The School-to-Prison Pipeline

The school-to-prison pipeline concept resonated with me specifically due to my research on juvenile crime, specifically Juveniles serving Life sentences without the possibility of Parole (JLWOP). One of the predominant arguments of JLWOP that could also pertain to the school-to-prison pipeline concept is brain development. Whether the child is in elementary school, middle school, or high school the brain is still developing, and is often unaware of the consequences of an action. Punitive treatment will do little to promote personal growth or rehabilitate the individual to improve their behavior. The trend of disciplining students with behavioral issues and ignoring students that fail to actively participate in learning is continuing, creating an effect that funnels disadvantaged students right into the criminal justice system.

Nieto and Bode (2012) discuss the Resistance Theory and how some students may refuse to learn or participate, or possibly dropping out. As a result, teachers tend to be “frustrated by apparently disinterested youth who look bored and disengaged” (Nieto & Bode, p. 267). Not suggesting that teachers should then become more invested in those students, but a teacher should strive to teach every individual within the classroom. As “bored” students become ignored, they may further fall into a pattern of resistant behavior.

            The Children’s Defense Fund found that “young Black men in the United States are incarcerated in the juvenile justice system at four times the rate of White youth” (Nieto & Bode, p. 267). In 2007, the Justice Policy Institute released data which reported that “Disparities in educational opportunities contribute to a situation in which communities of color experience less educational attainment than whites, are more likely to be incarcerated, and more likely to face higher violent crime rates” (p. 2). The unwillingness to incorporate what has been termed “Black English” is often putting students whose culture and language differ from their White teacher’s Standard English at a disadvantage (Nieto & Bode, p. 120). If grades are suffering due to a language barrier and students are not succeeding because their urban vernacular is inappropriate on an academic level, the correlation between crime and lack of education is bound to continue.

            By continuing this cycle of minority students resisting education and falling into self-fulfilling prophecies, it is not only harming the individual, but there is extensive research to support the ways it causes harm to the larger population. In 2006, the Alliance for Excellent Education reported that in the United States “a 5 percent increase in male high school graduation rates would produce an annual savings of almost $5 billion in crime-related expenses. Coupled with annual earnings of those who graduated, the U.S. would receive $7.7 billion in benefits” (Justice Policy Institute, p. 3). With local taxes often being the prime funding for schools, it is inevitable that poor neighborhoods are going to attribute less funding than wealthy communities. Open Minds to Equality (2006) suggests that without monetary support, schools located in poor neighborhoods lack the same resources and extracurricular programs that are easily accessible in wealthier schools.

            Children are vulnerable and teachers must attempt to create an atmosphere that actively involves all students and fosters a healthy learning environment. If a teacher’s expectations of a student effects their teaching and how they treat certain individuals, the student’s susceptibility to these actions are likely to have an effect on their behavior, as well. 

References

Justice Policy Institute. (2007). Education and Public Safety. Washington, D.C.

Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Schniedewind, N., & Davidson, E. (2006). Open Minds to Equality. Milwaukee, WI: Pearson.

The Ideal School

          I’m a firm believer that everything about a person is rooted in the fundamentals- academically, behaviorally, socially, and emotionally. That being said, I feel it is most necessary to idealize an elementary environment that would be efficient for all students.

          Beginning with the academics of the school, I must express my dislike for the grouping of students based on skill level. In Affirming Diversity it is often mentioned that students who receive some type of learning support tend to be removed from their regular education class, or even placed in a different class altogether. Despite the fact that these students are still young, with some amount of naiveté, they are often not blind to the fact that they are being separated because of some difference between them and their peers. Unfortunately, if students view themselves the same way they are viewed by the administrators responsible for their skill-based separation, they will likely fall into the vicious role of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Obviously, I am not suggesting that children with learning disabilities be ignored and receive no extra help. However, with retention occurring as young as Kindergarten, and high dropout rates amongst retained children, it may be more harmful than helpful to keep a child from moving on with their peers.

            Pedagogy is everything, in my opinion, and while teachers all have their own style of teaching, it is also necessary to alter curriculum in order to fit the needs of the greatest amount of students. Removing memorization of inane information and replacing it practical information, as well as involving students in their own educational plan are two possibilities to increase responsibility and critical thinking. Unfortunately, there are still going to remain some students whose learning styles are incompatible with certain pedagogies. While one teacher may believe visual learning to be most powerful, he or she may have students who are auditory or kinesthetic learners. By meeting the needs of each student, separation by learning style for each topic is one way I feel schools could create a more successful learning environment.

            Nieto and Bode discuss constructivism, which may be more ideal than realistic (p. 125). I appreciate the theory and I believe that all learning is based on experiences and that learning should be creative and cultural. I also agree that peer interaction and active learning are necessary to foster a safe and respectful learning environment. Unfortunately, considering the extreme differences and past experiences of each individual, Virginia Richardson in Affirming Diversity mentions the harmful effects when applying this style to everyone (p. 126).

            As important as a child’s in-school experiences may be, it may be completely irrelevant if their positive experiences are not also shared and mimicked in their home lives. Although parental engagement is not something that can be enforced, there are certain ways to allow more parents to become involved in their child’s success. Especially with the increase in non-traditional and single parent households, teachers and administrators must work together to find ways that even the busiest of parents can become engaged. The disconnect between educators and families can create unnecessary struggles in miscommunication and a lack of understanding of the child’s home life for the teacher, as well as the lack of knowledge of how a parent’s child is performing in school.

            However, parental involvement is also highly important when discussing a student’s behavior. Although I have mixed feelings about zero tolerance policies, a larger part of me is against the practice. The Advancement Project discussed in Affirming Diversity explains the “school-to-prison pipeline” and the punitive route many schools take to push students towards the juvenile system, rather than offer more reform-based options (p. 116). It is also important to recognize the racial disciplinary gap that exists, which the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported “Black students were two and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than other students” (Nieto and Bode, p. 130). The lack of communication and understanding, especially when a cultural barrier exists between parents and teachers, can lead to negative behavioral outcomes for students of color.

            Socially and emotionally, I reaffirm many of my former ideas of the importance of not segregating children based on skill level. On the basis of diversity, I agree with Nieto and Bode to begin discussing racism early on, and to eradicate “colormuteness” which they define as the unease many people experience when discussing racism (p. 73). While my feelings on how to combat bullying are a large and important part of how I believe the social environment of a school could be effected, the topic is too personal of an issue, which would require tangent upon tangent. I will say that administrators and teachers must be more active in how they handle situations. From my own experience, teachers tend to find it easier to turn a blind eye or act oblivious, but it is their voice and actions that can make all the difference, especially for children too afraid to speak up. While I am sure that a perfect school does not currently, nor will it ever exist, trial and error as well as committed teachers and parents can make a huge difference in the future success of students.

References

Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education. Boston, MA: Pearson.

 

How can multicultural education help close the achievement gap?

 

 

The philosophy of Lincoln Elementary School is one that has worked at fostering a learning community that has virtually diminished the achievement gap. This “gap” is one that effects lower classes and minority groups and allows economic resources to determine educational outcomes. In Learning Matters’ video The Achievement Gap, Ron Ross argues that SAT scores predict the income of the student’s family, rather than intelligence. Unfortunately, this video does little to provide administrators with ideas of how to improve their school’s current standing. By placing high quality, innovative teachers in a school in a disadvantaged neighborhood, their solution is found in human resources. This resource may not be available to most schools. Lincoln’s location outside of Manhattan provides them with the advantage of having a larger human capital available to them. While I applaud the school for finding individuals with a commitment to closing the achievement gap, I believe the focus should lie more in career development, and providing teachers with the knowledge they need to create an environment equitable for all children.

 

A lot of the problems I have noticed are economic, after all, Andrew Shapiro reports in Open Minds to Equality that the U.S. as having the “number one in highest-paid athletes, but last in teachers’ salaries” (p. 25). Schniedewind and Davidson discuss the Common Sense Budget Act, which would reallocate $60 billion of federal funding towards schools, medical research and job training rather than unneeded programs in the defense budget (2006). The importance of money in our country has formed a gap socially that has leaked over into academics. However, a recurring question is constantly whether or not to address these problems in school, or allow them to occur naturally. Where should the focus in multicultural education lie?

In Affirming Diversity, Nieto and Bode refer to Jonathan Kozol’s concept of sanitizing curriculum. There are positive ways and negative ways in which curriculum changes can provide students with a positive multicultural experience. Exhausting the stories of heroes such as MLK and Rosa Parks is not one of these ways. Nieto and Bode discuss the European American way of thinking, and believing their way of life is the normal way, and “anything else is “ethnic” and exotic” (p. 49).  Realistically, providing students with a separate unit focused on slavery and segregation will likely not affect their experience or understanding of other ethnic groups.

Sleeter & Grant take a more Humanistic approach on multicultural education in An analysis of multicultural education in the United States. They suggest that by opening communication in the classroom, students are able to improve their relationships with one another and select literature that provides multiple perspectives for all races and ethnic groups. However, this methodology lacks any long-term goals, and while one classroom may wholly embrace this approach, universal practice of this theory may be too idealistic.

Multicultural Education by Banks takes a multipronged approach, which focuses on various facets of the students and the school. With minimal focus on the curriculum, Banks looks mostly at prejudice reduction and knowledge construction. Prejudice reduction begins in Kindergarten and has been researched using intervention in young children. These methods provide reading materials informing children of the experiences of different ethnic groups, and in doing so reducing white bias. Banks references Cohen while discussing the interracial interaction disability that causes white and minority students to automatically expect whites to dominate a situation. By intervening early, it is situations like this that may have the possibility of disappearing from academic, if not all, social circumstances.

Whether Lincoln has been a model of advancement in the academic community, or whether they are the result of luck, it is hard to say. However, by becoming better educators and preparing teachers for changing classrooms that are becoming increasingly more diverse, we may begin to see a closing of the education gap.

 

Banks, J. (1993). Multicultural education: Historical development, dimensions and practices. Review of Research in Education, 19, 3 – 49.

 

Learning Matters. (2003, November 12). The Achievement Gap. [Video]. Retrieved from http://learningmatters.tv/blog/on-pbs-newshour/watch-the-achievement-gap/14/

 

Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education. Boston, MA: Pearson.

 

Schniedewind, N., & Davidson, E. (2006). Open Minds to Equality. Milwaukee, WI: Pearson.

 

Sleeter, C., & Grant, C. (1987). An analysis of multicultural education in the United States. Harvard Educational Review, 57(4), 420 – 444.

 

Why are the histories of certain groups silenced?

As such an ethnocentric culture, I feel as though so much history has been lost and, as Americans, we tend to discard any information that is not relative to ourselves. It was interesting to read about events in American history that were based solely on the interactions between two ethnic groups, neither one being of European descent, similar to what Takaki describes in his lecture as the “master narrative of American history” (2004). History, for me, has always included the Civil War and World War II, briefly focusing on the struggles of those involved in slavery and the Holocaust. Of course, both of these events also contain an ending in which Americans were able to put aside their egos and rescue groups in need of salvation. However, it was the unknown history of my European ancestors that shocked me most.
One surprising historical event was how much cannibalism was present among the early European settlers. John Smith tells the story of one settler who “murdered his wife, ripped the child out of her womb and threw it into the river, and after chopped the mother in pieces and salted her for his food” (Takaki, 2008, p. 35). The passage also explains how poor the English were at rationing their food, and often relied on either the kindness of the Native Americans or brutality against the Native Americans as a way to replenish their supply. Not surprisingly, my second revelation in American history also included mistreatment towards Native Americans. Jefferson’s manipulation against the Native Americans’ finances was something I had never heard about before. Takaki describes Jefferson’s plan as a way to involve Native Americans in the marketplace, only to have them spiral into debt, and eventually have to sell off their land as repayment (2008). The lack of regard towards the native people and the audacity of these white politicians to displace and bankrupt such a peaceful group is an unsettling occurrence in America’s dark past.
As for why I believe certain voices get silenced in American history, I am not entirely sure. As I previously stated, as an American I often feel that early on egocentrism and ethnocentrism are ingrained in us, and it is difficult to remove the “American Dream” glasses from our eyes that allow us to look past anything that may divert us from our own interests. The consequences that are involved in this scenario often serve as a vehicle to disconnect us from the events occurring around the world. Prior to one year ago, I would not have been able to tell you about the UDHR or even human rights in general, and the multiple ways this document was being violated every single day. My previous ignorance regarding the world outside of my American bubble, which I am positive many people are still experiencing, is what I believe is a consequence in disregarding the history of the unfamiliar.
Another consequence is what I believe to be the result of overexposure to crime in the news. By focusing on the crimes committed by specific minority groups, it creates a culture where people fear those groups constantly being linked to crime. With the recent violence and tragic events occurring in Washington, The Times of India is already describing it as an “African-American revolt,” which will likely make its way into U.S. headlines in no time, though my knowledge of the situation proves that it has already worked (Rajghatta, 2013).

References

Rajghatta, C. (2013). Warning bells: Is US shutdown a brewing African-American revolt? The Times of India. Retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Warning-bells-Is-US-shutdown-a-brewing-African-American-revolt/articleshow/23601211.cms

Takaki, R. (2008). A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. New York, NY: Back Bay Books.

Takaki, R. (2004, February 6). America in a Different Mirror with Ron Takaki. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpq722mR6nE