Monthly Archives: June 2020

Nothing Wrong With Education Being A Fundamental Right

Everyone has the right to education… Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages… Elementary education shall be compulsory.

If you think this sounds like something written by Americans for Americans, you might wish you had paid more attention in your 12th grade civics class. Of course, odds are you may not have been among the less than 25 percent of students who passed a basic examination at proficient or above level.

Those three lines are from the beginning of a document entitled Resolution 217. The resolution is from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted on December 10, 1948, by the United Nations General Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France.

But you don’t have to feel too bad if you didn’t know. Fewer than 20 percent of liberal-arts colleges in the United States include a course in history or government as part of their graduation requirements. So much for understanding much of anything about how our government works.

Our Founding Fathers Understood The Value Of Knowledge

As a nation de-prioritizes education, it risks giving rise to a government more dependent on growth and financial manipulation than knowledge. Ignorance and indifference can only foster more of the same. Our founding fathers were well aware of the fundamental truth that knowledge is the cornerstone of self-governance.

Thomas Jefferson and his nation-building colleagues cautioned against classifying any group of people based on color, ethnic background, religion, education level or any other factor deemed unacceptable. For membership in what would become one of the most powerful and diverse societies in the history of the world, an individual would simply have to conform within the same parameters as anyone else.

While drafting the history-changing Declaration of Independence, they didn’t specify that the ‘Truths’ were designated for a specific class of individuals, but rather self-evident for a much broader cross-section of the population – the people.

Wisdom Lights The Path To Democracy

Education does more than pack a brain full of facts and figures. It engages the mind and enhances the soul. Knowledge builds awareness. Awareness nurtures wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge grown up.

In 1787, another founding father, James Madison, acknowledged the importance of education for a young America. Referring to guidelines set forth in the Northwest Ordinance, religion, morality, and knowledge were fundamentally important for a growing nation’s well-being. Listed in the document were words prioritizing schools, advocating that education shall forever be encouraged.

Decades later, Madison’s sentiments regarding the importance of knowledge still echoed in his philosophy and writing. He was firm in his support of intelligent power, stating that a populace must fortify themselves with information and awareness if they desired to live in self-governance.

The argument for education is powerful, informed, and rooted in the very character of our country. To stand idly by while generations of young people fall helplessly into educational obscurity, is an affront to the pillars of our democracy and stands in direct opposition to the wisdom of our forefathers and all they envisioned.

Illiteracy is not a chosen way of life. It is a lifestyle born of inequality, frustration and lack of positive expectations. Our country was founded and built on expectations. The educational system foreseen by those who understood the intrinsic need for literacy is in disarray, struggling to once again offer the promise of hope and opportunity to everyone.

With intelligent debate, we can light the fire of academic promise that will inspire and encourage each of us to assure education remains a fundamental right alongside Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. To do nothing is true ignorance.

Diversity Pioneers In The History Of Diversity Education

Introduction

Diversity education is becoming a solution for many businesses. In the European Union, it is offered to small and medium-sized businesses to develop their capacity to include people of across states in the union and cultures. Australia’s government utilizes diversity education to end a history of discrimination against Aboriginal and Islander people. Asia finds it useful for increasing productivity in multinational companies, and for addressing the historical challenges of achieving harmony between Muslim and Hindu citizens. South Africa has implemented diversity education to adjust to the removal of the Apartheid system. The United States has offered diversity education for decades, although the rationale for its use has changed over time.

This article is limited to characterizing the history of diversity education in the United States. A history of diversity education in other countries and continents will follow in future issues.

Diversity Training and education in the United States

Many organizations, communities, military sectors, and higher education institutions have been conducting some form of diversity education since the 1960s in the United States. Businesses used diversity training in the late 1980s and throughout the 90s to protect against and settle civil rights suits. Many organizations now assume that diversity education can boost productivity and innovation in an increasingly diverse work environment. The assumptions about the value of diversity training, as a result of its changing functions and uses, have evolved over the decades.

Diversity education basically started as a reaction to the civil rights movement and violent demonstrations by activists determined to send a clear message to Americans of European descent that black people would no longer remain voiceless regarding their treatment as citizens. Social change in order to achieve a more stable society prevailed was the rationale for the education, which primarily focused on training to increase sensitivity towards and awareness of racial differences.

Encounter groups became a popular training method for bringing white and black Americans together for honest and emotional discussions about race relations. The military employed encounter groups in what is perhaps the largest scale diversity education experiment ever conducted (Day, 1983). Many of the facilitators viewed the “encounter” among racial group participating in diversity training as successful when at least one white American admitted that he or she was racist and tearful about racial discrimination and white supremacy.

Employing a black-white pair of facilitators was considered essential for exposing participants to the two race relations perspective and to model cross-racial collaboration. The facilitators were typically men, and the white facilitator was most valued if he could openly show emotions about his own journey in discovering his deep-seated racism.

Facilitators saw their work as a way to achieve equality in a world that had historically oppressed those with less social, political, and economic power. Confronting white Americans who made excuses for, or denied their racism, was common in this diversity training approach. The goal was to increase white American sensitivity to the effects of racial inequity.

White American participants tended to respond to confrontation in sensitivity training in three important ways. One group of whites became more insightful about the barriers to race relations as a result of being put on the hot seat during the encounters. Another group became more resistant to racial harmony as they fought against accepting the facilitators’ label of them as racists. A third group became what the military referred to as “fanatics.” These individuals began advocating against any forms of racial injustice after the training.

H. R. Day’s (1985) research on diversity training in the military indicates that the Defense Department Race Relations Institute reduced the amount of training hours and curtailed the use of the “hot seat” techniques in response to negative evaluations by many participants who completed the training. Diversity training in corporations also began to change as Affirmative Action laws were being curtailed by the federal government.

While gender diversity education began to emerge during the 1970s and 1980s, diversity education in the United States expanded in the 1990s to focus on barriers to inclusion for other identity groups. Ability difference, ethnic, religious, gay, lesbian, and other worldviews began to appear in education and training.

Some diversity pioneers argue that the broader view of diversity has “watered down” the focus on race to the extent that it is no longer seriously dealt with in training. Their assumption is that focusing on prejudice towards other groups does not activate the visceral reaction needed for individuals, organizations, and the society as whole to deal with core discrimination issues.

Recent research shows that people in the United States have more negative reactions towards people who are gay or lesbian (Devine & Monteith, 1993). It seems that many Americans share an anti-gay and lesbian attitude, primarily based on religious beliefs. However, even the attitude towards gays and lesbians is becoming more positive way, as indicated by the success of the movie Brokeback Mountain about two cowboy lovers, and the introduction of legislation that protects their rights (Vaughn, 2002).

Multiculturalism refers to the inclusion of the full range of identity groups in education. The goal is to take into consideration each of the diverse ways people identify as cultural beings. This perspective has become the most widely used approach today in diversity education. The inclusion of other identity groups poses the challenges of maintaining focus on unresolved racial discrimination and effectively covering the many different identity groups.

The current focus on white privilege training in one sector of diversity work maintains a place for racism in diversity education. White privilege education involves challenging white people to consider the benefits they reap individually as a member of the racial group with the most social, political, and economic power.

While white privilege, multiculturalism, and racism work are each very important, diversity professionals must keep in mind that organizations vary in diversity education needs. Determining how to meet these needs requires the trainer to possess critical thinking skills and an ability to facilitate issues outside of her or his cultural experience. The capable diversity professional has the ability to determine when race education is the suitable intervention, when gender orientation is called for, when addressing homophobia is necessary, etc.

Discussions about gender differences, sexual orientation, Native American identity, Latino empowerment, white privilege, etc. provide a rich context for understanding the complexity of American diversity. Today’s savvy diversity trainer has the expertise to take a multicultural perspective in facilitating and training, and he or she commands knowledge of the range of identity groups. Giving each identity group the attention it deserves is no small matter as a result.

The reality of global mobilization has required an even broader view of diversity work due to working with an increasingly cross-national audience. The use of the label African American, for example, is complicated by white and black Africans immigrating to the United States. An organization may have employees from the former Yugoslavia, refugees from Somalia, guest workers from India, and people with limited English-speaking skills-just to name a few modern diversity challenges. Religious diversity accompanies globalism, which is also included in modern diversity education.

It is likely that this complexity of identity group needs prompted diversity professionals like Judith Katz to focus on promoting inclusive organizations. The objective is to remove the barriers to productivity for every member of the organization with particular concern for historically excluded group members.

Another recent change is the emphasis on diversity education, rather than diversity training. While the use of one term versus another is regularly debated, it is a valuable exchange of ideas. From the author’s perspective, the term diversity education both broadens the view of what diversity programs within organizations are about and manages the often negative connotation diversity training activates. Perhaps more important is that the term allows us to distinguish between diversity training and other programmatic activities among diversity practices.

In addition, diversity expertise has changed over time, which partly reflects changing demands and the growth in the field’s body of knowledge. A description of the profession before the rise of the chief diversity officer tells us a lot about what diversity professionals faced as consultants.

Diversity Pioneers

Diversity professionals are hired on staff in organizations that understand that diversity is capital and harnessing it in the service of productivity requires a long term commitment. An in-house diversity professional is responsible for leading a diversity initiative within an organization. Some have the title chief diversity officer or vice president of diversity, while others are considered diversity coordinators or steering committee chairs. Regardless of what they are called, these positions are becoming increasingly prevalent in organizations. Not long ago, a human resource officer would hire a consultant or trainer to handle a diversity matter with sensitivity-awareness training as the expected the solution.

Diversity pioneers laid the foundation for the emergence of today’s diversity leaders. A diversity pioneer is someone who has been in the profession for more than twenty years, which includes those who have served either as an in-house or consulting professional. The in-house professionals are activists for diversity, inclusion and fairness. It is the contributions of external consultants and trainers that is the focus in this article.

Here is a list of diversity pioneers in the United States:

o Elsie Cross

o Price Cobb

o Sybil Evans

o John Fernandez

o Lee Gardenswartz

o Lewis Griggs

o Ed Hubbard

o Judith Katz

o Frances Kendall

o Fred Miller

o Patricia Pope

o Ann Rowe

o Donna Springer

o Roosevelt Thomas

The list is based on data collected a couple of years ago by Diversity Training University International students. An editorial staff member brought to the author’s attention that he began his diversity teaching and consulting career in 1986. His initial reaction was feeling intimidated by the thought of placing his name on a list with such an esteemed group of pioneers.

Few diversity pioneers had specialized training when starting out in the business. Louis Griggs, for example, is a Stanford MBA. Judith Katz had a more closely related background with a doctorate from University of Massachusetts that focused on race relations. She also taught in the University of Oklahoma Human Relations Program for ten years prior to entering the business sector as a fulltime consultant.

The author is trained as an applied research cultural- cognitive psychologist at the University of California, San Diego. After receiving the doctorate in 1986, he taught cultural competence for nearly two decades. Each diversity pioneer had had to learn about how to navigate the landmines in diversity work while on the front lines as consultants, trainers, and educators.

What the pioneers may have lacked in credentials specific to the diversity profession, they more than made up for with the bumps and bruises they endured in the trenches of just doing the work.

Raising the Bar

Judith Katz was a student activist for social justice in the late 1960s. Judith began her diversity profession by focusing on racism from a white American perspective. By the mid 1980s she was working for The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group. Affirmative action was at its height, and many companies utilized independent diversity professionals to provide programs to help increase the numbers of African Americans and women employees. Some organizations utilized diversity training to safeguard against civil rights suits during this period of time. Much of the training “focused primarily on black-white racial issues and sexism”, according to Judith, “with little if any attention given to, Latino, Asian, sexual orientation, age or people with disabilities.”

Judith also noticed that the business case in those days emphasized diversity as doing the right thing, rather than as a business imperative. People were expected to fit into the existing organizational culture. It was difficult at the time to effect real organizational change.

“The major change is that diversity is now accepted as a key business driver, rather than diversity for diversity’s sake.” This was accompanied by a shift away from the confrontational approach common in the early stages of diversity education history. According to Judith, “for some folks diversity was about compliance (the concern about law suits) for others it was about increasing individual diversity awareness. The confrontational approach to raising individual awareness did not create systems change in the long run. Some individuals became more aware but the very systems, structures and processes often remained unchanged. Judith notes that many organizations still approach diversity from a compliance perspective but, more and more organizational leaders are going well beyond that. They understand that “if you are not leveraging diversity, you are not in the game of business today.”

Judith is concerned about the challenges that continue to face diversity professionals as well as chief diversity officers. The following is a list of some of her concerns for in-house professionals who lead diversity initiatives:

o Diversity leaders must contend with organizational leaders who give lip service to the diversity initiative without putting their hearts and souls into it or offer it the necessary resources for success.

o As a result, diversity leaders too often shoulder the full weight of the diversity initiative.

o They can get too buried in the work to be effective.

o They are expected to partner with many different parts of the organization, which contributes to additional stress.

o They work alone and are expected to single-handedly get a very difficult job done.

o They are expected to manage a highly political role while getting their job done and legally protecting the organization.

The result is that leading the diversity initiative can be a very difficult, demanding, and lonely job from Judith’s perspective.

Judith believes that leaders of organizations need to “raise its bar” for expectations in delivering results from the diversity initiative. This is the best way to support the diversity officer. A good example is to make people in the organization accountable for contributing to promoting inclusion-especially managers and supervisors. Linking bonuses and merit pay to clear diversity and inclusion metrics is seldom given serious consideration in even the top fifty diversity companies. But this obviously raises the bar of expectations and performance.

Thanks to Judith, diversity consultants and trainers have a role model. In the author’s opinion, she is one of the few who can successfully engage business leaders in serious discussions about organizational inclusion.

Valuing Diversity

Valuing diversity is a term that’s used quite a bit these days in making a case for diversity and inclusion-Thanks to Lewis Griggs. When he coined the words during the early 1980s, his clients thought it was “too touchy-feely.” It wasn’t affirmative action or equal employment opportunity language. One African American male colleague told him that the terminology was downright dangerous because white America was not ready to value people for their differences. But, fortunately for us, he had a vision.

Lewis is a European American who came to diversity work through his own individual growth experiences. Griggs says “While doing international training during the early 1980s, I realized that people from other countries had more knowledge about me as an American than I had about them. This meant the ‘other’ had more power over me in our interactions. I discovered how ethnocentric I was.” Griggs figured that if he was ethnocentric about people from other countries, then “Could I be ethnocentric here in the United States?”

Griggs continued to do ground breaking work. He developed a series of valuing diversity videos. Then he developed one of the first online diversity training programs. The annual diversity conference offered by the Society of Human Resource Management was created by Lewis. Thanks to Lewis, increasing numbers of organizations have embraced the idea that we need to value differences.

Avoiding a Backlash

The higher education sector started offering diversity courses in the general education curricula during the 1980s. Stanford University and the California State University at Fullerton, for example, dared to offer mandatory cultural diversity courses to fulfill general education requirements. There was considerable debate among academicians about whether or not the canon needed protection against including diversity courses.

The author found himself in the middle of the cultural wars as a new assistant professor with a joint appointment in Ethnic Studies and psychology. His training made it easy to interweave cultural differences into developmental, social, and cognitive psychology courses. He also taught mandatory general education diversity courses. The primarily European American, politically conservative students were very resistant to the required courses.

Students resisted less as the courses integrated into the curricula over the years, but many continued to struggle with the material due to difficulty with accepting values and beliefs different from their own.

Recruitment of historically excluded group members, especially students of color, was the primary focus at most universities. No one would seriously listen to ideas about creating an inclusive organization before increasing the numbers of students of color. The attitude was “let’s just get as many students of color in as possible and worry about how to retain them later”. Retaining and graduating these historically excluded students became major problems as the numbers of recruits increased.

The author also witnessed incredible gains in attracting students of historically excluded groups and creating an inclusive environment-only to see those gains undermined by changes in the leadership and economic climate. The lesson learned is that sustainable diversity and inclusion initiatives require an on-going commitment to remove all the barriers that can lead to reverting to old ways of doing business (Fenn, J. & Goforth-Irving, C., 2005). Diversity and inclusion must, for example, be part of each and every new initiative that comes along in order to protect the organization from moving back to earlier inclusion stages.

As economic, political, and global changes required new ways of solving old problems, the pioneers experienced many bumps in the road. This brief history suggests that their sheer determination and commitment built an invaluable foundation from which we all can draw meaningful lessons. This magazine is designed as a solution for building on the pioneers’ foundation so that we can better manage the impact of inevitable environmental changes that impact diversity work.

Future Education In The Age Of The Implanted Brain Information and Communication Chip

Not long ago, I was discussing with a future Think Tank member his concerns about how education in North America and around the world is not keeping up with technology, or ready for the future of computer-brain interfaces. This may sound like an esoteric topic, however when you consider the speed of these technologies, I am sure we’ve already all thought about how in the future, your smart phone will be nothing more than a brain-chip with full Internet Access that works with your organic brain in real-time. Want to send a thought, just think it, think about whom you’d like to send this thought to, and it’s sent, post on social media and you are done.

Want to learn a new topic, no need, you have instant access to all human information, and it will feel as if it is all in your own memory, just think a question and viola, you have the answer. My think tank acquaintance noted that we are a ways off from that future, and if the past is any indication of how we might handle that future, then we are in big trouble. Education is broken already, and it will not be able to adapt to something that different. He noted we need to fix all the rote memorization teaching, it isn’t working. And, I would submit to you that it will be even worse in the future, in fact; why memorize anything if you have full-time unlimited access to all the information ever created and stored in the cloud of humanity?

So what he is saying is that we have to teach people to THINK, not just put the students in rows, open their skulls and pour information in to them, which is what pedagogy has been for most of the 20th century and now to for a lot of this century. I of course agree. If we integrate the brain-chip or implanted information, or access to all human information in real time to the brain, it will only work if the human user has enough foresight to ask the right questions, and cross-pollinate the information in an innovative and creative way. This is something that humans are good at, when they practice it, and as of yet, AI computers are not so good at. Together (AI + human brains) it will be smarter than either on its own, smarter than today’s human and smarter than a future AI computer chip w/instant access to all human information to date and up on all new information in real-time.

The increase in IQ wouldn’t matter. Everyone would be super smart and retain unlimited information in the cloud storage device or set of distributive cloud computers around the planet. The best and most creative minds would use this information in the most novel ways, ask the best questions and have most of those questions answered to pose new ones. The speed of innovation would be so intensive that Ray Kurzweil’s “Singularity” theory would be realized in short order.

Researching Special Education Schools for Your Child

Research on learning disabilities strongly supports early intervention in children who struggle academically. Children with a learning disability who receive proper attention and support to develop their weak areas are just as likely to be successful students as their peers without a disability, so long as their weaknesses are discovered early. Parents of students who need extra attention might want to consider special education schools. Learning about options in your area can help you select the right program.

The first place to start your search may be with an independent evaluation. A team of psychologists and social workers can evaluate your child to determine his or her eligibility. These learning experts may also recommend additional testing if they suspect that the student falls along the autism or language-based learning disabilities spectrum. Further evaluation may help pinpoint your child’s weakness or give some indication of the type of remediation that may be beneficial.

Once you have an idea of your child’s needs, start looking at the options your area. Making a list of priorities for your family can help narrow down your choices. Your list should include practical matters, such as location, transportation, availability of after-hours care and financial requirements are some examples.

Additionally, academic programs and resources should factor into your decision. Consider whether your student will benefit from tutors, assistive technology and smaller class size. Research the school’s policy on extended time or other accommodations for testing whether classes can be scheduled in a flexible manner. Many people with learning disabilities are of average or above average intelligence. Opportunities to participate in International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement courses or a gifted program may be an important consideration. On the other hand, others learn best in a non-competitive environment in which lessons are project- or theme-based.

Finally, take the campus facilities and culture into consideration. Participating in extracurricular programs and sports can teach teamwork and sportsmanship to students who have trouble with social interactions. Conflict-resolution programs or a firm discipline policy may benefit some students.

Parents should also visit special education schools before making a decision. During your visit, sit in on a class to make sure that students receive enough individual attention. If the special education school utilizes a particular curriculum with which you are unfamiliar, request information about the program’s philosophy and methods. Ask questions about how study periods or homework sessions are structured. Teachers and administrators should have a system for providing regular updates about your child’s progress, so be certain that you are satisfied with the level of communication you can expect. Finally, ask for phone numbers of parents with children enrolled in the school before ending your visit. Speaking with parents of students who currently attend the school is a great way to find out more about the program.

Parents are the best advocates for children with learning disabilities. Exploring the educational options available and selecting the most effective special education curriculum can help ensure his or her academic success.

Digital Devices Driving Autism Education

Computers have always proved to be excellent gadgets to facilitate communication and learning for children with autism spectrum disorder. Now, with the emergence of smart phones and the iPad, autistic children have greater opportunities for improving their cognitive, communication and motor skills.

Various organizations that are engaged in supporting families living with autistic kids, have developed apps and programs like “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” that are amazing tools. These autism education apps promote learning among special needs children.

Why digital devices?

Autism apps like “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” running on smart phones and iPads provide greater flexibility and portability than a traditional laptop or computer. These latest digital devices utilize touch screen technology which makes them more accessible to autistic children, especially those who have coordination and learning difficulties. Most of the children using an iPad find that the sliding and tapping motions are much easier to execute than typing. Besides, smart phones and tabs can be taken wherever you want to go. They are much lighter than the bulky assistive communication gadgets of the past and that’s a major advantage of using these devices.

Tabs, smart phones, and iPads are great tools for communication and education, which if one of the several reasons why the “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” autism apps have become hugely popular among special needs children. Apps like these can be customized to the specific needs of the autistic child using them. This helps to make the lessons more attractive and interesting that the conventional learning devices. It has been noticed that many children can use these gadgets better than adults.

The world of autistic children is full of imagery. Words have a lesser importance to them. The “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” autism education apps freely use images to help children string together words and create sentences, and solve mathematics problems. In this way, special needs children are able to communicate with educators, instructors, counselors, and parents sans any frustration.

The benefits

Autism apps like “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences”, running on iPads and tabs, offer huge benefits. The direct touch screen ensures that no stylus or mouse is required for input functions. The most important point is that the apps are predictable, accessible, and easily organized. They help breaking down lessons to discrete topics or chunks that make learning more enjoyable. Special needs and autistic children can learn in a better way through the “Math on the Farm” and “Make Sentences” autism apps.