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Ethnic minorities in classrooms: Jeff takes on the cultural barriers

1 December 1993


The dominant cultural group in public schools builds walls intentionally or unintentionally that can be daunting, or even impenetrable, for ethnic minority students. Despite costly reforms to reverse the negative impact of racism and educational inequality, public school teachers have not shown improvement in how they relate to minority students; thus, dropout rates for minority students continue to soar. This paper investigates a seven-year-old minority student's efforts to tackle cultural and language barriers and be accepted in his multiage classroom~ The study seeks to illuminate the nature of difficulties minority students face and argues that teachers cannot ignore cultural concerns.

The literature review examines overt and covert forms of racism that result in educational inequities and minority students feeling isolated, confused and rejected. It also studies how minority children develop attitudes toward the dominant cultural group and its ideology in the classroom, how teachers play a part in spreading that ideology and the imperative that teachers address minority concerns.

Taking the form of an educational criticism, this qualitative research uses methods that include observing the student in the classroom and on the playground, taking field notes, interviewing the child and the teacher and examining the classroom environment.

The analysis brings together the student's experience and the teacher's approach to making him feel included. It elucidates how developing inclusive strategies can help minority students become a part of the class -- a task that requires the child to master the dominant culture's language, values and social expectations.


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