Welcome back, friends! If you have missed out on the past few weeks of the Downstage Arts blog, we have been examining the many ways in which White Supremacy continues to blunder our education system by way of both blatant and negligent acts of racism. We have taken a look at where we are now since Brown was decided, and we have explored how private and charter schools complicate the issue. From elementary schools all the way through the university level, our school system is still deeply segregated, and it is in dire need of a massive reformation.
Today, we delve into research that suggests why diversity makes a big difference in every facet of our lives—and especially in the lives of our students. “When and How Do Students Benefit from Ethnic Diversity in Middle School?” by Jaana Juvonen, Kara Kogachi, and Sandra Graham, examines their extensive study on the benefits of ethnic diversity in the classroom. The outcome of their study states that "as the ethnic diversity of middle school increased, African American, Latino, Asian, and White youth all reported a lower sense of social vulnerability, defined as feeling safer at school, less victimized, and less lonely.” Other studies that the authors surveyed discovered a better teacher-student dynamic when the students felt their teachers were fair to everyone in the class. Perhaps, you do not have to imagine being blamed and picked on because you are different from everyone else, feeling unsafe and unsupported by both your peers and teachers. The influence that diversity (or lack thereof) can have on students' educations seems unmistakably profound.
Another article “The Benefits of Inclusion and Diversity in the Classroom” reveals the conclusions of different studies on classroom diversity. One study found that a diverse classroom increased cognitive skills and critical thinking,
"diversity in the classroom allows students to consider perspectives and opinions beyond those they’ve already formed or were shaped in early life by family and friends. By presenting students with viewpoints far different from their own, it gives them the opportunity to think critically about their own beliefs and examine the world in fresh ways."
On top of that, the author found other studies that concluded that a diverse college experience increased involvement in civic engagement and that diversity, in general, also stimulates creativity. “Groups with racial diversity significantly outperformed groups without diversity in a problem-solving scenario.” Diversity is the cornerstone of growth that is in correlation with the multicultural reality of our world. The more we burst our personal and community bubbles, the more we gain greater knowledge and understanding of others.
We teach our children diversity in ways that we may not realize. Parents and teachers encourage children to try new things all of the time, such as new foods, hobbies, and games. We encourage these things because we want our kids to grow strong and healthy bodies as well as cultivate various skills, like art, music, and sports, in order to be well-rounded individuals. So, of course it is also important for our kids to have ethnically and socioeconomically diverse friendships.
It’s not just about having different personalities and aesthetic preferences from one another. It is about your child learning about another friend’s cultural background, their family’s norms, and beliefs—and learning how to embrace those differences as strengths that help enrich us all. While it is important for all of us to know our own stories, our own cultures, and beliefs, it is just as imperative to know the stories of others.