Examining the Effect of Societal Inequities

How has the complex interplay of student differences, institutional racism and discrimination, teacher and societal biases led to low expectations, and unfair school policies and practices that affect our nations students and schools?
What are the short and long term effects of racism, prejudice, and discrimination for the field of education?
What structures do you see in your daily professional and personal life that limit the human education potential?
As an educational leader considering the interplay, effects, and structures addressed above, What implications do you see for school reform?
Length: 5 pages not including title and reference pages.
Referenced: Minimum of 3 scholarly resources.
Nieto and Bode (2012) suggest education must take on the challenge of no longer replicating societal inequities. Instead it is meant to reflect the ideals of democracy. However, they also write that our schools have consistently failed to provide an equitable education for students of all backgrounds and situations. Racism, prejudice and discrimination are defined and practiced in schools through education, school policies and institutional power. Nieto and Bode (2012) provide several studies that address issues of racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of discrimination in U.S. schools. They argue that overt acts of discrimination are only one way that racism manifests itself in the classroom. Racism can be as subtle as low expectations from teachers or turning a blind eye to discrimination in the school system. Nieto and Bode (2012) suggest that while teachers have little control over the environment outside the classroom, we do have a responsibility to advocate for our students. By addressing our own biases, challenging unfair school policies, resisting institutionally oppressive structures, breaking down barriers to equitable access to learning, and working to change policies and practices outside the classroom we can work toward a more equitable education system.

Nieto and Bode (2012) consider democracy, as theorized by Dewey and others, a liberatory practice. This conception of democratic teaching practices offers equitable opportunities for all students. Unfortunately, many students in U.S. schools are not given the opportunity to see themselves as equal citizens due to educational structures that limit their potential. These structural and organizational issues include tracking, retention, standardized testing, traditional curriculums and pedagogy, climate and physical structures, disciplinary policies, teachers and family and community have limited involvement. In this chapter, the reader is encouraged to examine each structure, using the most current research, in order to conceptualized multicultural school reform. As you read through your assigned reading for this activity, reflect on the following definitions from the text:

The attitudes and beliefs of individuals about entire groups of people. These attitudes and beliefs are generally, but not always, negative. Attitudes alone, however, are not as harmful as the behaviors, policies (65).

Discrimination (whether based on race, gender, social class, or other differences) denotes negative or destructive behaviors that can result in denying some groups their lifes necessities as well as privileges, rights and opportunities enjoyed by other groups. Discrimination is usually based on prejudice (65).

Institutional discrimination
Institutional discrimination generally refers to how people are excluded or deprived of rights or opportunities as a result of the normal operations of the institution The systematic use of economic and political power in institutions (such as schools) that leads to detrimental policies and practicesdoes far greater damage. These policies and practices have a destructive effect on groups that share a particular identity, be it racial, ethnic, gender, or other. The major difference between individual and institutional discrimination is the wielding of power (67).

Discrimination is not simply an individual dislike of a particular group of people. The systemic nature of discrimination has long-range and life-limiting effects of institutional racism and other kinds of institutional discrimination. Discrimination is systemic because it is manifested in economic, political and social power (67).

Discrimination based on race (68).

Institutional Racism
Racism as an institutional system implies that some people and groups benefit and others lose. Whites, whether they intend to or not, benefit in a racist society. According to the late Meyer Weinberg, a well-known historian whose research focused on school desegregation, racism is a system of privilege and penalty. That is, one is rewarded or punished in housing, education, employment, health, and in other institutions by the simple fact of belonging to a particular group, regardless of ones individual merits or faults (67).

Nieto, S. & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.


1.  Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education
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