The civil rights movement in the 1960s changed the face of the classroom by introducing students of different cultures to the educational environment. While it has presented opportunities that were once unheard of for these students, it has also tiptoed through various complications that arise from mixing individuals of different cultures and races together in a similar environment. These complications are both covert and subtle, and affect the self-esteem and confidence of the student.
Those students who are isolated due to their gender, race, orientation or religion experience a lack of confidence due to their exclusion from the group as a whole. They can feel cast out of the group and as such feel they lack a support system to help them. Students who feel this isolation seek out others of their own race, and as such leave these students open to discrimination and further perpetuation of a stereotype because they are not seen as individuals, but as a group that is outside the "norm."
Stereotypes subtly affect the expectations these students have with each other, and the educators have with their students. Students who belong to certain groups, whether by race or gender, may be expected to perform to a lower standard than the majority when it comes to certain subjects. This undermines the confidence of the student, who may not attempt to break through the barriers set in place by generic, outdated or unsubstantiated stereotypes. Educators should avoid classifying students by their cultural diversity only and encourage them to perform at an equal level.
Another subtle discrimination that these culturally diverse students may face is the language used when addressing them. Epithets should never be tolerated as they perpetuate the disrespect and discrimination based on the aforementioned stereotypes. How the faculty chooses to speak to the students or groups of students sets the tone of how students will ultimately relate to each other. Classroom policies need to reflect a cross-cultural inclusion and protection against discrimination, that give each student equal consideration.
The level of discrimination each student faces depends entirely upon his perception. Whereas the cultural majority may not sense that there are any problems in regards to racial discrimination or attitudes that affect inclusion into the group, those in the minority may feel the sting of subtle attitude shifts much more acutely. Equality begins with how these differences in perception are treated. Equal weight should be given to the feelings of these students, especially by counsellors and educators, who may not share the same experiences of exclusion or discrimination, no matter how subtle, that the student may be facing.
- University of Hawaii Honolulu; Diversity and Complexity in the Classroom; Barbara Gross Davis
- Bryn Mawr College; Student Perceptions of Campus Cultural Climate by Race; Julie R. Ancis, et al.; 2000
- United Nations; Study on the Effects of Racial Discrimination...; April 2000
- NY Times; Many Black College Athletes Express Feelings of Isolation; William C. Rhoden; April 1989