Socio-Cultural Politics of Education – An Eye-Opener

16 Jul

I’m not going to lie, Socio-Cultural Politics of Education has proven to be a difficult subject to get through – particularly this close to the end of my degree.  It is a very content heavy topic that comes with a lot of debate and controversy and I am the kind of person who usually likes to avoid conflict and argument. Whilst I may not have my head around all of the terms involved in the topic and I don’t imagine I will ever be an expert; I can say a few really important things have been brought to light for me.

1. Assumptions are perilous.

Studying the way in which different cultures view education, practice education and have been impacted by education has made me increasingly aware of how important it is to learn from the individuals in my class about their cultures and beliefs – first hand.  I believe one of the key reasons that so many mistakes have been made and people hurt in the past is because well-meaning people have made assumptions.  I never want to make my students feel uncomfortable because I didn’t take the time to find out about their values or background.  If I am going to be a teacher that provides quality education for all of my students, regardless of socio-economic status, cultural or linguistic background and additional needs, I must invest time in knowing my students and their circumstances so that their education is meaningful and engaging.

I will not make assumptions about:
~ the way in which students learn ~
~ the value that families place on education ~
~ the causes of students’ behaviour ~

2. Acknowledging diversity is not enough – it must be valued.

Yes, diversity is acknowledged in the Australian Curriculum. Yes, most schools make mention of multiculturalism somewhere in their policy.  Yes, most teachers acknowledge, in some way, the diversity of the students in their class.  But this is not the same as VALUING DIVERSITY.  Creating a culture of diversity is easier said than done and I don’t claim to have any foolproof answers, just some thoughts:

What does it mean to VALUE someone/something?
Are our students aware of each other’s backgrounds and differences?
Is diversity celebrated by our students?
Are we making a priority of involving families in sharing their culture?

3. Teachers need to be aware of the broader picture of education.

Whilst our practice may seem limited to the classroom or school context it is important that we remain aware of the politics and policies being bounced around outside the classroom.  There are more invested parties in education than schools and students; as teachers I believe it is our responsibility to be advocates for our students – who have little say in the strategic plans and policies “up top”.  Hidden curriculums, political influence and essentialist views are facts of life and we need to keep our eyes open and ensure that we continue to provide quality education for our students.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Have you had your own light-bulb moments?


2 Responses to “Socio-Cultural Politics of Education – An Eye-Opener”

  1. karrine July 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Great points Sami!
    I also think that as pre-service teachers and teachers we need to have the ability to look at ourselves and admit that we all have our own bias, wether we mean to or not. I think accepting our own assumptions and admitting that we have them is a huge step towards having the ability to then work on broadening our perspectives.
    Socio has been a hard subject for me purely because I struggle with all the personalitys in our tutorials pushing their own views and failing to step back and consider someone else’s point of view. It actually makes me laugh as these tend to be the people who say they are capable of seeing everyone’s perspective in the classroom and yet they can’t even do this in a room filled with very few cultures and different beliefs.
    Definatley an eye opening unit!!!

    • Mrs Wansink July 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

      I totally agree Karrine, unless we realise that we do have biases – no matter how accepting or open we are, we don’t really have any hope of treating our students fairly. That is something I have been appreciated from this unit – reminding me that I too make assumptions and that they way I was brought up, people I have grown up with and experiences I have had all shape they way I view the world and other people.

      If we have managed to take that step then I think we are well on our way!

      Uni is a great place for getting us used to working with all sorts of people as we will have to in the future – all part of the adventure 🙂

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