ERIC Number: EJ1023627
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013
A Conversation on Inequality with Students of Color
Soumah, Mohamed Amin; Hoover, John H.
Reclaiming Children and Youth, v22 n1 p18-23 Spr 2013
In this article, youth from diverse racial backgrounds describe the challenges they face in aspiring to excellence in underperforming schools. The research explored the perceptions of school inequality on the part of Latino, African American or immigrant, and Caucasian students in two central Minnesota communities. This study tapped the experience of young people potentially affected by inequality. The eight student participants/respondents (age range = 14 to 19) were enrolled in school or had graduated during the study period. Soumah interviewed the students in their homes or at a neutral site. The interviews were transcribed and searched for emerging themes. The authors report using a qualitative strategy in which they identified the essence of a phenomenon described by participants. The authors highlight at least three reasons for exploring students' views of inequality: First, their beliefs may be as important as what might be considered "objective" reality; second, the way students behave is closely related to how they believe they are treated by the adults in their lives; and third, exploring student views can help young people master their worlds by participating meaningfully in improving their schools and society. During the discussions, the respondents related that educators and administrators subtly communicate low expectations about the academic abilities of students of color. Students imputed that some teachers exhibit negative views of students of color, and see no reason to go out of their way to provide assistance. Discipline, in the view of most student respondents, is not equitably handled. They perceived teachers, administrators, and even bus drivers as using unfairly harsh disciplinary measures. Particularly, students of color experienced hyper-vigilance for bad behavior. The authors were struck by the intensity of hard feelings--especially in terms of low expectations, the lack of relevance, and, most particularly, biased discipline. They suggest that courageous school administrators and educators would do well to replicate this type of qualitative research as an ongoing practice in bringing youth to decision making.
Descriptors: Low Achievement, Equal Education, Hispanic American Students, African American Students, White Students, Immigrants, Interviews, Social Bias, Racial Bias, High School Students, Student Attitudes, Teacher Attitudes, Teacher Expectations of Students, Attendance Patterns, Discipline, Qualitative Research
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: High Schools
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Minnesota
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A