Term Paper: Tokenism: The Role and Experiences

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[. . .] Account too will be taken of Minority teachers' feelings of personal satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their positions.

Research Questions random selection of Minority teachers in predominantly White (more than 85%) schools will be supplied with questionnaires containing the following five questions:

How would you rate your overall effectiveness as a teacher based upon your students' performance?

On a scale of 1 to 10-10 being the highest.

Do you find a significant difference in the students' response to you depending upon whether those students are White, or members of a Minority group?

Student responses rated as follows:

Strongly Negative, Somewhat Negative, Neutral, Somewhat Positive, Strongly Positive

Do you find that your presence in the classroom inculcates a greater sense of understanding, and compassion for, Minorities and their concerns on the part of White students in your classroom?

Strongly Disagree, Somewhat Disagree, Neutral, Somewhat Agree, Strongly Disagree

How would you rate your overall level of acceptance by White faculty members and staff in your school?

On a scale of 1 to 10-10 being the highest.

Do you find that your presence on the faculty in your school inculcates a greater sense of understanding, and compassion for, Minorities and their concerns on the part of White faculty members and staff?

Strongly Disagree, Somewhat Disagree, Neutral, Somewhat Agree, Strongly Disagree.

Assumptions of Study

This study will make the assumption that the environments and populations at the schools studied are broadly similar. As well, the backgrounds - educational levels, years teaching, economic level, and upbringing - of the participating teachers will be assumed to be comparable in most respects. Teachers participating in the study will also be deemed to have had similar experiences in regard to instances of racial prejudice and bias directed personally against them, and to have similar conceptions of the attitude of White majority society towards them as members of a Minority group. These incidents and conceptions in the background of, and on the part of the participating teachers will be considered as normative experiences, not deviating in any substantial way from what might be considered to be the "usual" experiences of the "average" Minority individual raised in comparable circumstances. Lastly, the participants in this study will be reckoned as open-minded, and not overly given to subjecting their responses to study questions to preconceived ideas of either what the administrators of the study wish to hear, or of what they, as Minorities, might be expected to feel or expect.

Limitations of Study

Just as this study is enhanced by the open-mindedness of the participants, it is also limited by the natural human inclination to provide expected, or perceived "appropriate" responses to the questions at hand. Also, while every effort will be taken to select candidates who are not themselves overtly prejudiced against their employment as Minorities in a majority White school, and who do not nurture any specifically anti-White sentiments, or harbor any strong, pre-conceived bias against the idea of Minority students and faculty mixing freely with White students, it is recognized that a certain amount of ingrained, subjectivity is unavoidable. All people are creatures of their environment, and the teacher participants in this study are no exception.

Definition of Terms

Minority - a Person of Color, African-American, Latino, or Asian

Majority White School - a school whose student body is at least 85% White

Token - a Minority (see above) teacher who is employed at a Majority White School (see above), the teaching faculty and administration of which school consists of fewer than 5% Minorities.

Student Attitude - the manner in which students react to their teacher; their attitude as reflected in their academic performance, and behavior in the classroom in so far as that behavior conforms with or deviates from generally accepted norms.

Teacher Satisfaction and Acceptance - a measure of the degree to which a Minority Teacher feels that he or she is performing a worthwhile task by teaching at a Majority White school; a measure of the Minority teacher's feeling that he or she is successfully educating and broadening the horizons of his or her students; a measure of the teacher's level of satisfaction with his or her sense of inclusion into the body of Majority White teachers - do they feel a part of the group? Or are they outsiders?

Minority Acceptance - the opening up of White teachers and students to the special and specific problems of their Minority peers; an understanding on the part of Whites of the culture and circumstances of Minorities; an understanding of the attitudes of Minorities towards them, and of their own, perhaps previously unrecognized negative, or biased attitudes toward Minorities.

II. Literature Review

A. Overview

Numerous studies have been done on the problems facing Minority teachers in majority White schools. As already mentioned, many of these teachers have faced the problem of White prejudice or aversion. These attitudes on the part of their White peers have been occasioned both by pre-existent ideas regarding the character and aptitudes of Minorities, as well as by a deep-seated bias against the very idea of a "token." In such cases, the token is immediately taken to be a person of inferior abilities and qualifications; a person who was selected for no other than his or her color or ethnic background. This attitude is similar to that held by many Whites in regard to Affirmative Action programs in general, whether at colleges and universities, private businesses, government agencies, or as in this case, public schools. In addition, many analyses have been done in regard to the change in level of performance achieved by Minority students when taught by Minority teachers, and also of the relative broadening of the horizons of White students, and their increasing levels of acceptance and understanding of their Minority counterparts. Too, many studies have looked at the overall importance of inculcating, in all students, a sense of the importance of multiculturalism, and of living in a multiracial society, especially as not only the United States, but also the world as a whole becomes progressively less and less a place under absolute domination by White males.

B. General Broad-Field Literature Review

As many Whites take issue with the supposed poor qualifications of "token" Minority teachers, it would be of use first to take a look at some of the assumptions upon which these ideas are based. Catherine E. Walsh's, Education Reform and Social Change: Multicultural Voices, Struggles, and Visions, discusses the poor performance by Minority educators on standardized tests. Such low tests scores are frequently taken by Whites as just another sign of Minority incompetence, and are often used to disparage Minority teaching abilities regardless of other more positive assessments such as those gained through actual observation of such Minority teachers, or evaluations of their actual on-the-job performance. Similarly, White stereotypes of Minorities are not greatly altered even by many of the new approaches to including Minority issues - culture and history - in school curricula. As Antoine M. Garibaldi, Wornie L. Reed, and Charles V. Willie explain in, The Education of African-Americans, such forays into Black, or Latino history, for example, are very often treated as curricular sidelines, tangents that have little or nothing to do with the mainstream of American culture and history. The theme of White educators' attitudes toward Minority culture, and toward Minority educators specifically, is continued in, The Handbook of Schooling in Urban America, by Stanley William Rothstein. Mr. Rothstein's point is that the very Minority points-of-view that Latino, African-American, Asian, and other teachers bring to the educational experience are denigrated in favor of accepted majority White norms. On the other side of the equation, one must, of course, examine the attitudes of the students toward these token Minority instructors. The concept of "Cultural Competence" is elaborated by Roxana Ng, Joyce Scane, and Pat Staton in, Anti-Racism, Feminism, and Critical Approaches to Education.

Analyzed are the general lack of any real understanding of the cultures and concerns of ethnic and racial Minorities by Whites, and the corresponding importance of exposing White youths directly to People of Color and to persons of other ethnic backgrounds. The idea is continued in The National Association for Multicultural Education's Seventh Annual Name Conference where the idea of de facto racial separation is discussed at some length. Whites, and Non-Whites and other Minorities, while brought together in the classroom setting as a result of legal attempts at integration, still continue to lead almost entirely separate lives outside of school. Lastly, as a way of rounding things out, Karen B. McLean Donaldson's, Through Students' Eyes: Combating Racism in United States Schools, is a collection of accounts by students of all races, colors, and ethnic backgrounds regarding their own experiences with racism and cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity. The redactions make interesting reading, and provide a fascinating window on the state of race relations in modern-day America.

C. Specific Literature Review

Each of the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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