The latest reports show shocking results: the demographic gap between teachers and students keeps growing. In all schools and colleges across the country, the number of white teachers significantly exceeds the number of teachers of color. At the same time, the number of students and school kids of color significantly exceeds the percentage of white kids. This situation raises an urgent problem: why we still have ethnic and racial inequality in the educational system and how to deal with the problem of the absence of teacher diversity.
In the past few decades, a huge progress has been made in dealing with the problem of discrimination. Today, no one is surprised when an Asian, Latin American, or African-American person occupies the top management position in a big corporation. However, the problem of teacher diversity is still urgent. Voluntary or involuntary, we create an unequal society where the color of skin greatly influences the social position of a person.
In childhood, human beings have almost no social prejudice and are more open to the world. However, the kids watch TV and interact with people around them, and they hear that all Latin Americans are drug dealers and Afro-Americans are criminals. They start to repeat it, and, over the years, to believe it on some level. In fact, this is the first step to racism – prejudice towards people because of their skin color or nationality.
“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”
– Maya Angelou
Main Problems of Teacher Diversity
After a careful analysis of the situation, we have come to the conclusion that in the previous 5 years the situation with teacher diversity has not changed. In 2011, the studies demonstrated that only 17% of all teachers were non-white. Farah Ahmad draws the attention to this problem stating that diverse teachers should not be discriminated. According to her words, diverse teachers have more diverse backgrounds, thus they can teach kids more than white teachers. But it takes more time and effort for them to make themselves heard.
Besides, she insists that the lack of diverse teachers creates the problem of the lack of role models for the kids. As we have already mentioned before, the percentage of kids of color is much bigger than the percentage teachers of color. Although we support the notion of equality, we still understand that some people might have some personal problems with acceptance. For a kid, it is extremely important to overcome these prejudices and the best way to do that is to see other people who had the same problem.
Unfortunately, we still live in the prejudiced world where the color of one’s skin determines how people treat them. Our main goal is to teach our kids how to get rid of all prejudice and accept people of other races, nationalities, and religions. By encouraging teacher diversity, we give our kids a chance to see that a person is not just a set of external characteristics but something deeper and more complicated.
Benefits of Teacher Diversity
For some people, the benefits of diverse teachers are not obvious. However, they are really undeniable. Perhaps, the most powerful of them is the unique opportunity for kids and students to get acquainted with different cultures and backgrounds. As a rule, diverse teachers have a wider understanding of different social problems as they face them regularly. They can share their experience which is extremely important both for the kids of color and for the white kids.
Official studies state that there are three most significant benefits that determine the necessity of teacher diversity. These benefits are:
— non-white kids and students see the role models, thus, they have an example of how they should act (this aspect has been explained above);
— non-white teachers have higher requirements when it comes to non-white kids. It helps increase students’ performance and inspire them to aim for better achievements. Here, the psychological trick works: when no one wants you to strive for the better results, you will never do that. But when there is someone who expects more of you, you can actually achieve it.
— diverse teachers can understand the diverse students better. The background often determines the conduct. The interpretation of behavior and what is even more important, determining the reasons for certain behaviors, is one of the most important abilities for a teacher.
The 21st century should become a turning point for changing the situation with student diversity. Cultural, ethnic or physical differences should no longer be the obstacle for getting a diversified, multi-cultural education. Every kid should get an approach that will help them grow up into a mindful and confident person. Today, we desperately need the teachers of color. They can reflect the modern community and handle the problems our society meets. Teacher workforce can become a powerful weapon to build a strong nation where everyone is treated equally.