When hard monetary decisions lead to teacher layoffs, shorter school days, and text books being used yet another year, does it make sense to encourage a fluffy idea like multi-culturalism? Research by Drs. Christia Spears Brown and Hui Chu suggest that, at least for Latino students, the answer is. “Yes.”
The Study of Latino and White Students
Brown and Chu looked at the experience of 204 Latino students with an average age of nine, in a predominately White community. The students attended 19 schools in a city in the “Upper South.” Only one school was predominately Latino, four were primarily African American, thirteen were mainly European American, and one had equal proportions of all ethnic groups.
During the course of the study, the researchers measured each student’s ethnic identity (positive or negative), perceptions of discrimination, student attitudes about academics, feelings about “school belonging,” and academic performance.
The school environment was assessed by measures of teachers’ valuing of diversity by means of the Pluralism and Diversity Attitude Assessment, which involved rating statements. The schools’ valuing of multiculturalism was rated by viewing posters and books on display.
Multiculturalism: The Results
According to the study, published in Child Development on September 11, 2012, Brown and Chu discovered that “[i]mmigrant children with teachers who highly valued diversity held more positive and important ethnic identities than children with teachers who devalued diversity.” They also found that “[a] strong, positive ethnic identity was directly associated with more positive academic attitudes.”
In other words, teachers and schools who provided positive messages about a student’s ethnic identities were associated with students who reported less discrimination, and who felt and performed better in the classroom.
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