and include a study of the history of LGBT people and their
struggles for equality. Social studies also provides the opportunity to discuss current events at
the local, state, and national levels related to LGBTQ issues, such as same-sex marriage, antigay
laws, and adoption by gays and lesbians. In these discussions students can learn to do research
on a topic, think critically about the issues, and participate in the political process. These discus-
sions and respectful debates should also attend to the intersection of sexual identity with race,
ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, and religion (Meyer, 2010).
Language arts and literature courses should include books and short stories by gay and les-
bian authors as well as authors of color. As the teacher, you should not be afraid to identify the
sexual identity of the author and talk about how it may have influenced the author’s writing.
Fiction and nonfiction with LGBTQ characters can help students understand the meaning of
diversity, the damage of discrimination, and the strengths of LGBTQ people. The contribu-
tions of gays and lesbians to society could be highlighted in these courses as well as in courses
in art, music, the sciences, and physical education.
Teachers of mathematics and science also can find opportunities to include LGBTQ people
in their curriculum. For example, the study of graphs, charts, and statistics could report data
related to the experiences of LGBTQ students in schools or society. Word problems could be
checked for their heteronormativity, which is the assumption that heterosexuality is normal and
any other identity is abnormal. Biology could address chromosomal and hormonal influences on
embryonic development as well as how biology is related to gender (Meyer, 2010).
early childhood and elementary curriculum. Queering the curriculum is not
limited to middle and secondary schools. Two areas in which related issues could be intro-
duced in early childhood and elementary education are gender role expectations and families
(Meyer, 2010). Units on families are common at this level, and gender roles are taught and
reinforced through the informal curriculum of preschool and elementary schools. Gender
identity becomes important very early in life. Young children learn very quickly the “right”
clothes to wear and the appropriate toys and games to play, based on their biological sex.
Preschool classrooms often have a boys’ corner separate from the girls’ corner, and the two
groups are not generally encouraged to integrate their play. In fact, children may be redi-
rected if they select a toy, book, or game that is more directly identified with the opposite
sex. One of the problems with this approach is that it reinforces gender stereotypes. Another
is that it limits students’ opportunities to read stories, engage in play activities, and pursue
friendships with children of the opposite sex whom they may prefer and enjoy (Meyer, 2010).
In lessons on families and family relationships, teachers do not have to limit pictures and
discussions to nuclear families with a heterosexual mother and father. They should include
families in which the parents are two males, two females, or grandparents; they should include
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126 Chapter 5 Sexual Orientation
families headed by a single parent. The families should be racially or ethnically diverse and from
around the world to emphasize the diversity of families who successfully raise children. The
value of diversity can also be captured in the variety of children’s books now available that show
this diversity of families in a positive light. Some of the children in a class may have LGBTQ
parents, who should be respected and treated as equal members of the school’s support system.
Conflict About LGBTQ-Inclusive Curricula
Not all parents and communities view the diversity of sexual identity as positive. The argument
used most often against the positive portrayal of LGBTQ people is that it would promote
homosexuality among children. Opponents raise their concerns in local newspapers and at
school board meetings, but they seldom win a court case against the inclusion of LGBTQ mate-
rials (Biegel, 2010). In Morrison v. Board of Education of Boyd County, Kentucky (2007), for example,
conservative religious parents sued the school district for requiring students to participate in
diversity training and not allowing parents to remove their children from the training sessions.
They were concerned that LGBTQ content was positively presented and that they were not
allowed to provide their view of homosexuality. The Kentucky court found that the students’
constitutional rights had not been violated but indicated that parental permission to attend the
training was not needed for middle and high school students (Biegel, 2010).
Although the inclusion of LGBTQ information is generally legal in almost every state
under First Amendment principles, a few states limit how it is incorporated into sex educa-
tion classes (Biegel, 2010). Eight states (Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma,
South Carolina, Texas, and Utah) prohibit the positive portrayal of LGBTQ people in the
school curriculum. Some states require that they be presented negatively (GLSEN, n.d. a). On
the other end of the spectrum, California’s Senate Bill 48—the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and
Respectful (FAIR) Education Act—requires schools to include instruction on LGBT students
in the social sciences curriculum
Supporting LGBTQ Students
Teachers can provide an environment for critically examining the dominant cultural norms that
denigrate LGBTQ people. They can encourage an understanding of sexual diversity through the
presentation of facts, facilitation of discussions, and staging of democratic debates in which every-
one’s opinion is respected. When homophobic name calling by students occurs, teachers could
follow up with a teachable moment to provide facts and correct myths about LGBTQ people. If
educators ignore homophobic remarks made by students or other adults, children and youth are
quick to conclude that something is wrong with gays and that they can be treated disrespectfully.
To be respected by LGBTQ and other students, teachers must guarantee respectful treatment
of all students. This may be difficult for some teachers. How can educators move to this level of
acceptance of and comfort with sexual diversity? First, they should become familiar with the his-
tory, culture, and current concerns of LGBT people by reading or attending lectures and films
about them. Second, they should create a safe and equitable classroom environment for all students.
In addition to helping all students correct the myths they have learned about gays and
lesbians, educators should promote the healthy development of self-identified LGBTQ youth
in the school setting. Key to this approach is breaking the silence that surrounds the discussion
of homosexuality. The classroom and school should provide a safe and supportive climate for
children and adolescents who identify their sexual orientation. They should learn that they are
not alone in figuring out their sexual orientation and sexuality.
Supporting LGBTQ students is not always easy for a school district. Some students, who
may be supported by their parents, take steps to interfere with the rights of LGBTQ students.
In 2001 Minnesota high school student Elliot Chambers wore a sweatshirt with “Straight Pride”
on the front and a man and woman holding hands on the back. This triggered a heated debate
about homosexuality at a meeting of a student Christian group. The principal asked the student to
remove the shirt because a number of students had complained, and he was worried that physical
fights among students might occur. Based on the student’s First Amendment rights to free speech,
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Schools That Value Sexual Diversity 127
a judge ruled in favor of the student. He also acknowledged the school’s work to create an envi-
ronment of tolerance and respect for diversity and suggested that schools, parents, and the com-
munity “work together so that divergent viewpoints, whether they be political, religious, or social,
may be expressed in a civilized and respectful manner” (Chambers v. Babbitt, 2001). In a suburban
Chicago school, the court ruled in favor of the school district in a case where the text on the stu-
dent’s T-shirt was a negative reference to being gay (Nuxoll v. Indian Prairie School District, 2008).
Safe School Policies. Parents and communities believe that schools should be safe for
students. The overall goal for a school should be to treat all students with equal respect and
dignity (Biegel, 2010). Many school districts developed policies related to bullying after the
shootings at Columbine High School in 1999. However, those policies were not always com-
prehensive in that they did not include sexual orientation or gender identity among the groups
to be protected. Comprehensive safe school policies provide faculty and staff guidance for
intervening when students are using homophobic language. Students in schools with com-
prehensive policies report hearing fewer homophobic remarks and are more likely to report
harassment and abuse to school officials (Kosciw et al., 2014).
Focus Your Cultural Lens
Debate / Sexual Orientation in the curriculum
Educators are struggling with how best to incorporate sexual orientation into the curriculum, eliminate bullying
based on sexual orientation, and provide support for their LGBTQ students. Although the population is becoming
more accepting of gays and lesbians, not all communities are supportive of the recognition of sexual orientation in
their schools. In fact, some parents and religious leaders actively fight against any discussion of it at any grade level.
Concern about the inclusion of sexual orientation in the school curriculum has not been limited to the local
school district level. State legislators are becoming involved in deciding what should be taught about gays and
lesbians in schools and at what age, and they disagree. A few states have passed legislation to ban any discus-
sion of sexual orientation other than heterosexuality in their schools. Legislation is pending in one state to prevent
discussion in grades K–8 of the fact that some people are gay. Another state has passed legislation requiring
incorporation of the history of homosexuality into social studies.
Do you think sexual orientation should be incorporated into the curriculum of the nation’s schools?
1. How would you respond to the question? What rationales support your response?
2. How will you know whether the community in which you are teaching is supportive of the inclusion of sexual
orientation issues, history, and experiences in the curriculum?
3. If you are teaching in a very conservative community, what strategies would be appropriate in providing
support for LGBTQ students in the school?
LGBTQ students should see themselves in the
curriculum to help them develop positive identities.
Children and youth at all ages should be taught to be
accepting of others, including individuals whose sexual
identity is not heterosexual.
Young children should learn that families are very
diverse, including some with same-sex parents.
Bullying against LGBTQ students could be greatly
reduced with curricula that incorporate LGBTQ
Discussion of sexual orientation in the curriculum will
encourage more students to become LGBTQ.
Students at all levels should learn the gender roles that
are appropriate for their sex.
Introducing positive images of same-sex couples and
LGBTQ people will lead students to think it is acceptable
to be LGBTQ, which is an inappropriate role for schools.
Students should learn that bullying against any student
is inappropriate without pointing out the
disproportionate bullying of LGBTQ students.
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128 chapter 5 Sexual Orientation
All states have developed generic safe school laws and/or policies to protect students from
bullying and harassment (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014). Seventeen
states and the District of Columbia have enumerated anti-bullying laws to specifically include
sexual orientation and gender identity (GLSEN, n.d. b). To see the status of laws in your state,
visit the website of GLSEN (
No federal law prevents bullying or harassment of students based on their LGBTQ identity.
However, bills have been introduced for that purpose. Following the Title IX model, the Student
Non-Discrimination Act was reintroduced in 2013 to prevent any federally funded school pro-
gram or activity from discriminating based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender
identity. Another bill supported by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, the Safe
Schools Improvement Act, was reintroduced in the Senate and House in 2013 and again in 2015.
Even with safe school policies, schools are not always enforcing them as effectively as
they should. Some gay and transgendered students have sued school districts for not protect-
ing them from constant abuse from other students, and courts generally rule in favor of the
students. School districts could face litigation if they do not take affirmative steps to prevent
harassment and bullying of LGBTQ and other students.
A number of schools have established safe zones or safe spaces for LGBTQ students—usually
a specific classroom. The safe space in a school may be marked by a pink triangle or other LGBTQ
symbol. In these places students can be themselves and feel free to discuss issues related to their
gender identity. In the GLSEN study of the school climate, just over 25% of the students reported
seeing at least one of the safe space stickers or posters in their school (Kosciw et al., 2014).
gay–Straight alliances. Students in the GLSEN study feel safer when they are in
a school with a gay–straight alliance (GSA), which is a student-initiated club of LGBTQ
and straight students that provides a safe place for students to discuss issues and meet others
with similar interests (Meyer, 2010). When a school has a GSA, LGBTQ students report
hearing fewer homophobic remarks, and school personnel are more likely to intervene when
homophobic remarks are made. Forty-five percent of the students reported that a GSA existed
in their school (Kosciw et al., 2014).
The Federal Equal Access Act of 1984 requires that student clubs be established and man-
aged by students. Teachers and other school personnel may serve as advisors to the group. The
goal should be to help students realize their strengths and accomplishments as they develop
LGBTQ students and their
allies establish gay–straight
alliance clubs in schools to
support each other. (© Custom
Life Science Images/Alamy)

Watch the video “A
Gay Straight Alliance
Creates Unity and a Culture of
Acceptance” (https://www.
ZyE1W7VZ80), about why a
student led the effort to
establish a GSA in her school
and how it has changed
LGBT’s self-concept.
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Summary 129
Chapter Quiz: Click here to gauge your understanding of chapter concepts.
Sexual identity
Although a number of researchers have looked for a biolog-
ical cause of homosexuality, no definitive link has yet been
found. Sexual orientation includes sexual identity as a lesbian,
gay, bisexual, heterosexual, transgender, or queer person.
LGBTQ youth go through developmental stages similar to
other groups as they clarify and become comfortable with
their sexual orientation and identity.
Struggles for Sexual equity
In the 1950s homosexuals were under attack, purged from
government and military employment, and arrested in parks,
bars, and even their homes for being gay. In the riot at Stone-
wall Inn in 1969, gays began to publicly resist harassment and
fight more aggressively for their civil rights in the courts. By
the 1980s gays were facing setbacks as conservative Christians
fueled culture wars against feminists, lesbians, and gays as gay
men began to be diagnosed with AIDS. The culture war in
schools led to the removal of books on gays and lesbians from
school libraries and bans on teaching about homosexuality
unless it was from a negative perspective. By 2004 the “Don’t
Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prevented LGBTQ people from
coming out in the military had been repealed. Whereas 40
states had legislative mandates or voter amendments against
same-sex marriage in 2006, the 2015 Supreme Court decision
guaranteed the right to same-sex marriage to couples across
the United States.
heterosexism’s toll on Students and adults
The majority of LGBTQ students feel unsafe in schools;
they are harassed and sometimes physically abused by other
students. LGBTQ students are more likely to attempt and
commit suicide than their peers. Courts are upholding the
rights of teachers to be LGBTQ, and teachers cannot legally
be fired because of their sexual orientation. School districts
are also required to protect LGBTQ teachers from harass-
ment by students, parents, and colleagues.
Schools that value Sexual Diversity
Incorporating LGBTQ content into the curriculum will help
increase the self-esteem and feelings of affirmation of LGBTQ
students. Educators have the right to include LGBTQ content
in the curriculum, but some states limit the way that content
can be taught. Comprehensive safe school policies that
specifically include protection based on sexual orientation and
gender identity are providing support to LGBTQ students
by helping reduce harassment against them. Student-initiated
gay–straight alliances (GSAs) for LGBTQ students and their
allies provide a safe place for students to discuss issues affect-
ing their lives and teach others about tolerance and safety.
into young adults. If you are the GSA advisor, remember that sexual identity may not be the
primary group identification for all of the club members; it could be religion, race, ethnicity,
or exceptionality. The club should provide students opportunities to celebrate who they are
regardless of their primary identification.
Students who initiate a GSA may need assistance from their advisor in determining the
purpose of the group. Initially, many GSA clubs try to make the student body and teachers
aware of antigay discrimination and provide training on safety and tolerance. They may
seek approval from school administrators to organize events around National Coming Out
Day (October 11), the Day of Silence (April 1), and National History Month (October).
Over time, club members may want to explore how the curriculum, school policies, and
school practices privilege heterosexuals and ignore other sexual identities.
In some communities parents or religious groups may raise objections about students
establishing a GSA club. Some groups have sued school boards to prevent students from initi-
ating a GSA club, but they have not been successful in overturning the school board’s decision.
Based on the federal Equal Access Act, courts have ruled that if the school district allows stu-
dents to establish other clubs, it must allow the formation of a GSA club (Biegel, 2010).
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LEarning OutcOmEs
As you read this chapter, you should be able to:
6.1 Describe exceptional students and explain what groups are considered exceptional.
6.2 Explain key court cases relevant to the educational rights of students with
6.3 Discuss key civil rights legislation for individuals with disabilities.
6.4 Analyze the perceptions of individuals with exceptionalities and their integration with
wider U.S. society.
6.5 Cite the primary issues involved in the overrepresentation and underrepresentation of
some ethnic/racial groups in special education classes and possible contributing
6.6 Discuss some of the basic needs of exceptional children and explain why it is important
for educators to help their students meet these needs.
Guadalupe “Lupe” Gutierrez, a third-grade teacher at Martin Luther King Elementary School, has been asked to see the principal, Erin Wilkerson, after the students leave. Dr. Wilkerson
explains that the school is expanding its full inclusion program, in which special education chil-
dren, including those with severe disabilities, are fully integrated into general education class-
rooms. Congruent with school district policy, King Elementary is enhancing its efforts to integrate
special education students into general education settings. Gutierrez’s classroom is one of four
general education classrooms in which special education students will be placed in the next few
weeks. “What this will involve, Lupe, is two students with severe disabilities. One is a child with
Down’s syndrome who has developmental disabilities; he has severe delays in the acquisition of
cognitive, language, motor, and social skills, and he has some severe learning problems. The
other child has normal intelligence but is nonambulatory, with limited speech and severe cerebral
“You will be assigned a full-time aide with a special education background. In addition,
Bill Gregg, the inclusion specialist, will assist you with instructional plans and strategies.
It is important that you prepare your students and the parents so that a smooth transition
can be made when these students come into your class in January, just two and a half
months from now. I’d like you and Bill to map out a plan of action and give it to me in two
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Students with Disabilities and Students Who Are Gifted and Talented 131
1. What should Lupe and Bill’s plan of action include?
2. When students with severe disabilities are integrated into general education classrooms, do
they detract from the programming of nondisabled students?
3. Are the students with disabilities potentially a disrupting influence in the classroom?
4. Do general education teachers like Lupe Gutierrez have adequate training and background to
accommodate students with disabilities in their classrooms?
5. Should students be integrated, regardless of their degree of disability?
students with Disabilities and students Who
are gifted and talented
A significant segment of the population in the United States is made up of exceptional individ-
uals. Brault (2012) reported that there are nearly 57 million individuals in the United States
with some type of disability. Hallahan, Kauffman, and Pullen (2015) reported that approxi-
mately 8.5% of students (more than 6.5 million) receive special education services. The
National Center for Education Statistics (2010) reported that approximately 6.7% of students
(or 3.2 million) are gifted and talented, although not all of them receive special education ser-
vices. Educators continuously come in contact with exceptional children and adults. They may
be students in our classes, our professional colleagues, our friends and neighbors, or people we
meet in our everyday experiences.
Exceptional people include individuals with disabilities and gifted individuals. This fact
alone makes the subject of exceptionality very complex. Some, particularly persons with dis-
abilities, have been rejected by society. Because of their unique social and personal needs
and special interests, many exceptional people become part of a cultural group composed
of individuals with similar exceptionalities. For some, this cultural identity is by ascription;
they are labeled and forced into residential institutions where they live. Others may live in
certain communities or neighborhoods by their own choosing. This chapter will examine the
exceptional individual’s relationship to society. It will address the struggle for equal rights and
the ways the treatment of individuals with disabilities often parallels that of oppressed ethnic
Definitions of exceptional children vary from one writer to another, but Heward’s
(2013, p. 7) is typical:
Exceptional children differ from the norm (either below or above) to such an extent
that they require an individualized program of special education and related ser-
vices to fully benefit from education. The term exceptional children includes chil-
dren who experience difficulties in learning as well as those whose performance is
so superior that modifications in curriculum and instruction are necessary to help
them fulfill their potential. Thus, exceptional children is an inclusive term that
refers to children with learning and/or behavior problems, children with physical
disabilities or sensory impairments, and children who are intellectually gifted or
have a special talent.
This definition is specific to this category of school-age children, who are usually referred,
tested to determine eligibility, and then placed in special education programs. Included in the
process is the labeling of the child. At one end of the continuum are gifted and talented
children, students who have extraordinary abilities in one or more areas. At the other end are
children with disabilities (some of whom may also be gifted). Students with disabilities are
labeled as having intellectual disabilities ( ID, previously referred to as mental retardation),
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132 chapter 6 Exceptionality
learning disabilities, speech impairment, visual impairment, hearing impairment, emotional
disturbance (or behavioral disorders), or physical and health impairments.
If you completed a public school education within the past 20 to 25 years, there is a
strong likelihood that you experienced having a person with a disability in one or more of
your classes.
The categorization and labeling process has its share of critics. Critics characterize the practice
as demeaning and stigmatizing to people with disabilities, with the effects often carried
through adulthood, where these people may be denied opportunities as a result. Some indi-
viduals, including many with learning disabilities and ID, were never considered to have
disabilities prior to entering school. Individuals with ID often have problems in intellectual
functioning and in determining socially appropriate behaviors for their age group. The school
setting, however, intensifies their academic and cognitive deficits. Many, when they return to
their homes and communities, do not seem to function as individuals with disabilities. Instead,
they participate in activities with their neighborhood peers until they return to school the
following day, where they may attend special classes (sometimes segregated) and resume their
role in the academic and social structure of the school as students with disabilities. The labels
carry connotations and perhaps stigmas. Some researchers have found that general education
classmates often display negative attitudes toward peers with intellectual disabilities and
socially reject or neglect them (Siperstein, Parker, Bardon, & Widaman, 2007).
Some disabilities are more socially acceptable than others. Visual impairment stimulates
public empathy and sometimes sympathy. The public has long given generously to causes for
the blind, as evidenced by the financially well-endowed Seeing Eye Institute, which is respon-
sible for training the well-known guide dogs. The blind are the only group with a disability
who are permitted to claim an additional personal income tax deduction because of their dis-
ability. The general public perceives blindness to be one of the worst afflictions that could
be imposed on an individual. In contrast, ID and to some extent emotional disturbance are
often linked to lower socioeconomic status and individuals of color. These are among the least
socially acceptable disabilities and are perhaps the most stigmatizing. This is, in part, because
of the general public’s lack of understanding of these disabilities and the debilitating impact
they can have on the family structure.
Learning disability is one of the more socially acceptable disability conditions. Whereas
intellectual disabilities are often identified with lower socioeconomic groups, those with learn-
ing disabilities may have middle-class backgrounds. Regardless of the level of general accep-
tance, middle-class parents more readily accept learning disabilities than intellectual disabilities
as the cause of a child’s learning deficits. This may also be the case with emotional disabilities
or behavioral disorders as compared with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The former tends to be more stigmatizing, while ADHD may have more social acceptance.
Some children have been reclassified from having intellectual disabilities to being learning
disabled. It has been said that one person’s intellectual disability is another’s learning disability
and still another’s emotional disturbance. The line that distinguishes one of these disabilities
from another can be so fine that an individual could be identified as a student with emotional
disturbance by one school psychologist and as a student with learning disabilities by another.
Although the labeling controversy persists, even its critics often concede its necessity. Fed-
eral funding for special education is predicated on the identification of individuals in specific
disabling conditions. These funds, with $12.50 billion appropriated for the 2014 fiscal year
(New America Foundation, 2015), are so significant that many special education programs
would all but collapse without them, leaving school districts in severe financial distress. Conse-
quently, the labeling process continues, sometimes even into adulthood, where university stu-
dents may have to be identified with a disability in order to receive necessary accommodations
for their learning needs. Vocational rehabilitation counselors often use labels more indicative
of their clients’ learning problems than of their work skills. If their work peers become aware
of these labels, the result could be stigmatizing and lead to social isolation.
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Students with Disabilities and Students Who Are Gifted and Talented 133
Historical antecedents
The plight of persons with disabilities has, in many respects, closely paralleled that of oppressed
ethnic groups. The history of the treatment of those with disabilities does not reveal a society
eager to meet its responsibilities. Prior to 1800, with a few exceptions, those with intellectual
disabilities, for example, were not considered a major social problem in any society. Those with
more severe intellectual disabilities were killed, or they died early of natural causes (Drew &
Hardman, 2007).
The treatment and care of people with intellectual and physical disabilities have typ-
ically been a function of the socioeconomic conditions of the times. In addition to having
attitudes of fear and disgrace brought on by superstition, early nomadic tribes viewed
individuals with disabilities as nonproductive and as a burden draining available resources.
As civilization progressed from a less nomadic existence, individuals with disabilities were
still often viewed as nonproductive and expendable (Drew & Hardman, 2007). They were
frequently shunted away to institutions designated as hospitals, asylums, or colonies.
Many institutions were deliberately built great distances from the population centers,
so the residents could be segregated and more easily contained. For decades, American
society did not have to deal with its conscience with respect to its citizens with severe
disabilities. Society simply sent them far away and forgot about them. Most Americans
did not know of the sometimes cruel and inhumane treatment that existed in many facil-
ities. Today, due to urban sprawl, many of these institutions are now close to or within
population centers.
Individuals with mild disabilities were generally able to be absorbed into society, some-
times seeming to disappear, sometimes contributing meaningfully to an agrarian society, often
not even being identified as having a disability. As society became more industrialized and
educational reforms required school attendance, the academic problems of students with dis-
abilities became increasingly more visible. Special schools and special classes were designated
to meet the needs of these children. Thus, society segregated these individuals, often under the
guise of acting in their best interests.
Society’s treatment of some groups with disabilities, such as those with intellectual dis-
abilities, has frequently been questionable with respect to their civil rights. Although many
Americans find the old miscegenation laws prohibiting intermarriage between different ethnic
groups abhorrent, few realize that as recently as the latter part of the twentieth century, nearly
half of the states had miscegenation laws that prohibited marriage between individuals with
intellectual disabilities.
In some instances, individuals with mild intellectual disabilities were released from
state institutions into society under the condition that they submit to eugenic sterilization
(Edgerton, 1967). The prospect of marriage prohibitions and eugenic sterilization for per-
sons with intellectual disabilities raises serious social and ethical issues. The nondisabled
segment of society, charged with the care and education of individuals with disabilities,
apparently views as its right and responsibility the control of matters dealing with sexual
behavior, marriage, and procreation. In a similar way, educators determine the means of
communication for the deaf individual, either an oral/aural approach or a manual/total com-
munication approach. Such decisions have profound implications because they determine
not only how these individuals will communicate but also, to a great extent, with whom they
will be able to communicate. Too often, society seeks to dehumanize people with disabilities by
ignoring their personal wishes, making critical decisions for them, and treating them as children
throughout their lives.
Much of this chapter will focus on children with disabilities. This focus is not meant to
diminish the importance of gifted and talented (G/T) students. They are equally important in
their own right, but space limitations in this chapter preclude a lengthy treatment of G/T stu-
dents. The vast majority of litigation, legislation, funding, and programming involves children
with disabilities. They are the ones whose civil rights have routinely been violated and who
have historically suffered rejection and blatant discrimination by both educators and society,
which the gifted and talented have generally not had to endure.
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134 chapter 6 Exceptionality
Educational rights of individuals with disabilities were not easily gained. In many respects, the
struggle for these rights paralleled the struggles of ethnic minorities for the right to education.
These rights were not handed to children with disabilities out of the concern or compassion
of educators. Many educators were reluctant to extend educational rights to children with
disabilities, and when they finally did so, it was because the children’s rights had been won in
the courts and the educational community was ordered to provide for these students.
Some of the court decisions and many of the arguments that advanced the rights of African
Americans and other oppressed groups were used by the advocates of children with disabilities.
However, in reality, the battles and the rights gained by the disability rights advocates came
years after similar rights were won by ethnic minority groups.
Attorneys for children with disabilities and their parents utilized case law to fight their
court battles. Case law is the published opinions of judges, which interpret statutes, regula-
tions, and constitutional provisions. The U.S. legal system relies on the value of these decisions
and the legal precedents they establish. Few cases result in published opinions, and those that
are published take on great importance.
Brown v. Board of Education
As with African American students, the initial struggles for children with disabilities involved the
right to, or access to, a public education. One of the most famous and important court decisions
was the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954). Historically, the
Supreme Court of the United States had sided with the Louisiana District Court in Plessy v.
Ferguson in 1896, which upheld the constitutionality of Louisiana’s Separate Car Act, providing
for separate but equal transportation facilities for African Americans. The Plessy verdict became
a part of case law and set a precedent, segregating blacks from whites in transportation, public
facilities, schools, restaurants, and so on. This decision “legitimized” the Jim Crow laws that
established racially segregated schools, which were supposed to be separate but equal. As history
clearly shows, these schools were inherently unequal. This was the setting for the Brown case.
In 1950 Topeka student Linda Brown had to ride the bus to school five miles although a
school was located just four blocks from her home. Linda met all of the requirements to attend
the nearby school but was prohibited from doing so because she was African American. Linda
Brown’s parents and 13 other black families filed suit against the Topeka Board of Education
because of the district’s refusal to admit their children to its all-white schools. Linda Brown’s
name was the first name listed in the suit, and the case became known as Brown v. Board of
Education. The case eventually found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court and became a major
part of U.S. history.
The U.S. Constitution mandates that all citizens have the rights to life, liberty, and prop-
erty. They cannot be denied these rights without due process. Brown determined that education
was a property right. Although there is no constitutional guarantee of a free public education,
in Brown the U.S. Supreme Court found that if a state undertakes the provision of free educa-
tion for its citizenry, the property right of an education is established. The property (education)
rights of Linda Brown and the other African American children had been taken without due
process, a clear violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Brown
decision overturned Plessy with regard to education (although some of the other rights were not
clearly gained until the Civil Rights Act of 1964) and began the integration of all children of
color into American schools.
Brown did not involve children with disabilities, but the precedent it set in guaranteeing
equal educational opportunity for ethnic minority children extended to students with disabil-
ities. It would take another 16 years, however, before the concept of equal opportunity would
actually be applied to children with disabilities. The Court had essentially ruled that what the
Topeka School District had provided Linda Brown and the other African American children
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Litigation 135
was not appropriate. Not only have the courts supported rights of students with disabilities to
have a free education, but legislation has also sought to ensure them the right to an appropriate
The Brown decision found “separate but equal” education to be unequal. Separate edu-
cation denied African American students an equal education. The Court mandated a fully
integrated education, free from the stigma of segregation. Chief Justice Warren stated that
segregation “generates a feeling of inferiority as to their [children’s] status in the community
that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”
Throughout the history of special education in the United States, children with disabil-
ities have faced a continuous uphill struggle to gain the right to attend public schools. Even-
tually some programs were instituted, but until the mid-1970s certain children, particularly
those with moderate to severe disabilities, were routinely excluded from public education. One
of the arguments to deny admission to children with moderate or severe intellectual disabilities
was that they could not learn to read, write, or perform arithmetic in the same manner as non-
disabled students. Learning these academic skills is education, it was argued. Since they were
not educable, they did not belong in schools.
Parents and supporters of these children countered, arguing that learning self-help skills
and other important life skills was indeed learning, and this was education. These children,
along with children with severe physical disabilities, could learn, particularly if support services
were provided.
PARC v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
In 1971 the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC, 1972) brought a class
action suit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the failure to provide a publicly
supported education to students with intellectual disabilities. The attorneys for the plaintiffs
argued the following:
• Education cannot be defined as only the provision of academic experiences for children.
• All students with intellectual disabilities are capable of benefiting from programs of
education and training.
• Having undertaken a free public education for the children of Pennsylvania, the state
could not deny children with intellectual disabilities the same opportunities.
• The earlier the students with intellectual disabilities were provided education, the greater the
amount of learning that could be expected.
The Federal District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and all children ages 6 to 21
were to be provided a free public education. The court stipulated that it was most desirable
to educate children with intellectual disabilities in programs like those provided to their peers
without disabilities (Murdick, Gartin, & Crabtree, 2014; Yell, 2016).
Mills v. Board of Education
Following the PARC decision, another class action suit, Mills v. Board of Education (1972), was
brought before the federal District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of 18,000
out-of-school children with behavior problems, hyperactivity, epilepsy, intellectual disabilities,
and physical problems. The court again ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and mandated that the
District of Columbia schools provide a publicly supported education to all children with dis-
abilities. In addition, the court ordered the following (Murdick et al., 2014; Yell, 2016):
• The district is to provide due process procedural safeguards.
• Clearly outlined due process procedures must be established for labeling, placement, and
• Procedural safeguards include right to appeal, right to access records, and written notice of
all stages of the process.
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136 chapter 6 Exceptionality
While these two high-profile cases were being played out in their respective communities,
other states were finding similar challenges. PARC was the state chapter of the National Asso-
ciation for Retarded Children (now the National Association for Retarded Citizens [The Arc]).
The Arc and other national organizations, such as the Council for Exceptional Children, actively
supported disability advocates throughout the country in preparing court briefs and in offering
other means of support. Armed with their victories and case law favorable to their cause, parent
groups in other states began taking on their legislatures and school districts and winning. More
than 46 cases were filed on behalf of children with disabilities in the first two and a half years
following the PARC and Mills decisions (Yell, 2016). Fresh with many court victories, disability
advocates in the early 1970s were busy preparing for their next battleground, the U.S. Congress.
Following critical court victories for children with disabilities in the early 1970s (e.g., PARC
and Mills), Congress began passing key civil rights legislation for individuals with disabilities.
Not surprisingly, much of the legislation was patterned after the civil rights legislation for
ethnic minorities. These new laws would forever change the way individuals with disabilities
would be treated in the United States and served as a model for much of the world. Today it is
inconceivable that schools could be inaccessible to students in wheelchairs, that elevators could
have f loor buttons not marked with Braille, or that a stadium would be built without ramps.
However, as recently as the mid-1970s, restrooms and aisles in restaurants were often too
narrow to provide access for individuals in wheelchairs.
section 504
In 1973 Congress enacted Section 504 of Public Law 93-112 as part of the Vocational Reha-
bilitation Act. Section 504 was the counterpart to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The
language was brief but its implications far reaching: “No otherwise qualified handicapped
individual in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of his (or her) handicap, be excluded
from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any
program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Section 504 prohibits exclusion from programs solely on the basis of an individual’s dis-
ability. A football coach, marching band director, or university admissions officer cannot deny
a student participation solely on the basis of a disability. However, if ID inhibits a student’s
ability to learn football rules and plays, a learning disability prevents a student from learning
marching band formations even with accommodations, or a student’s test scores are clearly
below the university admissions standards and indicative of likely failure, then exclusion may
be justified. If denial of participation is unjustified, the school or agency risks the loss of all
federal funds, even in programs in the institution that are not involved in the discriminatory
practice (Murdick et al., 2014; Yell, 2016).
Public Law 94-142
In 1975, Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, was signed
into law. This comprehensive legislation provided all students with disabilities ages 3 to 21 with
the following:
• A free and appropriate education
• Procedural safeguards to protect the rights of students and their parents
• Education in the least restrictive environment
• Individualized Educational Programs
• Parental involvement in educational decisions related to their children
• Fair, accurate, and nonbiased evaluations
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Legislation 137
These provisions forever changed the face of American
education. Every child with a disability is now entitled to a
free public education, which is to be appropriate to his or her
needs. The education is to be provided in the least restrictive
environment, which means that the student is to be educated
in a setting as close to a general or regular education class as
is feasible. Parents are to have an integral role in their child’s
education and are to be involved in the development of the
education program and to share in other decisions relating
to their child. When appropriate, the student is also to be
involved. Schools must follow procedural safeguards to ensure
that the rights of the students and parents are observed. Each
student must have an Individualized Education Program
(IEP) that is designed to meet the student’s unique needs.
The identification and evaluation process is to be nondis-
criminatory and unbiased, with multifactored methods used
to determine eligibility and placement (Murdick et al., 2014;
Yell, 2016).
Prior to the passage of P.L. 94-142, nearly half of the
nation’s 4 million children with disabilities were not receiv-
ing a publicly supported education. Furthermore, more
than 3 million students with disabilities admitted to schools
were not receiving an education appropriate to their needs
(Yell, 2016). Many of the students who were in special edu-
cation were often isolated in the least desirable locations
within the schools. In the first two special education teach-
ing assignments (both prior to P.L. 94-142) experienced by
one of the authors of this text, this was very much the case.
In the first, all three special education classes were located
in the basement of the junior high school, isolated from
the other students. In the second school, there were two lunch periods to accommodate
the large student body. The special education students were required to eat in the school
cafeteria between the two lunch periods, and they were expected to exit the facility before
any other students entered. When a new school building was completed next to the old,
outdated facility, the special education class remained in the old facility while the rest of the
school moved.
americans with Disabilities act
Imagine yourself a paraplegic using a wheelchair for mobility and having a class on the fourth
f loor of an older college building with only stairs to reach your destination. Add to this problem
your Colorado location in the winter. This was the situation for a classmate of one of the text’s
co-authors. Each day, the individual had to wait at the bottom of the stairs and implore four
classmates to carry him and all of their books up and down the four f lights of stairs. The indi-
vidual, books, and wheelchair weighed over 250 pounds. Imagine a paraplegic teacher discov-
ering on his first day at a new school that the toilet stalls that he had to use were too narrow
for him to negotiate with his wheelchair. This also happened to a colleague of one of the
co-authors. These are only two examples of the hundreds of challenges individuals with
physical and sensory impairments faced in their daily lives prior to laws protecting individuals
with disabilities.
President George H. W. Bush signed Public Law 101-336, the Americans with Disabil-
ities Act (ADA), into law on January 26, 1990. The ADA was the most significant civil rights
legislation in the United States since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The ADA was designed to
end discrimination against individuals with disabilities in private-sector employment, public
services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.
The Education for All
Handicapped Children
Act of (1975) guarantees
a free and appropriate
education for all children
with disabilities in the least
restrictive environment.
© Lisa F. Young/Fotolia
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138 Chapter 6 Exceptionality
Among the many components of this legislation, the following are a sampling of the
efforts to break down barriers for individuals with disabilities (Murdick et al., 2014; Yell, 2016):
• Employers cannot discriminate against individuals with disabilities in hiring or
promotion if they are otherwise qualified for the job.
• Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for an individual with a disability,
such as attaching an amplifier to the individual’s telephone.
• New buses, bus and train stations, and rail systems must be accessible to persons with
• Physical barriers in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, and stadiums must be removed;
if this is not readily achievable, alternative means of offering services must be
• Companies offering telephone services to the general public must offer telephone relay
services to those using telecommunication devices for the deaf.
Many older European communities have cobblestone streets and sidewalks without curb
cuts, so they are inaccessible for individuals in wheelchairs. This may explain why you may see
few individuals in wheelchairs in those communities. Today, Americans with physical disabil-
ities should expect to be able to travel in public, access buses, and attend events in theaters,
arenas, and stadiums, thanks to the ADA.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Congress passed Public Law 101-476, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA), in 1990 as amendments to Public Law 94-142. Key components of this amendment
included the addition of students with autism or traumatic brain injury as a separate class entitled
to services. A transition plan was an added requirement to be included in every student’s IEP
by age 14. The transition plan includes a needs assessment and individual planning to transition
the student with a disability successfully into adulthood. In addition to substituting the term
disability for handicap, a far-reaching change in the new legislation included changed language to
emphasize the person first, before the disability. The title of the legislation included “Individuals
with Disabilities” rather than “Disabled Individuals.” Nearly all of the newer literature uses

Watch the video “ADA
Parking Violations
Sidewalks—Americans with
Disabilities Act—Civil Rights
–Accessible Sidewalks”
to put yourself in the seat of a
wheelchair and see the
difficulties one may encounter
trying to travel down a sidewalk.
The American with
Disabilities Act requires
buses and other
transportation services to
be accessible to persons
with disabilities. (© John A.
Rizzo/Photodisc/Getty Images)
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Legislation 139
language such as “children with intellectual disabilities,” “students with learning disabilities,”
“individuals with cerebral palsy,” and “people with hearing impairments.” Individuals with dis-
abilities are people or individuals first. Their disability is secondary and at times inconsequential
to their ability to perform the tasks they undertake (Murdick et al., 2014; Yell, 2016).
iDEa amendments
The 1997 IDEA Amendments (P.L. 105-17) reauthorized and made improvements to the
earlier law. It consolidated the law from eight to four parts and made significant additions,
including the following (Murdick et al., 2014; Yell, 2016):
• Strengthened the role of parents, ensured access to the general education curriculum,
and emphasized student progress by changing the IEP process
• Encouraged parents and educators to resolve their differences through nonadversarial
• Gave school officials greater latitude in disciplining students by altering some procedural
• Set funding formulas
In 2004 Congress passed another amendment to IDEA (P.L. 108-446), referred to as IDEA
2004, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. IDEA 2004 added
new language about “academic and functional goals.” IEPs must now include “a statement of
measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals. . . .” The amendment also
required the use of instructional strategies and practices grounded in research and most likely
to produce positive student outcomes (Cook, Tankersley, & Landrum, 2009). Another require-
ment of IDEA 2004 aligned IDEA with the No Child Left Behind requirement of “highly
qualified teachers.” Under IDEA requirements, emergency or provisional certificates do not
qualify an individual (Yell, 2016). All students deserve highly qualified teachers. However,
there has been and still is a shortage of fully certified or credentialed special education teachers
in most states, and a mandate for highly qualified teachers will not make them suddenly appear
for school districts to employ.
Despite the shortages, school districts can no longer employ individuals who have only
emergency licensure. School districts must find ways to compensate for the lack of trained per-
sonnel by qualifying those previously hired under emergency licensure using creative new cat-
egories, such as internships, or in creative instructional staffing for students with disabilities.
Some school districts have created co-teaching arrangements utilizing qualified special
education teachers with qualified general education teachers. In some other instances, qual-
ified special education teachers provide consultation to general education teachers. These
arrangements may provide benefits of inclusion for students with disabilities.
The mandate requires the district to notify parents if their child’s teacher does not meet
the appropriate standards. Individuals hired without full licensure must show progress toward
completion. This provision, while not immediately solving the problem of shortages, is holding
school districts accountable and may, in the future, provide better-qualified teachers for children
with special needs. The 2004 reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
includes a new initiative in the pre-referral and identification of children with learning disabili-
ties. This process is referred to as response to intervention (RTI) and is based on a multitiered
approach to meeting the needs of children. Usually associated with learning disabilities, RTI has
as its primary aim to provide intervention to students who are not achieving at comparable rates
with their peers. The core concepts involve research-based intervention, measurement of stu-
dent response, and data-based instructional decisions (Kavale & Spaulding, 2008). RTI includes
various levels of support in the general education setting prior to a referral to special education
services. Only if students are not responding to research-based quality instruction in general edu-
cation will they be referred to special education (Hallahan et al., 2015). Some research is beginning
to demonstrate that effective RTI programs can indeed reduce the need for eventual special
education placement (Fuchs, Fuchs & Compton, 2012; Wanzek & Vaughn, 2011).
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140 chapter 6 Exceptionality
iDEa funding
When Congress passed Public Law 94-142 in 1975, it mandated services for children with
disabilities. It required states and school districts to provide extensive and often expensive
services to these children. Congress set a goal to fund the mandate at 40% of the cost to educate
children with disabilities. Often the classes for these children are smaller and many require
additional staffing with aides, which increases the cost to the schools. Parents empowered by
this mandate have rightfully insisted that their children receive the services to which they are
entitled. From 1995 to 2009, Congress’s appropriations for IDEA increased from $3,253,000,000
to $12,579,677,000 (Committee on Education Funding, 2010). While this is a very significant
increase, special education programs have expanded, and as recently as 2014, Congress’s IDEA
funding barely reached the 16% level, less than half of the $28.65 billion that had been prom-
ised (New American Foundation, 2015). This leaves school administrators in a difficult quan-
dary, trying to provide the mandated appropriate services to all children using the underfunded
resources of IDEA.
Many parents of children with disabilities are fully aware of the legal rights of their chil-
dren. They may fight to secure the best possible education for their children, regardless of the
district’s financial ability to provide expensive services (e.g., residential schools, long-distance
transportation). In these situations, the cost of providing service may greatly exceed funding
from state and federal sources and may be far greater than the average budgeted costs for the
typical student. These situations may add to a district’s financial distress and may require the
use of funds from general education to provide special education services.
Post–P.L. 94-142 Litigation
Even with over 40 years of legislation, amendments, and refinements, there are many aspects
of special education law that remain unclear to the children, their parents and other advocates,
and school district personnel. The laws are extremely precise in some areas and deliberately
vague in others. In addition, many other variables exacerbate the problem of interpreting and
implementing the various laws and regulations.
In additional to inadequate federal funding, staffing is another serious problem facing
most states. Even when school districts are committed to full compliance with the laws, the
acute national shortage of qualified special education and related services personnel may pre-
clude their ability to do so. Parents who are aware of the law’s requirement of an appropriate
education are often angry and may feel that the schools have betrayed the best interests of their
children, and they have often successfully addressed their frustrations by taking legal action
against the schools. In some cases the schools are at fault for deliberately ignoring the IDEA
requirements, but their situation is often exacerbated by lack of funding or lack of qualified
Because IDEA does not provide a substantive definition of an “appropriate education,”
the issue has often been left to the courts. Parents, as might be expected, typically view an
appropriate education as the best possible education for their child. In 1982 Board of Edu-
cation of the Hendrick Hudson School District v. Rowley became the first case related to “an
appropriate education” for a student with a disability to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Amy
Rowley was a student with a hearing impairment who was placed in a regular education kin-
dergarten class. Several of the school personnel learned sign language in order to communi-
cate with Amy. A teletype machine was placed in the school office to facilitate communication
with Amy’s parents, who were also deaf. Amy was provided with a hearing aid by the school,
and a sign language interpreter was assigned to her class. Amy completed kindergarten suc-
cessfully and was found to be well adjusted and making better-than-average progress.
Following the kindergarten year, as was required by P.L. 94-142, an IEP was developed
for the upcoming school year. The plan specified that Amy was to continue her education in
a regular classroom. She was to continue the use of the hearing aid, and she would receive
speech and language therapy three hours a week. In addition, she was to receive instruction an
hour daily from a tutor who specialized in children with hearing impairments.
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Legislation 141
The parents disagreed with the IEP, believing that Amy should have a qualified sign
language interpreter for all academic classes. The school district, however, concluded that a
full-time interpreter was unnecessary and denied the request. As was their right under
P.L. 94-142, the parents requested and were granted a due process hearing. The parents
prevailed, and the case found its way through the lower courts until it finally reached the U.S.
Supreme Court.
The Court, noting the absence in the law of any substantive standard for “appropriate,”
ruled that Congress’s objective was to make a public education available to students with dis-
abilities. The intent was to guarantee access on appropriate terms but not to guarantee a
particular level of education. The Court ruled that schools were not obligated to provide the
best possible education but a “basic floor of opportunity.” It found that a free and appropriate
public education (FAPE) standard could be determined only from a multifactorial evaluation
on a case-by-case basis. This case essentially ensured the continuation of litigation to resolve
“appropriate education” disputes (Murdick et al., 2014; Yell, 2016).
This case was significant in that it was the first case related to P.L. 94-142 to reach the
Supreme Court. It set a standard for “appropriate education” to require more than simple
access to education but less than the best possible educational program. The Court also
focused attention on the rights of parents and guardians, giving them full participation at
every stage of the process (Conroy, Yell, Katsiyannis, & Collins, 2010). It became part of case
law, setting a precedent for similar cases that would follow (Murdick et al., 2014; Yell, 2016).
Consequently, when a school can demonstrate that a student is making satisfactory progress,
the district’s position tends to prevail.
The courts have had to rule on other provisions of the law. For example, the courts have
also ruled in favor of the child when parents have sought non-physician support services neces-
sary to sustain the student’s ability to function in school (e.g., Irving Independent School District v.
Tatro [1984]). Through the years, a developing body of case law has provided parents and other
advocates as well as school personnel with a better understanding of how the law should be
Public Law 94-142 provided students with disabilities their legal educational rights.
However, school districts too often have been found out of compliance, either deliberately or
due to the negligence of personnel. Over the past 30 years, numerous court decisions (e.g.,
Chandra Smith Consent Decree, Los Angeles Unified School District and Felix Consent
Decree, Hawaii Department of Education) have resulted in massive judgments that cost dis-
tricts far more in legal fees and staff time than they would have expended if they had initially
complied with the law.
More than ever before, today children and adults with disabilities are an integral part of
the nation’s educational system and are finding their rightful place in society. Although the
progress in recent years is indeed encouraging, society’s attitudes toward individuals with dis-
abilities have not always kept pace with the advancement of legal rights. As long as people are
motivated more by fear of litigation than by moral and ethical impulses, we cannot consider
our efforts in this arena a complete success.
Laws and funding for gifted and talented students
Currently there may be as many as 3 to 6 million academically gifted students in the United
States. In addition, there are students who are considered talented and who could benefit from
special educational programming. While the importance of gifted and talented education cannot
be overstated, it unfortunately is often overlooked. Gifted and talented individuals are a country’s
potential leaders, innovators, and researchers who may someday enhance the quality of our lives.
These are potentially individuals who will find preventions or cures for cancers, heart disease,
diabetes, and Alzheimer’s diseases. While there is permissive legislation for the gifted and tal-
ented (laws that allow gifted and talented programming to take place), there are no federal or
state mandates for the education of this group. Funding for gifted and talented children is
extremely limited. By comparison, over $12 billion is provided annually through IDEA for
children with disabilities. The Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act, passed by

Watch the video
“Teen Scientists
Compete for Intel Science
Talent Search Awards”
watch?v=BBOFKQRJutY) to
see gifted high school finalists
competing for a top science
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142 chapter 6 Exceptionality
Congress in 1988, is the only federally funded program specific to gifted and talented students.
It does not fund local gifted education programs. The act is designed to support scientifically
based research and to provide demonstration projects and innovative strategies to enhance the
ability of schools to meet the educational needs of these students. Unfortunately, the funding
for this act is very limited, with $10 million appropriated for fiscal year 2015 (National Associ-
ation for Gifted Children, 2015). In the 2012–13 academic year, 14 states did not provide any
funding to local districts for gifted education. Eight states provided $40 million or more, while
9 states provided between $1 and $10 million. Most educators understand the importance of
special education for the gifted and talented. Legislators, however, are faced with diminishing
fiscal resources, partially related to the mandated funding for children with disabilities. Some
may believe that children with disabilities must have special programming to survive, whereas
gifted and talented students are more able to fend for themselves. While there is some truth to
this belief, failure to provide for the gifted and talented group’s educational needs amounts to
the waste of a valuable resource. While external funding may not be available to support pro-
grams for these students, schools need to commit themselves to developing their own program-
ming for these students within their fiscal confines. Hopefully more private funding will
eventually support gifted and talented education and allow for the nurturing of our future world
Exceptional individuals and society
Even in modern times, the understanding and treatment for any deviation from the norm has
been limited. Society has begun to accept its basic responsibilities for people with disabilities
by providing for their education and care, but social equality has yet to become a reality.
Society’s view of people with disabilities can perhaps be illustrated by the way the media
portrays this population. While the media in recent years has shown increasing sensitivity
toward individuals with disabilities, there is much room for improvement. In general, when
the media focuses on persons with disabilities, they are portrayed as (a) children, often with
severe intellectual disabilities and obvious
physical characteristics, or (b) persons with
crippling conditions who are either in wheel-
chairs or on crutches. Thus, society often has
a mindset regarding who people with disabil-
ities are. They are often viewed as children or
childlike, and they have severe disabilities—
intellectually, physically, or both.
Because society often views those with
disabilities as childlike, these individuals
are denied the right to feel like nondisabled
individuals. Teachers and other professional
workers can often be observed talking about
individuals with disabilities in their presence,
as if the individuals are unable to feel embar-
rassment. Their desire to love and be loved
is often ignored, and they are often viewed
as asexual, without the same sexual desires as
those who are nondisabled.
Contemporary American society places great emphasis on physical beauty and attractive-
ness. Individuals who deviate significantly from physical norms are subject to possible rejection,
even if their physical deviations do not interfere with their day-to-day functioning.
In their seminal publication, Gliedman and Roth (1980) suggested that nondisabled
individuals perceive those with disabilities as individuals who seldom hold good jobs, seldom
American Sign Language
(ASL) is the predominant
sign language used in the
U.S. and English speaking
Canada. (© Jules Selmes/
Pearson Education)
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Exceptional Individuals and Society 143
become heroes in our culture, and are seldom visible members of the community. They fur-
ther suggested that society systematically discriminates against many capable individuals with
disabilities. They indicated that the attitudes of society, which views disability as incompatible
with adult roles, parallel racism. They stated that society perceives a “handicapped person as
mentally or spiritually inferior because he is physically different or that ‘people like that’ have
no business being out on the streets with ‘us regular folks’” (p. 23).
Although society must remain vigilant, circumstances for individuals with disabilities have
improved substantially in recent decades. Gliedman and Roth (1980) suggested that, with respect
to discrimination, individuals with disabilities are in some ways better off than African Americans
in that they face no overt discrimination, no organized brutality, no lynch mob “justice,” and
no rallies by supremacist groups (although Nazi Germany sterilized and euthanized thousands
of individuals with disabilities). In some ways, however, people with disabilities are worse off.
African Americans and other groups have developed ethnic pride. It is probable that no one has
ever heard a “cerebral palsy is beautiful” cry, however. Society opposes racism with the view that
African Americans are not self-evidently inferior, but at the same time it takes for granted the
self-evidently inferior status of those who have disabilities.
As we stereotype individuals with disabilities, we deny them their rightful place in society.
The disability dominates society’s perception of the person’s social value and creates an illusion
of deviance. Individuals with disabilities are viewed as vocationally limited and socially inept.
Persons with disabilities may be tolerated and even accepted as long as they maintain the
roles ascribed to them. They are often denied basic rights and dignity as human beings. They
are placed under the perpetual tutelage of those perceived as more knowledgeable and more
capable than they. They are expected to subordinate their own interests and desires to the
goals of a program decreed by the professionals who provide services to them.
The general public may be required by law to provide educational and other services for
individuals with disabilities. The public is prohibited by law from practicing certain aspects
of discrimination against citizens with disabilities. No one, however, can require the person
on the street to like those with disabilities and to accept them as social equals. Many will not
accept a person with a disability. Just as racism leads to discrimination or prejudice against
other races because of the belief in one’s own racial superiority, ableism leads to stereotyping
of, and discrimination against, individuals with disabilities because of the attitude of superior-
ity held by some nondisabled individuals.
Society tends to place behavioral expectations on both men and women. Males are often
expected to fulfill specific masculine roles including participating in athletics. Physical impair-
ments, however, may preclude athletic involvement. Unable to meet these expectations, a
young male with physical disabilities may develop a sense inadequacy. Feminine roles are also
assigned, and women with physical disabilities who are unable to assume these roles may also
develop similar feelings of devalued self worth. With the increased participation of women in
athletics, and the success of the American women in recent Olympic and World Cup compe-
tition, some females may also suffer the frustration of being unable to participate in athletic or
other physical programs.
Exceptional cultural groups
Because of insensitivity, apathy, or prejudice, many of those responsible for implementing and
upholding the laws that protect individuals with disabilities fail to do so. The failure to provide
adequate educational and vocational opportunities for individuals with disabilities may preclude
the possibility of social and economic equality. These social and economic limitations are often
translated into rejection by nondisabled peers and ultimately into social isolation.
Not unlike many ethnic minority groups who are rejected by mainstream society, indi-
viduals with disabilities often find comfort and security with each other, and in some instances
they form their own enclaves and social organizational structures. Throughout the country,
one can find cohesive groups of individuals, such as those who have visual or hearing impair-
ments and those who have intellectual disabilities. In some instances, they congregate in simi-
lar jobs, in the same neighborhoods, and at various social settings and activities.
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144 chapter 6 Exceptionality
Near Frankfort Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky, three major institutions provide services
for individuals who have visual impairments. The American Printing House for the Blind, the
Kentucky School for the Blind, and New Vision Enterprises (formerly Kentucky Industries for
the Blind) are all in close proximity. The American Printing House for the Blind, the leading
publisher of materials for individuals with visual impairments, employs a number of individ-
uals who are blind. The Kentucky School for the Blind is a residential school for students
with visual impairments, and it also employs a small number of individuals with visual impair-
ments, including teachers. New Vision Enterprises provides employment for individuals who
are blind. With the relatively large number of persons who are blind employed by these three
institutions, it is understandable that many individuals with visual impairments live in the sur-
rounding residential area.
Settling in this area allows them to live close enough to their work to minimize the poten-
tial transportation problems related to their visual limitations. It also provides a sense of emo-
tional security for the many who, in earlier years, attended the Kentucky School for the Blind
and lived on its campus and thus became part of the neighborhood. The neighborhood com-
munity can also provide social and emotional security and feelings of acceptance. A few years
ago, a mailing was sent from the Kentucky School for the Blind to each of its alumni; 90% of
the addresses of the mailings at that time had the same zip code as the school.
Individuals with visual impairments or hearing impairments are among the most likely
to form their own cultural groups. Both have overriding factors that contribute to the need
for individuals to seek out one another and to form cultural groups. Some of the blind have
limited mobility. Living in cultural enclaves allows them easier access to one another. They
share forms of communication—oral language, Braille, and talking books. Social and cultural
interests created partly as a result of their physical limitations can often be shared. The hearing
impaired may have communication limitations within the hearing world. Their unique means
of communication provides them with an emotional as well as a functional bond. Religious
programs and churches for individuals with hearing impairments have been formed to provide
services to assist in total communication and social activities.
Individuals with physical disabilities may or may not become a part of a cultural group
related to the disability. Some function vocationally and socially as part of mainstream society.
Given adequate cognitive functioning and adequate communication patterns, normal social
interaction is possible. Socialization, however, may depend on the degree of impairment and
the individual’s emotional adjustment to the disability. Some individuals with physical dis-
abilities may function in the mainstream world and also maintain social contacts with others
with similar disabilities. Social clubs for individuals with physical disabilities have been formed
to provide experiences commensurate with members’ functional abilities, as well as a social
climate that provides acceptance and security. Athletic leagues for competition in sports, such
as wheelchair basketball and tennis, have been formed. Many racing events (e.g., the Boston
Marathon) now include competition for wheelchair entries. The Wounded Warrior Project
provides a wide variety of services to military veterans who have been wounded or injured in
combat. Professional services are available to these veterans, and adaptive sports, health, nutri-
tion, and recreational activities provide them with opportunities to spend time with others
with similar experiences and disabilities.
Many individuals with mild intellectual disabilities live independently or in community-based
and community-supported group homes. The group homes provide a family-like atmosphere,
and house parents provide supervision. Most of the individuals with moderate intellectual dis-
abilities who do not live in institutions tend to live at home. Many individuals with severe and
profound intellectual disabilities, and some with moderate intellectual disabilities, are institu-
tionalized and thus forced into their own cultural group or enclave, isolated from the rest of
The gifted and talented usually do not experience the same type of discrimination and
social rejection that many individuals with disabilities experience. Yet, like individuals with
disabilities, they may suffer isolation from mainstream society and seek others with compa-
rable abilities to gain a feeling of acceptance as well as intellectual or emotional stimulation.
The existence of Mensa, an organization whose membership prerequisite is a high score on an
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Disproportionate Placement in Special Education 145
intelligence test, attests to the apparent need of some gifted individuals to be with others of
similar intellect or talents.
Rejection of the gifted and talented may differ from rejection of individuals with disabili-
ties because the roots may stem from a lack of understanding or jealousy rather than from the
stigma that may relate to certain disabilities.
Disproportionate Placement in special
For over four decades, the overrepresentation of culturally and linguistically diverse students
in special education classes has been a controversial issue for education. In the 1960s and 1970s,
leaders in the field of special education such as Lloyd Dunn (1968) and Jane Mercer (1973)
began to highlight the issue of disproportionate placement of minority students.
Disproportionality can be defined as “the representation of a group in a category that
exceeds our expectations for that group, or differs substantially from the representation of
others in that category” (Skiba et al., 2008, p. 264).
Overrepresentation of ethnic minority students in special education is clearly a major
issue in education. While overrepresentation in special education does not necessarily equate
with inappropriate placement, it is indicative of problems either within the educational system
or in society in general. It is possible that there are actually more children of color in need of
special education than their numbers or percentages in the general school population might
suggest. If a child legitimately qualifies for special education services and is in need of such, it
would be a disservice to him or her to withhold such services.
At least three major problems with overrepresentation have been identified by research-
ers: the negative effects of labeling, placement in isolated and restrictive settings, and the inef-
fectiveness of services in some special education settings (Waitoller, Artiles, & Chaney, 2010).
In 1968 the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) began its biannual survey of student placement
in special education classes. The data also provided racial backgrounds of the students, using
the broad categories of white, black, Asian/Pacific American, American Indian, and Hispanic.
While the actual percentages have varied from survey to survey, one finding has remained
consistent: African American students, particularly males, have been greatly overrepresented
in classes for students with intellectual disabilities and serious emotional disturbances. In some
states Latino students are overrepresented in classes for students with mild intellectual dis-
abilities. Another consistent finding is that African American, American Indian, and Latino
students are greatly underrepresented in classes for gifted and talented students.
There is, however, evidence that, compared to their prevalence in the general population,
children with emotional disturbance may actually be underrepresented for special education
services, more so than any other category of special education (Forness et al., 2012). While
there is indeed overrepresentation of African Americans in this category, as noted above, there
may also be considerable numbers of African Americans, along with other children of color
and whites, who are possibly being denied needed services in this category.
reporting of students with Disabilites
One of the means by which the placement of students in special education classes is reported
is by composition. The composition index compares the percentage of a group in a program
with the percentage that the group represents in the general population. It answers questions
such as: What is the percentage African American students in classrooms for students with
intellectual disabilities? and What is the percentage of African American students in the school-
age population? If a particular group’s percentage in a program is substantially higher than its
percentage of the school-age population, this would indicate overrepresentation (Smith &
Tyler, 2014).
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146 chapter 6 Exceptionality
While African American students represented only 17% of the school-age population,
they accounted for 33% of students identified as intellectually disabled (Skiba et al., 2008).
Over the years, African American students, and African American males in particular, were
consistently disproportionately represented in classes for students with intellectual disabilities
and classes for those with emotional disturbances (Smith and Tyler, 2014). In more recent
years, the various disabilities have all been reported by OCR in the single category of those
served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). African Americans continue
to be overrepresented in the IDEA reporting of student placements in special education.
Poverty contributes to a significant number of problems. Pregnant women in poverty are
provided less-than-optimal care during the prenatal period, as well as the period during and
after birth. Physicians who provide medical care through government clinics are often burdened
with excessive caseloads and are unable to provide the quality of care that women are afforded
from private physicians and managed-care medical facilities. Appropriate nutrition and dietary
supplements may be less available both to expectant mothers and to their children. Poverty may
necessitate working late into term, even when it is advisable to stop working and rest.
Children born preterm (those under normal gestation and less than 5 lb., 8 oz. [2500 g])
may be at risk of developing cognitive and sensory disabilities (Drew & Hardman, 2007).
Though more closely aligned with socioeconomic factors, preterm births have been associated
with ethnicity. Younger women having children are more likely to have preterm babies, crack
babies, and fetal alcohol syndrome children (Drew & Hardman, 2007), and teen births are
disproportionately high among the poor.
Lead Poisoning. Nationally, about a half million children between the ages of 1 and
5 years have elevated lead levels in their blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2015). Lead poisoning
can affect nearly every system of the body and can contribute to behavior problems, coma,
seizures, and even death (CDC, 2015).
The primary sources of lead exposure for children in the United States are (1) house dust
contaminated by lead paint and (2) soil contamination. Both the residue of lead paint and
decades of industrial and vehicular emissions have contaminated the soil. Lead paint was in
wide use in the 1940s, declined in use in the 1950s and 1960s, and was banned from residential
use in 1978. However, older homes built before the ban are potentially hazardous to children.
African American children are more likely to live in older homes, and 17% were found to have
elevated levels of lead as compared to 4% of white children (Smith & Tyler, 2014).
In recent years, millions of toys, including some well-known brands, have been recalled
due to excessive amounts of lead in their paint. Parents and educators must be vigilant in the
selection of toys and educational materials, particularly those manufactured in other countries.
Overreferrals. As previously stated, the individuals who are placed in classes for students
with mild intellectual disabilities and severe emotional disturbances are disproportionately
male, African American, and from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The first step in special
education placement is the referral process. Anyone (parents, doctors, educators) can make
referrals. Teachers make most referrals in the elementary school years. These teachers are
overwhelmingly female, white, and middle class. There is often incongruity between educa-
tors and culturally diverse students with respect to cultural values, acceptable behaviors in the
school, and educational expectations. This may result in overreferrals to classes for students
with disabilities and underreferrals to classes for gifted and talented students. In overreferrals,
teachers tend to make excessive referrals of students of color for placement in special educa-
tion classes for students with disabilities. In underreferrals educators fail to recognize potential
giftedness and do not make referrals for placement in classes for gifted students. Ford (2011)
reported that in a 2009 survey of U.S. gifted and talent programs, African Americans com-
prised 16.70% of the total school population in the sample but only 9.86% of the students in
gifted and talented classes. Ford also suggested that underrepresentation of African American
students in gifted programs is consistently around 50%. Clark (2013) identified four condi-
tions that may create this underrepresentation: biased beliefs regarding diverse populations,
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Disproportionate Placement in Special Education 147
lack of opportunities for early learning, lack of opportunities to develop school skills and test-
ing skills, and fear of rejection. Some students of color are fearful of rejection by peers from
their own ethnic/cultural group. As unreasonable as it may seem, some students of color who
excel academically may at times be accused of “acting white.” Davis, Rimm, and Siegle (2011)
strongly advocated a multidimensional approach in identifying gifted and talented minority
students, one that looks beyond IQ scores.
racial Bias. Numerous stories can be told of students of color being automatically placed
in low academic tracks or in special education, particularly prior to the advent of IDEA.
Both ethnicity and gender are among the most consistent predictors of school identifica-
tion of intellectual disabilities and serious emotional disturbance. OCR surveys have revealed
persistent overrepresentation of students of color in certain disability categories (and underrep-
resentation in the gifted and talented category). We have already discussed the overrepresenta-
tion of African American children in classes for students with intellectual disabilities. While the
disproportionate placement of African American males in classes for students with emotional
disturbances is not to the extent found in classes for individuals with intellectual disabilities, it is
nevertheless at a troubling level. The placement percentage nationally of students in classes for
students with emotional disturbances was 0.85%, while the percentage of African Americans in
these classes was nearly 1.5% (50% higher than the general school population). Twenty-nine
percent of the students in classes for students with emotional disturbances were African Amer-
ican (U.S. Department of Education, 2011).
assessment issues. Assessment of students of color is also a major concern as a con-
tributing variable to the overrepresentation of these students in special education classes.
Litigation in the 1970s (e.g., Diana v. State Board of Education, 1970, language minority
Latino students; and Larry P. v. Riles, 1979, African American students) demonstrated the
dangers of biased assessment instruments and procedures. Assessments that favor certain
cultural groups and discriminate in content are considered biased. It is clear that some stu-
dents in special education have central nervous system damage and that others have visual,
auditory, orthopedic, and speech disabilities. There is no dispute regarding the appropriate-
ness of the special education placement of these individuals. However, inappropriate place-
ment of students of color in the judgmental categories of mild intellectual disabilities and
severe emotional disturbance must be addressed if we are to have true equity in our educa-
tional system.
unexplained issues. The differences in special education placement between His-
panic and African American students and between male and female African American stu-
dents cannot readily be explained by either social background or measured ability. The
poverty rates between Hispanics and African Americans have been similar for a number of
years. As previously stated, poverty is often listed as a variable that contributes to disability.
However, we lack a clear explanation as to why placement rates for Hispanics in special
education classes are relatively low compared to African American student rates. We also
lack a clear understanding of why black males and females have such disparate placement
percentages when they come from the same socioeconomic backgrounds. One possibility is
the fact that males and females are socialized differently, regardless of racial or ethnic back-
ground. Perhaps the socialized behaviors of African American males have a higher level of
incongruity with educators’ values than do those of African American females, and they elicit
more negative attention.
In observing the placement differences between African Americans and Hispanics, it
might be noticed that some Hispanic students have more educational options open to them,
including bilingual education and English as a second language (ESL) programs. Bilingual
education, which utilizes both the home language and English in the instructional process,
is designed to meet the needs of language minority students. ESL programs utilize only
English with these students, with the primary intent to teach them English. Some bilingual
education teachers may be reluctant to refer their students to special education, knowing
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148 chapter 6 Exceptionality
that the language of instruction for special education classes is likely to be English rather
than the child’s native language.
Prior to special education identification, many children at risk are subjected to class-
room suspension or other school disciplinary procedures, and overrepresentation is evi-
dent here as well (Sullivan, Van Norman, & Klingbeil, 2014). However, the increasing
implementation by special educators of school-wide positive behavior support (SWPBS)
in general education classrooms seems to attenuate these suspensions as well as improve
school test scores (Horner, Sugai, & Anderson, 2010). As noted, RTI approaches to chil-
dren at risk for special education have also begun to demonstrate possible reductions in
the need for special education placement, and evidence-based models for RTI have begun
to proliferate, suggesting at least the potential for reducing disproportionality (Mellard,
Stern, & Woods, 2011).
need for Disaggregated Data
While national data show trends for the various racial/ethnic groups, the data are often
confusing because of the failure to disaggregate the various groups. For example, Asians and
Pacific Americans are consistently shown to be underrepresented in disability categories and
overrepresented in gifted and talented classes. There is considerable diversity within this
category, as it includes Asian groups such as the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Indians, and
Vietnamese, while also including Pacific Americans such as Hawaiians, Samoans, and Ton-
gans. There are considerable cultural differences between Asian groups and even greater
differences between Asians and Pacific Americans. Japanese Americans and Tongan Amer-
icans have little in common culturally, yet they are grouped together for U.S. government
reporting purposes. The same is true among Hispanics. There are considerable cultural
differences between Cuban Americans living in Miami and Central Americans living in East
Los Angeles.
When disaggregating data by states or by ethnic groups, we often find considerable dif-
ferences compared to national data. For example, data from the Hawaii State Department
of Education shows that Hawaiian students are overrepresented in some categories of spe-
cial education, such as intellectual disabilities. Yet this cannot be determined from analyzing
national data, which combines Pacific Islanders with Asians. Hispanics are underrepresented
in classes for students with intellectual disabilities and emotional disturbance in the OCR
national data. Yet in some states, they are overrepresented.
The disproportional representation and inequities in special education raise concerns
about the inequities in other areas of education and raise the prospect that there may be a
relationship in these problematic issues. Special education overrepresentation often mirrors
the overrepresentation seen in other categories and viewed by some as problematic: dropouts,
low-track placements, corporal punishment, suspensions, and involvement in the juvenile jus-
tice system.
The problem has persisted for decades and will not be easily ameliorated. It will take a
concerted effort to eliminate all bias from the assessment process, a restructuring of teacher
education curricula, and a commitment of the wealthiest nation to eliminate the insidious
effects of poverty on our children.
california Proposition 227 and special Education
California’s voters passed Proposition 227 in 1998. This Proposition is discussed extensively
in Chapter 7. Proposition 227 and similar laws in Arizona and Massachusetts were intended to
dismantle bilingual education in favor of sheltered English immersion programs. The passage
of this proposition sent waves of panic through California’s (and Arizona’s and Massachusetts’s)
bilingual education community. Those working with special needs students had even greater
concerns because many believed that they were prohibited from using the home language with
limited- and non-English-speaking students. They were also concerned that the new law would
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Teaching Children with Exceptionalities 149
require them to transition the students into general education classrooms after one year. Prop-
osition 227 is a state law, as are the similar laws in Arizona and Massachusetts. The federal law,
IDEA, always takes precedence over a state law. Therefore, if the student’s IEP requires bilin-
gual education, it must be provided for as long as indicated.
teaching children with Exceptionalities
The educational implications of working with exceptional individuals are numerous, and
entire chapters could be devoted to each type of exceptionality. Educators should remem-
ber that exceptional children with disabilities and those who are gifted are more like than
unlike non-exceptional children. Their basic needs are the same as all other children’s.
Abraham Maslow’s theory on self-actualization is familiar to most students in education.
To be self-actualized, or to meet one’s full potential, Maslow (1954) theorized, one’s basic
needs must be fulfilled. That is, to reach self-actualization, one’s physiological needs, safety
needs, belongingness or love needs, and esteem needs must first be met. Although many
individuals with disabilities may never match the accomplishments of their nondisabled
peers, they can become proficient at whatever they are capable of doing. Educators can
assist them by helping to ensure that their basic needs are met, allowing them to strive
toward self-actualization.
Teachers must be constantly cognizant of the unique needs of their exceptional children.
The exceptional adult may choose, or may be forced by society, to become part of a cultural
group. The interactions between educators and the exceptional child may not change what
will eventually take place. Even if exceptional adults are part of a cultural group, they also will
interact with the mainstream society on a regular basis. Efforts on the part of the educator
to meet the needs of the child may ultimately affect the exceptional adult’s interaction with
Teachers of children with physical and other health impairments may find it advantageous
to check the student records carefully to determine potential problem situations with these
students in the classroom. If a child has particular health problems that may surface in the
classroom, the child’s teachers need to be prepared to determine precisely what to do should
the child have, for example, an epileptic seizure. The parents will most likely be able to pro-
vide precise instructions, and the school nurse could provide additional recommendations. If
the children are old enough to understand, they too can be a valuable source of information.
A teacher can ask them what kinds of adaptations, special equipment, or teaching procedures
work best for them. Teachers should not be afraid of their own uncertainties. They should
feel free to ask students when they prefer to have or not have assistance. Teachers should
treat their students with disabilities as normally as is feasible, neither overprotecting them nor
doing more for them than is needed or deserved. Allowing them to assume responsibility for
themselves will do much to facilitate their personal growth.
Many variables affect the learning, cognition, and adjustment of individuals with disabili-
ties. This is particularly evident for culturally and linguistically diverse learners who must cope
with issues of language, culture, and values.
The range and variety of experiences imposed on, or withheld from, persons with disabilities
may result in undue limitations. Too often, parents and teachers assume that a child’s visual lim-
itation precludes the ability to approximate the typical everyday experiences of sighted children.
Children who are blind may not be able to see the animals in a zoo, but they can smell and hear
them. They may not be able to enjoy the scenes along a bus route, but they can feel the stop-
and-go movements, hear the traffic and people, and smell their fellow travelers. The child who is
deaf may not be able to hear the sounds at the symphony or the crowd’s roar at a football game.
Both events, however, offer the possibility of extraordinary sensory experiences to which the
child needs exposure. A child with cerebral palsy needs experiences such as going to restaurants,
even if the child has difficulty using eating utensils in a socially acceptable manner.
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150 chapter 6 Exceptionality
Well-adjusted individuals with a sensory disability usually attain a balance of control
with their environment. Individuals who depend completely on other members of the family
and on friends may develop an attitude of helplessness and a loss of self-identity. Individuals
with disabilities who completely dominate and control their environment with unreasonable
demands sometimes fail to make an acceptable adjustment and could become selfish and
It is critical to remember that children who are exceptional are, first and foremost, chil-
dren. Their exceptionality, though influencing their lives, is secondary to their needs as chil-
dren. Following are three types of needs for parents and educators to keep in mind for children
with disabilities: communication, acceptance, and the freedom to grow. They may also be
applicable to some gifted students.
communication needs
Exceptional children are far more perceptive than many adults give them credit for being. They
are sensitive to nonverbal communication and hidden messages that may be concealed in half-
truths. They, more than anyone else, need to deal with their exceptionality, whether it is a
disability, giftedness, or both. They need to know what their exceptionality is all about so that
they can deal with it. They need to know how it will affect their lives in order to adjust appro-
priately, to make the best of their lives, and to reach their full potential. They need straight,
honest communication tempered with sensitivity.
acceptance needs
U.S. society often fails to provide exceptional children with a positive and receptive envi-
ronment. Even the educational setting can be hostile and lacking in acceptance. A teacher
can facilitate the acceptance of a child in a classroom by exhibiting an open and positive
attitude. Students tend to ref lect the attitude of the teacher. If the teacher is hostile, the
students will quickly pick up these cues. If the attitude is positive and nurturing, the students
are likely to respond and provide a receptive environment for their classmates with
Jeff, a first-grade student who suffered from a hearing loss, was fitted with a hearing aid.
When he came to school wearing the hearing aid, the students in the class immediately began
whispering about the “thing” Jeff had in his ear. After observing the class behavior, with the
permission of Jeff’s parents, the teacher privately assisted Jeff in a show-and-tell preparation
for the next day. With the teacher’s assistance and assurances, Jeff proudly demonstrated his
hearing aid to the class, showing them how he could adjust it to allow him to hear even some
things they could not. By the end of the demonstration, Jeff was the envy of the class, and all
further discussion of the hearing aid was of a positive nature.
freedom to grow
Students with disabilities need acceptance and understanding. Acceptance implies freedom for
the exceptional child to grow. At times, it may seem easier to do things for a child than to take
the time to teach the child. A number of years ago, one of the co-authors lived and worked at
a residential state school for the blind. Recounted next are two actual events that took place at
the school.
Sarah (whose name has been changed) was a nine-year-old girl who was blind and had
an orthopedic disability; she studied at the state residential school for the blind. She wore leg
braces but had a reasonable amount of mobility with the use of crutches. To save time and
effort, fellow students or staff members transported her between the cottage where she lived
and the classroom building in a wagon. One day her teacher decided she needed to be more
independent in her travel to and from her cottage. To Sarah’s surprise, the teacher informed
her after school that she would not ride back in the wagon but that he would walk her back.
Angered, she denounced him as cruel and hateful. She complained bitterly the full 20 minutes
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Teaching Children with Exceptionalities 151
of their walk back to the cottage. After a few days the complaining subsided, and the travel
time was reduced. Within a few weeks Sarah was traveling on her own in 10 minutes or less—
and with newfound independence and self-respect.
Sometimes, it may be tempting for teachers and parents to make extra concessions for an
exceptional child. Often these exceptions hinder the emotional growth of the child and may
later cause serious interpersonal problems.
Jimmy (whose name has also been changed) was a seven-year-old boy who was blind,
and he attended the same state institution as Sarah. He was a favorite of the staff members
because of his pleasant personality and overall adjustment. On a Sunday afternoon he was
assisting a staff member in making holiday cards. The conversation turned to Christmas and
Jimmy’s wish for a transistor radio. (This incident took place in 1960, when transistor radios
were very expensive.) Since Jimmy had already made his wishes known to his parents, the staff
member was confident that the parents would not deny this child his wish. To the surprise
of the staff, Jimmy returned after the holidays without a radio. He explained that the radios
were so expensive that had his parents granted his wish, it would have come at the expense of
the other children in the family. Weeks later, when Jimmy returned from his birthday week-
end at home, he entered his cottage distraught, with his new transistor radio in hand. When
questioned, he admitted that he and his younger brother Ralph had been continuously bick-
ering over who would sit next to the window on the way to the school. His parents had first
warned them and then severely reprimanded both boys when they did not stop the fighting.
When a staff member went out to greet Jimmy’s parents, Ralph was visibly upset over being
Critical Incidents in Teaching
How to address a major student Behavior issue
Bart Weintraub was a special education teacher with two years of teaching experience. In his third year, he was
newly assigned to a high school class of students primarily with mild intellectual disabilities. Four of the students
were at the lower end of the continuum with respect to their functioning. Larry was one of the most challenged,
minimally articulate, and was diagnosed as autistic.
Bart’s biggest challenge was the principal, Mr. Giffords, an older, polite, and professional individual, who
clearly did not want a special needs class in his school. While he had no choice in the matter, Mr. Giffords had
made his discomfort clear to Ms. Ferguson, an old friend and the district director of special education. Ms. Ferguson
had selected Bart for this position and had told him about Mr. Giffords’s negative feelings about special education,
advising him to be very prudent with interactions with the principal. She told Bart to call her anytime he had
One day Bart returned from lunch early to find Larry, a student, with Margie, the most intellectually and
socially challenged of the girls in the class. Margie was backed up against the back wall of the classroom with a
frightened look on her face. Larry was right up against her. His belt and the top button of his trousers were
undone. As soon as Larry saw Bart, with a frightened look on his face, he quickly backed away from Margie and
fastened his button and his belt. Bart asked Margie if she had been injured, and she quickly replied, “No.” Neither
of the students said anything. Both looked frightened, for being discovered and for any possible consequences.
QuEstiOns fOr cLassrOOm DiscussiOn
1. What should Bart do with the situation?
2. Is he obligated to call the police?
3. Is he obligated to inform Mr. Giffords immediately, knowing full well that there would likely be very negative
consequences for the special education program?
4. Should he call Ms. Ferguson, the director of special education?
5. Should the parents be notified?
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152 chapter 6 Exceptionality
Although Jimmy’s disability created adjustment problems for everyone, the parents had
resolved to treat him as an equal in the family. As such, he shared all of the family privileges.
He also suffered the same consequences for inappropriate behavior. This attitude on the part
of the parents was probably a primary factor in Jimmy’s excellent adjustment to his disability.
normalization and inclusion
Much effort is directed today toward the concept of normalization. Normalization means “making
available to all persons with disabilities or other handicaps [disabilities], patterns of life and condi-
tions of everyday living which are as close as possible to or indeed the same as the regular circum-
stances and ways of life of society” (Nirje, 1985, p. 67). Understanding normalization helps us
understand what has led us to the current educational movements for children with disabilities.
Normalization was expanded and advocated in the United States by Wolfensberger
(1972). He subsequently suggested a rethinking of the term normalization and introduced the
concept of social role valorization—giving value to individuals with intellectual disabilities
(Wolfensberger, 1983, 2000). He suggested that the “most explicit and highest goal of normal-
ization must be the creation, support, and defense of valued social roles for people who are at
risk of social devaluation” (1983, p. 234).
Drew and Hardman (2007) suggested that normalization has brought about an emphasis
on deinstitutionalization, whereby individuals from large residential facilities for people with
intellectual disabilities are returned to the community and home environments. They add
that the concept is not limited to movement away from institutions to a less restrictive envi-
ronment; it also pertains to individuals living in the community for whom a more “normal”
lifestyle may be an appropriate goal.
The principles of normalization as it was introduced were developed with individuals with
intellectual disabilities (mental retardation) as the target group. In more recent years, the con-
cept has broadened so that all categories of individuals with disabilities are now targeted. The
term mainstreaming has given way to inclusion, suggesting that a natural evolutionary process
from the concept of normalization has taken place. Turnbull, Turnbull, and Wehmeyer define
inclusion as allowing “students with disabilities to learn in general education classes and have
a sense of belonging in these classes” (2010, p. 42). Mastropieri and Scruggs (2013) differenti-
ated between inclusion and full inclusion, with the latter serving students with disabilities and
other special needs entirely within the general classroom. This is an important difference, as
students in full inclusion do not receive any of their education in segregated settings.
Initially inclusion was intended for students with mild disabilities. The current effort to
support full inclusion seeks to provide children with moderate to severe disabilities with
similar opportunities. Although resistance to inclusion of students with mild disabilities is
far less intense than it once was, it is still felt from some educators. The arguments against
integrating children with severe disabilities have often centered on the presumed inability of
nondisabled children to accept their peers with disabilities. In reality, some of the reservations
may be more a reflection of educators who themselves are unable or unwilling to accept the
dignity and worth of individuals with severe disabilities.
Historically, special education in the United States has offered a full continuum of place-
ments for students with disabilities. These services have ranged from the most restrictive
placements, such as residential schools and special schools, to the least restrictive settings,
such as full inclusion in the general education classroom.
Federal special education law (IDEA) does not require inclusion. The law does require
the least restrictive environment for students with disabilities. Herein lies the basis for consid-
erable controversy in special education. The controversy is often fueled within special educa-
tion itself, as educators are not in complete agreement regarding what is the least restrictive
environment. Least restrictive environment (LRE) means that children with disabilities are
to be educated with nondisabled children whenever possible, in as normal an environment
as possible. Few special educators would argue against the concept of inclusion. However,
disagreement focuses on whether full inclusion is appropriate for every child regardless of the
type or the severity of the disability.

Watch the video
“Special Education
LRE (Least Restrictive
Environment)” (https://www
HEM-wA) to see how educators
and fellow students support a
student with severe disabili-
ties in a regular education
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Teaching Children with Exceptionalities 153
To some, and perhaps to many of the advocates of full inclusion, the issue is not the
efficacy of general education placement. Rather, it is a moral and ethical issue. Opponents of
inclusion use many of the same arguments that segregationists used more than 50 years ago.
Most Americans today would consider it unconscionable to segregate children in schools on
the basis of race or ethnicity. This, we can agree, is morally and ethically wrong. Advocates for
full inclusion find it equally repugnant to segregate children on the basis of a disability.
In reality, most if not all children with disabilities could be served in a general education
classroom if adequate resources and supports were made available. Therein lies a primary
problem. There is seldom an adequate supply of certified or credentialed personnel in special
education and related services (e.g., school psychologists). General educators have many issues
and concerns to address in the area of inclusion:
• The special needs student may detract from the attention normally provided other
• What kind of reception will the nondisabled students give to the students with
• If educators are not provided with appropriate training to accommodate students with
disabilities, they will not be able to provide appropriate instructional services.
• The younger students and those with more severe disabilities will require greater attention.
• The promises of support in terms of classroom personnel and other resources may not be kept.
A pragmatist would argue that there are not enough fiscal resources to provide the support
necessary for successful full inclusion of all children. The courts will not accept an excuse such
as “We don’t do it because there are inadequate resources.” The courts may accept the argu-
ment that a particular program or service is not in the best interests of the student, but it must
be clearly supported and documented. However, if full inclusion is warranted, the courts will
order the schools (as they have consistently done) to “get the resources and do it.”
Those who question aspects of full inclusion may argue that some children are so disrup-
tive and dangerous to themselves and to other students that they cannot be provided for in
general education. Supporters of full inclusion can reply that given adequate resources, stu-
dents can be taught to stop disruptive and dangerous behaviors. There has been a progressive
trend toward greater inclusion in the nation’s schools. Prior to the 1984–85 school year, only
about a fourth of the students with disabilities spent a significant part of their day in general
education classrooms. By the 2011, 61% of the students ages 6 to 21 were involved in general
education 80% or more of the school day (Turnbull et al., 2010; Turnbull, et al., 2015). Some
general conclusions can be drawn:
• As long as Congress fails to meet its financial obligations to fully fund IDEA, school
districts will continue to have difficulty providing adequate resources for special education.
• Segregating students with disabilities from general education classes without justification
is morally and ethically wrong.
• The debate over inclusion and full inclusion continues and is not likely to be fully resolved in
the immediate future.
It is important for us as educators to see the parallels and differences between the current
debate regarding this group of students and the issues that Brown addressed more than 50 years
ago. The two situations have similarities, but the groups are different. It is important that as
educators we maintain open minds so that we ourselves perhaps can be educated.
The legal mandates do not eliminate special schools or classes, but they do offer a new
philosophical view. Instead of the physical isolation of individuals with disabilities, efforts
must be made to enable students with disabilities to assume a more appropriate place in the
educational setting. Still, many children with disabilities may not benefit appreciably from an
inclusive setting and may be better educated in a special setting. As attitudes become more
attuned to the laws, people with disabilities may have more options to participate in the deci-
sion to be a part of the mainstream or to be segregated into their own cultural groups.
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154 chapter 6 Exceptionality
students with Disabilities and students Who are
gifted and talented
There are perhaps 10 million exceptional students in the
United States; two-thirds of them are students with disabili-
ties such as intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, emo-
tional disturbance, and physical and sensory disabilities, and
the remaining one-third are gifted and talented. Government
programs are mandated for students with disabilities but are
permissive for the gifted and talented.
Civil rights for individuals with disabilities have been
questionable and have typically lagged behind the civil rights
gained by racial and ethnic minorities.
It took lawsuits on behalf of students with disabilities
brought by parents and advocacy groups for children with
disabilities to gain their educational rights in U.S. schools.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka did not involve chil-
dren with disabilities, but it served as the cornerstone for
special education court cases such as Pennsylvania Associa-
tion for Retarded Citizens v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
and Mills v. Board of Education for the courts to determine
that children with disabilities are entitled to a public edu-
Focus Your Cultural Lens
Debate/is full inclusion feasible for all children with Disabilities?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federal law that requires the placement of students with
disabilities in the least restrictive environment. This means that these students should be placed in or as close to
a general education setting as is feasible for them. What is the least restrictive setting for a child with a
disability? Is it feasible to place every child with a disability in a general education setting? Are there adequate
resources to do this? Do we have the skill and the will to make it work?
1. Are there some students who should never be considered for general education placement?
2. If the federal government mandates special education for all children, commits itself to funding 40% of the
cost, and continues to renege on the full funding, should school districts be forced to fully implement IDEA?
3. Is excluding children with disabilities from full inclusion in general education morally and ethically
comparable to excluding children because of race?
Full inclusion for all children with disabilities is a moral
and ethical issue. It is as immoral to segregate a child
because of his or her disability as it is to segregate
children because of the color of their skin.
The least restrictive environment that is feasible for
every child is a general education classroom. We have
the know-how to deliver quality educational services for
every child in an inclusive general education classroom.
The fact that we do not have adequate fiscal resources
is not the fault of the child with a disability. If we don’t
have the resources, then we need to find ways to get
Full inclusion may work for some students with disabilities,
but it makes no sense to insist on it for every student,
regardless of the disability or the degree of impairment.
Some students with disabilities lack the maturity,
cognitive ability, social skills, or appropriate behaviors
to function in general education.
Until the federal government makes good on its
commitment to fully fund IDEA, there will not be
adequate resources to successfully implement full
inclusion for all children with disabilities.
Even if the fiscal resources were there, there simply are
not enough professionally prepared personnel to
provide the types of services needed for successful
inclusion of every child.
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Summary 155
Chapter Quiz: Click here to gauge your understanding of chapter concepts
As the litigation set the stage, legislation brought on behalf
of the parents of children with disabilities and supported by
organizations such as the Council for Exceptional Children
and the National Association for Retarded Citizens gained
the support of congressional leaders and resulted in history-
changing legislation such as Section 504 of Public Law
93-112, the special education counterpart to the Civil Rights
Act of 1964. This law was soon followed in 1975 with Public
Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children
Act, which guaranteed a free and appropriate education in
the least restrictive environment for children with disabilities.
These laws were the followed up with the Americans with
Disabilities Act in 1990, which provided accommodations for
individuals in the workplace and accessibility in public places.
The 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
and subsequent amendments improved and enhanced the
provisions of Public Law 94-142.
Exceptional individuals and society
While litigation and legislation gave legal rights to individuals
with disabilities, society has not always been kind to indi-
viduals with disabilities. They have been looked down upon
and often treated like children or as being childlike. While
television and other forms of media have begun to treat indi-
viduals with disabilities with greater kindness and respect, we
continue to hear incidents of these children sometimes being
ridiculed and bullied.
With so many military veterans returning from service
with permanent disabilities, society is slowly waking up to its
responsibilities to these individuals and others with disabling
conditions. Some of these individuals have found a secure
place for themselves and an outlet for their own personal
ambitions in athletic leagues, wounded warrior athletic
programs, wheelchair athletic events, Special Olympics, and
other forms of athletic expression for individuals with disabil-
The highly gifted have found a place with others sharing
their same interests and commonalities in organizations such
as Mensa.
Disproportionate Placement in special Education
The disproportionate placement of students of color first
became evident with the seminal writings of Dunn in 1968
and Mercer in 1973, when they called attention to placement
of African American and Hispanic children in classes for the
mentally retarded (children with intellectual disabilities). The
Office of Civil Rights began releasing the Elementary and
Secondary Civil Rights Report in 1968, which through the
years show a problem nationally with the overrepresentation
of African Americans and in particular African American
males placed in classes for students with intellectual disabili-
ties and severe emotional disturbance. Underrepresentation
of African Americans in classes for the gifted and talented
has also been a continuous problem. The reasons for these
disproportionate placements are likely multifaceted, including
poverty issues, overreferrals, and biased assessments.
teaching children with Exceptionalities
Maslow indicated that for an individual to become self-actu-
alized, he or she must first have basic needs addressed. While
children with disabilities may or may not be able to attain the
same level of competency as their nondisabled peers, they
too are capable of reaching self-actualization and their full
potential if their basic needs are met.
Teachers should make themselves particularly aware of the
health needs of their special needs students and be prepared
for any medical emergencies, such as seizures. Student records,
parents, a school nurse, and even the student can assist in
Providing for special education students’ needs for
communication, acceptance, and the freedom to grow will not
only facilitate the students’ academic development but their
overall life adjustment.
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Learning OutcOmes
As you read this chapter, you should be able to:
7.1 Describe what language is and the role it plays in providing a sense of identity.
7.2 Explain the nature of language and why all languages are equal.
7.3 Discuss the diversity of languages spoken in U.S. classrooms.
7.4 Describe the various forms that nonverbal communication can take and how nonverbal
communication can both augment and contradict spoken communication.
7.5 Describe the process and challenges of second language acquisition among school-age
7.6 Discuss issues related to differentiating instruction for all language learners.
Theresa Roberts, a kindergarten teacher at Mokumanu Elementary School in Honolulu, had just finished welcoming her new class and introducing herself. As she wrote her name and
the school’s on the chalkboard, she felt a slight tug on the back of her skirt and heard a faint
voice just above a whisper say, “Teacha, I like go pee.” Turning around, she saw the pleading
face of Malia Kealoha. “What did you say?” Ms. Roberts responded disgustedly. In a slightly
louder voice, Malia repeated herself, “I like go pee.” With classmates beginning to giggle,
Ms. Roberts exclaimed, “You will go nowhere, young lady, until you ask me in proper English.
Now say it properly.” “I no can,” pleaded Malia. “Then you can just stand there until you do.”
With the students still giggling and Malia standing as ordered, Ms. Roberts proceeded with her
A few minutes later, the occasional giggle exploded into a chorus of laughter. As Ms. Roberts
turned to Malia, the child was sobbing as she stood in the middle of a large puddle of urine on
the classroom floor.
1. Do teachers have a right to expect and demand Standard English from their students?
2. How important is it for students to be able to speak Standard English?
3. If a student is able to communicate well enough in his or her non–Standard English for
others to understand, why should educators be concerned about non–Standard English
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Language and Culture 157
Language and culture
The preceding incident took place in a school in Hawaii many years ago. Malia (not her real
name) described the incident as one of the most painful and humiliating in her life. When she
entered school, she was unable to speak Standard English (language considered proper in a
community); she could speak only Hawaiian pidgin English (a creole of English with words
and phrases from Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, and other languages). The teacher knew pre-
cisely what the child was trying to say. The teacher’s insensitivity, however, resulted in lasting
emotional scars on Malia as a child that lasted into adulthood. This type of insensitivity, unfor-
tunately, is not an isolated phenomenon. Individuals in the U.S. Southwest have described
similar incidents in past years involving non-English-speaking Mexican American students
entering school for the first time.
Language is a system of vocal sounds and/or nonverbal systems by which group members
communicate with one another. It is a critical tool in the development of an individual’s iden-
tity, self-awareness, and intellectual and psychological growth. It makes our behavior human. It
can incite anger, elicit love, inspire bravery, and arouse fear. It binds groups of people together.
Language and dialect serve as a focal point for cultural identity. People who share the same
language or dialect often share the same feelings, beliefs, and behaviors.
Language provides a common bond for individuals with the same linguistic heritage. It can
play a key role in providing a group or even a nation a sense of identity. Language may also be
the means by which one group of people stereotypes another. Language and accents can usually
be altered, whereas racial and physical appearance generally cannot. Through changing the style
of one’s language or even the language itself, individuals can shape others’ impressions of them.
Most students enter school speaking what is considered Standard English. Others speak
little or no English. Some are bilingual; some speak a nonstandard dialect (the same language
but a different pronunciation from what is considered standard, e.g., African American Vernac-
ular English). Some students with hearing impairments may use sign language to communicate.
As the scene changes from school to school, the languages and dialects (usually determined by
region or social class) spoken also change. The scene, however, is indicative of the multilingual
nature of the United States, a result of its multicultural heritage. Because some students speak
one or more languages, as well as dialects of these languages, they are part of another cultural
group. Of course, not all African American children speak African American Vernacular English
(AAVE, also known as African American English [AAE]), a vernacular or dialect of the majority
of black Americans, nor do all Hispanics or Latinos speak Spanish. Within most cultures, mem-
bers vary greatly in language or dialect usage.
Eurocentrism and Eurocentric curricula place Europeans and European Americans as the
focus of the world with respect to culture, history, economics, values, lifestyles, worldviews,
and so forth. Because U.S. society has such strong Eurocentric roots, European languages
and accents may be given higher status than those from non-European countries. French and
German languages may be viewed as more academic, more sophisticated, and more prestigious
in some segments of society. Children from these linguistic backgrounds may be viewed with
greater esteem than immigrant children from undeveloped countries. Society and educators
may stigmatize bilingual students, especially those from limited English backgrounds, which
are often identified with poverty. They may perceive them to be low in status and educationally
at risk. Too often some students from immigrant and language-minority backgrounds have
been discouraged by their teachers from seeking higher education.
Individuals who have limited English proficiency frequently suffer institutional discrimi-
nation as a result of the limited acceptance of languages other than English. Rather than value
and promote the use of two or more languages, some educators expect students to replace their
native languages with English. Unfortunately, some students lose the home language in the
process. Movements to establish English-only policies and practices may further devalue an
immigrant student’s home language.

Watch the video
“Hawaii Pidgin: The
Voice of Hawaii” (https://www
9AAeDCr4) to hear an example
of the commonly used creole
language spoken by many
residents of Hawaii.
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158 chapter 7 Language
Language as a socializing agent
Language is much more than a means of communication. It is used to socialize children into
their linguistic and cultural communities, where they develop patterns that distinguish one
community from another. Thus, the interaction of language and culture is complex but cen-
tral to the socialization of children into acceptable cultural patterns. Although there are many
theories regarding the development of language, exactly how a language is learned is not
completely understood. Almost all children have the ability to learn one or more native
languages. In part through imitating older persons, children gradually learn. They learn to
select almost instinctively the right word, the right response, and the right gesture to fit the
situation. By age 5, children have learned the syntax of their native language, and they know
that words in different arrangements mean different things. This suggests that within their
own communities, children develop impressive language skills, although these skills may vary
greatly from school requirements (Adger, Wolfram, & Christian, 2007; American
Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2015). At an early age, children acquire the delicate
muscle control necessary for pronouncing the words of the native language or for signing
naturally if the child is deaf. As the child grows older, it becomes increasingly difficult to
make the vocal muscles behave in the new, unfamiliar ways necessary to master a foreign
language. This tends to inhibit people from learning new languages and encourages them to
maintain the one into which they were born.
Native speakers of a language unconsciously know and obey the rules and customs of
their language community. Society and language interact constantly. An incorrect choice
in word selection may be perceived as rude, crude, or ignorant. Individuals who are
learning a new language or who are unfamiliar with colloquialisms, the informal or con-
versational speech in a community, may make incorrect choices or even be surprised when
the use of certain words is incongruous with their perceptions of what is proper. For example,
an Australian exchange student attending a Texas university was shocked when a young
woman at his church responded to his query of what she had been doing during the summer:
“Oh, just piddling around.” Her response was meant
to convey the message that she had been passing her
time in idle or aimless activities. From his frame of
reference, however, the shocked Australian student
understood her to say that she had been urinating. It
is important for classroom teachers to recognize that
students who are new to a language may not always
be able to make appropriate word selections or com-
prehend the meaning of particular dialects or collo-
quialisms. Although the United States is primarily
an English-speaking country, many other languages
are spoken here. Spanish, Chinese, French, German,
Tagalog (Filipino), Vietnamese, and Italian are the
most commonly used languages other than English.
In the 1930s Fiorello La Guardia was the mayor
of New York City. La Guardia, of Jewish and Italian
ancestry, was fluent in Yiddish, Italian, German, and
French, as well as the New York dialect of English
(Jewish Virtual Library, 2015;, 2015). La
Guardia was known to vary not only the language but
his speech style with each ethnic group. For example,
when speaking to Italian audiences, he used broad,
sweeping gestures characteristic of the people of southern Italy. When speaking to Jewish
audiences, he used the forearm chop identified with many Eastern European Jews. With some
Jewish groups he spoke in Yiddish. The example of La Guardia suggests not only that different
ethnic groups have different communication styles but also that individuals adjust their com-
munication style, when possible, to suit the needs of the intended audience.
The United States has
become increasingly diverse
linguistically, as evidenced by
the various business signs
we see in our communities.
© Stephen Finn/Shutterstock
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The Nature of Language 159
Language Diversity
Among English-speaking individuals are numerous dialects—from the southern drawl to the
Appalachian white dialect to the Brooklyn dialect of New York. Each is distinctive, and each
is an effective means of communication for those who share its linguistic style. There are
approximately 60 million non-English-speaking individuals living in the United States. This
number has almost tripled in the past three decades, and it has substantially outpaced the
33% population growth in the United States during the same period. This figure does not
include the millions of English-speaking individuals whose dialects are sometimes labeled
nonstandard. The U.S. Census Bureau has identified 381 languages spoken in the United
States (Ryan, 2013).
The advantage of being bilingual or multilingual is often overlooked because of our ethno-
centrism, or belief in the superiority of our own ethnicity or culture. In many other countries,
children are expected to become fluent in two or more languages and numerous dialects so that
they can communicate with other groups and appreciate language diversity. Lessow-Hurley
(2013) pointed out that while students from an English-speaking background are lauded for
mastering another language, children from immigrant families are often encouraged or forced
to give up their first language in order to complete their “Americanization.” She suggested
that we rid ourselves of elitist attitudes and recognize the value of bilingualism, regardless of
the source. In a world that is becoming increasingly global, it is evident to more and more
U.S. educators and parents that there are distinct advantages to bilingualism, biliteracy, and
bicultural skills.
the nature of Language
From a linguistic point of view, there is neither a good language nor a bad language. All lan-
guages have developed to express the needs of their users. In that sense, all languages are equal.
It is true that languages do not all have the same conventions of grammar, phonology, or
semantic structure. It is also true that society equates different levels of social status with the
different language groups. These judgments tend to be based not on linguistic acceptability but
on social reasons. Hudley and Mallison (2011) suggested that language is always changing, and
variation is inherent. They further suggested that standardized English is inf luenced or deter-
mined by powerful individuals and institutions that have political, social, and cultural status,
enabling them to determine what is socially acceptable and prestigious. Standardization is
deliberately and artificially imposed; there is no linguistic reason a standardized variety of
English should be considered inherently better than any other variety of English. All languages
meet the social and psychological needs of their speakers and, as such, are equal.
cultural influences
Language usage is culturally determined. In addition to inf luencing the order of words to form
phrases, language inf luences thinking patterns. “Time” is described differently from culture to
culture. Western societies view time as something that can be saved, lost, or wasted; punctuality
is valued. In other societies, time assumes different values. In Japan, punctuality is expected. If
a Tokyo-bound train is scheduled to leave at 8:12 a.m., one better be on board and in the right
seat by that time. Arrive at 8:13 a.m., and you may end up watching the train pull away from
the terminal.
Individuals from the southern United States may be accustomed to exchanging pleasant-
ries and what they may consider “small talk” prior to substantive or business conversation.
Chatting first about Saturday’s football game or the spring flowers in bloom may be considered
a polite way to lead into the issues that need to be discussed. To do otherwise might be con-
sidered rude by some individuals. Others, unaccustomed to southern ways, may consider this
behavior a waste of time.
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160 chapter 7 Language
For effective communication to take place, it is important that there be enough cultural
similarities between the sender and the receiver for the latter to decode the message ade-
quately. Even when one is familiar with a word or phrase, comprehension of the intended
meaning may not be possible unless there is some similarity or understanding of the cultural
In certain cultural groups, words and phrases may assume different meanings. “Bad”
among some adolescent groups takes on the opposite meaning from its usual one and may
denote the “best.” Argot is a more-or-less secretive vocabulary of a co-culture group. “Turn-
ing a trick” is an example of argot used by a prostitute to indicate that he or she has or had a
customer. Co-cultures are groups of people who exist and function apart from the dominant
culture. Users of argot include prisoners, gays and lesbians, gang members, sporting groups,
and prostitutes.
Language is very much cultural. Together with dialect, language is usually related to one’s
ethnic, geographic, gender, or class origins. Speakers from a particular background often
downgrade the linguistic styles of others. For example, easterners may be critical of the speech
of southerners, citing the latter’s use of slow, extended vowels and the expression “y’all.”
Southerners, on the other hand, may be critical of the speech and language patterns of some
individuals from areas in New York, who they think “speak through their noses” and use such
phrases as “youse guys.” An eastern dialect of English is appropriate in the eastern United
States, the southern dialect is appropriate in the South, and African American Vernacular
English, the dialect of the majority of black Americans, is appropriate in many African American
communities. As with languages, there are neither good nor bad dialects. While some are more
socially acceptable than others, they all meet the group needs and, in that sense, are equal.
Language systems, like most other cultural features, are dynamic. They change con-
stantly as society changes. Language change is inevitable and rarely predictable. For exam-
ple, an elderly third-generation Japanese American born and raised in Maryland learned
Japanese from both his grandparents and parents. On his first trip to Japan, he spoke to the
locals in what he considered his fluent Japanese. While he had little difficulty communicat-
ing, he was surprised that they seemed amused at his speech, which they found archaic and
representative of the early 1900s. The Japanese he had learned from his family was indeed
the Japanese language of over 100 years earlier. In some areas, language change is so gradual
that it goes unnoticed. In other circumstances, changes are easily noted. Expressions and
words tend to be identified with a particular period. Sometimes language is related to a
particular culture and a certain period. For example, slang words and terms such as “24/7,”
“airhead,” “that’s crazy,” and “iffy” may be a part of our language for a time, to be replaced
by other expressions.
Language Differences
There are literally thousands of languages in the world. Anderson (n.d.) suggested that 6,909
languages are used worldwide. There are only 210 languages spoken in Europe and another
2,197 in Asia. Some regions are known for their linguistic diversity. For example, Papua New
Guinea has more than 800 languages with a population of only 3.9 million. Vyacheslav Ivanov
of the University of California, Los Angeles, indicated that there are at least 224 identified
languages in Los Angeles County. In addition, many of these languages have different dialects
(e.g., Chinese Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese, etc.). Professor Ivanov estimated that publi-
cations are locally produced in about 180 languages. There are 92 languages that have been
specifically identified among students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (Los Angeles
Almanac, 2015). Nearly 12 million children ages 5 to 17 in the United States speak languages
other than English in the home. This group represents 22% of all U.S. children. The vast
majority, 8,471,000, are Spanish speaking, and 2,593,000 of them have difficulty speaking
English (Berman, 2104a).
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Language Differences 161
Social variables also contribute to language differences. Both class and ethnicity
reflect differences in language. The greater the social distance between groups, the greater
the tendency toward language differences. Upwardly mobile individuals often adopt the
language patterns of the socially dominant group because doing so may facilitate social
Language diversity in the United States has been maintained primarily because of continuing
immigration from non-English-speaking countries. In its relatively short history, the United
States has probably been host to more linguistically diverse individuals than any other coun-
try. As new immigrants enter the country, they bring with them their own cultures, values,
and languages. As their children and grandchildren are born in the United States, these
immigrants often witness with ambivalence the loss of their home language in favor of
One aspect of bilingualism, the ability to speak two languages, in the United States
is its extreme instability, for it is often a transitional stage toward monolingualism (the
ability to speak only one language) in English. Many children who are bilingual in their
homes eventually lose the ability to utilize the home language in favor of the dominant
language. In this way, they become monolingual, with the ability to function in just one
language. Schools have facilitated this process. Prior to World War I, native languages
were used in many schools where a large number of ethnic group members were trying to
preserve their languages. In the United States, the maintenance and use of native languages
other than English now depends on the efforts of members of the language group through
churches and other community activities. Bilingual education programs are now primarily
designed to move students quickly into English-only instruction. However, a review of
the research suggests that bilingual education in the United States may be far more effective
than a strictly monolingual approach. August, Goldenberg, and Rueda (2010) advocated
dual-language competency in promoting reading achievement in English. They cited
studies suggesting that English learners instructed in two languages demonstrate greater
English literacy skills. In addition, researchers in the field of neuroscience increasingly
believe that bilingualism may have positive outcomes for the brain. The benefits include
multitasking, prioritizing information, and warding off early symptoms of Alzheimer’s
disease (Khan, 2011).
The acquisition of a second language is important when it serves one’s own social and
economic needs. Without English language skills, immigrants are often relegated to the most
menial, lowest-paying, and sometimes most dangerous jobs in society.
People hold different opinions about the degree of fluency required to be considered bilingual.
Whereas some maintain that a bilingual individual must have native-like fluency in both languages,
others suggest that measured competency in two languages constitutes bilingualism. There are
two types of bilingualism: subtractive bilingualism and additive bilingualism. Subtractive
bilingualism occurs when a second language replaces the first. Additive bilingualism involves
the development of a second language with no detriment to the first (Herrera & Murry, 2015).
The latter has the more positive effect on academic achievement, as the learner is able to acquire
a high level of proficiency in both languages.
An accent generally refers to the way an individual pronounces words. Because some mono-
lingual Japanese speakers have never developed the “l ” sound in their speech or language, many
tend to pronounce English words that begin with the letter l as if they began with the letter r.
Thus, the word “light” may be pronounced as if it were “right” and “long” as if it were “wrong.”
An accent differs from the standard language only in pronunciation. Teachers should be aware
that persons who speak with an accent often speak Standard English but, at this level of their
linguistic development, are unable to speak without an accent.
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162 chapter 7 Language
In the United States, English is the primary language. Numerous English dialects are used
throughout the country, however. A dialect is a form of a language that is specific to a particular
region or social group. There is no agreement on the number of dialects of English spoken in
the United States. There are several regional dialects, such as eastern New England, New York
City, western Pennsylvania, Middle Atlantic, Appalachian, southern, central, midland, north
central, southwestern, and northwestern. While southern speech, or drawl, is frequently den-
igrated in other parts of the country, the South is likely the largest dialect area. More Americans
speak variations of a “southern” dialect than speak any other regional dialect in the United
States. Powerful southern politicians (e.g., Jimmy Carter, Lindsey Graham) and highly visible
television personalities (e.g., Matthew McConaughey and Reba McEntire) have increased the
exposure and acceptance of southern speech.
Dialects are language rule systems used by identifiable groups that vary in some man-
ner from a language standard that is considered ideal. Each dialect shares a common set of
grammatical rules with the standard language and should be considered structurally equivalent
(Adger et al., 2007). Theoretically, dialects of a language are mutually intelligible to all speak-
ers of the language; however, some dialects enjoy greater social acceptance and prestige than
others. Owens (2012) asserted that dialects should not be devalued or presumed to be inferior
to the language standard. To do so devalues individuals and their cultures.
Certain languages are sometimes improperly referred to as dialects. Examples are African
languages labeled as African dialects or the languages of the American Indians as Indian dia-
lects. This improper practice is similar to labeling French and German as dialects spoken in
the different regions in Europe.
regional Dialects. Dialects differ from one another in a variety of ways, and these differ-
ences may be attributed to various factors, according to Owens (2012). These include socio-
economic levels, geography, situational variables, and race and ethnicity. Various groups of
people who were at one time separated by physical barriers such as mountains or bodies of
water developed and maintained their unique linguistic styles. Highways, tunnels, and bridges
have all but eliminated these separations.
Differences in the pronunciations of vowels are a primary means of distinguishing regional
differences, whereas consonant differences tend to distinguish social dialects. Regional and social
dialects cannot be divorced from one another, however, because an individual’s dialect may be a
blend of the two. In northern dialects, for example, the i in words such as “time,” “pie,” and “side”
is pronounced with a long-i sound, which is a rapid production of two vowel sounds, one sounding
like ah and the other like ee. The second sound glides off the first so that “time” becomes taem,
“pie” becomes pae, and “side” becomes saed. Southern and related dialects may eliminate the glid-
ing e, resulting in tam for “time,” pa for “pie,” and sad for “side” (Adger et al., 2007).
social Dialects. In social dialects, consonants tend to distinguish one dialect from
another. Common examples of consonant pronunciation differences are found in the th sound
and in the consonants r and l. In words such as “these,” “them,” and “those,” the beginning
th sound may be replaced with a d, resulting in dese, dem, and dose. In words such as “think,”
“thank,” and “throw,” the th may be replaced with a t, resulting in tink, tank, and trow. Adger
and colleagues (2007) suggested that middle-class groups may substitute the d for th to some
extent in casual speech, whereas working-class groups make the substitution more often.
In some groups, particularly the African American working class, the th in the middle or at
the end of a word is not spoken. The th in “author” or “tooth” may be replaced with an f, as in
aufor and toof. In words such as “smooth,” a v may be substituted for the th, resulting in smoov.
In regional and socially related dialects, r and l may be lost, as in ca for “car” and sef for “self.”
grammatical Differences. Among dialects, differences in various aspects of grammatical
usage can also be found. Adger and colleagues (2007) suggested that nonstandard grammar
tends to carry with it a greater social stigma than nonstandard pronunciation.

Watch the video “The
Odd Accent of Tangier
VA” (
to see and hear how centuries
of living on an island in the
middle of Chesapeake Bay has
helped maintain a unique
accent and speech pattern.
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Language Differences 163
A common example of grammatical differences in dialect is the absence of suffixes from
verbs where they are usually present in standard dialects. For example, the -ed suffix to denote
past tense is sometimes omitted, as in “Yesterday we play a long time.” Other examples of
grammatical differences are the omission of the s used in the present tense for agreement with
certain subjects. “She have a car” may be used instead of “She has a car.” The omission of the
suffix has been observed in certain Native Indian communities, as well as among members of
the African American working class. In the dialect of some African American working-class
groups, the omission of the s in the plural form of certain words and phrases, as in “two boy”
rather than “two boys,” has been observed. “Two” is plural, and adding an s to show that “boy”
is plural is viewed as redundant. Also often omitted in these dialect groups is the possessive ’s,
as in “my friend car” instead of “my friend’s car.”
Other Differences. Variations in language patterns among groups are significant when
compared by age, socioeconomic status, gender, ethnic group, and geographic region (Adger
et al., 2007). For example, individuals in the 40- to 60-year age group tend to use language
patterns different from those of teenage groups. Teenagers tend to adopt certain language patterns
that are characteristic of their age group. Slang words, particular pronunciations of some words,
and certain grammatical contractions are often related to teenage and younger groups.
Social factors play a role in the choice of language patterns. In more formal situations,
there is a greater likelihood that more formal speech patterns will be used. The selection of
appropriate speech patterns appears to come naturally and spontaneously. Individuals are usually
able to “read their environment” and select, from their large repertoire, the language or speech
pattern that is appropriate for the situation.
Adger and colleagues (2007) indicated that although the evidence is not conclusive, the
range between high and low pitch used in African American communities is greater than
that found in white communities. Such differences are the result of learned behavior. African
American males may tend to speak with raspiness in their voices. American women, it has been
suggested, may employ a greater pitch distribution over a sentence than do men.
Certain situations, both social and professional, may dictate adjustments in dialect. Some indi-
viduals have the ability to speak in two or more dialects, making them bidialectal. By possessing
the skills to speak in more than one dialect, an individual may have some distinct advantages
and may be able to function and gain acceptance in multiple cultural contexts. For example, a
large-city executive with a rural farm background may quickly abandon his Armani suit and put
on jeans and boots when visiting his parents’ home. When speaking with the hometown friends,
he may put aside the Standard English necessary in his business dealings and return to the
regional dialect, which validates him as the local town person they have always known.
Likewise, a school psychologist in New Orleans who speaks Standard English both at
home and at work may continue to speak Standard English in her conference with working-class
parents at the school. However, there may be an inflection or a local variation of speech that
she uses to develop rapport and credibility with certain parents. At times this may happen
spontaneously, with no deliberate planning or thought. This may convey to the parents that
although she is highly educated and may be dressed professionally, the school psychologist is
still a local person and understands their needs and those of their children.
Children tend to learn adaptive behaviors rapidly, a fact that is often demonstrated in
school. Children who fear peer rejection as a result of speaking Standard English may choose
to use their dialect even at the expense of criticism by the teacher. Others may choose to speak
with the best Standard English they know in dealing with the teacher but use the dialect or
language of the group when outside the classroom.
Some school programs are increasingly encouraging students to learn to code switch
(Sparks, 2014). This is when an individual alternates between two or more languages or lan-
guage varieties (e.g., dialects) during the course of a single conversation. Some studies have
suggested that students who learn to code-switch achieve better academic results. Owens
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164 chapter 7 Language
(2012) suggested that the value may be twofold for learners: retention of the home language
while English is learned and, once learners are comfortable with the new language, helping
them to use both languages.
Educators must be aware of children’s need for peer acceptance and balance this need with
realistic educational expectations. Pressuring a child to speak Standard English at all times
and punishing him or her for any use of dialect may be detrimental to the overall well-being
of the child.
Perspectives on standard english
There are actually several dialects of Standard English (Adger et al., 2007). Although Standard
English is often referred to in the literature, no single dialect can be identified as such. In reality,
however, the speech of a certain group of people in each community tends to be identified as
standard. Norms vary with communities, and there are actually two norms: informal standard
and formal standard. The language considered proper in a community is the informal stan-
dard. Its norms tend to vary from community to community. Formal standard is the accept-
able written language that is typically found in grammar books. Few individuals speak formal
Standard English.
As stated earlier, individuals or institutions that enjoy power and status determine what is
considered to be standard. Teachers and employers are among those in such a position. These
are the individuals who decide what is and what is not considered standard and what is accept-
able in the school and in the workplace. Thus, people seeking success in school and in the job
market often try to use that which is deemed standard. Generally speaking, Standard English
is a composite of the languages spoken by the educated professional middle class.
Perspectives on african american english
African American Vernacular English (AAVE) or African American English (AAE), some-
times referred to as Vernacular Black English, Black English, or Ebonics, is one of the best-known
dialects spoken in the United States. It becomes controversial when schools consider using it for
instruction. Its use is widespread, and it is a form of communication for the majority of African
Americans. It is a linguistic system used primarily by working-class African Americans within their
speech community (Adger et al., 2007).
Although there has been much debate regarding its nature and history, AAVE is consid-
ered by most linguists and African Americans to be a legitimate system of communication. It
is a systematic language rule system of its own and not a substandard, deviant, or improper
form of English. Although differences are found between AAVE and Standard English, they
both operate within a set of structural rules, like any other language or dialect. Adger and
colleagues (2007) asserted that when comparing the linguistic characteristics of AAVE and
Standard English, we find far more common language features than distinctive ones. They
disputed the theory of some linguists that AAVE is increasingly evolving in a divergent path
from other vernacular English dialects. In fact, there is considerable overlap among AAVE,
southern English, and southern white nonstandard English. Much of the distinctiveness of the
dialect is in its intonational patterns, speaking rate, and distinctive lexicons.
Teacher bias against AAVE is common among majority-group educators and among some
African American educators as well. Although AAVE is an ethnically related dialect, it is also
a dialect related to social class. Dialects related to lower social classes, such as Appalachian
English and AAVE, are typically stigmatized in our multidialectal society. Unfortunately, many
people attach relative values to certain dialects and to the speakers of those dialects. Assump-
tions are made regarding the intelligence, ability, and moral character of the speakers, and this
can have a significant negative impact (Adger et al., 2007). As a result, the use of these dialects
without the ability to speak Standard English leaves the speaker at a distinct social, educa-
tional, and sometimes occupational disadvantage.
With the 2008 election of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United
States, AAVE in the context of social, racial, and political realities drew nationwide attention.
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Language Differences 165
Continuing controversy over Mr. Obama’s shifting linguistic style (use of both Standard English
and AAVE) and comments applauding his ability to be “articulate” and speak without a “Negro
dialect” confirmed not only the challenges of a multi-leveled English-speaking society but the
complex relationship between language and race (Childs, 2011).
The refusal to acknowledge AAVE as a legitimate form of communication could be con-
sidered another example of Eurocentric behavior. Insofar as teachers endorse this rejection,
they are sending a message to many of their African American students that the dialect of their
parents, grandparents, and significant others in their lives is substandard and unacceptable.
The rejection of AAVE as a legitimate form of communication is viewed by some educators as
detrimental to the academic development and achievement of students.
Requiring only a Standard English dialect in schools is both insensitive and controversial.
Because of the close relationship between ethnic minority groups and dialects that are often
considered nonstandard, this issue may also have civil rights implications.
Some argue that the school has the responsibility to teach each student Standard English
to help him or her better cope with the demands of society. There is little doubt that the
inability to speak Standard English can be a decided disadvantage to an individual in certain
situations, such as when seeking employment.
Many individuals have distinct preconceived notions about non–Standard-English-speaking
individuals. If teachers and other school personnel react to students in a manner that is grounded
in these preconceptions, the consequences could be serious. Students who are perceived and
treated as less intelligent because of their speech may respond as such and become part of a
self-fulfilling prophecy, functioning below their ability. In cases where children are tracked
in schools, they may be placed in groups below their actual ability level. This problem sur-
faces in the form of disproportionately low numbers of African American and Latino children
being placed in classes for the gifted and talented (U.S. Department of Education, 2014c).
School administrators cite the inability to appropriately identify these gifted and talented ethnic
Critical Incidents in Teaching
attitudes toward african american Vernacular english
Julio Plata is the principal of Jackie Robinson Middle School. Ms. Ruby Norton, the mother of a sixth-grader, has
made an appointment to see Mr. Plata. She has declined to give Mr. Plata’s secretary any information about her
reasons for wanting to see him. Mr. Plata exchanges the customary greeting and then asks Ms. Norton what he
can do for her. At this point, she calmly tells Mr. Plata that his teachers need to stop being racist and to start
respecting the culture of African American students.
Mr. Plata is feeling defensive and tries to maintain his composure as he inquires about the nature of the
complaint. “This white teacher of Trayson says to my son to stop talking this African American or Black English
stuff because it is bad English and he won’t allow it in his classroom. He says it’s a low-class dialect, and if
Trayson keeps talking like that, he ain’t never going to amount to nothing, will never get into college, and won’t
never get a good job. That’s just plain racist. That’s an attack against all black folk. His granddaddy and
grandmother talk that way. All my kinfolk talk that way. I talk that way. You mean to tell me that this school thinks
we’re all low-class trash? Is that what your teachers think of black folk?”
QuestiOns fOr cLassrOOm DiscussiOn
1. How should Mr. Plata respond to Ms. Norton?
2. Should he arrange a meeting between Ms. Norton and Aaron Goodman, Trayson’s teacher?
3. What should be the school’s position on Ebonics, or Vernacular Black English?
4. Is this an issue for the whole school district or for an individual school?
5. Is Mr. Goodman wrong to tell Trayson that his speech is a low-class dialect?
6. Is Mr. Goodman wrong to tell Trayson that if he speaks only AAVE it will have negative educational and
vocational consequences?
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166 chapter 7 Language
minority children as one of their biggest challenges. Teachers who harbor negative attitudes
toward children with nonstandard dialects may be less prone to recognize potential giftedness
and may be less inclined to refer these children for possible assessment and placement.
Educators have several alternatives for handling dialect in the educational setting. The
first is to accommodate all dialects on the basis that they are all equal. Another choice is to
insist that only a standard dialect be allowed in the schools. This alternative would allow for
the position that functional ability in such a dialect is necessary for success in personal as well
as vocational pursuits. The third alternative is a position between the two extremes, and it is an
alternative often followed. Native dialects are accepted for certain uses, but Standard English
is encouraged and insisted on in other circumstances. Students in such a school setting may be
required to read and write in Standard English because this is the primary written language
they will encounter in the United States. They would not be required to eliminate their natu-
ral dialect in speaking. Such a compromise allows students to use two or more dialects in the
school. It tends to acknowledge the legitimacy of all dialects while recognizing the social and
vocational implications of being able to function using Standard English.
sign Language
Some languages do not have a written system. Individuals who are deaf are not able to hear the
sounds that make up oral languages and have developed their own language for communication.
American Sign Language (ASL) is a natural language that has been developed and used by persons
who are deaf. Just in the past 30-some years, linguists have come to recognize ASL as a language
with complex grammar and well-regulated syntax. A growing number of colleges and universities
accept f luency in ASL as meeting a second-language requirement. The majority of adults who are
deaf in Canada and the United States use ASL. Individuals who are deaf use it to communicate with
each other. Like oral languages, different sign languages have developed in different countries.
Children who are deaf are able to pick up the syntax and rhythms of signing as spontaneously
as hearing children pick up their oral languages. Both children who hear and children who are
deaf who are born into deaf families are usually exposed to ASL from birth. Many children who
are deaf, however, have hearing parents and do not have the opportunity to learn ASL until
they attend a school program for the deaf, where they learn from both their teachers and peers.
ASL is the only sign language recognized as a language in its own right, rather than a vari-
ation of spoken English. With its own vocabulary, syntax, and grammatical rules, ASL does not
correspond completely to spoken or written English (Heward, 2013; Smith & Tyler, 2014). To
communicate with the hearing, those who are deaf often use signed English, a system of signing
that parallels the English language. Rather than have its own language patterns like ASL, signed
English is a system that translates the English oral or written word into a sign. When one sees
an interpreter on television or at a meeting, it is usually signed English that is being used.
Sign language is one component of the deaf culture that sets its users apart from the hearing
world. Because of the residential school experiences of many individuals who are deaf, a distinct
cultural community has developed. As a cultural community, they are highly endogamous, with
a very high rate of in-group marriages involving individuals who are deaf. Although ASL is the
major language of the deaf community, many individuals are bilingual in English and ASL.
nonverbal communication
Although most people think of communication as being verbal in nature, nonverbal commu-
nication can be just as important in the total communication process. Because it is so clearly
interwoven into the overall fabric of verbal communication, nonverbal communication often
appears to be inseparable from it.
Nonverbal communication can serve several functions. It conveys messages through one’s
attitude, personality, manner, and even dress. It augments verbal communication by reinforcing
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Nonverbal Communication 167
what one says; for example, a smile or a pat on the back reinforces a positive statement made to
a student. It can contradict a verbal communication; for example, a frown accompanying a posi-
tive statement to a student sends a mixed or contradictory message. Nonverbal communication
can replace a verbal message: A finger to the lips or a teacher’s hand held in the air, palm facing
the students, may communicate “Silence” to a class.
The total meaning of communication includes not only the surface message as stated (con-
tent) but also the undercurrent (emotions or feelings associated with that content). The listener
should watch for congruence between the verbal message and the message being sent nonverbally.
How we appear to others is a form of nonverbal communication, and can, therefore, be
considered part of our communication or language. Research has supported the contention
that definite prejudices are based on physical characteristics. For example, physical attrac-
tiveness plays a part in the way we perceive other people. If one has a bias against a par-
ticular group (e.g., overweight people, short people), individuals from that group could be
perceived as unattractive and might suffer from social rejection based on the perceptions and
bias (Huget, 2011). One’s skin color, attire, posture, body movements, gestures, and facial
expression all tend to communicate and send messages to others, much like the spoken word
(Samovar, Porter, McDaniel, & Roy, 2013).
Cultural differences have profound implications about how individuals interact non-
verbally. Some cultural groups are more prone to physical contact than others. Latinos and
Native Hawaiians, for example, tend to be among the contact cultures. Consequently, one can
often observe both Hispanic and Hawaiian men and women greeting each other with a warm
embrace. On the other hand, it might be surprising to
see some Asian men embracing one another. Of course,
the more acculturated Asian American men are likely to
observe behaviors typical in the general society.
Conversational distance, usually 18 inches to 4
feet, varies according to circumstances and who is
involved. A distance of 18 inches to 2.5 feet is the dis-
tance one tends to communicate with friends, family
members, and romantic partners. The further dis-
tance is usually maintained for casual acquaintances
and co-workers (Burgoon, Guerrero, & Floyd, 2010;
Samovar et al., 2013). If the distance is much greater
than conventional distance for the circumstances,
individuals may feel too far apart for normal con-
versation using a normal voice level. Individuals of
other cultural groups, such as Arabs, Latin Ameri-
cans, and Southern Europeans, are accustomed to
standing considerably closer when they talk, even
with those they have no relationship to, and in a
sense invade the perceived personal space of the
individual. In contrast with these contact cultures,
Asians and Northern Europeans have been identified
as noncontact cultures and may maintain a greater
distance in conversation. Students maintain differ-
ential distances in cross-cultural relationships. Some
white Americans may tend to maintain a greater dis-
tance when conversing with African Americans than
when conversing among themselves. Women tend
to allow a closer conversational space than do men.
Straight individuals may distance themselves more
from conversational partners they perceive to be gay
(Richmond, McCroskey, & Hickson, 2012).
Educators need to be aware that different cultural groups have different expectations
when it comes to contact with a teacher. The differences may have implications for educators.
There is often as much or
more communicated
nonverbally as verbally.
(© Angela Lang Photography)
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168 Chapter 7 Language
Some groups may view a pat on the head of a child as a supportive gesture. However, some
Southeast Asians believe that the individual’s spirit resides in the head, and a pat on the head
of a child may very well be viewed as offensive by both the parents and the child. Some Asian
students may distance themselves in sitting or standing next to a teacher as a sign of deference
or esteem (Samovar et al., 2013).
Other nonverbal issues may involve the facial expressions or behaviors of the student.
American teachers typically expect a child to look at them while they are having a conversa-
tion. However, some groups consider it disrespectful for a child to look directly into the eyes of
a teacher. Consequently, as a sign of respect, a child may look at the floor while either speaking
to a teacher or being spoken to. The teacher, however, may view this behavior opposite the
manner intended and demand that the child look her or him in the eyes (Burgoon et al., 2010).
Some nonverbal gestures can have significantly different meanings across cultures. The
thumbs-up gesture, which generally conveys a message of “perfect,” “good,” or “well done”
in most Western countries, has essentially the same meaning in Egypt and China. However,
when a teacher attempts to communicate to the parents of immigrant students from Australia,
Greece, the Middle East, or West Africa that she approves of a student’s performance with a
“thumbs up,” there can be unpleasant consequences. The gesture may be considered obscene
in those countries and regions. Likewise, the “OK” sign, with the circle formed by the thumb
and index finger, has a positive connotation in some cultures and is an obscene and even threat-
ening gesture in others (Cotton, 2013; Samovar et al., 2013).
Any discussion of nonverbal behavior has inherent dangers. As examples are given, you
must realize that these are generalizations and should not assume that any given behavior will
immediately be interpreted in a certain way. Nonverbal communications are often a promi-
nent part of the context in which verbal messages are sent.
Second-Language Acquisition
The arrival of new immigrants annually into the United States results in additional language-
minority students in our schools. In 2000, it was estimated that 8%, or 3.7 million students, were
English language learners (ELL) (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015). By 2012 the
presence of ELL students had increased to approximately 9.1%, or 4.4 million (National Center
for Education Statistics, 2014d). An ELL student is one who does not speak English or whose
English limitations preclude the child’s ability to fully participate in mainstream English instruc-
tion. There were 4,389,321 ELL students in P–12 schools in the United States in 2012 (National
Center for Education Statistics, 2013b). Table 7.1 shows the numbers of ELL enrolled in U.S.
schools between 2002 and 2012. Table 7.2 lists the five states with the largest ELL enrollments.
Table 7.1 ELEmEntAry And SECondAry EnroLLmEnt of ELL StudEntS in thE
unitEd StAtES, 2002–12
School year number of ELL Students Enrolled
2002–03 4,118,918
2005–06 4,421,489
2007–08 4,153,870
2008–09 4,439,514
2009–10 4,364,510
2010–11 4,370,004
2011–12 4,389,321
Source: From National Center for Educational Statistics (2013),
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Second-Language Acquisition 169
English Language Learner Characteristics
It is surprising to many educators that most ELL students are born in the United States,
although 80% of their parents are born outside the country. Coming from 400 different lan-
guage backgrounds, 70%–80% of ELL students are Spanish speakers, and 12.6% are from
Asian and Pacific Island backgrounds. While the most common ELL languages are Spanish,
Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, and French, the most common non-English language varies by
state. In Alaska, the most common non-English language is Eskimo-Aleut; in Hawaii, Ilicano
(Filipino dialect); in Montana, Native American language; in South Dakota, German; and in
Vermont, French (Goldenberg, 2008; Swanson, 2009).
ELL students are often at a socioeconomic disadvantage compared to their non-ELL
peers. A disproportionate number of these students live in poverty. Most parents of ELL stu-
dents have less education than the parents of non-ELL students. Slightly more than 40% of
the parents of ELL students have not completed high school, compared to only 9.3% of the
parents of non-ELL students. The parents of ELL students, especially those from Mexico and
Central America, do not compare favorably with the parents of non-ELL students in other
areas of education, employment, and income. Thirty-five percent of ELL students are foreign
born, but 48.4% are second-generation Americans, meaning that at least one parent was born
in the United States. Seventeen percent are third-generation Americans with both parents
born in the United States (Swanson, 2009). Asian-language immigrants, the second-largest ELL
group, do not experience the overall poverty issues that the Spanish-speaking groups face.
Over 87% of Asian parents have high school diplomas, but there is a high level of diversity
within groups, particularly when Southeast Asians are compared to the other Asian groups.
Among some of the Cambodian and Laotian immigrants, there is a high level of poverty
(Goldenberg, 2008).
Nationwide, one-fourth of ELL students are failing to make progress toward English
language proficiency, according to reporting states. Half are making progress or have attained
proficiency. Stetser & Stillwell (2014) reported that the graduation rates for ELL students
averaged 57%, in comparison to 79% for all other students. In the Los Angeles Unified School
District (LAUSD), the nation’s second-largest district, only 5% of scores for ELL students in
high school met proficiency in either math or English, while the overall district average was
37% proficiency in English and 17% in math (Shah, 2012a).
The acquisition of English skills serves both social and economic needs. Motivation is
usually high. Without linguistic acculturation, assimilation into mainstream society may be
impossible. This, in turn, effectively keeps non-English speakers out of many job markets. In
the future, educators can anticipate increasing numbers of students whose primary language
is other than English.
The Role of First Language in Second Language Acquisition
Most children acquire their first language naturally through constant interaction with their
parents or significant others. Knowledge of their first language plays an important role in the
Table 7.2 STATES wiTh ThE LARgEST ELL EnRoLLmEnTS, 2011–12

number of ELL Students
Percentage of U.S. ELL
California 1,415,623 23.2%
Texas 722,043 14.9%
Florida 234,347 8.8%
New York 204,898 7.8%
Illinois 170,626 8.2%
Source: From National Center for Education Statistics (2013),
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170 chapter 7 Language
process of acquiring and learning a second language. Some concepts acquired through learning
their first language (e.g., Spanish) can be transferred to a second language (e.g., English) when
a comparable concept in the second language is encountered. However, English speakers
should not think of Spanish, French, Chinese, or any other language as consisting of words
that, if translated, basically transform into English. There are words and concepts in all of these
languages for which there is no English equivalent. There may be no exact English translation
to convey the same meaning. For example, heung in the Chinese Cantonese dialect is translated
into English as “fragrant.” However, heung has no exact English translation. The Chinese have
a very distinctive meaning that conveys not only fragrance but a multisensory experience. When
Cantonese speakers say that food that they have placed in their mouths is heung, it may imply
that it tastes, smells, and feels very special.
The failure of schools to build on a child’s first language during these early years may
have serious consequences in the learning process. These observed language behaviors suggest
that ELL children should be allowed to develop a firm grasp of basic concepts in their home
language prior to instruction of academic concepts in an English-only environment. Research
demonstrates that when children are provided a strong educational foundation in their native
language, they gain both knowledge and literacy, and this powerfully supports English lan-
guage development (Crawford & Krashen, 2007).
Language Proficiency. James Cummins (1996), a preeminent researcher in language
acquisition, found that many ELL students failed academically after completing English as a
second language (ESL) training and being placed in monolingual English class settings. Many
of these students were subsequently referred and placed in special education classes. In care-
fully studying the language characteristics of these students, Cummins found that in two years,
these students were able to acquire adequate English communication skills to suggest to their
teachers that they were prepared to function in a monolingual English class placement. Cum-
mins also found, however, that the basic language skills, which he labeled basic interpersonal
communicative skills (BICS), are adequate everyday conversational skills but inadequate
to function in high-level academic situations. An example of BICS is “playground English,”
which relies on nonlinguistic cues and context and is used to facilitate communication (e.g.,
gestures and other nonverbal cues). BICS, Cummins indicated, is primarily social rather than
intellectual. It requires less knowledge of the language and utilizes simpler syntax and a more
limited vocabulary than is needed in academic settings.
Although two years of teaching is adequate for everyday conversational usage, an addi-
tional five to seven years of school training is essential to develop the higher levels of profi-
ciency required in highly structured academic situations. Cummins (1984) labeled this higher
level of proficiency cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP). Professors who were
themselves ELL students in their earlier years have shared with the authors their experiences
in making professional presentations in foreign countries. For example, a Chinese American
professor who was born in China and whose first language is Chinese can carry on fluent con-
versations in both Mandarin and Cantonese dialects. However, this individual insists on having
translators for her presentations in China because she does not consider herself proficient
in academic Chinese. Other colleagues from non-English-speaking backgrounds have shared
similar experiences. This may have some similarities to BICS-level students who have not yet
developed academic-level English competence and are thrust into English-only academic situ-
ations. Unfortunately, these students are not in a position to insist on translators.
Cummins’s framework for conceptualizing language proficiency has been widely adopted
by many ESL and bilingual special education programs and has profound implications for
language minorities. Cummins (2000) suggested that there are two reasons it takes much lon-
ger for ELL students to learn academic language than it does to learn basic conversational
language. First, academic language is the language of technical subject matter (e.g., science,
math), literature, journals, and other scholarly materials. It is very different from conversa-
tional language. As students progress through successive grades, they encounter words that
Cummins characterizes as “low-frequency” words. These are words with Greek and Latin der-
ivations. In addition, they are exposed to more complex syntax (e.g., passive voice) and abstract
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Differentiating Instruction for All Language Learners 171
expressions that are seldom if ever heard in everyday conversation. Second, academic language
is what educators develop among native English speakers who are already fluent in conversa-
tional English when they enter school. Therefore, the ELL student is learning conversational
English while classmates are at a higher level, learning academic English.
Cummins believes that sociocultural determinants of school failure for these students
are more significant than linguistic factors. Schools must counteract the power relations that
exist in society, removing the racial and linguistic stigmas of being a minority group child.
Cummins suggests that power and status relationships between majority and minority groups
influence the school performance of these students. Lower-status groups tend to have lower
expectations for academic achievement.
Goldenberg (2013), reviewing the available research on teaching strategies for ELL stu-
dents, suggested that ELL students require additional instructional supports. He suggested
that the home language can be used to develop these students academically and that they need
early and adequate time to develop their English proficiency. This would tend to support
Cummins’s contention that ELLs who are functioning at the basic interpersonal communica-
tive skills level may not yet prepared for more advanced academics.
Official english (english-Only) controversy
In 1981, U.S. Senator S. I. Hayakawa, a harsh critic of bilingual education and bilingual voting
rights, introduced a constitutional amendment to make English the official language of the
United States. The measure sought to prohibit federal and state laws, ordinances, regulations,
orders, programs, and policies from requiring the use of other languages. Hayakawa’s efforts
were made not only in support of English but also against bilingualism. Had the amendment
been adopted, Hayakawa’s proposal would have reversed the efforts that began in the 1960s to
accommodate linguistic minorities in the United States. The English Language Amendment
died without a hearing in the 97th Congress.
In 1983 Hayakawa helped found the organization U.S. English and began lobbying efforts
that resulted in a reported 1.8 million–member organization and an annual budget in the mil-
lions of dollars (U.S. English, 2014). This movement, also referred to as Official English or
English Only, supports only the limited use of bilingual education and has mounted a major
effort to lobby the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to make English the official language of
the United States. English has been adopted in the form of statutes and state constitutional
amendments in 31 states (U.S. English, 2014). The organization favors sheltered English
immersion, and it maintains its position that ELL students should be transitioned completely out
of bilingual education and into mainstream English usage within a maximum of one or two years.
Official English has become a polarizing issue. For supporters of the English Only move-
ment, English has always been the common language in the United States. Supporters of the
English Only movement believe that it is a means to resolve conflict in a nation that is diverse
in ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. They also believe that English is an essential tool for
social mobility and economic advancement.
Crawford and Krashen (2007) maintained that attempts to restrict the use of languages
other than English are never only about the language. They suggested that such attempts also
indicate a negative attitude toward the speakers of other languages.
Differentiating instruction for all Language
Language is an integral part of life and an integral part of our social system. The diversity and
richness of the language systems in this country ref lect the richness and diversity of American
culture. The ability of U.S. educators to recognize and appreciate the value of different language
groups will, to some extent, determine the effectiveness of our educational system.
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172 chapter 7 Language
Kochhar (2014) projects that the U.S. population will reach 401 million by 2050. Of that
number, 67 million may be immigrants, plus their 50 million children and grandchildren. In
2013, there were 41.3 million immigrants in the United States, representing over 13% of the
population (Zeigler & Camorota, 2014).
All children bring to school the language systems of their cultures. It is the obligation of
each educator to ensure the right of each child to learn in the language of the home until the
child is able to function well enough in English. This may suggest the use of ESL or bilingual
programs for ELL children. Research studies suggest that encouraging the development of
students’ native languages can provide excellent support in helping them acquire literacy and
academic skills in English (August et al., 2010). Equally important, especially for educators, is
the responsibility to understand cultural and linguistic differences and to recognize the value
of these differences while working toward enhancing the student’s linguistic skills in the dom-
inant language. Although it is important to appreciate and respect a child’s native language or
dialect, it is also important that the teacher communicate the importance and advantages of
being able to speak and understand Standard English in certain educational, vocational, and
social situations.
Language and educational assessment
Few issues in education are as controversial as the assessment of culturally diverse children.
The problem of disproportionate numbers of ethnic minority children in special education
classes for children with disabilities have historically resulted from such assessment. The char-
acteristics of language are directly related to the assessment of linguistically different children.
One of the dangers of assessment tests is that they measure intelligence by things that are valued
within the dominant group and tend to exclude things that are culturally specific to minority
children. Pence Turnbull and Justice (2012) further cautioned that some students are misiden-
tified as having language disorders because of tests that were developed for Standard English
monolingual speakers. Refusal to acknowledge the value of linguistic differences has resulted
in inadequate services and the inappropriate placements of children through highly question-
able assessment procedures.
Historically, tests were normed primarily “with” or “on” white middle-class children.
This means that the values and scores of ethnically and linguistically diverse children were
not equitably factored in when standards were determined. Each year millions of standard-
ized tests are administered worldwide. After years of criticism regarding the bias in tests, test
developers and publishers have been diligently attempting to create unbiased instruments.
However, ethnic and linguistic minority children are just that—a minority—and their num-
bers in a target audience sample may be comparatively small. As a result, the test norms may
still be biased against them. There is an expectation of cultural and linguistic uniformity in
the development of assessment tests (Adger et al., 2007). Therefore, such tests are often con-
sidered biased against a student who is not proficient in English or who speaks a nonstandard
Most intelligence tests rely heavily on language. Yet little attempt may be made to deter-
mine a child’s level of proficiency in the language or dialect in which a test is administered. For
example, a Hispanic student may be able to perform a task that is called for in an intelligence
test but may not be able to adequately understand the directions given in English. Even if a
Spanish translation is available, it might not be in a dialect with which the child is familiar.
Using an unfamiliar Spanish dialect may place a student at an extreme disadvantage and may
yield test results that do not truly indicate the student’s ability. If the psychologist or psycho-
metrist speaks in Castilian Spanish and the student speaks Spanglish, there is a linguistic
disconnect, and the student may be at a considerable disadvantage.
The same may be true for Asians, African Americans, and Native Americans being tested.
Rather than accurately testing specific knowledge or aptitude, all too often intelligence tests
measure a student’s competence in standard forms of the language (Adger et al., 2007). It is
unlikely that there are any completely unbiased assessment instruments being used to test
achievement or intelligence.
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Differentiating Instruction for All Language Learners 173
Several successful class action lawsuits have been brought against school boards or school
districts on behalf of children placed in special education classes on the basis of low scores on
IQ tests. Typically the suits argue that biased and inappropriate test instruments were used
on language-minority students, which resulted in inappropriate special education placement.
Among the cases often cited is Guadalupe Organization, Inc. v. Tempe Elementary School District
No. 3 (1978), a suit filed in Arizona that resulted from the disproportionately high placement of
Yaqui Indian and Mexican American children in classes for students with intellectual disability
(ID). Diana v. State Board of Education (1973) was brought on behalf of children of Mexican
immigrants placed in classrooms for students with ID on the basis of low IQ scores on tests
that were argued to be discriminatory.
Bilingual education
Bilingual education involves the use of two languages for the purpose of instruction. Typically
in English language schools, instruction is in both English and the student’s home language.
Bilingual education has been supported, in part, by federal funds provided by the Bilingual
Education Act of 1968, reauthorized in 1974, 1978, and 1984. The federal legislation views
bilingual education more broadly, allowing and even encouraging instructional methodology
other than the use of two languages.
Children who speak little or no English cannot understand English-speaking children or
lessons that are presented in English. Not only are these children faced with having to learn
new subject matter, but they must also learn a new language and often a new culture. It is likely
that many of these children will not be able to keep up with the schoolwork and will drop
out of school unless there is appropriate intervention. Although new data show a significant
decline in the school dropout rate, the dropout rate for Hispanic students is disproportionately
high. The high school dropout rate for Hispanic immigrants was 14% in 2012, versus 5% for
whites and 8% for African Americans (Pew Research Center, 2014b). The dropout rates for
Native American students are also high. Although language differences may not be the sole
contributor to the academic problems of these children (poverty has a strong correlation as
well), they are considered by many to be a major factor.
Lau v. Nichols. In 1974 the class action suit Lau v. Nichols was brought on behalf of 1,800
Chinese children before the U.S. Supreme Court. The plaintiffs claimed that the San Fran-
cisco Board of Education failed to provide programs designed to meet the linguistic needs of
those non-English-speaking children. The failure, they claimed, was in violation of Title VI of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
They argued that if the children could not understand the language used for instruction, they
were deprived of an education equal to that of other children and were, in essence, doomed
to failure.
The school board defended its policy by stating that the children received the same edu-
cation afforded other children in the district. The position of the board was that a child’s
ability to comprehend English when entering school was not the responsibility of the school
but rather the responsibility of the child and the family. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme
Court stated, “Under state imposed standards, there was no equality of treatment merely by
providing students with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers, and curriculum; for students
who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education”
(Lau v. Nichols, 1974). The Court did not mandate bilingual education for non-English-
speaking or limited-English-speaking students. It did stipulate that special language programs
were necessary if schools were to provide an equal educational opportunity for such students.
Hence, the Lau decision gave considerable impetus to the development of bilingual education
as well as ESL programs.
In 1975 the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (amended in 1990 as the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]) required each state to avoid the use of
racially or culturally discriminating testing and evaluation procedures in the placement of
children with disabilities. It also required that placement tests be administered in the child’s
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174 chapter 7 Language
native language. In addition, communication with
parents regarding such matters as permission to test
the child, development of Individualized Education
Programs (IEPs), and hearings and appeals must be
in the native language. An IEP specifies the program-
ming and services that children with disabilities will
receive and requires the participation of the parents in
its development.
Throughout the 1970s, the federal government
and the state courts sought to shape the direction of
bilingual education programs and mandate appropriate
testing procedures for students with limited English
proficiency. The Lau remedies were developed by the
U.S. Office of Education to help schools implement
bilingual education programs. These guidelines pre-
scribed transitional bilingual education and rejected
ESL as an appropriate methodology for elementary
students. With a change of the federal administration
in 1981, a shift to local policy decisions began to ease
federal controls. Emphasis was placed on making the transition from the native language to
English as quickly as possible. The methodology for accomplishing the transition became the
choice of the local school district. Thus, ESL programs began to operate alongside bilingual pro-
grams in many areas. Although the future level of federal involvement in bilingual education is
uncertain, there is little doubt among educators that some form of bilingual education is needed.
transitional Programs. The primary goal of bilingual education is not to teach English
or a second language per se but to teach children concepts, knowledge, and skills in the lan-
guage they know best and to reinforce this information through the use of English. Most
bilingual education programs today are transitional programs, which emphasize bilingual
education as a means of moving from the culture and language most commonly used for com-
munication in the home to the mainstream of U.S. language and culture. It is an assimilationist
approach in which the ELL student is expected to learn to function effectively in English as
soon as possible. The native language of the home is used only to help the student make the
transition to the English language. The native language is gradually phased out as the student
becomes more proficient in English.
Bilingual educators strongly support the use of bicultural programs even within the tran-
sitional framework. A bicultural emphasis provides students with recognition of the value and
worth of their families’ culture and enhances the development or maintenance of a positive
Dual-Language immersion Programs. Dual-language immersion programs, some-
times referred to as two-way bilingual immersion programs, have grown in the past few years
from a few hundred to more than 2,000 programs across the United States. Texas is the lead-
ing state implementing these programs, with between 700 and 800 of them (Maxwell, 2012).
According to Gracile (2014), California had 313 dual-language programs as of 2011—mostly
in Spanish. The Glendale Unified School District in Los Angeles County, for example, offers
programs in Italian, German, Spanish, Armenian, Japanese, and Korean (Watanabe, 2011).
Instruction in the Glendale programs is, for example, 90% in Italian and 10% in English
in kindergarten and first grade. Language usage is 50–50 by fifth grade. The goals of the
dual-language program are:
• Bilingualism (oral proficiency in two languages)
• Biliteracy (reading and writing in two languages)
• Achievement at or above grade level
• Multicultural competencies (Watanabe, 2011)
A million new immigrants
enter the United States
annually. Many will be
students in our schools
who will need specialized
instruction to help them
acquire English skills.
(© Michael Doolittle/Alamy)
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Differentiating Instruction for All Language Learners 175
Dual-language immersion programs include students with an English background and
students with one other language background. Ideally, half the class will consist of students
whose home language is Japanese, for example. The other half of the students in the class will
come from English-speaking families. Students are expected to stay in the program throughout
elementary school.
While bilingual education has a negative connotation for some, dual-language immersion
has become an accepted niche to some and may not face the attacks from the bilingual education
opponents that the other bilingual programs have had to deal with. It has been embraced by
some parents, who want these programs to give their children an edge in an increasingly global
world. In California, parents must sign waivers of consent prior to placement in two-way
language immersion programs, in compliance with Proposition 227 mandates. Research
suggests that by late elementary school or middle school, students in dual-language programs
perform at levels comparable to or higher than peers in English-only programs (Watanabe,
2011). The success of these programs has brought renewed attention and interest to bilingual
education in California (Gracile, 2014).
Advocates of bilingual education see advantages in being bilingual. Although bilingual
education programs have been established primarily to develop English skills for ELL
students, some offer opportunities for English-speaking students to develop proficiency in
other languages. In addition, bilingualism provides an individual with job market advantages.
As the United States becomes less parochial, the opportunity for business and other contacts
with individuals from other countries increases, providing decided advantages to bilingual
individuals. The United States has always been linguistically diverse. Language diversity is
common throughout the world, and students in other countries are often required to learn
a language other than their own. Americans are at a distinct disadvantage if they embrace
a monolingual philosophy. In a global economy with more than 1 billion Chinese speakers
and more than 400 million Spanish speakers, the United States clearly stands to benefit from
increased proficiency in other languages.
Bilingual education as it currently exists has many problems and many critics. Critics
have provided ample evidence that some children in bilingual education programs have
fared poorly, and many have dropped out of school. Research has provided evidence
that well-developed and well-delivered bilingual education programming can deliver
positive results. It should be recognized that there has been an acute national shortage of
qualified bilingual educators. Being bilingual does not necessarily qualify an individual as
a bilingual educator. Many who have filled bilingual education positions have not been
fully qualified in their preparation and training. When these individuals fail to deliver
desired results, bilingual education is often unfairly characterized as being programmat-
ically unsound.
english as a second Language
English as a second language (ESL) is a program often confused with bilingual educa-
tion. In the United States, learning English is an integral part of every bilingual program.
But teaching English as a second language in and of itself does not constitute a bilingual
program. Both bilingual education and ESL programs promote English proficiency for
ELL students. The approach to instruction distinguishes the two programs. Bilingual
education accepts and develops native language and culture in the instructional process.
Bilingual education may use the native language, as well as English, as the medium of
instruction. ESL instruction, however, relies exclusively on English for teaching and learn-
ing. ESL programs are used extensively in the United States as a primary medium to
assimilate ELL children into the linguistic mainstream as quickly as possible. Hence, some
educators place less emphasis on the maintenance of home language and culture than on
English language acquisition, and they view ESL programs as a viable means for achieving
their goals.
In some school districts, there may be ELL students from several different language back-
grounds but too few in some groups to warrant a bilingual education class (e.g., Cantonese,
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176 chapter 7 Language
Farsi, Russian). In such a situation, ESL may be the most logical approach to providing appro-
priate services for these students.
california’s Proposition 227. U.S. English members have vigorously supported
California’s Proposition 227, a state ballot initiative that passed in 1998 by a margin of
61% to 39%. This law was intended by its supporters to put an end to bilingual education in
the state. This proposition is often referred to as the Unz initiative, after its co-author, Ron
Unz. Operating under the organization One Nation, Unz and his supporters cite numerous
examples of bilingual education failures. The proposition requires all language-minority
students to be educated in sheltered English immersion programs, not normally intended
to exceed one year. Sheltered English immersion or structured English immersion involves
a classroom where English language acquisition is accomplished with nearly all instruction
in English but with the curriculum and presentation designed for children who are learning
the language. During this time, ELL students are temporarily sheltered from competing
academically with native English-speaking students in mainstream classes. At the comple-
tion of the year, the students are transferred to English language mainstream classrooms
(Unz & Tuchman, 1998). The law allows parents to seek waivers, and if a waiver is granted,
the child’s education may continue in a bilingual classroom. If schools or teachers fail to
implement a child’s education as prescribed by the law, they may be sued.
As might be expected, supporters of bilingual education have vigorously attacked the
proposition, concerned that the Unz initiative will spread to other states. Proposition 227
opponents argue that the Unz initiative was not backed by research or scientific data. Rather,
they argue, it was based on observations of the high failure and dropout rates of ELL students,
primarily Hispanic students. It was also based on Unz’s presumption that most ELL students
are able to grasp the fundamentals of speaking English in a year. They support their arguments
against the proposition by citing research (e.g., Cummins, 1984) suggesting that only basic
conversational skills can be acquired in such a limited time but not the necessary academic
language skills, which take years to develop adequately. Opponents of Proposition 227 con-
tend that the law is a “one size fits all” approach to educating students and that it cannot have
lasting benefits. Obtaining waivers is often problematic for parents, especially if their English
skills are limited and they have difficulty communicating with school personnel. There are also
concerns that the law intimidates teachers and administrators and inhibits them from doing
what they know is educationally appropriate for students.
A year after the implementation of Proposition 227, achievement test scores for ELL
students in the Oceanside Unified School District, which had faithfully followed the mandates
of the proposition, showed an 11 percentage point increase. The achievement test scores the
following year were also positive, providing validation for Proposition 227 supporters.
Subsequent research (e.g., Hakuta, 2001a, 2001b; Hakuta, Butler, & Bousquet, 1999;
Orr, Butler, Bousquet, & Hakuta, 2000) found that in the first two academic years of testing
(1998–99 and 1999–2000), achievement test scores improved somewhat across the board in
the state. Scores rose for ELL students in both English-only classrooms and bilingual edu-
cation classrooms. These researchers found that some school districts that had maintained
various forms of bilingual education experienced similar increases to that of Oceanside Unified
District. They strongly suggested that a statistical phenomenon known as regression to the
mean had been in operation for the Oceanside students. With regression to the mean, scores
at the extreme ends of the statistical distribution move toward the population average (mean),
with low scores moving higher and high scores moving lower. These researchers also pointed
to class size reduction, which had just taken place in California schools, as contributing to the
improved scores. While the test scores for ELL students had improved, they were still low.
By 2001 the Oceanside School District’s percentile scores for ELL students had evened
out and in some instances dropped. That year, ELL third-grade reading scores were 1 per-
centage point below the state’s ELL percentile score. District-wide, ELL test scores in more
than half the schools had declined compared to the previous year, contrary to the rising state
ELL test scores.
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Differentiating Instruction for All Language Learners 177
While data regarding improved educational outcomes as a result of Proposition 227 are
inconclusive, it is clear that there is still an achievement gap between English learners and
their peers who enter school proficient in English (Wentworth, Pellegrin, Thompson, &
Hakuta, 2010).
One result of Proposition 227 is conclusive: Unz’s goal to dismantle bilingual education
in California was mostly successful. In the 1997–98 academic year, there were 409,897 ELL
students enrolled in bilingual education programs in California schools. By the 2005–06
academic year, bilingual enrollments had dropped to 95,155.
Goldenberg (2013), in reviewing bilingual education research, stated the obvious: that
teaching in the primary language promotes achievement in the language. He further sug-
gested that bilingual education produces better outcomes in English and, at the worst, pro-
vides results comparable to those of English immersion programs.
In recent years, there have been some indications that a shift is developing around the
issue of ELL instruction in California. Almost 20 years after California voted to eliminate
most bilingual programs, a state-wide referendum was scheduled, seeking to overturn Propo-
sition 227 (Maxwell & Will, 2014). In addition, state legislators in California, acknowledging
the political realities and the numerous advantages of a multilingual population, approved a
“seal of biliteracy” that high school students can earn in order to demonstrate fluency in two
or more languages (Egnatz, 2014).
Other efforts to Dismantle Bilingual education. English language learners
are often caught in the middle of politics. Both sides of the English Only movement believe
strongly that their positions are best for language-minority immigrant students. Ron Unz and
his supporters continue their efforts to bring what they consider a success in California (both
the passage of Proposition 227 and the educational results) to other parts of the country. In
2000 Arizona voted into law Proposition 203. This law required English-only instruction in
the public schools. By 2004 enrollment in bilingual programs in Arizona dropped from 32%
of ELL students to 5%. Studies since the passage of Proposition 203 have indicated that ELL
students in Arizona still suffer from an achievement gap (Mahoney, MacSwan, Haladyna, &
Garcia, 2010).
In 2002 Massachusetts voted into law Chapter 386, which mandated sheltered English
immersion programs as the method of instruction for ELLs. This effectively ended transi-
tional bilingual education in the state. While Massachusetts has not completed a thorough
evaluation of the impact of Chapter 386, Mahoney et al. (2010) reported that dropout rates for
ELL students had increased, as had the academic achievement gap.
In November 2002 Colorado voters rejected Ron Unz’s anti–bilingual education, English
immersion Amendment 31 (Escamilla, Shannon, Carlos, & Garcia, 2003). This was Unz’s first
defeat in his four statewide efforts to dismantle bilingual education.
Opponents of the English Only movement readily agree on the importance of learning
English. However, they view their adversaries as individuals trying to force Anglo confor-
mity by ending essential services in foreign languages. They view the attacks on bilingual
education as unjustified because good bilingual education has been shown to be effective.
Bad bilingual education, they concede, is ineffective and is seldom bilingual education,
except in name. Opponents of bilingual education, they argue, have seen to it that these
programs fail by giving inadequate support or resources, by staffing programs with unqual-
ified personnel, by obtaining faulty test results on bilingual education students, by testing
all students in English, and by using other means that cast a negative light on bilingual
In spite of their differences, the majority of the individuals who support bilingual
education, as well as those who are opposed to it, are well-intentioned individuals who
want to enhance the educational opportunities for immigrant children. If all interested
parties would be less concerned with the politics of the issue and base their programmatic
preferences on sound, well-documented research, the students would be the ultimate
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178 chapter 7 Language
Focus Your Cultural Lens
Debate / curtailing Bilingual education
With the Supreme Court decision in the Lau v. Nichols case in 1974, bilingual education came to the forefront in
American education and was given a greater sense of legitimacy. While Lau v. Nichols did not mandate bilingual
education, it required schools to address the linguistic needs of their students from diverse backgrounds.
Over the past 40-plus years, the road for bilingual education has often been bumpy. Although some research-
ers continue to affirm its value, others conclude that while not harming students, bilingual education provides
no particular advantage. Some critics have attacked it as a colossal failure and advocate for English immersion
classes and the discontinuation of bilingual education. Under the George W. Bush administration, the name of
the U.S. Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Language Affairs was renamed the Office of English Language
Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students (OELA).
QuestiOns fOr cLassrOOm DiscussiOn
1. What should programmatic decisions (e.g., on the type of program that should be offered for ELL) be
based on?
2. Are the attacks on bilingual education justified?
3. What has the research shown with respect to language acquisition and ELL?
Source: From Unz, R. (October 19, 1997), Bilingualism vs. Bilingual Education, One Nation,
/bilingualism-vs-bilingual-education/; Boyd, R. (November 29, 2012), Educating English Language Learners in Public Schools,
League of Women Voters of Irving,
Opponents of bilingual education advocate sheltered
English immersion limited to one year, yet they have
no research to back the efficacy of what they
Research by Cummins and Hakuta has clearly shown
that ELL students cannot become proficient in English
for academic purposes in one year’s time.
The problems with bilingual education are rooted in the
lack of qualified personnel trained in bilingual
education techniques, the lack of adequate resources,
and the lack of commitment at both the federal and
state levels.
Research has clearly demonstrated that bilingual
education, properly implemented, is highly
More than 400,000 California students began the
school year as non–English proficient, prior to
Proposition 227, and at the end of the school year, only
5% had learned English.
Prior to California’s Proposition 227, English language
learners studied grammar, reading, writing, and all
other academic subjects in their own native
languages—almost always in Spanish—while receiving
only small amounts of English instruction.
Achievement test scores for immigrant children are low,
and dropout rates are high.
Bilingual education in California, Arizona, and
Massachusetts has been reduced to a fraction of what
it used to be. The same should happen throughout the
rest of the United States.
Language and culture
Language is a system of both vocal sounds and nonverbal
systems by which members of various groups communicate with
one another. While the United States has historically been Euro-
centric educationally and linguistically, it has become increas-
ingly linguistically diverse in recent years. Numerous languages,
dialects, and accents are spoken by students in our schools.
Federal laws now require educators to provide for the linguistic
needs of the diverse groups of students entering our schools.
the nature of Language
While society tends to place different values on various language
groups, from a linguistic point of view, there is no good or
bad language. All languages serve the purpose of meeting the
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Bilingualism vs. Bilingual Education

Bilingualism vs. Bilingual Education

Summary 179
Chapter Quiz: Click here to gauge your understanding of chapter concepts
linguistic needs of those who use them and, in that sense, are
equal. Language is cultural and tends to be related to one’s
ethnic, geographic, gender, or class origins. Languages are
dynamic and, as such, change constantly.
Language Differences
In the United States, there are nearly 12 million children who
speak languages other than English in their homes. The vast
majority of this group, approximately 8.5 million, are Spanish
speaking. Bilingualism provides benefits especially in an
increasing global economy, which tends to value multilingual
In the United States there are numerous regional and
social accents and dialects, which can be found throughout
the country. African American Vernacular English (AAVE)
and other non-standard dialects have been attacked by
educators and others over the years. While the inability to
speak Standard English may limit an individual socially and
economically in some circumstances, it should be remem-
bered that AAVE is spoken by a large segment of the African
American population, and this and other dialects and accents
are entitled to the respect of educators.
nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication can be as important as verbal
communication and is an integral part of the communication
process. It conveys messages through one’s attitude, person-
ality, manner, and even physical appearance. It augments and
reinforces or contradicts what one says.
Culture plays an important role in nonverbal communi-
cation. Educators should be cognizant of cultural differences
in nonverbal communication, being aware that typical non-
verbal behaviors and gestures in the United States may have
very different and even opposite meanings to other cultural
groups, even to some who are English speaking.
second-Language acquisition
There are currently more than 4 million English language
learners in U.S. schools, with the vast majority Spanish
speaking, followed distantly by those speaking Asian or Pacific
languages. Research by Cummins has found that basic conver-
sational skills (basic interpersonal communication skills) can
be acquired by non-English-speaking students in two years.
However, these skills are inadequate for higher-level academic
functioning (cognitive academic language proficiency), which
may require an additional five to seven years to function well
in highly structured academic settings.
Differentiating instruction for all Language
Disproportionately large numbers of children of color and
linguistic minority have been placed in classes for children
with disabilities, while disproportionately low numbers
of these children are placed in classes for the gifted and
talented. Assessment instruments used to assess children
for placement have often been widely criticized for being
normed on middle-class majority group children and for
being biased against children whose cultural differences
preclude full comprehension of assessment items. While it
is highly unlikely that truly unbiased assessment instruments
will be developed in the immediate future, the problem is
recognized, and educators are making efforts to alleviate
the problems. Both the Supreme Court mandate in Lau v.
Nichols (1974) and the acts Congress has passed regarding
education for children with disabilities have provided some
degree of assurance that linguistically diverse children and
children with disabilities will be properly identified and
placed in appropriate programs to meet their educational
needs. Programs for linguistically diverse students are often
provided in bilingual education or English as a second
language programs.
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LeaRning OutcOmes
As you read this chapter, you should be able to:
8.1 Explain the importance of religion to the cultural makeup of an individual and the
diversity of religions across the United States.
8.2 Discuss the First Amendment and its impact on education.
8.3 Describe the importance of religion and the diversity of religious freedom internationally.
8.4 Discuss how religion in the United States has changed in the past several decades and
continues to change. Provide specific examples.
8.5 Describe the interaction of religion with gender, gay and lesbian identity, and race.
8.6 List examples of legal challenges to the separation of church and state in the United
States and the courts’ responses.
8.7 Provide examples of what schools can and cannot do with respect to religion.
The teachers and administrators of Edison Onizuka Middle School near San Francisco had put the finishing touches on their plans for the school’s honors convocation. They had
selected Ramakrishna Patel and Rebecca Rose, who were tied with the highest grades in the
eighth grade, to be recognized in a convocation ceremony. Each student was asked to make a
7- to 10-minute speech on the value of an education. Because the faculty and Dr. Hovestadt,
the principal, wanted the district superintendent to be part of the ceremony, they had agreed
to schedule the event at 3:00 p.m. on the fourth Saturday in May, the superintendent’s only
available time.
Dr. Hovestadt called the Patel and Rose families to inform them of their children’s selection
as convocation speakers. As expected, both sets of parents were delighted at the news of their
son’s and their daughter’s accomplishments and selection. Mr. Rose indicated, however, that
Saturday was quite impossible because it was the Sabbath for their family, who were Orthodox
Jews. The Sabbath, a day of religious observance and rest among Jews, is from sundown on
Friday until sundown on Saturday. Orthodox Jews are a conservative branch of Judaism who
strictly observes religious law. The event had to be rescheduled for any other day but the
Sabbath. It was impossible, Dr. Hovestadt pleaded. All the plans were made, and no satisfactory
alternative dates were available. “Would you plan the event on a Sunday?” Mr. Rose exclaimed.
“I would not ask you to. Then why do you schedule it on our Sabbath? You must change the day.”
With the two at an impasse, Dr. Hovestadt knew he had to come up with an alternative plan in a
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Religion and Culture 181
1. Is Mr. Rose being unreasonable?
2. What if the event in question took place in a homogeneous community that was primarily
Christian, and the Rose family were one of only two Jewish families in the community? In a
democracy, should the majority rule?
3. How would you feel if you were a Christian living in a non-Christian community, and a major
event that you were expected to attend was scheduled on Christmas Day?
4. Do the rights of every individual have to be considered?
Religion and culture
In the early treatment of multicultural education, religion was seldom if ever addressed as one
of the prominent subcultures inf luencing a student’s perceptions and behaviors. Religion is
likely as important in shaping an individual’s persona as gender, class, or ethnicity. The purpose
of this chapter is to assist you in understanding how religion can be an important part of the
cultural makeup of an individual, not to provide a comparative review of various religions. We
will brief ly examine the larger religious groups in the United States and a few of the smaller
ones. It is impossible to address every religious group or sect in a single chapter. Our decision
to limit the groups or denominations discussed is not to suggest that some lack importance. All
religions and religious groups are important, especially to those who belong to them. We will
discuss here some of the most common religious groups U.S. educators may see in their schools.
Considerable coverage in this edition will be devoted to evangelical Christians because of their
current inf luence on the political process and the efforts of some within the evangelical move-
ment to inf luence educational systems.
In this edition, there is also a focus on Islam. The events of September 11, 2001, the
conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the growth of Islam in the United States and elsewhere
throughout the world are some of the obvious reasons for our focus on this religion.
Religious composition of schools
The religious pluralism of the school in which one teaches is determined, in part, by the
school’s geographic region in the United States. Immigration and migration patterns result in
different ethnic and religious groups settling in different parts of the country. The perspectives
of the religious community often inf luence what parents expect from the school. If the religious
values of the parents are incongruous with the objectives of a school, serious challenges for
educators are likely. A look at the religious composition of schools in various sections of the
country will provide a sense of the diversity to be found in our schools.
As one visits various schools across the United States, distinctive patterns are apparent. In
some regions, schools are greatly influenced by religious groups in the community. In these
communities, the members of the school board, the appointment of the school administrative
leadership, and the curriculum may be shaped by the dominant religious groups. In other
regions, religion may have little if any influence on the nature of the schools. Consider these
• A rural high school in the South may be composed primarily of students from conservative
Protestant backgrounds such as Southern Baptist and the Church of Christ. Some students
may be members of United Methodist or other less conservative churches. In such a
district, local churches serve as the primary social institution for many of the students.
The curriculum and textbooks may be carefully scrutinized by the school board for
what it considers objectionable subject matter, such as sex education, evolution, and
alternative lifestyles.
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182 chapter 8 Religion
• In Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, or Ontario, Canada, a visitor may find some
students from Amish or Mennonite families. The Amish students can be identified
by their distinctive attire, and the students from Mennonite groups also dress
conservatively. The Amish students remain in school until they complete eighth grade.
In accordance with their beliefs, they will then leave school and work on their family
farm, which uses neither electricity nor motorized equipment. They often travel in
horse-drawn buggies. Most Mennonite students will complete school, and some will
go on to higher education and face no prohibitions against the use of electricity or
motorized vehicles.
• In Utah and some communities in Idaho, a visitor to the public schools may find that
most of the students are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
(LDS), also known as Mormons. Religion cannot be and is not taught in the public
schools, but church values may still be reflected in everyday school activities. In many of
the predominantly LDS communities, students in secondary schools are given release
time from their schools to attend seminaries, which are adjacent or in close proximity to
their public schools. The seminaries provide religious training by instructors employed
by the LDS church. Upon completion of high school, many of the male LDS students
and a few of the female students will serve for two years on church missions.
• In another U.S. community one encounters a wide range of religious backgrounds.
Some students are Roman Catholic, some are Baptists, and some are Jewish, while
others are Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist. A few are atheists, and some are agnostics.
The atheists believe that there is no God, while the agnostics argue that we do not and
cannot know whether in fact God or gods exist. While religion may be important to
some of the students and their families, it does not heavily influence the curriculum or
daily life in the schools in this community.
These examples suggest that communities in the United States, Canada, and some other
countries are religiously very diverse and that the religious makeup of some communities may
be influential in the overall culture of the schools.
Like other institutions in the United States, most schools have a historical legacy of white
Protestant domination. Such influence has determined the holidays, usually Christian holidays
such as Christmas, celebrated by most public schools. Moreover, the dominant Protestant groups
have determined many of the moral teachings that have been integrated into the public schools.
the first amendment and the
separation of church and state
The First Amendment clearly states that Congress is prohibited from making laws establishing
a religion or prohibiting religious worship. This has been consistently interpreted by the courts
as affirming the principle of separation of church and state. One of the most valued parts of our
Constitution, this provision is also one of the most controversial. Throughout the history of
this country, various individuals and groups have sought to interpret this amendment to meet
their own needs and interests. For some, religious emphasis is appropriate in the public schools
as long as it is congruent with their own religious persuasion. These same individuals, however,
may be quick to cite the constitutional safeguards for separation of church and state if other
groups attempt to infuse their religious dogmas. Equity and propriety are often in the eye of
the beholder, and one’s religious orientation may strongly inf luence one’s perception of what
constitutes objectivity, fairness, and legality.
Since the removal of prayer from the schools by a 1963 Supreme Court decision, reli-
gious groups have continued to fight to restore prayer in the schools through state and federal
legislation. Parent groups have also fought on religious grounds to prevent the teaching of sex

Watch the video
“Amish Buggies and
School Children” (https://www
S4xhZgOhnxg) to see how
Amish children dress and the
means of transportation they
and their families use.
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Religion as a Way of Life 183
education and evolution. Parents have fought verbally and even physically over what books
their children should read and what curriculum should be used in social studies and science
classes. Members of more liberal Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish denominations often say
that they want their children exposed to the perspectives of different religious and ethnic
groups. Members of the more conservative groups may argue that they do not want their
children exposed to what they consider the immoral perspectives and language inherent in
certain instructional materials.
Community resistance to cultural pluralism and multicultural education has, at times,
been led by individuals associated with conservative religious groups. Because cultural plu-
ralism inevitably involves religious diversity, multicultural education is sometimes viewed as
an impediment to efforts to maintain the status quo or to return to the religious values of the
past. Multicultural education, however, provides a basis for understanding and appreciating
diversity and minimizes the problems related to people being different from one another.
Of all the subcultures examined in this book, religion may be the most problematic for
educators. If the educator is from a religious background that is different from that prevalent
in the community or has a perspective about the role of religion that differs from that of the
community, misunderstanding and conflicts may arise that prevent effective instruction. If an
educator does not understand or ignores the role of religion in the lives of students, it may be
difficult to develop appropriate instructional strategies or even retain one’s position.
Religion as a Way of Life
Many religions are particularistic, in that members believe that their own religion is uniquely
true and legitimate, and all others are invalid. Other religious groups accept the validity of
distinct religions that have grown out of different historical experiences.
The Importance of Religion in Our Lives
The United States can be considered a religious country. Seventy-eight percent of Americans
say that religion is very or fairly important to them (Newport, 2013).
Religion is clearly an important aspect of the lives of many people. Although it may have
little impact on the lives of some, it influences the way many individuals think, perceive, and
behave. Religious groups can influence the election of school board members as well as the
curriculum and textbooks used in schools. Principals, teachers, and superintendents have been
hired and fired due to the influence of these groups.
Freedom of Religious Expression
Brazil, Japan, the United States, Italy, South Africa, and the United Kingdom are among the
nations with the least restriction on religious expression. However, individuals in other coun-
tries are not as fortunate. Grim (2013) reported that approximately one-third of the world’s
countries have restrictive policies on religion. Adding to this concern is the alarming fact that
nearly 70% of the world’s population live in these countries. Some of the restrictions are pri-
marily a function of the government, while social hostilities may be imposed on citizens with
unfavorable religious ties. At times, government and society restrictions work in tandem.
Globally, the Middle East and North Africa tend to have the most stringent government
and social restrictions on religion. Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and India are among the
countries most restrictive with respect to both governmental pressures and social hostilities
toward religious minority groups. World leaders were hopeful that the Middle East and North
Africa Arab Spring uprisings (2010–11) would result in an easing of the regions’ religious
restrictions. However, a study by the Pew Research Center found that the already high restric-
tions actually increased (Pew Research Center, 2013a).
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184 chapter 8 Religion
While religious differences often cause frustration and acrimony in school and society, those
who live in a country such as the United States often take freedom of religious expression for
granted. It is this freedom that allows citizens to disagree. Students should be taught that many
others in the world do not enjoy our religious liberties and that we ourselves need to be vigilant
to ensure that unconstitutional restrictions and rulings are not imposed on our citizenry.
Religious groups addressed in the text. The United States and other countries
such as neighboring Canada are unique in the religious diversity of their people. Religion is
particularly important to those who adhere to a religious faith. As such, the authors of this text
consider all religions to be important. We believe that religious diversity should be embraced
and celebrated wherever peaceful and harmonious coexistence is valued.
Some religious groups, which exist in smaller numbers in our schools, will not be addressed
in the text. If there are students from these groups in your schools, we urge you to research
them on the Internet or through the use of a good text of comparative religions. Familiarizing
yourself with the religious beliefs and practices of your students and their families will enable
you to provide more effectively for their needs.
Religious Pluralism in the united states
Religion in the United States is constantly changing. While some may assume that most Asian
Americans adhere to Asian-based religions, such as Buddhism, they are often surprised to learn
that 42% are Christians (Pew Research Center, 2012a). Some African Americans have left
traditional African American Protestant churches and joined the ranks of the Black Muslims.
Tens of thousands of Latinos have left the Roman Catholic Church for Pentecostal churches,
and some college students have embraced Buddhism.
Americans tend to identify not only with major groups, such as Protestants, Catholics,
or Jews, but also with smaller groups or denominations within these major religious groups.
For example, former President Jimmy Carter, a Southern Baptist, identifies himself as a “born
again” Christian. Others may identify themselves as charismatic Catholics. Within each major
group is considerable heterogeneity.
Most denominations have remained in their traditional regional strongholds, with Cath-
olics in the Northeast, liberal and moderate Protestants in the Northeast and Midwest, and
conservative Protestants in the South. Some groups, however, have expanded their base con-
siderably. For example, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and members of the United Church of
Christ are no longer as concentrated in the Northeast as they once were; some numerical base
shifts have been made into the Sun Belt, primarily the southern and southwestern regions.
Conservative Protestants, such as Southern Baptists, are growing in all regions, including the
Northeast and the West. Mormons have extended their influence far beyond the borders of
Utah, Idaho, and Nevada. Their presence is felt in every state, as well as in many other coun-
tries. The Jewish population tends to be located in metropolitan areas throughout the country,
with large concentrations in the mid-Atlantic region.
Seventy-seven percent of the U.S. population identifies themselves as Christians. Until
early in the twentieth century, Protestantism was by far the dominant religious force in the
country. In 2012, 48% of U.S. residents identified themselves as Protestant (Associated Press,
2012), 23.3% as Catholic, 2.1% as Mormon, 1.7% as Jewish, and 0.6% as Muslim (Newport,
2012). Islam, in recent years, has grown rapidly in the United States, more than doubling in
number of adherents since 1990. Those who did not respond or indicated no religious iden-
tity represent 15.6% of the population. Although Judaism has decreased numerically and as a
percentage of the U.S. population, it is still routinely listed as one of the three major religious
groups. This may be due to the fact that Judaism has been a driving force for such a long
period of U.S. history and because Jewish individuals have provided so much leadership in the
cultural, economic, and political landscape of the country.
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Religious Pluralism in the United States 185
Some denominational differences have their origins in ethnic differences. The English
established the Anglican (Episcopalian) and Puritan (later Congregational) churches here;
the Germans established some of the Lutheran, Anabaptist, and Evangelical churches; the
Dutch, Reformed churches; the Spanish, French, Italians, Poles, and others, Roman Catholic
churches; and the Ukrainians, Armenians, Greeks, and others, Eastern Orthodox churches.
Over time, many of these ethnic denominations united or expanded their membership to
include other ethnic groups (Ellwood & McGraw, 2014; Fisher, 2014; Young, 2013).
Although religious pluralism has fostered the rapid accommodation of many American
religious movements toward acceptability and respectability within society, groups such as
Jehovah’s Witnesses have maintained their independence. The smaller groups that maintain
their distinctiveness have historically been victims of harassment by members of mainstream
religious groups. Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Children of God, and the Unification
Church are minority groups that have been subjected to such treatment.
Conflict among the four major faiths (Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam) has
also been intense at different periods in history. Anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Catholic
sentiments are still perpetuated in some households and institutions. Although religious plu-
ralism in our past has often led to conflict, the hope of the future is that it will lead to a better
understanding and respect for religious differences. In the following sections, we examine in
greater detail four major faiths and a few others that educators may find in various U.S. schools.
a changing Religious Landscape
While the United States has remained primarily a Christian nation, with strong Protestant
inf luence, the country has seen slow but steady changes in the past few decades. A survey by
the Pew Research Center (2015b) revealed some interesting trends that may be alarming to
Table 8.1 tRends in subPOPuLatiOns
groups indicating no Religious identification (nones) Percentage of nones
Whites 21
African Americans 17
Mexican Americans 14
Younger Americans (18–24) 32
Middle-age Americans (45–54) 16
Older Americans (75+) 7
Men 1990 10
Men 2012 24
Women 1990 6
Women 2012 16
High school dropouts 16
Advanced degrees 24
Political liberals 40
Political moderates 18
Political conservatives 9
Mountain states 28
Pacific states 25
Northeast states 24
Midwest states 19
Southern states 15
Source: From Hout, M., Fischer, C. S., and Chaves. M. A., (March 7, 2013), More Americans Have No Religious
Preference: Key Findings from the 2012 General Social Survey, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues: Berkeley,
CA, . Used by permission.
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186 chapter 8 Religion
some religious groups, especially Protestants. In the 1960s, two out of three Americans iden-
tified themselves as Protestants. As recently as 2007, Protestants were still a majority, at 53%
of the population, but by 2014, Protestants were down to 40.1% and no longer a majority.
The decrease in the number of Protestants may be due in part to the increase of the nones, or
those who claim no religious affiliation. In 1972, only 5% of the U.S. population indicated no reli-
gious affiliation. In 1990, 8% did, and by 2014, the nones increased to 22.8% (Pew Research Center,
2015b). Hout et al. (2013) indicated that “no religion” does not equate to “atheism.” They sug-
gested that atheism is actually rather rare, with only 3% indicating that they did not believe in God.
The General Social Survey provides unique insight into the views of some groups of
Americans and their perceptions about religion and about God or a supreme being (Hout
et al., 2013). The survey found that as a group, women tended to be more religious than men,
whites were more likely to indicate no religious affiliation than some other groups, and older
Americans tended to indicate a higher degree of religious identification than their younger
counterparts. Less educated people and political conservatives are either more religious or
maintain a higher level of religious identity than do those with advanced degrees.
One of the variables contributing to the changing religious landscape of the United States
is the demographic characteristics of the newest immigrants granted permanent residency.
Over the past two decades, permanent residency has been obtained by about 1 million individ-
uals each year. The geographic origins of these immigrants have been shifting from Europe
and the Americas to Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and North Africa. These shifts
have been accompanied by the religious diversity of the new residents.
In the East San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County, the Hsi Lai Temple, the larg-
est Buddhist temple in the Western Hemisphere, is located in Hacienda Heights, California.

Top left to right Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights (Buddhist), the Walnut Gurudwara (Sikh temple), the First Korean Southern
Baptist Church of Walnut, and the San Gabriel Valley Islamic Center are located within close proximity of each other in the San
Gabriel Valley in southern California. All photos (© Philip Chinn)
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Religious Pluralism in the United States 187
In 2013, a new Islamic center was built in the adjacent community of Rowland Heights. A
Korean Southern Baptist church is located just over a mile away, in the City of Walnut, and a
Sikh temple is also located in Walnut, a mile away. A Hindu temple was completed in 2012 in
a nearby community, Chino Hills. These are but a few examples of how America’s immigrants
have changed not only the ethnic landscape of the country but the religious landscape as well.
The religious landscape of Canada has also been changing. While two-thirds of Canadians
identify themselves as Catholic or Protestant, these percentages have been dropping. Between
1971 and 2011, the percentage of Canadians identifying themselves as Catholic dropped from
47% to 39%. The drop among Protestants was even greater, from 41% to 27%. These drops
came against the gains of those identifying other religions, which increased from 4% to 11%,
and those with no religious affiliation, from 4% to 24%. Between 1986 and 2012, religious
attendance in Canada dropped from 44% to 27%. Much like their U.S. counterparts, the
youngest groups showed the largest percentage of non-religious affiliation (29%), while the
older groups the lowest percentage of non-affiliation (12%). Among immigrants to Canada
arriving between 2001 and 2011, 22% were Catholic, 17% Protestant, 39% other religions,
and 21% unaffiliated (Pew Research Center, 2013c).
North America is exceptional in its changing religious landscape. Brazil is an example of
another country in another continent where significant religious changes have taken place in
recent years. Brazil has more Roman Catholics than any other country in the world, an esti-
mated 123 million. However, in recent years, the percentages of Protestants, other religions,
and non-religiously affiliated individuals has grown. Between 1970 and 2010, the percentage
of Brazilians identifying as Catholics dropped from 92% to 65%. The percentage identifying
as Protestants increased from 4% to 22%, other religions from 2% to 5%, and religiously
unaffiliated from 1% to 8%. This is an example of how the status of religion is dynamic in
much of the world, changing with the times and with the overall demographics of its residents
(Pew Research Center, 2013b).
Much of Europe, once a citadel for Christianity, has become increasingly secular in the
past several decades. A prominent British politician has complained that aggressive secularists
have made it difficult for people of faith to live with their faith (Baggini, 2012).
the end of christian america?
In April 2009 the feature article in Newsweek was titled “The End of Christian America” (Meacham,
2009). Based on the findings of the American Religious Identification Survey (Kosmin &
Keysar, 2009), it sent shockwaves across much of the country’s religious communities. The
declines in religiosity in the Northeast, considered the foundation or the home base of American
religion, were seen as especially troubling. The increasing numbers of individuals identifying
themselves as “unchurched,” or “nones,” fueled concern then as is it does now among religious
groups. The number of individuals who described themselves as atheists or agnostics had
increased from 1 million in 1990 to 2.4% of the population, or as many as 7 million (Lipka, 2013).
While 3 out of 4 Americans continue to identify themselves as Christians, the country
is less Christian than it was 25 years ago, when 86% indicated that they were of that faith
(, 2009). However, the United States continues to be a religious country. Some of
the concerns emanate from conservative Christians, who feel that they are losing the battle
over issues related to school prayer, abortion, and same-sex marriage. They are fearful of what
they perceive as non-Christian religious influences brought into the country by immigrants.
Concerned that the country may be moving toward a Europe-like secular state, they seek to
return the country to their vision of a Christian America.
As contemporary Christianity evolves in U.S. society, there is an apparent dichotomy
between the conservative Christian community and the liberal/moderate Christians and
non-Christians. Some conservatives choose to home-school their children to shelter them
from what they view as objectionable elements in society. They may tend to avoid those who
do not share their conservative values.
These findings have implications for both educators and students. Educators who share
conservative values, even if in keeping with majority community values, are professionally
obligated to respect the religious values of all of their students, even when they have personal
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188 chapter 8 Religion
concerns regarding their students’ religious or spiritual life. Educators also need to be vigi-
lant for students who demonstrate religious intolerance toward others. Some religious groups
emphasize the importance of proselytizing to win non-believers to their faith. Although it is
their right to hold these beliefs, it is not their right to impose them on others in the public
school setting.
The Western Europeans who immigrated to the United States in large numbers brought with
them their various forms of Protestantism. While claiming 40.1% of the population (Pew
Research Center, 2015b,), Protestants in the United States no longer constitute the dominant
numerical majority as in previous decades but continue to inf luence society and institutions.
To illuminate the differences within Protestantism, the faith is sometimes divided into
two broad categories—liberal and conservative. Liberal Protestants include denomina-
tions that may be characterized by some as moderates. Sometimes referred to as Mainline
Protestants, they stress the right of individuals to determine for themselves what is true in
religion. They believe in the authority of Christian experience and religious life rather than
the dogmatic church pronouncements and interpretations of the Bible. They are likely to
support and participate in social action. They may or may not believe in the virgin birth of
Jesus, and they may not share their conservative counterparts’ belief in the inerrancy of the
Bible. Some may not accept the miracles cited in the Bible as factual. The United Church
of Christ and Episcopal churches are examples, although the degree of liberalism depends on
the individual congregation. Methodists and Disciples of Christ represent more moderate
denominations within this category. In recent years, Mainline Protestants have suffered
most of the Protestant losses, although conservative Protestants have also experienced some
losses (Bradshaw, 2013).
Conservative Protestants generally believe that the Bible is inerrant, that the super-
natural is distinct from the natural, that salvation is essential, and that Jesus will return in
bodily form during the Second Coming. They emphasize personal morality rather than social
ethics. Southern Baptists are the largest group in this category.
effects of Protestantism on education. Protestants have a long history of involve-
ment in both public and private educational programs. Differences in beliefs among Protes-
tants have resulted in many court cases to determine what can or cannot be taught to or asked
of students in the public schools. Efforts by some fundamentalist Christians to institute the
teaching of creationism has resulted in litigation. Jehovah’s Witnesses have had issues with
schools because some of their children have refused to salute the flag. Some Amish have fought
in courts to remove their children from public schools after they have completed eighth grade.
Other religious groups continue to fight against the 1963 Supreme Court decision that
disallowed prayer in school.
In 1701, 10 Connecticut clergymen founded Yale, the nation’s third-oldest university.
Now considered a non-sectarian institution, Yale still maintains some religious influence with
its prestigious Yale Divinity School. Baylor University (Southern Baptist), Southern Methodist
University (United Methodist), Goshen College (Mennonite), and Centre College (Presby-
terian) are a few examples of the hundreds of Protestant institutions of higher education in
the United States that have educated and influenced the lives of millions of American and
international students.
evangelicals. Evangelicals have been part of the religious landscape of the United States
since the mid-1700s. Billy Graham and his ministry is one of the best-known examples of
contemporary evangelical Christianity. Evangelicals are conservative Christians, primarily
Protestants, who insist on the necessity of a conversion, or “born again,” experience; acceptance
of the authority of the Bible; and acceptance of the birth, miracles, and resurrection of Jesus as
supernatural events (Corrigan & Hudson, 2010; Hopfe & Woodward, 2012). Estimates suggest
that between 23% and 24% (Wright, 2013) and 26.3% (Pew Research Center, 2014a) of the
U.S. population identify themselves as evangelicals.
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Religious Pluralism in the United States 189
In recent years, there has been phenomenal growth in evangelical churches. They have
utilized mass communication, including television, to get their message to their faithful. Some
have become megachurches, with weekly attendance of 2,000 or more—some exceeding
10,000—and providing an array of services including job banks, counseling, and even dating
Evangelicals are strong supporters of the pro-life movement. Opposition to abortion has
become a centerpiece of the Catholic–Protestant alliance for conservatives. Evangelicals have
opened crises pregnancy centers near Planned Parenthood centers to counter the work of pro-
choice advocates. They campaign for laws that reflect their pro-life positions, limiting access
to abortions.
Gay and lesbian behaviors go against the values of evangelicals, who strongly believe that
one can overcome what they believe is a sin with the help of God and the religious community.
Evangelicals are also fighting against what they view as alarming changes in culture,
involving issues such as gender, sexuality, and the family. They are distressed over changing
sexual standards, the ordination of women, birth control, divorce rates, the decline in family
authority, the ban on prayer in schools, and the teaching of evolution.
To advance their agenda, evangelicals have sought to influence the outcomes of many local
and national elections and have in some instances helped shape public policies. Joining with
conservatives from Jewish and Catholic groups, they have been influential in the outcomes
of some presidential elections (e.g., George W. Bush) as well as the 1994 and 2010 midterm
elections. Many actively supported Mitt Romney in the 2012 elections, as well as Republicans in
Congressional, state, and local elections. They have had an impact on state and local elections,
direct and indirect influences on the composition of school boards, and a say in judicial appoint-
ments. Their support in electing conservative presidents has resulted in the appointment of
conservative federal justices, whose interpretation of the law will have a lasting effect for decades.
There has been an increasing division between some conservative evangelicals and their
moderate counterparts. Some moderate evangelicals have taken a more conciliatory approach
to gays and lesbians. These moderates, tiring of the divisive politics of religion, are embracing
a wider-ranging agenda, with an emphasis on reaching out to the poor and disenfranchised and
focusing on other social and human rights issues. While these evangelical moderates tend to
lean more toward the middle both politically and religiously than their fundamentalist evan-
gelical counterparts, they are typically far more conservative than most mainline Protestants.
evangelicals and education. Evangelical Christians have differing views on education.
Some of the more conservative evangelicals prefer to send their children to private Christian
schools, while others prefer to home-school their children. Some believe it is their responsibility
to take over the schools and to infuse the curriculum with a Christian orientation.
Evangelicals are concerned about the hiring of gay and lesbian teachers, and also with
the modern curriculum, which they view as harmful to America’s children because it lacks a
Christian influence.
School prayer remains an important issue among many evangelicals. Tuition tax credits
are another issue that is often raised, especially among individuals who have removed their
children from public schools in favor of private Christian schools. These issues are addressed
later in this chapter.
Some evangelicals do support the schools instilling a common core of values and morality,
a policy many in the country would support. They want the schools to focus on basic academics—
reading, writing, and mathematics—rather than social concerns (e.g., poverty, human rights
violations, gender equity, ethnic studies). They are concerned with what they view as unfair
discrimination against religious studies in the schools, such as creation science or intelligent
Evangelicals are among those who reject Charles Darwin’s view of evolution. Newport
(2010) reported that 40% of Americans surveyed believe that God created humans 6,000 to
10,000 years ago in essentially their current form. Evangelicals are firmly behind the move-
ment to either rid the schools of evolution in the curriculum or to establish alternative the-
ories. The most often cited alternative theory is creation science. Creation science accepts
the creation of all living things in six days, literally as presented in the Bible (Farwell, 2014).

Watch the video
“Multi-Site Mega-
churches Multiply in America”
/watch?v=_TXFet1RBCs) to
see an evangelical multisite
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190 chapter 8 Religion
Opponents of creation science suggest that it is not a science, but a theory based on a biblical
A third theory has been proposed: intelligent design. Supporters of intelligent design
say that only an intelligent being could have created a natural world that is so complex and so
well ordered (Fisher, 2014). Some scientists and evolutionists suggest that intelligent design is
creationism veiled in a relatively new term.
Evangelicals may not be a numerical majority in the United States, but they are an influ-
ential force in our society. Their efforts affect politics, our judicial system, our legal system,
and our schools. Whether educators agree or disagree with their views and practices, it is
important to understand that what evangelicals want for the country is no different from what
most other religious persuasions seek. They envision a safer, more moral America, one free of
drugs, crime, and violence. While some educators may not share the values of the evangelicals
or agree with how they intend to accomplish their goals, it may be helpful to recognize who
they are and what they seek to achieve. This can help being respectful of their values and may
minimize the likelihood of conflict over curriculum and student assignments.
Political influence of Protestants and Other Religious groups. The political leadership
in the United States often reflects the influence of various religious groups. Ninety-eight
percent of members of Congress indicate a specific religious affiliation. The vast majority
are Christian. In 2014, as in the past, Protestants led in representation in Congress, with
56%, as compared to the 48% of the general population who indicated they were Prot-
estants. Roman Catholics followed, with 31%, higher than the Gallup finding of 23.3%
for the general population. Jewish members of Congress made up 6.2% of the House
and Senate seats, considerably higher than their 1.7% proportion of the general popu-
lation. The Mormon presence in Congress was 2.8%, also higher than their 2.1% in the
overall population. Three members of Congress are Buddhists, two are Muslims, and
one is Hindu. Eleven members of the 113th Congress do not list a religious affiliation
(Manning, 2014).
While the American electorate has shown its willingness to send significant numbers of
Jewish individuals, and smaller numbers of Muslim and Buddhist individuals, to Congress,
religious affiliation continues to be an issue in elections for public office. In 1928, Alfred Smith,
the Democratic presidential candidate, lost in a landslide. Many Protestants were fearful that
Smith would be strongly influenced by the Vatican. When John F. Kennedy became the Dem-
ocratic presidential candidate in 1960, some of the same concerns were echoed regarding his
Catholic faith. Kennedy was able to overcome these concerns, and the rest became part of
U.S. history. In 2012, Mitt Romney became the Republican Party’s presidential candidate,
and his affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS or Mormon)
became an issue among some of the electorate. While Romney lost the election, he won 79%
of the evangelical support, even more than the 73% that Senator John McCain had won in the
2008 election (Ekstrom, 2012). Senator Harry Reid, who became the Senate majority leader
in 2007, is also a Mormon.
In 2012, Mazie Hirono was elected as the first Buddhist member of the Senate. The
House seat that Hirono gave up was won by Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to Con-
gress (Ekstrom, 2012). The increasing diversity in the U.S. Congress reflects the increasing
diversity of the country. It also indicates a willingness of segments of U.S. society to elect
candidates from less traditional backgrounds. Although the United States is not yet free from
religious bias, the religious landscape is changing.
Although the doctrine and pattern of worship within the Catholic Church are uniform, indi-
vidual parishes differ to some extent according to the race, ethnic background, and social class
of their members. Individual dioceses also may differ in keeping with the conservative or liberal
(progressive) views of the presiding bishop. Unlike the Protestant faith, however, which includes
denominational pluralism, the Catholic faith is a single denomination under the Pope, who has
authority over all Catholics throughout the world.
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Religious Pluralism in the United States 191
With 23.3% of the U.S. population identifying with the Roman Catholic Church
(Newport, 2012), there may be close to 70 million in the American Catholic Church.
Today, the Catholic Church in the United States is the wealthiest national church in the
Roman Catholic world and contributes approximately half of its income to the Church in
Rome. The increasing numbers of American cardinals and American priests appointed to
important posts in Rome attest to the growing importance of the Catholic Church in the
United States (Corrigan & Hudson, 2010).
diversity among catholics. The movement toward conservatism has not been limited
to Protestants. In many instances, conservative Catholics have joined forces with conservative
Protestants on such issues as abortion and sexual morality. Some Catholics have even aban-
doned their traditional support of the Democratic Party to support conservative Republican
candidates. On the other end of the continuum, some Catholics have protested the conserva-
tive position of their church regarding the limited participation of women in leadership roles,
and some support the pro-choice movement. Some Catholics ignore their church’s position
on certain forms of birth control, while others continue to strictly follow church directives.
Membership in U.S. Catholic churches involves many different ethnic groups. Some
parishes are predominantly Irish, while others are predominantly Italian, Polish, Mexican,
Puerto Rican, or other ethnic groups. A parish may choose to conduct services in the predom-
inant language group of its parishioners or may have individual masses for different language
groups. Cultural events of the ethnic groups may be incorporated into the daily activities of
the particular parish (e.g., Quinceañera for Latino females reaching the age of 15).
Pope francis. In March 2013, the College of Cardinals in Rome elected Cardinal Jorge
Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as the new Roman Catholic pope. At that time, he took the
name Francis, and he has since been known to the world as Pope Francis. As the first
non-European Pope, Francis is an outsider chosen to succeed two previous conservative
popes, John Paul II and Benedict.
Pope Francis immediately demonstrated a change in style from his predecessors by reject-
ing the personal residence in the Papal Palace in favor of a modest three-room apartment.
He travels in ordinary cars rather than limousines, carries his own bag, and has washed the
feet of non-Catholics. When asked about his attitude about gays and lesbians, Pope Francis
responded, “Who am I to judge?” This is in contrast to the usual position of the Catholic
Church that homosexuality is an “intrinsic disorder” (Phillips, 2014).
Many in the Catholic Church who have endured abuse by priests see a hopeful sign that
Pope Francis will bring about reforms and make the Catholic Church a more welcoming
and inclusive church. While the style of the pope has changed from that of his predeces-
sor, the likelihood of substantive change remains to be seen. The pope must work with the
Roman Curia, the administrative body of the Church, which is a powerful body run by many
conservative cardinals.
effect on education. In addition to its phenomenal numerical growth, the Roman Catholic
Church in the United States has developed the largest private educational system in the world.
In many communities, Catholic parochial schools offer quality educational options to both
Catholic and non-Catholic students at a lower cost than most other private institutions.
With thousands of elementary and secondary schools from Vermont to Hawaii and such
internationally recognized universities as Notre Dame, Creighton, and Loyola, Roman
Catholic schools and universities have educated millions of Americans and greatly influenced
the culture of the country.
Judaism is one of the oldest religions known to humanity and also provides the historical roots
of both Catholicism and Protestantism. Primarily as a result of Jews from many countries
amalgamating under the identification of Jewish American, Judaism has become one of the
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192 chapter 8 Religion
major faiths in this country. While the Jewish population in the United States is relatively small,
the contributions of Jewish Americans to the fields of medicine, science, academia, business,
economics, entertainment, and politics in the United States have been profound.
In the nineteenth century, large numbers of Jews emigrated from Germany, and many
began moving from Jewish enclaves along the East Coast to other parts of the country. Reli-
gious persecution in countries such as Russia and Germany brought additional Jewish refugees
to the United States in the twentieth century.
Newport (2012) estimated the U.S. Jewish population to be 1.7% of the total U.S. pop-
ulation, which would today total approximately 5.4 million. Compared with the Protestant
and Catholic populations, the Jewish population has decreased significantly numerically and
in percentage of the general population over the past 50 years, partly as a result of intermar-
riage and low birth rates. Yet, as a group, the Jews remain a distinctive, identifiable religious
minority whose social standing and influence are disproportionate to their numbers. Educa-
tion, including higher education, has played an important role in the Jewish community by
advancing young people from the working class into white-collar and professional positions.
diversity within Judaism. There is no Jewish race. Jewish identity is a blend of historical,
religious, and ethnic variables. Early Jewish settlers in the United States found it difficult, if
not impossible, to practice Judaism in the traditional ways that they had observed in Europe.
Jewish religious practices and patterns were modified to meet the needs of the immigrants and
in ways that made them characteristically American.
While some Jewish families have maintained their ties to Orthodox and Conservative
Judaism, the majority of American Jews are now affiliated with Reform synagogues. Reform
Jews represent the more liberal end of the continuum. According to Jewish law, one who is
born to a Jewish mother or who converts to Judaism is considered a Jew. Reform Jews also
accept children born to non-Jewish mothers as Jews. Orthodox Jews tend to hold firm to
Jewish law, including rules on diet and dress. Conservative Judaism represents the moderates
in Judaism. They are more conservative than the members of Reform congregations and often
more liberal than the Orthodox Jews. “Conservative” indicates the group’s attempt to conserve
traditional Judaism rather than to reform. It does not
indicate political conservatism. Some Conservative
Jews observe kosher dietary laws, while others do not.
Both Reform and Conservative Judaism allow women
to be ordained as rabbis.
Although most Jews identify with their religion,
the Jewish practice of religion is relatively loose
regarding synagogue attendance and home religious
observance. Nevertheless, the U.S. synagogue is the
strongest agency in the Jewish community. Although
they may not attend services regularly, a large percent-
age of Jews retain some affiliation with a synagogue.
Attendance on High Holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah,
Yom Kippur, and Passover, however, is usually high.
The synagogue in the United States serves not only as
a place of religious worship but also as a primary base
for Jewish identity and cultural survival.
effect on education. The majority of Jewish children attend public K–12 schools. Many
of the Reform Jewish temples or synagogues throughout the country operate private pre-
schools and kindergartens. In some of the larger Jewish communities, particularly among the
Orthodox groups, yeshivas, or private religious schools, provide instruction in both academics
and in-depth religious studies. Jewish universities such as Yeshiva University in New York and
Brandeis University in Massachusetts have made significant contributions to higher education
in the United States.
A thirteen-year-old Jewish
male in a Reform synagogue
in Hawaii observes his Bar
Mitzvah by reading from
the Torah in Hebrew, while
his cousin, his uncle, and
the cantor look on. This
event marks his entry into
religious adulthood.
(© Philip Chinn)
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Religious Pluralism in the United States 193
For decades American schools have observed the Christian holiday of Christmas. In the
past 30 or 40 years, educators have become increasingly sensitive to the diversity of the stu-
dents in their schools. December is usually the time of the year when Jewish families observe
Chanukah (Hanukkah), an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating a historical event in Jew-
ish history. Many schools, in the spirit of inclusiveness and sensitivity, now refer to the holiday
vacation period as the December school recess and December school parties as holiday parties.
anti-semitism. Jews in the United States and throughout the world have been targets of
prejudice and discrimination, sometimes leading to attempted annihilation of the population.
During World War II the Jewish Holocaust resulted in the deaths of millions of European
Jews. For several years, the civilized world ignored the overwhelming evidence of the Nazi
atrocities and did nothing to intervene. Now, in the twenty-first century, neo-Nazis and
others suggest that the Jewish Holocaust was a myth that never happened. Other attempts at
genocide persist in various places in the world. It is the responsibility of educators to help their
students understand that, even today, genocides are taking place in Europe, the Middle East,
Africa, and other parts of the world.
Anti-Semitism is rooted in Jewish–Gentile conflicts that have existed for centuries. In the
United States, Jews and Catholics were also targets of the Ku Klux Klan. In the 1960s some
Jews were forced to flee the South in fear of the Klan (Hopfe & Woodward, 2012). Discrim-
ination has occurred in both occupational and social life. In some instances, Jews have been
denied high-level corporate management positions and have had limited access to or been
barred from membership in social clubs. Periodic synagogue burnings and defacement are
reminders that anti-Semitic sentiments still exist.
As a religious term, Islam means to surrender to the will or law of God. Islam is one of the
major religions of the world, with over 1.6 billion adherents worldwide, and 23% of the world’s
population (Pew Research Center, 2012a). Worldwide, Islam is expected to be the fastest grow-
ing religion in the next four decades, nearly equaling the number of Christians by 2050. By that
year, Christians will still be the largest group with 2.92 billion adherents, but Muslims will be
close behind with an estimated 2.76 billion adherents (Pew Research Center, 2015c).
Islam is also one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States. The number of
Muslims in the United States varies greatly and depends on who is doing the reporting. The
Pew Research Center (2011b) estimated that there were 2.75 million Muslims in the United
States in 2011. Newport (2012) estimated that Muslims comprise 1.6% of the U.S. population.
That would amount to about 2 million adherents. The Pew Research Center (2011b) esti-
mated that 80,000 to 90,000 Muslim immigrants enter the United States annually. Grossman
(2012) reported that there were 2,106 mosques located throughout the United States in 2010,
an increase of 74% from the 1,209 reported in 2000. While many Americans believe Islam is
primarily a Middle Eastern religion, only a small portion of the world’s Muslims live in that
region. Indonesia, Pakistan, and India all have larger Muslim populations than any Middle
Eastern country. Indonesia, which has a Muslim population of over 209 million (DeSilver,
2013), has as many as two-thirds as many Muslims as the Middle East and North Africa
More than 100 years ago, a group of immigrants from the Middle East settled in Cedar
Falls, Iowa. They were among the first Muslims to settle in this country. The descendants of
those immigrants have maintained the religion of their ancestors, built a new mosque, and
become an integral part of their community. As everyday citizens, businesspeople, and profes-
sionals, they dress, talk, and act like any other Americans. Only their religion tends to distin-
guish them from their Christian and Jewish neighbors.
islamic beliefs. Those who practice Islam are Muslims. Islam is both a belief system
and a way of life for individuals and entire societies. Islam is based on the holy writings of the
Qur’an (or Koran). Muslims believe that the Qur’an consists of the exact words that were
revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad (A.D. 570–632). The

Watch the video
“Mosques in US Grow
Dramatically over the Past
Decade” (https://www
VWsuugQSUlA) to learn more
about the growth of Islam in
the United States.
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194 chapter 8 Religion
Qur’an’s basic theme is the relationship between God and His creatures. It provides guidelines
for a society that is just, with proper human conduct, and an economic system that is equitable.
Muslims believe that Islam began with Adam and continued through the line of prophets
including Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad. The basic tenets of Islam include:
1. Faith: Belief in one God (Allah) and in Mohammad as his last messenger.
2. Prayer: Five times daily, facing Mecca.
3. Charity: Contributing to the poor.
4. Fasting: No food or water from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan (the ninth month of the
Islamic year).
5. Pilgrimage: A visit to Mecca once in one’s lifetime (the Hajj) (Ellwood & McGraw, 2014).
The pilgrimage to Mecca is an obligation for those
who are physically and financially able. Muslims
worship the same God (Allah) as do Christians and
Jews. Christian Arabs also refer to God as Allah (Denny,
2011; Ellwood & McGraw, 2014).
islam and the West. The events of September
11, 2001, which resulted in the loss of thousands of
lives, focused world attention on Islamic extremists.
Since then, the United States has been in almost con-
tinuous conflict with Islamic extremists in Afghanistan
and Iraq. Around the world, in countries such as Spain,
the Philippines, Great Britain, and Indonesia, hun-
dreds of lives have been lost at the hands of Islamic
The continuing conflicts in both Iraq and Afghan-
istan and the ongoing strained relations with Iran have
drawn daily attention to Islamic extremists. By mid-
2014, 4,412 U.S. service personnel had lost their lives in Iraq and another 2,200 in Afghani-
stan, with tens of thousands more wounded (U.S. Department of Defense, 2014).
Since the events of 9/11, many Americans have maintained negative views toward Islam,
Muslim Americans, and Arab Americans. According to Siddiqui (2014), 42% believed law
enforcement to be justified in profiling Arab Americans and Muslim Americans. Favorability
toward Arab Americans was 36% and toward Muslim Americans 27%, significantly lower
than it was in 2010. Various incidents involving militant Muslims have contributed to the
increased negative attitudes. Examples include the ongoing civil war in Syria, the atrocities by
the militant Islamic group ISIS (aka ISIL), the abduction of young girls in Nigeria by Boko
Haram, and the 2012 attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya. These resultant
attitudes have left many in the Western World with what Kincheloe, Steinberg, and Stone-
banks (2010) referred to as Islamaphobia. The writers suggested that Muslims have been
inaccurately defined by the media and politicians, resulting in a trickle-down effect into the
communities and the schools.
There certainly have been horrendous acts of violence committed by some individu-
als in the name of Islam. Americans have often questioned why Muslim leaders have not
denounced the terrorist activities. However, they have done so, repeatedly and emphatically.
The actions of the bombing terrorists in Boston were strongly denounced by Muslim lead-
ers, as were the actions of Boko Haram. Ninety percent of the victims of Islamic terrorists
are Muslims. ISIS killed a Muslim professor in Iraq who had denounced ISIS persecution
of Christians. The two largest Muslim organizations in the United States, the Council on
American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA),
have unequivocally denounced ISIS, stating that the group’s behaviors are un-Islamic and
morally repugnant. Their denunciation of ISIS was joined by that of 100 Sunni and Shia
imams in Great Britain. Muslim leaders in Turkey and Indonesia echoed their sentiments
(Obeidallah, 2014).
Educators will continue to
see increasing numbers
of religious minority
group students in their
classrooms, reflecting the
religious diversity of the
United States.
(© Con Tanasiuk/Design Pics Inc/
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Religious Pluralism in the United States 195
diversity within islam. Believers are of two major groups. Sunni Muslims, who com-
prise 85% of Islam, believe that the rightful leadership began with Abu Bakr and that the
succession has passed to caliphs, or political leaders. Shi’i or Shiite Muslims are a smaller
but highly visible group. Shiite Muslims believe that Muhammad intended the succession of
leadership to pass through the bloodline of his cousin and son-in-law, ‘Ali. Shiite Muslims
have attracted considerable world attention, in part because of their insistence of adherence to
Islamic law by their countries’ governments (Denny, 2011; Hopfe & Woodward, 2014).
Sunni Muslims dominate the Islamic world, including the Middle East. However, Shiite
Muslims are the majority numerically and in political control in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon.
Saddam Hussein, who led Iraq for many years, was a Sunni Muslim. He and his Sunni follow-
ers dominated the numerically superior Shiites in his country by force and at one time waged
war with the Shiite government in Iran. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 enabled
the long-oppressed Shiite majority to rise to power.
While the early religious differences between Shiite and Sunni Muslims continue, they are
probably not primary contributing factors to the ongoing violence between the two groups.
Politics and the struggle to maintain control of power has been the most likely issue. The
hardliners on both sides tend to see this as a struggle for the survival of their sect (Mizban,
2013). After the Shiites took control of the government in Iraq, they were resistant to sharing
the governance of the country with the Sunnis or the Kurds.
While there is often conflict within their own countries, members of the two sects often
involved themselves in conflicts in other countries. The civil war in Syria has fueled much
of the tensions and hatreds in the Middle East. President Assad’s regime has been backed by
Shiites in the region, including Lebanon’s Shi’a militant Islamist group, Hezbollah, which
has sent fighters to the conflict. This has inflamed the Sunnis throughout the region and sent
fighters including ISIS into the conflict (Mizban, 2013).
By August 2014, ISIS was occupying areas in northern and western Iraq and some key
areas within Syria. ISIS pursued thousands of Yazidis, an Iraqi ethnic minority/religious
group, onto the top of the barren Mt. Sinjar in northern Iraq. There the Yazidis were forced
to remain and die without food or water. ISIS considers the Yazidis, whose beliefs are an
ancient blend of religions including Zoroastrianism, Islam, and Christianity, to be devil
worshipers. They were threatened with slaughter if they did not convert to the ISIS form of
Critical Incidents in Teaching
ship them back to Where they came from?
The news media was replete with coverage of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, by Islamic
militants resulting in the loss of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. With this horrific incident
on the minds of many Americans, sixth-grader Bart Sherman entered his classroom and stated that his father had
said that we should just drop a really big bomb and nuke all of those Muslims in Libya, and we should ship all of
the Muslims in the United States back to where they came from. “My Dad’s right,” Bart stated. “That’s what we
should do.” Many in the class echoed their approval. Laura Gonzalez, Bart’s teacher, noticed Karimah Hoseini near
the back of the room with her eyes fixed to the floor. Ms. Gonzalez knew that Karimah was a Muslim and that
both she and her parents were born in the United States. Her father was a highly respected dentist in the
community. It was obvious that this verbal attack on Muslims was painful for Karimah.
QuestiOns fOR cLassROOm discussiOn
1. What should Ms. Gonzalez do about this situation?
2. What are some of the appropriate actions that Ms. Gonzalez could have taken when Chris began his attack
on Muslims?
3. What can Ms. Gonzalez do to assure Karimah of both her understanding and support?
4. How might Ms. Gonzalez turn this into a learning experience without seemingly attacking Bart’s father?
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196 chapter 8 Religion
Islam (Jalabi, 2014; Lee, 2014). Eventually the U.S. and coalition forces made food and water
drops to the Yazidis and provided an escape corridor down the mountain.
The goal of ISIS is to create an Islamic state with a sphere of political influence over Iraq,
Syria, and neighboring countries in the region. Well-equipped and well-funded ISIS is a potent
military force that U.S. leaders have stated are more powerful than Al-Qaeda was on 9/11, and
are intent on bringing terror to the United States and the rest of the Western world (Gregory,
2014). The ISIS army was estimated to be between 10,000 and 40,000 in the fall of 2014. With
the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, suggestions that the behaviors of the ISIS militants reflect
the attitudes typical of most Muslims are unfair and unjustified. The vast majority of Muslims
tend to be contemptuous of the actions of terrorists like ISIS. In 2014, Islamic countries such as
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates joined the United States
and their allies in attacks against ISIS. This was particularly notable since it meant that Sunni
Arab countries attacked other Sunnis in order to eliminate Islamic terrorism.
effect on education. The majority of Muslim students in the United States and Canada
attend public schools. The September 11, 2001, attacks and the more recent hostilities in the
Middle East have increased concerns of some Muslim students in U.S. schools about their
personal safety and concerns that the wearing of traditional attire (e.g., head coverings for
women) could draw unfavorable attention to them. Educators need to remember that only a
very small minority of Muslims are militants and that the vast majority living in the United
States want to be an integral part of American society. Culturally responsive teaching requires
educators to examine their own attitudes and beliefs before they attempt to educate their
students. All educators should be committed to the creation of a school environment that is
emotionally and physically safe for all students.
In the United States, about 40,000 students attend 240–250 private Islamic schools. These
schools are designed to provide full-time educational programs to help children grow into
productive citizens in society and productive citizens in the hereafter (Huus, 2011). As a group,
U.S. Muslims tend to be reasonably well educated. Eleven percent indicate that they have gone
through graduate study, another 15% are college graduates, and an additional 19% have had
some college. Fifty-nine percent were working part or full time, the same percentage as in the
general U.S. population (Pew Research Center, 2011b).
black muslims. While U.S. Black Muslims have primarily aligned themselves with the
Sunni form of Islam, they form a unique identity of their own. They are generally thought of
as separate from the rest of Islam.
Elijah Poole (1875–1975), who became known as Elijah Muhammad, led the Nation of
Islam into national visibility. In the early 1960s Malcolm X (1925–1965) became the most
articulate spokesperson for the Nation of Islam (Ellwood & McGraw, 2014; Fisher, 2014).
Malcolm X and other Black Muslims sought to use the Nation of Islam to engage African
Americans in economic nationalism and to instill in them a sense of pride and achievement.
This was accomplished through rejection of Christianity, which they taught was a symbol of
white oppression in America.
Wallace Deen Muhammad became the leader of the Nation of Islam after the death of
his father, Elijah Muhammad, in 1975. Under his leadership, the Nation of Islam embraced
traditional Sunni Islam and changed its name to the American Muslim Mission. During the
1970s and 1980s, W. D. Muhammad, as he is known, dispensed with the racist rhetoric of his
sect’s past and led his followers toward orthodox Koranic Islam. As a result, the group often
supports conservative causes such as the free market. Hard work, personal responsibility, and
family values are expected of members (Fisher, 2014).
Louis Farrakhan, the well-known leader of the Black Muslims, led a splinter movement
in the 1980s that resumed the use of the original name, Nation of Islam (NOI), and the black
separatist position. He continues to receive considerable attention from the press and political
leaders because of his sometimes inflammatory rhetoric as well as his appeal to non-Muslim
African Americans. The anti-gay and anti-Semitic rhetoric by Nation of Islam leaders, including
Farrakhan, has limited the acceptance of the NOI by mainstream religious groups (Southern
Poverty Law Center, 2014b). However, members have become role models in many inner

Watch the video “For
Muslims, Ramadan Has
Special Meaning” (https:
to learn more about the
experience of Black Muslims
in the United States.
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Religious Pluralism in the United States 197
cities as they establish businesses. They often serve as visible neighborhood guardians against
crime and drug abuse and have assumed an important role in the rehabilitation of individuals
released from prison (Fisher, 2014).
Buddhism is one of the world’s major religions, with nearly a half billion adherents world-
wide. The Pew Research Center (2012a) indicated that the largest concentration of Bud-
dhists, approximately 480 million, live in Asia and the Pacific region. The distant
second-largest region is in North America, with approximately 3.8 million. Immigration of
Asians from countries such as China, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Japan, and Tibet brings
thousands of additional Buddhists into the United States and continually changes the reli-
gious demographics of the country. In the 20-year period between 1992 and 2012, over a
million Buddhist immigrants entered the United States. With Buddhists coming from so
many regions of the world, there are invariably different forms of Buddhism practiced. Bud-
dhist schools of thought or belief are united in a twofold orientation toward existence: a
fundamental negative attitude toward life and a pessimistic approach to ordinary existence.
Buddhists view existence itself as the problem with life. As long as there is existence, there
is suffering. The second common orientation of all Buddhists is that Buddha provides a
solution to the frustrations of life. Each school of Buddhism provides a pathway to over-
come the meaninglessness of life. Buddha is the solution to life’s dilemma (Fisher, 2014;
Young, 2013).
Buddhism teaches that the path to enlightenment is neither through a life of luxury nor
through self-deprivation but through the middle way, away from the extremes. Salvation
and enlightenment occurs when one realizes his or her place of non-self in the world. With
enlightenment comes the state of nirvana, meaning a person’s individual desires and suffering
go away (Hopfe & Woodward, 2012; Young, 2013).
Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese individuals are often influenced by Confucian
philosophy, which guides daily behaviors in much the same way that a religion does. Thus,
some individuals may be Buddhist (or Christian or some other religion) with a strong philo-
sophical overlay of Confucianism. The commitment to academic excellence and respect for
parents, elders, and authority are characteristics often found among these groups of Asian stu-
dents. Many of these cultural traits can be directly or indirectly attributed to the Confucian
philosophy deeply instilled in many Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese students from
an early age.
Hinduism is the major religion of India and the world’s third-largest religion, after Christianity
and Islam. There are approximately 1 billion adherents in the world, representing 15% of the
world’s population (Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project, 2012b). The number of
Hindus in the United States is estimated to be around 1.8 million, or an estimated 0.6% of the
U.S. population (Pew Research Center, 2012a). Generally regarded as the world’s oldest orga-
nized religion, it differs from Christianity and other Western religions in that it does not have
a single founder. Hinduism has no central organization. Hinduism is credited with inf luencing
the development of both Buddhism and Jainism (Hopfe & Woodward, 2012).
Like most other religions, Hinduism involves basic beliefs about divinities, life after death,
and how followers should conduct their lives. Unlike Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Hinduism
does not limit itself to a single book or writing. Several sacred writings contribute to the basic
beliefs of Hinduism.
teachings of Hinduism. Hinduism teaches that the soul never dies. When the body
dies, the soul is reincarnated. The soul may be born into an animal or another human being.
The law of karma states that every action taken by an individual influences how he or she will
be reincarnated. Those who live a good life will be reincarnated into a higher state. Those who
do evil will be reincarnated in lower forms, such as a worm. Reincarnation continues until a
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198 chapter 8 Religion
person reaches spiritual perfection. The soul then enters a new level of existence, referred to
as moksha, from which it never returns (Ellwood & McGraw, 2014).
Other denominations and Religious groups
In addition to the four major faiths in the United States, there are several other religions an
educator might encounter in a community. They include Christian religious groups and
others that do not fall into the discrete categories of Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, or
Latter-day saints. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS or Mormon)
is a rapidly growing group that is neither Catholic nor Protestant. In the early 1830s,
Joseph Smith founded the LDS Church in western New York State. By his own account,
Smith was instructed to translate a history of ancient inhabitants of North America writ-
ten on tablets of gold, which had been stored in a nearby hillside. The translations were
published in 1830 as the Book of Mormon, which together with the Old and New Testa-
ments and some of Smith’s later revelations became the sacred scriptures of Mormonism
(Young, 2013).
Smith and his followers met opposition from Protestant groups, and they were
harassed and violently driven out of various communities. The Mormon practice of polyg-
amy (discontinued in 1890) exacerbated their unacceptability to other groups, and in 1844
Smith and his brother were killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois. With the death of Smith,
Brigham Young became the new leader of the group and led them to Utah, now the reli-
gious center of the Mormons. The Mormons aggressively proselytize and as a result have
grown to a membership of 6.4 million in the United States and 15 million worldwide
(Newsroom, 2014).
eastern Orthodoxy. The Eastern Orthodox Church is another Christian religion that
does not fall into the two major groupings of Protestant and Roman Catholic. One reason
that the Eastern Orthodox Church is lesser known in this country may be that its members,
from Syria, Greece, Armenia, Russia, and the Ukraine, only immigrated during the last cen-
tury. Although they split with the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 over theological, practical,
jurisdictional, cultural, and political differences, to many outsiders they appear very similar to
the pre–Vatican II Catholic church.
Worldwide, the Eastern Orthodox churches together have an estimated combined mem-
bership of 260 million, or 12% of the world’s Christian population. There are approximately
2 million Orthodox Christians in the United States (Pew Research Religion and Public Life
Project, 2011). There are 15 self-governing Orthodox churches worldwide, each with its own
patriarch, metropolitan, or archbishop as its spiritual leader (Fisher, 2014).
interaction of Religion with gender,
gay and Lesbian issues, and Race
Religion can significantly inf luence one’s perceptions, attitudes, and values. In some respects,
religion can be much like other cultures. One who lives in and with a religion absorbs the values
of that religious culture and often integrates it into his or her personal value system. Religion
inf luences attitudes toward issues such as gender, homosexuality, and race.
Religion and gender
In an era of gender equality in the general society of the United States, issues of gender equality
are often raised in religious institutions. In many of the more conservative religious bodies, the

Watch the video
“Young Mormons on
a Mission” (https://www
IaoBHJ3m0) to learn more
about Mormon missionaries
and the differences between
the LDS Church and other
Christian groups.
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Interaction of Religion with Gender, Gay and Lesbian Issues, and Race 199
role of women is clearly defined and limited. There are no female priests in the Roman Catholic
Church or Eastern Orthodox churches, no woman can attain the priesthood in the Mormon
Church, and very few conservative churches or denominations have ordained or are willing to
ordain women ministers. The same can be said about many other religious groups. At the 2000
annual Southern Baptist Convention, the 16,000 delegates voted on an explicit ban on women
pastors. This action followed an earlier one by the Baptists to support the submission of women
to their husbands.
While Lydia, Phoebe, and Priscilla were women mentioned in the New Testament as hav-
ing prominent roles in the early days of Christianity, other biblical passages are used to justify
the limitation of women in religious leadership roles. In supporting the limitations of female
leadership and submission of wives, some draw attention to the fact that Jesus’ disciples did
not include women. Biblical verses (e.g., I Corinthians 14:34–35) admonish women to submit
themselves to their husbands and indicate that the husband is the head of the wife.
Some believe that God gave men, through Adam (Genesis 1:26–27), dominion over Eve
and, therefore, men dominance over women. However, others argue that such an interpreta-
tion is incorrect and that both Adam and Eve (man and woman) were given dominion over
every other living thing. There are other biblical examples of women who were leaders or
prophets (e.g., Deborah; see Judges 4–5). The participation of women in leadership roles in
both Protestantism and Judaism is a function of where the particular denomination falls on the
liberal to conservative continuum. Liberal Protestants (e.g., Episcopalians) ordain women as
priests. Likewise, the Reform Jewish movement has ordained women as rabbis since 1972. The
Conservative Jewish seminaries began ordaining women as rabbis in 1985, but the Orthodox
Jewish movement has not embraced this policy.
Limitations on the participation of females in religious activities are by no means the sole
province of Judeo-Christian groups. Islam and other religions either limit the participation of
females or typically rest leadership in the hands of men. Islam views women as equal to but
different from men. They do not worship alongside the men in their mosques but in separate
areas. They are expected to observe all pillars of Islam, including the five daily prayers and fasts
during Ramadan.
Women in some Middle Eastern countries have severe limitations placed on them (e.g.,
rules against working, attending school, or driving a car, and requiring face covering). These
limitations are more a function of the culture of the country or region than they are mandates
of Islam.
Due to the diversity of the backgrounds of adherents as well as the society in which they
live, many Islamic women in the United States function differently than Islamic women in
other parts of the world. Differences include the extent to which they work outside the home,
assume active roles in Islamic centers and community life, and interact with the non-Muslim
In addition to defining the parameters of religious participation of males and females,
religion may also be used to prescribe male and female roles outside the religious context. Such
prescriptions may be done either directly or indirectly. In religious groups in which women are
given a less prominent status, this may carry over into general family life and other aspects of
society as a natural course. In other instances, the pronouncements may be more direct. Reli-
gious writings of great importance, such as the Bible, are continuously interpreted, studied,
and analyzed. In the United States, the Bible is viewed as sacred by most citizens who claim
Christian church membership. Consequently, the Bible and other religious writings, such as
the Koran, have a profound influence on many Americans.
Issues related to gender equality are treated extensively in Chapter 4. It is important for
educators to be aware that many of society’s attitudes toward gender equality or inequality may
be rooted in religious practices. If religious practices dictate that wives are to be subservient to
their husbands, or if women are prohibited from the highest or even high levels of leadership
within a faith, then this practice often carries over into other aspects of everyday life. Educa-
tors who themselves observe gender limitations in their religious life or in their homes have
a right to do so. However, they must not draw inferences from these beliefs to impose limits
on the potential for leadership in the classroom, the school, or the future for their female
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200 chapter 8 Religion
students. It is important that female students at an early age be encouraged and given oppor-
tunities to develop leadership skills. This will enable them to pursue their future careers and
personal choices and enable them to maximize their full potential.
Religion and gay and Lesbian issues
Gay and lesbian issues have become among the most controversial dilemmas facing religious
institutions today. Attacks on gays and lesbians in the religious context are often justified
through biblical interpretation or from other religious writings. Some argue that the textual
interpretation and, in some cases, translation of biblical passages regarding same-sex relation-
ships are not clear and may be subject to inf luence by misguided beliefs. Others argue that the
Bible is clear on the issue of same-sex unions, as in the book of Genesis, where God destroyed
Sodom and Gomorrah because of sinful behaviors, including the gay behaviors of the inhabi-
tants. The debate is serious, as are the consequences. Conservative Christians and conservatives
of other religious groups tend to view LGBT behavior as a matter of choice—a sin and an
abomination. More liberal religious groups tend to believe that the only choice is whether the
individual engages in such behavior. They contend that the individual is born LGBT.
In 2008, California’s Proposition 8, a voter initiative, banned gay marriage. It was strongly
supported by the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
(Mormon), evangelical Christian groups, Orthodox Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, and other reli-
gious groups (Johnson, 2013). Over $83 million was spent on the proposition, making it one
of the most expensive state initiatives in history. The initiative, which passed with a margin
of 52.24%, received considerable funding from out-of-state church-related groups. However,
all six of the Episcopal diocesan bishops in California, the Board of Rabbis of Southern Cali-
fornia, various Jewish groups, the California Council of Churches, and certain other religious
groups voiced their opposition to Prop 8. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court left in place a
lower court’s decision that Prop 8’s ban is unconstitutional, and also struck down key portions
of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) (Barnes, 2013).
Issues related to gay marriages in society have also become religious issues. As the general
public becomes increasingly accepting of gay marriage, some states have legalized the unions,
and the courts have affirmed the rights of gay couples. Churches have been forced to reassess
their doctrines and positions on the matter. While some churches and denominations have held
steadfastly against gay and lesbian lifestyles and same-sex marriage, some have welcomed gays
and lesbians, ordained gay ministers, and performed same sex marriages. The United Method-
ists, a mainline denomination generally considered theologically moderate, have held church
trials and defrocked ministers for performing same-sex unions. These actions have resulted in
strong dissent among some Methodists and have threatened the unity of the denomination.
Episcopalians have elevated both a gay (2004) and a lesbian (2010) as bishops. These
actions have severely strained relations between the parent Anglican Church and the American
Episcopal Church, and have resulted in a schism in some Episcopal congregations over what
they consider excessively liberal practices.
Views toward LGBT vary considerably among other religious groups. There are often
intergroup as well as intragroup differences. The Roman Catholic position on same-sex behav-
ior is in keeping with that of many other conservative groups. These groups view such prac-
tices as violations of divine and natural law (Catholic Answers, 2014).
The Catholic Church, along with American Baptists, Southern Baptists, Latter Day Saints,
Missouri Synod Lutherans, and Orthodox Jews, prohibit same-sex marriages. Reform and Con-
servative Jewish congregations, Quakers, Unitarians, United Church of Christ, and Evangelical
Lutherans sanction these marriages. The Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches sanction blessings
of same-sex unions. Buddhists and Hindus have no clear position on the matter (Masci, 2014).
The Catholic Church has had to address issues related to gay sex abuse among its own
clergy. The unfortunate clergy abuse scandals involving young males in the United States and
abroad that have surfaced in recent years have caused great spiritual and economic turmoil in
various dioceses and resulted in deep emotional scarring among many of the victims. Even
though the abuses have been linked to a minority of priests, the scandal has caused immense
problems for the Church.
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Interaction of Religion with Gender, Gay and Lesbian Issues, and Race 201
Gay behaviors in Islam are viewed as lewd and sinful. There are two primary references to
gay orientation in the Qur’an (Qur’an 7:80–81 and 26:165). Both address gay behaviors neg-
atively. In South and East Asian Islamic countries, no physical punishment for homosexuality
is considered warranted. However, some Middle Eastern Islamic countries tend to deal with it
harshly, especially Iran and Afghanistan when under the rule of the Taliban (Robinson, 2014).
Graham (2014) suggested that the evangelical community is a major stronghold of anti-
gay sentiment and likely one of the key political groups in the fight against same-sex marriages.
As much of the general public and other religious groups have softened their stance against
gays and lesbians, evangelicals have seemingly been immutable in their stance. However, Gra-
ham suggested that there appears to be a small but significant number of theologians and
other conservative Christians who are beginning to develop moral arguments that it may be
possible to affirm same-sex relationships within orthodox theology. They are building a case
that the Bible, properly interpreted, does not condemn such relationships. It is unlikely that
the evangelical movement will embrace gays and lesbians in the near future, but even the
Southern Baptists, one of the most conservative denominations, are beginning to soften their
stance (Farmer, 2014).
Religion and political affiliation are closely interwoven in the United States. Religious con-
servatives, particularly evangelical Christians, have closely aligned themselves with the Repub-
lican Party, whose leadership has generally opposed same-sex marriage and gay relationships
(Sullivan, 2013). The Democratic Party platform in 2012 supported gay marriage (Stein, 2012).
When religion and politics become closely entwined, there is a concern that legislators will
attempt to mandate, through legislation, who may and who may not be allowed to teach, what
curriculum is permissible, and what material in textbooks should be censored. It is essential to
bear this in mind in deciding what individuals and platforms to support in elections.
Religious views toward LGBT issues have considerable implications for the educational
setting. Educators have a right to their personal views toward homosexuality. They do not
have a right to impose their views in the public school setting. They cannot allow students to
harass or bully one another, and they cannot allow students to voice their personal opinions
and attack other students verbally or otherwise in the classroom or on school grounds. It is
the responsibility of every educator, including staff members, to provide a safe and accepting
environment for all students.
Religion and Race
In the United States, as in many other countries, religion has had a profound impact on race
and ethnic diversity issues. When individuals misinterpret biblical scriptures or interpret them
to justify aberrant behavior, the consequences can be severe. At their 1995 meeting, the South-
ern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, in an unprecedented
act of contrition, apologized for the role it had played in the justification of slavery and in the
maintenance of a culture of racism in the United States. For decades, well into the 1950s, noted
ministers and religious leaders from various denominations defended segregation and helped
to keep the practice alive.
slavery and Racism. The Bible does not condemn slavery, and its practice can be found
throughout both the Old and New Testaments. In the New Testament, there is no record of
either Jesus or Paul specifically condemning slavery, which was a common practice during
that period. Paul returned a slave to his master rather than provide refuge, as was required
by Jewish law (Deuteronomy 23:15–16). Therefore, proponents of slavery believed that this
institution had a solid biblical foundation.
The Catholic king of Spain and his ministers viewed it as their divine right and obliga-
tion to enslave and Christianize or slaughter the natives of Latin America. Both Cortés and
Pizarro operated under papal and governmental authority as they enslaved or killed thousands
of natives and justified their behavior with biblical texts.
Anti-Semitism also finds many of its historical roots in the Bible and other religious
works. Bach’s Passion of St. John, though musically beautiful and inspiring, has been perceived
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202 chapter 8 Religion
by some to have anti-Semitic German lyrics, though others disagree with this contention (von
Rhein, 2012). Biblical passages are often used to justify anti-Semitic behaviors (e.g., Matthew
27:25–26, Romans 3:1). It is ironic that those individuals, especially Christians, who justify
their anti-Semitic behaviors through religious doctrines and sacred writings tend to ignore the
fact that Jesus and his earliest followers were themselves Jews.
Role of black Religious groups. Historically, African Americans often organized
their own religious institutions due to racism, which either prohibited or limited their mem-
bership, participation, or attendance in mainstream denominations. Black churches and reli-
gious institutions have served their communities in different ways. Some provide food, shelter,
and occasional employment opportunities. Others, such as the Black Muslims, have provided
pride and a self-help philosophy. They have encouraged education and black entrepreneurship.
civil Rights movement and black churches. The modern civil rights movement
was centered in the South’s African American churches. Many of the civil rights leaders were
or are ministers or church leaders (e.g., Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Andrew
Young, Jesse Jackson). From their pulpits, these religious leaders were able to direct boycotts
and organize civil disobedience and nonviolent confrontations. Prior to the successful 1955
Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, seating for black bus riders was segregated. Civil disobe-
dience included sit-ins at segregated public places such as restaurants, where black individuals
refused to leave when asked or ordered to do so. In these protests, church leaders instructed
participants to respond to confrontations nonviolently.
African American churches deserve much of the credit for bringing about the civil rights
gained in the past 50 or more years. Alienated and disillusioned by mainstream politics, few
African Americans registered to vote in the past. African American clergy nationwide have
advocated church involvement in social and political issues. In recent years, black churches
have been extremely successful in registering millions of voters and thereby becoming an
important voice in the electoral process.
disenchantment among Younger generations. Some young African Americans,
particularly the younger generations, have become increasingly disenchanted with their black
churches. They may feel that the churches are not aggressive enough with social issues or may
feel that they are out of touch with today’s real world. They have turned to secular organiza-
tions, which they feel deal more directly with their life situations and with the social problems
they face. This does not mean the demise of the black church. While some will remain out of
habit, others are unwilling to give up the important associations and relationships available to
them in their respective churches. The historical nature of the black church as the center of
black community life makes it unlikely that the masses will abandon it.
In some religious groups, African Americans were permitted membership but prohib-
ited from attaining the higher positions of church leadership. These prohibitions were justi-
fied through biblical interpretations or through divine revelations claimed by church leaders.
Although nearly all such racial limitations on membership and church leadership have been
removed in recent years, the long-term effects of these religious prohibitions remain to be
Like the gender issues that have become the focus of religious debate, racial issues have
been debated for decades. As the courts and society have turned their backs on segregation
and racially limiting practices, most religious bodies have also taken an official position of
openness. Although the official position and the actual practice may differ somewhat, in
churches that stress brotherly love, at least, the two may be moving to a higher level of
It is important to understand that clergy and other church and religious authorities have
considerable influence on the people they lead. They, the writers and theologians who influ-
ence others, often find their inspiration or the justification for their positions in religious
scriptures and writings. These writings are then interpreted for laypersons and may be used to
shape their perceptions of self and others.
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Separating Church and State and Other Issues 203
Children may learn that the LGBT life is an abomination, or they may learn to believe that
it is an innate and natural sexual orientation for some. They learn that if females have limitations
within the religious institution, they are meant to carry over into school and society. However,
they may instead learn to believe in gender equity and that girls can become leaders in their
classroom, excel academically, and pursue their career dreams. They may learn to believe that
some races are superior to others or that all men and women are created equal, without regard to
race or ethnicity. Hopefully they will learn to respect all individuals as valued members of society.
separating church and state and Other issues
School districts and various state legislators who seek to circumvent the principle of separation
of church and state continually test the First Amendment. It is difficult to believe that state
legislators, many of whom are attorneys, are not aware of the laws related to church and state.
It is likely that these legislators or school officials believe it their responsibility to infuse their
concept of morality and ethics into the school’s activities or curriculum. The Supreme Court,
however, has the responsibility of ruling on the constitutionality of such directives. The fol-
lowing are examples of Supreme Court rulings related to education, the First Amendment, and
the principle of the separation of church and state:
• Engel v. Vitale, 82 S. Ct. 1261 (1962) [New York]. The Court ruled that any type
of prayer, even that which is nondenominational, is unconstitutional government
sponsorship of religion.
• Abington School District v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963) [Pennsylvania]. The Court found
that Bible reading over the school intercom was unconstitutional, and in Murray v.
Curlett, 374 U.S. 203 (1963), the Court found that forcing a child to participate in Bible
reading and prayer was unconstitutional.
• Epperson v. Arkansas, 89 S. Ct. 266 (1968). The Court ruled that a State statute banning
the teaching of evolution was unconstitutional. A state cannot set a course of study in
order to promote a religious point of view.
• Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980) [Kentucky]. The Court ruled that the posting of the
Ten Commandments in schools was unconstitutional.
• Wallace v. Jaffree, 105 S. Ct. 2479 (1985) [Alabama]. The Court ruled that the state’s
moment of silence in a public school statute was unconstitutional, as a legislative record
revealed that the motivation for the statute was the encouragement of prayer.
• Edwards v. Aquillard, 107 S. Ct. 2573 (1987) [Louisiana]. The Court found it
unconstitutional for the state to require the teaching of “creation science” in all instances
in which evolution is taught. The statute had a clear religious motivation.
• Lee v. Weisman, 112 S. Ct. 2649 (1992) [Rhode Island]. The Court ruled
it unconstitutional for a school district to provide any clergy to perform
nondenominational prayer at elementary or secondary school graduations. It involves
government sponsorship of worship.
Nationally, adherence to the principle of separation of church and state has been schizo-
phrenic at best. Oaths are typically made on Bibles and often end with the phrase “so help me
God.” U.S. coins and currency state “In God We Trust.” We have military chaplains and con-
gressional chaplains, and we hold congressional prayer breakfasts. The Pledge of Allegiance
includes the words “under God.” This has been interpreted by some to mean that the separa-
tion of church and state simply means that there will be no state church.
Complete separation of church and state, as defined by strict constitutionalists, would
have a profound effect on social-religious life. It is likely that the American public want some
degree of separation of these two institutions, but it is equally likely that some would be out-
raged if total separation were imposed. Total separation would mean no direct or indirect aid
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204 chapter 8 Religion
to religious groups, no tax-free status, no tax deductions for contributions to religious groups,
no national Christmas tree, no government-paid chaplains, no religious holidays, no blue laws,
and so on. The list of religious activities, rights, and privileges that could be eliminated seems
almost endless.
Public schools are supposed to be free of religious doctrine and perspective, but many peo-
ple believe that schools without such a perspective do not provide desirable values orientation
for students. Debate about the public school’s responsibility in fostering student morality and
social responsibility is constant. A major point of disagreement focuses on who should deter-
mine the morals that will provide the context of the educational program in a school. Because
religious diversity is so great in the United States, that task is nearly impossible. Therefore,
most public schools incorporate commonly accepted American values that largely transcend
Although schools should be secular, they are greatly influenced by the predominant values
of the community. Educators must be cognizant of this influence before introducing certain
readings and ideas that stray far from what the community is willing to accept within their
belief and value structure. Teachers face difficult choices when school administrators give in to
parental demands to violate the principles of separation of church and state by infusing school
prayer or religious instruction into the curriculum.
school Prayer
There are several controversial issues in schools that challenge the principle of separation of
church and state. In many instances, the majority in a given community may support an issue
that may already have been ruled against by the courts. Among the controversial issues that are
often on the agenda of the evangelical Christians and fundamentalist religious groups are school
prayer, school vouchers, and censorship. Despite the 1962 and 1963 Supreme Court decisions
regarding school prayer, conservative groups have persisted in their efforts to revive prayer in
the schools.
School prayer continues to receive majority support (61%) from the American public
(Riffkin, 2014). What is at issue for the courts is not whether the public favors school prayer
but whether it is constitutionally valid. The law in no way forbids private prayer in school.
The Supreme Court decisions do not prevent teachers or students from praying privately in a
school. Any teacher or student can offer his or her own private prayer before the noon meal or
pray alone between classes and before and after school. The law forbids public group prayer.
Advocates of school prayer sometimes advance their efforts under the term “voluntary prayer.”
The interpretation of what constitutes voluntary school prayer has become a main issue in the
prayer controversy. Some proponents of school prayer advocate mandated school prayer, with
individuals voluntarily choosing to participate or not participate. It is likely that if such laws
were ever enacted, the considerable social pressure to participate would make it difficult for
some, especially younger students, to refuse participation.
In 2000 the Supreme Court ruled against a Texas school district that had permitted prayer
over the public address system at a football game, maintaining that the football games are
extracurricular. Students were not required to attend and be a part of the prayer (Santa Fe
Independent School District v. DOE, 2000). Seldom had this practice been challenged in the past,
as it had the support of the majority of students and parents. However, the Court ruled that
this is a violation of the separation of church and state.
school Vouchers
Various groups raise school voucher initiatives periodically. Vouchers are intended to provide
parents with a choice of schools, public or private, for their children. The funds for vouchers
come from tax monies, which vary from state to state and among school districts. Fourteen
states plus the District of Columbia offer vouchers, which may range from $4,200 for students
in general education to $20,000 for students with autism and special needs. Individual school
districts may also provide vouchers. Voucher initiatives are often strongly supported by
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Separating Church and State and Other Issues 205
religious factions, particularly those that send their children to private religious schools. It is
for this reason that school vouchers are included in this chapter as a controversial issue.
Parents and others who support these initiatives point to the failure of the public schools
to educate their children adequately. They point to the states’ low national rankings in student
math proficiency, reading proficiency, SAT scores, class sizes, and teacher/student ratios. They
also point to falling system-wide test scores and to the moral decline in schools, as evidenced
by school violence, drugs, and teen pregnancies. They believe that school vouchers will make
it possible to send their children to the schools of their choice.
Proponents of voucher programs argue that vouchers will not require any further
appropriations since school districts can provide vouchers to students who are not using
their services, thereby decreasing their expenses. They argue that when parents redeem a
school voucher, part of the expense that would otherwise cost the school to educate the
student can remain in the public schools. Supporters of the voucher program believe that it
will enable the school system to ensure the quality education that all parents wish for their
Opponents to voucher initiatives maintain that vouchers will indeed take away needed
funds from public schools. School districts have many fixed costs and already are suffering
from inadequate funding. Opponents also suggest that voucher systems will exacerbate the
fiscal crisis in the public schools. They further state that the funds provided by the vouch-
ers will not enable most children to go to any school of choice. Many private schools have
annual tuitions of $20,000 to $40,000 or more, and the vouchers will not even begin to cover
the cost of the full tuition. While some schools may grant partial scholarships to deserving
students with financial need, it is not possible to provide support to all. Private schools tend
to be located in the more affluent areas of communities. Transportation would be a major
problem for students who live in areas distant from the preferred schools. Opponents also
contend that the primary beneficiaries of the school voucher programs will be the wealthy,
who can afford the private schools and already enroll their children in them, and the few
financially borderline families who can send their children to private schools only with the
help of vouchers.
Censorship occurs when expressive materials such as books, magazines, films, videos, or works
of art are removed or kept from public access, including the removal of materials from text-
book adoption lists and materials from school libraries. Censorship may be based on the age
and other characteristics of the potential user. Targets for the censors are books and materials
that are identified as disrespectful of authority and religion, destructive to social and cultural
values, obscene, pornographic, unpatriotic, or in violation of individual and familial rights of
Books may be banned for a multitude of reasons (Huffington Post, 2013). These include
the use of offensive language, including profanity (e.g., To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple);
the use of racial slurs (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men); the use of witch-
craft (e.g., the Harry Potter series); and violence (The Color Purple, Slaughterhouse Five). Books
written by or about gays and lesbians (Singapore banned a book about gay penguins) are also
frequently attacked, as are those that are sexually explicit, those with excessive violence, and
those with pictures containing nudity.
In a conservative community, magazines such as Time or Newsweek are sometimes attacked
because they publish stories about war, crime, death, violence, and sex. Dictionaries with words
and definitions described as offensive have been forced off book adoption lists. The emergence
of African American literature, sometimes written in the black vernacular, is sometimes tar-
geted by censors.
Individuals or groups may be self-appointed and pressure school districts or libraries, video
stores, publishers, art galleries, and other venues not to stock or show, publish, or distribute
the targeted materials. Censorship may also come from groups appointed by a state or school
districts as textbook selection committees. Censorship of textbooks, library books, and other
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206 chapter 8 Religion
learning materials in education has become another major battleground in education for con-
servative groups.
The impact of censorship in the public schools cannot be underestimated. Censorship
or attempts at censorship have resulted in the dismissal or resignation of administrators and
teachers. It has split communities and has the potential to create as much controversy as did
the desegregation of schools. Those who seek censorship feel passionately that the cause they
support is just and morally right. Censors believe that they are obligated to continue their fight
to rid schools of objectionable materials that in their opinion contaminate supple minds and
contribute to the moral decay of society. Opponents of the censors also share the conviction
Focus Your Cultural Lens
debate/school Prayer
In 1647 the first American school system was established in Massachusetts to ensure that children would grow
up with the ability to read the Bible. Many, if not most, schools had some form of school prayer until 1962, when
the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Engle v. Vitale to affirm the separation of church and state by ruling against
school prayer. The U.S. general public overwhelmingly supports some form of school prayer, and there have been
organized efforts to either have the Supreme Court reverse its decision or amend the Constitution to make school-
sponsored prayer permissible.
QuestiOns fOR cLassROOm discussiOn
1. Should the majority opinion always rule? What if the majority in a given community wanted to ban African
Americans or Asians or whites from attending public schools? Should the majority rule? Does the majority
opinion necessarily represent the morally correct opinion?
2. Can students learn and maintain sound moral values if these values are not taught in schools?
3. Should prayer also be banned in private schools?
The country was founded on religious principles by
people who believed in freedom to practice one’s
religion openly. Our students should be able to
participate in this heritage and seek strength and
support from God as they begin each day.
Voluntary prayer does not constitute government
establishment of religion. The school prayer ban is not
freedom of religion but a ban against observing religion.
Voluntary prayer does not require the participation of
all students. Those who do not wish to participate
would have the freedom not to.
The vast majority of Americans want school prayer.
Banning prayer is undemocratic and allows the minority
to rule.
Since school prayer was banned, the nation has been in
a moral decline. Divorce rates have climbed, as have
the rates of drug use, pornography, out-of-wedlock
births, violent crime, street gang membership, abortion,
and open homosexuality. School prayer would help
restore moral values in America’s youth.
School prayer has never been outlawed by the Supreme
Court. Students have never been banned from reading
the Bible, the Koran, or any other religious work.
Schools can provide classes that study religions,
compare religions, or discuss religions in an objective
manner. Students are not barred from praying before
their meals or in their own private moments. Public
schools are government funded and as such are
prohibited from the sponsoring or promoting of religion
or providing formal school prayer.
School-sponsored prayer is a clear violation of the
principle of the separation of church and state.
Religious upbringing is the responsibility of the parents
and family, not the schools and government.
The argument that students would not be required to
participate in school-sponsored prayer is invalid.
Students who leave or protest prayer are subject to
being ostracized by their peers.
There is no evidence that school-sponsored prayer
would solve society’s problems.
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Classroom Implications 207
that they are the ones in the right and that censors infringe on academic freedom as they seek
to destroy meaningful education.
The failure to communicate effectively with parents is a contributing source of alienation
between educators and parents. Teachers need to communicate the objectives of new curricula
and to explain how these programs enrich the educational experience. Showing parents how
the curriculum will support rather than conflict with basic family values can prevent potential
Teachers are well advised to make certain that they have fully and accurately assessed the
climate within the community before introducing new, innovative, or controversial materi-
als, teaching strategies, or books. Experienced colleagues and supervisors can usually serve as
barometers as to how students, parents, and the community will react to various new materials
or teaching techniques.
classroom implications
Although religion and public schooling are to remain separate, religion can be taught in schools
as a legitimate discipline for objective study. A comparative religions course is part of the cur-
riculum offered in many secondary schools. In this approach, the students are not forced to
practice a religion as part of their educational program. They can, however, study one or more
In discussing religion in the public school classroom, there are a number of caveats that
every teacher should remember:
• Schools are allowed to sponsor the study of religion. However, they may not sponsor a
• Schools may instruct the beliefs of a religion but may not indoctrinate nor in any way try
to convert.
• Schools may teach students what people of various religions believe, but they may not
teach students what to believe.
As part of the curriculum, students should learn that the United States (and indeed the
world) is rich in religious diversity. Educators show their respect for religious differences
through their interactions with students from different religious backgrounds. Understanding
the importance of religion to students and their families is an advantage in developing effective
teaching strategies for individual students. Instructional activities can build on students’ reli-
gious experiences to help them learn concepts. This technique helps students recognize that
their religious identity is valued in the classroom and encourages them to respect the religious
diversity that exists.
At the same time, educators should avoid stereotyping all students from one denomination
or church. Diversity is found within every religious group and denomination, as mentioned
earlier in this chapter. Within each group are differences in attitudes and beliefs. For exam-
ple, Southern Baptists may appear to be conservative to outsiders. Among Southern Baptists,
however, some are considered part of a liberal or moderate group, whereas others would be
identified as conservative.
Not only should educators understand the influences that drive the communities in which
they teach; they should also periodically reexamine their own interactions with students to
ensure that they are not discriminating against students because of differences in religious
beliefs. It is imperative that educators recognize how influential membership in a religious
subculture is in order to help students develop their potential.
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208 chapter 8 Religion
Religion and culture
In this chapter we have seen how religion and culture are
integral parts of the fabric of the American public and how
religion significantly helps shape the persona of many indi-
viduals. This is evidenced by the vast majority of Americans
indicating that their religion is important to them and that
half of them attend weekly religious services.
the first amendment and the separation
of church and state
The significance of religion prompted the nation’s founding
fathers to stipulate by law that there was to be a freedom
of religion without government interference and that there
would be a separation of church and state. This principle has
often been challenged by individuals and by religious groups.
However, the courts have held firm to the basic principles set
forth in the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Religion as a Way of Life
Many Americans have taken for granted their religious liber-
ties, since they have enjoyed the freedom of religious choice
and worship set forth as a basic right in the country’s found-
ing principles. However, many individuals throughout the
world are faced with restrictive policies by their governments
and socially by their fellow citizens.
Religious Pluralism in the united states
While a large majority of the U.S. population identify
themselves as Christian, the country continues to experience
considerable religious pluralism. The majority of the earliest
European settlers were Protestant, and the religious land-
scape of the country has been changing with each passing
decade. Many immigrants are arriving from areas such as
Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, bringing their religions
with them.
Among the groups attracting attention in recent years are
the “nones.” Nearly 1 in 5 Americans now indicates no reli-
gious affiliation. Some may be atheists, some agnostics, and
others choose not to affiliate with organized religious groups.
Evangelical Protestants also have attracted media and societal
attention because of their strong religious commitment and
desire to influence schools, curricula, and policies. Attention
in recent years has also focused on Muslim Americans
because of world issues and tensions related to militant Isla-
mists. These extremists are a small minority of Muslims, and
educators need to be vigilant to prevent unjustified attacks on
innocent students.
interaction of Religion with gender, gay
and Lesbian issues, and Race
Experiences and values in churches, synagogues, temples,
and mosques are often transferred into everyday life. Many
positive values are transferred into home, work, and school
settings. However, care must be taken that restrictive gender
practices in religious settings and negative attitudes toward
gays and lesbians and toward other racial groups are not
carried forth into school practices and behaviors by students
or educators.
separating church and state and Other issues
Religious groups, school boards, and parent groups have
persisted in attempts to circumvent laws and principles related
to the separation of church and state. We have in this chapter
examined several examples of court decisions prohibiting
open school prayer, infusion of religion into the curriculum,
and posting of religious materials in schools. However, these
rulings continue to be challenged. Groups have continued to
advocate for school vouchers, with the intention of funding
private religious school education, and for school prayer.
Various groups have also worked diligently to infuse their
religious values into school curricula and to control school
classroom implications
The classroom implications of this chapter are numerous.
Educators, like many of their students, come from differ-
ent religious backgrounds and may have different values in
relation to the importance of religion or what they believe. It
is critical that the school provide a safe and accepting envi-
ronment for every student, every educator and staff member.
The Constitution of the United States guarantees religious
freedom, and most of our leaders espouse a culture of
religious tolerance and acceptance. If we are to make it a
reality, it must begin in our schools as well as in the home.
Chapter Quiz: Click here to gauge your understanding of chapter concepts
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9 GeographyLearninG OutcOmesAs you read this chapter, you should be able to:9.1 Discuss geography’s impact on culture.
9.2 Provide specific examples of regional diversity in the United States.
9.3 Compare and contrast rural, urban, and suburban areas.
9.4 Explain factors leading to migration.
9.5 Describe the history and impact of globalization.
9.6 Provide specific examples of how to incorporate students’ cultural and geographic
differences in the classroom.
In November a new student, Jack Williams, appeared at Mark Polaski’s classroom door. Jack, whose family had moved to the neighborhood last week, appeared to be just another white
middle-class student. Mr. Polaski assigned him a desk, asked him to introduce himself, and
continued with the lesson.
Before a month had passed, Mr. Polaski noticed that other students had not accepted
Jack. In fact, they were making fun of his mannerisms and dialect. He overheard a couple of
the boys calling him a hillbilly. As he thought about Jack’s involvement in the class up to that
point, Mr. Polaski realized that Jack had been very quiet, not actively participating in the lively
discussions that were encouraged. He was performing as well as most other students on the
few tests that had been given, and he had turned in the required short paper on time just after
Thanksgiving. Mr. Polaski tried to recall where Jack said he had last attended school. He was
sure it was in a rural area of the state.
1. Why was Jack not fitting into this diverse suburban school?
2. How does growing up in a different part of the country or world affect one’s experiences in
3. How could Mr. Polaski learn more about Jack’s cultural background?
4. If you were Mr. Polaski, how would you get the students to stop picking on Jack?
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210 chapter 9 Geography
Geography and culture
Our identities are closely linked to the geographic area in which we grew up and the places we
later lived. One of the first questions we ask when meeting someone new is, “Where are you
from?” We then use the answer to determine whether we share a common background and
experiences. Although our membership in other groups or subcultures may have a great impact
on our identity, the place or places in which we have lived provide a cultural context for
Because we grew up in the same or a similar geographic area as our neighbors or friends
does not mean we experienced the place in the same ways. Some members of a community
have lived there much longer than others and have different histories and experiences that
sometimes lead to conflict with more recent arrivals. The area takes on a different meaning
based on a member’s race, ethnicity, religion, age, and language, as well as how membership in
those groups is viewed by other members of the community. One’s job and educational back-
ground may take on different significance in one geographic area than in another. For exam-
ple, almost all adults in one suburban neighborhood may have post-baccalaureate degrees and
work as professionals or managers. Farming and related jobs are common in one area, logging
and fishing in another, and manufacturing in yet another.
The natural surroundings and climate make a difference in the way we work, relax, and
interact. People from Hawaii, Alaska, the mountains of Colorado, and the prairies of Nebraska
adapt to their spaces in different ways. People in new environments may find that the “natives”
use unfamiliar dialects and phrases and react to events somewhat differently than they are used
to. Jack in the opening scenario, for instance, has a dialect and mannerisms that are different
from those of other students in his new school. This strangeness is particularly noticeable
when we travel outside the United States, but it also appears to some degree in different parts
of the same city and in different regions of the United States.
Different individuals and groups perceive places and events differently. Because their per-
ceptions are different, their responses tend to be different as well. Some will find a given locale
the ideal place to live and raise a family; others will feel isolated, crowded, or trapped. Moun-
tains are critical to the well-being of some; others feel the need to be near bodies of water
or the desert or greenery. Wide-open spaces in which one can live for a long period of time
with little interaction with others provide freedom for some but boredom and confinement
for others. Cities can be exciting and stimulating places for some but stifling and impersonal
to others. Thus, places provide complex multiple identities for the people who live in them.
Understanding the place, including the particular part of the city or county, from which our
students have come helps us know the context of their everyday experiences.
What is Geography?
You probably studied geography in elementary school as you learned about different parts of
the world and memorized state capitals. We are enticed to learn more about a country when a
disaster occurs, such as the mysterious disappearance in 2014 of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
somewhere in or near the South China Sea. Prior to the 2014 Ebola epidemics in Liberia,
Guinea, and Sierra Leone, many Americans would not have been able to locate the countries
on a map and may not even have known that they are in West Africa. People who are fortunate
enough to travel to other parts of the country and world become familiar with geographic,
cultural, and language differences. People who are place-bound and unable to travel far beyond
their own neighborhoods may have to learn about these differences in books, from the media,
and on the Internet.
Geography comes from the Greek word geographia, which means a description of Earth’s
surface. It is the study of places, cities, countries, mountains, deserts, rural areas, oceans, con-
tinents, and communities. Geographers try to determine why places are the way they are.
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Regional Diversity in the United States 211
They not only explore the physical features of a place but also examine the economic activities,
human settlement patterns, and cultures of the people who live there. The place where one
lives is the space or land area that is distinctive and has meaning or symbolism for the people
who live there.
Physical geography is the study of the physical features of Earth, such as the climate,
soils, vegetation, water, and landforms. Human geography, on the other hand, is the study of
the economic, social, and cultural systems that have evolved in a specific location. It encom-
passes many of the topics that are discussed in this book, such as classism, racism, ethnicity,
poverty, language, sexual orientation, religion, exceptionalities, and age differences.
Geographers use a number of tools to record and track the physical and human geogra-
phy of a place. Maps are the most common, as you probably remember from your study of
geography. With today’s technologies, geographers are able to understand an area in great and
intricate detail through the use of computers, Global Positioning System (GPS) devices, and
satellite images. Throughout this chapter we will use maps to understand the differences in the
places our students live or used to live and the importance of location in one’s everyday life.
Our Place in the World
Placing the United States within the world provides a context for understanding where we and
others live. First, people are concentrated in certain areas since few choose to live in Earth’s
cold or dry areas. Three of every four people currently live in the Northern Hemisphere—the
area north of the equator (Dahlman & Renwick, 2014). Over half of the world’s population of
7.2 billion live in Asia. China, with a population of over 1.364 billion, and India, with 1.296 billion,
are the two largest countries in the world in terms of population (Population Reference Bureau,
2014). The United States, the world’s third-largest country, had a population estimated to be
320,090,632 in 2015 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015a), just less than 5% of the world’s population.
By 2050, the Population Reference Bureau (2014) is projecting that India (with estimated
population of 1.657 billion) will overtake China (1.312 billion), and Nigeria (396 million) will
overtake the United States (395 million) as the third-most-populous country.
North America has a culturally diverse population, with most of its people emigrat-
ing from other parts of the world over the past 400 years. It is a resource-rich region
that has undergone a great deal of economic development over the past 200 years. Its
metropolitan areas are technology rich and oriented to a global economy. The region is
very consumer oriented, with many people buying up the latest versions of the products
its businesses produce. Although it is an affluent area, however, many of its citizens live in
regional Diversity in the united states
Regional differences become apparent to educators as they move from one area to another to
work. Sometimes local and regional differences are hardly noticeable. At other times, they lead
to a number of adjustments in the way one lives, the content that can be taught in the classroom,
and the manner in which one interacts with the community. For example, religion plays a more
important role in some regions of the country than others, which could inf luence a teacher’s
approach to teaching sex education or evolution. Not only teachers move around the country
and globe; so do students and their families, especially if the parents are in the military or on a
fast track at a multinational corporation. Students such as Jack in the chapter-opening scenario
may experience cultural shock, something that should be considered as they settle in a new
school. To meet the needs of students, educators have to be aware of the inf luences of geogra-
phy on the culture of the people who live in the area, especially school-age children.
Regional comparisons are at times difficult to make, with different sources utilizing differ-
ent regional categories. The federal government tends to use four regions: Northeast, South,
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212 chapter 9 Geography
Midwest, and West. However, some reporting is broken down into smaller regions (e.g., New
England, Appalachia, Southwest, Great Plains). Each region is distinctive, often with different
political leanings, racial and ethnic differences, cuisine, and religious values.
The 2010 Census revealed that the minority (non-white) population had grown in every
region of the United States. This was characterized by the 43% increase in Hispanics. Nearly
half of the population in the West (47.2%) is minorities. Minorities comprise 40% of the pop-
ulation in the South, 22% in the Midwest, and 31% in the Northeast regions of the United
States ( Humes, Jones, & Ramirez, 2011).
The states with the highest minority percentages are primarily in the West, while those
with the lowest are primarily in the Northeast. In four states—Hawaii (77%), California
(61%), New Mexico (60%), and Texas (56%)—as well as the District of Columbia (65%),
minorities comprise more than half of the population. In addition, Arizona, Florida, Maryland,
Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York had minority populations exceeding 40% and
could become minority majority states in this decade (DiversityInc., 2015; Teixeira, 2013).
The states with the lowest percentages of minorities were Maine, Vermont, West Virginia,
and New Hampshire. While the minority percentages in these four states were below 10%,
all four of these states had at least 25% increases in their minority population during the 2000
to 2010 census period, which far outpaced increases in the white population (Humes et al.,
2011). Figure 9.1 shows the percentages of the minority populations in the four regions of the
United States in the 2000 census and 2010 census.
From 1892 to 1954, immigrants entered the country by boat at Ellis Island on the East
Coast. By the end of the twentieth century, most were entering through airports in New York
City, Los Angeles, and Seattle. They established or moved to ethnic enclaves that were similar
to areas they had just left. In these communities, they did not have to assimilate into the
dominant culture and could continue to use their native languages. Examples can be found in
the metropolitan Los Angeles area, where communities such as Little Saigon, Little Tokyo,
Chinatown, and Koreatown have been established.
A larger percentage of more recent immigrants are joining family members who live in
suburbs or in small towns. Some, especially refugees, have been sponsored by churches or
community agencies in non-urban areas. Others have been attracted to the Midwest and South
for jobs in the meatpacking and farming industries. Still others have chosen rural areas because
they think the values and lifestyle are closer to their own there than in urban areas.
Northeast Midwest South West
Regional Minority Population 2000 and 2010
fiGure 9.1 Regional and Minority Population, 2000 and 2010
Source: Adapted from Humes, K. R., Jones. N. A., & Ramirez, R. R. (2011). Overview of race and Hispanic origin, 2011.
Retrieved June 15, 2015, from
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Regional Diversity in the United States 213
Whites represent many ethnic groups with different cultures and experiences, some whose
families emigrated from Europe several centuries ago and others who are new immigrants.
Whites in the South and New England are predominantly from Anglo backgrounds, but the
ethnic diversity within the white population is increasing with migration from other states. The
Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states have a greater mix of European ancestry from Great Britain,
Ireland, Germany, Italy, Poland, and other Eastern European countries. A large portion of the
population in the central Great Plains states is German American. Swedes and Norwegians
settled in the northern states of this region (Johnson, Haarmann, & Johnson, 2015).
Characteristics of the population and land on which people live can be used to group geo-
graphic areas with similar landscapes and histories. The racial, ethnic, and religious diversity
varies from one region to another. The interests and perspectives of those who live in various
geographic regions often are reflected in their stands on state and federal issues, as reflected
in national elections, which distinguish red (Republican) and blue (Democrat) states. We will
explore some of these regional differences in this section.
regional Differences in education
As one travels across various regions in the United States, significant differences can be found
across areas in relation to education. Individuals exploring teaching opportunities will find that
the average salaries in some states are considerably higher or lower than in others. Teacher
salaries in the 50 states and the District of Columbia average $56,689, as shown in Table 9.1.
However, there are considerable variations in salaries by region and by state. Average state
teacher salaries range from $40,023 in South Dakota to $76,566 in New York (National
Education Association [NEA], 2014).
State per capita student expenditures may also be indicative of a state’s commitment or
ability to support public education. To some extent, the expenditure variations may be a func-
tion of the regional cost of living. The National Education Association found that expenditures
varied considerably across states and reported that the average per capita student expenditure
in the United States was $10,938. New York spent a high of $19,523 per student, while Arizona’s
expenditure was a low of $6,949 ( NEA, 2014).
Educational attainment varies across regions. The percentage of individuals age 25 and
above without a high school diploma varies across the different regions in the country. The
Northeast and Midwest were at 11.4% and 10.1%, respectively, as of 2011. The South and
West regions did not fare as favorably, with 15.3% and 14.6% without secondary completion
(U.S. Census Bureau, 2010a). The West fared best in terms of bachelor’s degrees (21.6%),
followed by the Northeast (20.6). The Northeast led the regions with advanced degrees
(12.9%), followed by the West (10.8%). The lack of high school completion could be a function
of any of a number of variables (e.g., older immigrants without high school completion, higher
dropout rates).
Table 9.1 averaGe teacher saLaries by reGiOn, 2013–2014
50 states and D.c. $56,689
New England $67,343
Mideast $70,581
Southeast $48,348
Great Lakes $57,700
Plains $50,601
Southwest $48,891
Rocky Mountains $51,104
Far West $65,198
Source: Adapted from National Education Association. (2014). Rankings & Estimates: Rankings of the States
2013 and Estimates of School Statistics 2014. Retrieved June 15, 2015, from
NEA-Rankings-and-Estimates-2013-2014 .
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214 chapter 9 Geography
regional religious Differences. Religious differences are one of the most import-
ant—and perhaps the most important—of the regional differences in the United States, as
well as other parts of the world. The daily behaviors and values of an individual may have
a direct correlation to the individual’s religious beliefs. Diet, values, and politics are often
functions of one’s religion, as discussed in more detail in Chapter 8. Because values are often
reflected in the platforms of political parties, individuals tend to support either liberal or
conservative platforms, parties, and candidates. The Republican Party typically adopts the
more conservative platforms and thus has tended to win the support of states and regions
where the residents are religious conservatives. Thus, in recent national elections, states in
the South and Midwest, along with the Mountain West, have generally supported Republican
candidates. The Northeast and the Pacific West, including Hawaii, have tended to support
Democratic candidates.
Newport (2014) found significant geographic differences in the religiosity of the Amer-
ican people. Based on a self-indication of the importance of religion in their lives and atten-
dance in religious services, individuals were classified for this study as very religious (41%),
somewhat religious (29%), or nonreligious (29%). Ten of the most religious states were in the
South. Utah was the exception. Mississippi led the nation as the most religious state, followed
by Utah, Alabama, and Louisiana. The least religious states were in New England and the
West. Vermont was designated the least religious state, followed by New Hampshire, Maine,
and Massachusetts.
Mississippi and Alabama (77%) led the country as the most Protestant states in the country,
followed closely by three other southern states, Arkansas, Tennessee, and South Carolina.
Rhode Island had the highest percentage of Catholics (54%), followed by New Jersey,
Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.
New York (7%) led the country with the highest percentage of individuals identifying
themselves as Jewish. New Jersey, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia followed with
the largest Jewish populations. Utah (60%), as expected, had the largest percentage of Latter-
Day Saints (Mormons). It was followed by Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Montana.
regional cuisine. Next to religion, for many individuals the most important factor asso-
ciated with geography is food. The mention of Philly cheese steak sandwiches, tamales and
enchiladas, New England clam chowder, barbecued ribs, sushi, deep dish pizza, or country
ham and red-eye gravy quickly brings a warm smile to the face of an individual from the region
associated with the particular food. One person’s feast, however, may bring a frown to some-
one who is unfamiliar with that cuisine. American regional cuisines are as different as regional
dialects and regional religious and political values.
As individuals migrated to the United States from different parts of the world, they
brought with them their cuisines. Different groups of immigrants settled in different regions
of the country, and each regional cuisine developed over time, influenced by the natural ingre-
dients of the region and the historical cuisines of the settlers. New England cooking is heavily
influenced by local ingredients such as seafood, apples, and cranberries, and by the cooking
styles of the early English settlers. Midwest cuisine relies heavily on beef, corn, dairy products,
and the influence of German and Scandinavian settlers. Cuisine of the South is influenced by
Spanish, English, and French settlers and the African slaves who served as the family cooks.
We often see ingredients such as black-eyed peas, okra, and turnip greens served with South-
ern meals. The Southwest has been heavily influenced by the Spanish and Mexicans. The
Northwest cuisine has much of its influence from local ingredients such as fish and game.
Hawaii plantation owners brought in contract workers from China, Japan, Korea, the
Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and Europe. The Hawaiian cuisine is perhaps one of the
most eclectic of all cuisines, reflecting not only the influence of the native Hawaiians but also
that of the many immigrant groups that settled in the islands. Consequently, food items often
identified by many from the U.S. mainland as “Hawaiian” are in reality ethnic foods that are
labeled as Hawaiian. The popular Hawaiian BBQ short ribs are Korean in origin. The popular
Hawaiian sweet bread found in many locations around the country is Portuguese sweet bread,
which is also popular in New England cuisine.
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Regional Diversity in the United States 215
regional health and Well-being. Witters (2015) reported that Alaska ranked at the
top of the list of states with the highest well-being score, followed closely by Hawaii and South
Dakota. The well-being index is composed of five sub-indexes: purpose, social, financial, com-
munity, and physical. Midwestern and western states were among the highest-rated states.
West Virginia ranked lowest on the index, followed by Kentucky and Indiana. Southern states
were disproportionately represented on the lower end of the index.
The negative effects of smoking have long ceased to be a debatable issue. In a Gallup
study, Mendes (2011) reports that Kentucky (29%) led the country with the largest per-
centage of residents who smoked. In states throughout the South and Midwest, 1 in 4 or
more Americans smoke. Utah had the lowest percentage of smokers, followed by California
and Hawaii. Western states were well represented among the states with low smoking
In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, Stahre and colleagues (2014)
found that the mountain region states and Alaska had the highest numbers of alcohol-related
deaths in the nation. New Mexico led, with 16.4% alcohol-related deaths, followed by Alaska
(15.9%), Colorado (14.2%), Arizona and Wyoming (13.4% each), and Montana (13.2%). In
comparison, the national average was 9.8%. Maryland had the lowest number of alcohol-
related deaths (7.5%), followed by New Jersey (7.8%), New York (7.9%), and Hawaii (8.0%).
Western and mountain states tended to have the best scores in terms of obesity, high blood
pressure, and diabetes. West Virginia and southern states were disproportionately represented
in the states with the worst scores in these areas (Levy, 2014; Mendes, 2012). Life expectancy
is lowest (worst) in southern states and best in the northeastern, mountain, western, and far
western states (Daily Beast, 2013).
Health issues are often closely associated with regional diets. Some Southern states are
known for their high-calorie foods such as fried chicken, country (or chicken) fried steaks, fried
catfish, barbecue, and delicious desserts. While these foods may be culinary delights, excessive
amounts may contribute to health risks. In addition to diet, socioeconomic and planned phys-
ical activity factors may influence these findings.
These health risks have significant implications for the possibilities of heart attack, strokes,
and other debilitating conditions. They have important instructional implications for the
classroom. From the time students enter kindergarten until they graduate, a strong emphasis
on healthy living should be an integral part of the curriculum.
regional Political Differences. During and at the conclusion of every national election,
maps of election results are posted in the media in the form of color-coded maps of all of the states.
The maps use the traditional red for states won by Republicans and blue for those won by Demo-
crats. In the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, and both the 2014 congressional and guberna-
torial elections, many of the results were somewhat predictable. The states in the northeastern and
far western United States were mostly shaded in blue, with the notable exception of Alaska, which
is typically Republican. The South, Midwest, and Southwest are primarily Republican and red, as
are most of the Mountain West states, such as Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.
Figure 9.2 is a map, which provides the results of the U. S. 2012 presidential election. The
States shown in blue went to President Obama. The States in red were won by the Republican
candidate Mitt Romney. Massachusetts, Maryland, and Rhode Island are the most Democratic
states in the country. Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho are the most Republican states ( Jones, 2015).
Many of the states around the Great Lakes, such as Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wiscon-
sin, are sometimes considered “battleground” or “swing” states, in which neither major politi-
cal party has such overwhelming public support that election results can be taken for granted.
The electorate in one of these states may switch political preferences from one election to
another, depending on the major issues at the time of the election (e.g., unemployment, the
economy, war).
There are many other regional differences—too many to include here. However, this
sampling of some of the important differences may help understand how diverse the United
States is. Understanding the diversity of one’s own country should lead to the realization that
many, if not most, other countries must also be diverse.
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216 chapter 9 Geography
rural, urban, and suburban areas
Now that we have explored some regional differences in the United States, let’s examine dif-
ferences within each region that also inf luence our lives. The way we experience life and our
culture is greatly inf luenced by the people who share the space and place in which we live. We
become very familiar with the place in which we live and know what is expected of us and
others. This sense of comfort is a reason many teacher candidates indicate that they want to
teach in or near the area where they grew up.
Eighty-one percent of the U.S. population live in towns, cities, and metropolitan areas
with 50,000 people or more (ProQuest, 2014). Teaching in an isolated rural area hundreds of
miles from a shopping center is very different from teaching in a wealthy suburban area with
access to a wide range of cultural and sporting events. Let’s examine the characteristics of rural,
urban, and suburban areas that may help you determine where you would like to teach.
rural areas
In 1900 a majority of Americans lived in rural areas. Beginning early in the twentieth century,
large numbers of rural workers migrated to cities for employment. Today rural areas are the
location of choice for 19% of the U.S. population (ProQuest, 2014), as well as many other
people around the world. People may choose to live in rural areas because they enjoy the wide-
open space, the stars in the sky, and fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities. Rural areas
feature fewer people with whom to contend and the freedom to have more control of one’s life.
Many of us have grown up in rural areas, but a growing number have moved from cities to
escape the crowding, traffic, crime, pollution, and bureaucracies of city life—to recapture a
quality of life that some believe provides a healthier environment for families.
fiGure 9.2 Results of the 2012 Presidential Election, with Blue Indicating Democratic States and Red
Republican States (© iQoncept/Fotolia)
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Rural, Urban, and Suburban Areas 217
While there may be a tendency to think of rural areas as populated primarily by individ-
uals involved in farming, fewer than 1% of Americans farm for a living today and 2% live on
farms. Today, there are approximately 2.2 million farms in the United States (U.S. Environ-
mental Protection Agency, 2015).
The massive areas of rural land are dotted with small towns, some of which serve as the
county seats for government purposes. The residents of these towns may work in a nearby
city or in local manufacturing establishments. They may provide services to the farming com-
munities as the managers and laborers at grain elevators, where the process of distributing
grain to national and world markets begins. Businesses sell supplies needed to raise crops or
animals, buy and sell meat products at the stockyards, and produce and deliver gas and oil
required for farming. Grocery stores and other retail stores serve farm and small-town resi-
dents, although some people must drive many miles to the nearest mall to access larger stores
and more options.
Populations of rural areas. The states with the largest rural populations are Texas,
North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia, in that order (ProQuest, 2014). The
rural population across the country is predominantly of European background. However, the
majority of the 1.9 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives who receive services from
the Department of the Interior through the 565 federally recognized tribes live in rural areas
(U.S. Department of Interior, 2015a). In recent decades, increasing numbers of Hispanic and
African Americans have moved into rural areas. They are attracted to jobs in meatpacking,
food processing plants, and agriculture.
economics in rural areas. Not all is idyllic in rural living. The rural workforce earns
less than its urban counterparts, and the poverty rate is higher than in other places. The pov-
erty level is consistently higher in rural America than in urban areas in all areas of the country.
Regionally, the highest poverty tends to be found in the South, followed by the West, the
Northeast, and the Midwest. Figure 9.3 shows the poverty rates for various regions of the
country from 2009–2013, both in metro and non-metro areas.
The rural economy is sensitive to fluctuations in manufacturing and export rates. Farm
production can fluctuate with crop prices, which are controlled by the world economy, and
weather. Successful farmers today use technology and business principles, as well as their
knowledge about agriculture, to manage a farm. In addition to watching the weather, they
Northeast Midwest South West
Poverty rates by region and metro/nonmetro status, 2009–13
t p
fiGure 9.3 Poverty Rates by Region and Metro/Non-metro Residence 2009–2013
Source: USDA, Economic Research Service using data from U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 Annual Social and Economic
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218 chapter 9 Geography
monitor the market to determine the best time to sell. They must have the resources to store
products during times of low prices, including storage facilities and adequate finances to sus-
tain them. The nature of the business is making it difficult for small farmers to survive. The
number of individual and family farmers has decreased over the past few decades. Although
families still own the majority of farms in the country, corporation ownership is growing.
Multinational corporations have outsourced many of the manufacturing jobs that were
once available in rural areas to lower-cost labor markets in other parts of the country or world.
Processing plants for meat, poultry, and fish continue to be located near the source of the raw
product. Local residents are often unwilling to work in the low-paying, physically demanding,
and sometimes dangerous jobs. To meet the labor demands, immigrants and individuals of
color have been filling a number of these jobs in areas that previously had little racial or ethnic
rural schools and their issues. Are you interested in teaching in a rural area? There
are advantages and limitations. Schools in rural areas are smaller than those in suburban and
urban areas, meaning that there are fewer students to manage and a better opportunity to get
to know students’ families.
The lower enrollment in rural schools usually results in a relatively low student-to-
teacher ratio, allowing more individual attention for students. One of the problems in small
schools is that teachers often must teach subjects for which they are not prepared (e.g.,
physics, chemistry, biology). Schools often do not have sufficient resources to offer for-
eign language classes, technology education, music, art, or advanced placement courses.
However, satellite connections in some rural areas allow students to take such courses via
distance learning.
School consolidation can be a contentious issue in rural communities. In some rural and
even urban schools, enrollments may be very small. Debates about the value and implications
of closing a school can be expected. Moving students to a school located many miles away will
limit the participation of parents in school activities. Long bus rides to and from the consoli-
dated school may cause hardship for some families.
Proponents of consolidation argue that the curriculum can be expanded to include sub-
jects not available in a small school, buildings can be upgraded with educational equipment
and technology, and students can be better served when small schools are combined. Nearly
150,000 schools were closed in the United States in the past century due to budget issues,
busing, academic issues, and even to strengthen athletic programs. The advent of online
learning, however, has helped save and improve rural schools. It allows rural schools to provide
instruction in subject matter where they would otherwise be unable to hire teachers. Through
online instruction, students in some rural schools may now have access to advanced subjects
that might otherwise be unavailable, such as math, physical sciences, foreign languages, and
computer science (Vander Ark, 2013).
Approximately 42,000 American Indian and Alaska Native children are educated by the
Bureau of Indian Education at 164 elementary and secondary schools on 64 reservations in
23 states. Fifty-eight of the schools are operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE),
while 125 are tribally operated under contracts or grants from BIE (U.S. Department of the
Interior, 2015b).
urban areas
Some people choose to live in urban areas because of the excitement and access to amenities
such as restaurants, theater, and music opportunities. Large cities offer abundant professional
jobs as well as sports complexes, numerou