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Demonstration of Illinois Professional Teaching Standards

3. Diversity:
The teacher understands how students differ in their approaches to learning and creates instructional opportunities that are adapted to diverse learners.

I have two papers in the section.

 

 

The Role of Diversity in the Classroom

The goal of all science classrooms in America should be to produce scientifically literate students.  Every student should be able to function and be productive in our scientific society.  This goal may mean different things to different people in our very diverse society.  Diversity introduces an interesting challenge in promoting scientific literacy.  Scientific ideas and reasoning must be taught in a culturally relevant manner for the students to apply science to their individual lives.  At the same time, students should learn about how science is viewed by other cultures and ethnicities so that they can communicate with others in a diverse society. 

As educators, we want to give the best education to each and every student.  In order to do this, we must first understand that no two students are exactly alike.  They have different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different genders and different learning styles.  These characteristics only touch the surface of the differences that can be found in the classroom today.  Knowing that this variety exists is only part of the battle.  Educators must find a way to encompass all of the students differences in order to make the whole class scientifically literate. 

I feel that a variety of cultures should be incorporated into the science curriculum.  Obviously not every culture can be associated with every single topic, but one or two relevant ideas can be interwoven in the lesson.  It is imperative to the students’ scientific literacy for them to understand a variety of ethnic and cultural ideas and not simply their own.  The greater variety and span of knowledge that the students have allows them to better understand others and work in our diverse nation.  

For all of these wonderful ideas about diversity and science to become useful to the student, they must be taught well.  The same diversity that educators are preparing their students for in the “real world” is represented in the classroom.  There is a wide variety of students in every classroom.  Each student learns and thinks in a different way.  It is important to cater to the students different needs.  These differences are products of the diversity in our country. 

If educators introduce students to a variety of different cultural scientific ideas and teach these through relating them to the child’s own cultural needs this should produce scientifically literate students.  This sounds very simple, but in our public schools, this is a little more complicated.  Time is limited and resources are scarce.  Teachers cannot teach everything about every cultural difference in science.  They also do not have the class time to cater to every single students learning needs.  This would be ideal, yet in my eyes, it is unattainable.

Scientific literacy is something that exists on different levels.  I think that if I can provide a basis, my students can continue to gain scientific literacy over time.  Understanding the diversity of society and my classroom, I will be able to provide a very broad basis of scientific literacy.   I will teach about diverse ideas in science and about the topics that we will cover.  Being a biology teacher, I would like to teach the theory of evolution.  At the same time, I would like my students to simply be aware that there are other beliefs than the theory of evolution for the beginning of life on earth.  I also really liked the idea from the video in class.  If I were teaching an archaeology unit, I like the idea of linking it to a cultural historical site. 

Scientific literacy is the main goal of many science educators.  It is very important not only to strive for this goal, but to also relate it to our diverse society.  That is really the goal of scientific literacy.  The student should be able to function and be productive in a scientific society.  It just so happens that our society is very diverse.  For this reason, diversity cannot be overlooked when teaching science. 

 

 

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Cracking The Bell Curve

Intelligence is very important in American society today. One’s intelligence level helps to determine a persons lot in life. The amount of intelligence that a person is capable of is conveniently summed up in a simple number, known as an IQ score. These intelligence scores are sorted and analyzed. Undoubtedly, ethnic groups are divided up and their scores are compared. With this done, people search out disparities between groups of people and then work to uncover the reason for any discrepancy in these scores. In the book, The Bell Curve, by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, a 15 point discrepancy is found in favor of white Americans over African Americans IQ scores (Murray and Herrnstein 276). This disparity was the catalyst for the authors and many others to analyze IQ as it relates to ethnicity. There are two main arguments in the debate over the scores: nature and nurture. Either nature has dealt African Americans with a lower hand than white Americans, or intelligence is simply a product of environment which is not favorable for the majority of African Americans. The discrepancy in IQ scores between white and African American populations in the United States is caused mainly by environmental factors and very little by genetics.

The title, "The Bell Curve" comes from the graphical representation of a population’s IQ scores. The range of scores forms the shape of a bell. This graph allows for comparisons of an entire population and even for subgroups within that population. The curve is built on statistical analysis of IQ scores. All the test scores are tallied, and the average score receives a 100. Statistically, other scores are assigned by deviations in the raw score. This score is not concrete, it is adjusted based on the performance of others. Generally, a score of around 140 or higher is considered to be at genius level. Consequently, a score of 60 or below could be considered as mental retardation. These numbers are subject to change with the dynamic of the population’s intelligence as a whole.

IQ tests are a means to quantify intelligence. There are numerous factors that account for a persons intelligence. A person’s formal schooling, their family environment, and their social environment are major factors in building, or inhibiting, one’s level of intelligence. In the United States, there are various levels of all of these factors. A main inequality, though, lies in public schooling. A large amount of a school’s funding comes from that district’s property taxes. This country’s inconsistency in monetary distribution allows for some schools to have substantially less money than others. Consequently, this results in unequal educational opportunities based on the community in which one lives. As fiscal distribution is concerned between white American families and African American families, white Americans earn, on average, $16,000 more per year than African Americans in 1994 (Tozer et al 370). This large difference provides for a separation of races into different communities with different financial backing for their children’s education.

Schools with less money, obviously have less resources. They do not have the funding to attract the most qualified teachers, or to buy the newest text books or laboratory equipment. Since, on average, African Americans earn less money than white Americans, they tend to live in areas with less wealth. This means that less money is going into the schools that their children will attend. They will, in turn, receive a less adequate education compared to the majority of white Americans who live in affluent communities. Although this is a generalization born from the average incomes of these two ethnicities, for the most part, this is what is happening in the United States. As these children are influenced by different schooling experiences, their levels of intelligence differentiate to reveal a difference IQ scores. This environmental difference in schooling between African Americans and white Americans is a major cause of the 15 point IQ difference.

A pitfall in American culture centers around the idea that "poor children are not expected to be as smart or to work as hard as middle- and upper- class children. They are not expected to know as much or to learn as much" (Tozer et al 385). In most cases this ideology is not brought upon by others, but by the poor themselves. It, in part, spawns from the unequal education of their children based on the financial status of the community. Sadly, African Americans have not always been equal to white Americans in the United States. Even when freed from slavery, African Americans were generally of a lower class of Americans. Some overcame adversity and prospered. Yet, others remain, to this day, in run down, poor neighborhoods. Commonly, many generations of the same family will live in the same community, attaining a similar education. As these people remain in the lower class of America, their children are perpetuated to do the same. The educational level of the community as a whole is fairly low due to the lack of wealth in the community. This leads to lower expectations for the students. These expectations will linger through generations because the parents believe that this is as good of an education as their children can and should get. Without supportive parents and community, students don’t have very high expectations for themselves. This hinders their education even more. Not only does it hinder their education, but their self esteem as well. They think that remaining poor and uneducated is the best that they can do in their life. This is very often not the case. These children could have enormous potential, yet, they have no way to tap into it. With a remedial educational system, and a lack of desire to learn, the children are usually destined for the same jobs and to live in the same type of community as their parents. This leaves these people to perpetuate mediocrity, which in turn equates to poor IQ scores.

Intelligence is greatly impacted by the environment in which one lives and learns. But that is just one side of the story. Some people, expressly Murray and Herrnstein, believe that genetics plays a role in the development of one’s intelligence. The men say that "much of the observed variation in IQ is genetic" (Murray and Herrnstein 298). This is a very strong statement, yet the men seem to present data that somewhat supports their claim. Keep in mind that they are not distinguished geneticists. Nature versus nurture in intelligence is a highly debated topic, yet, there is no solid proof validating one opinion over the other.

The Human Genome Project, a very reputable source of genetic information, responded to the book The Bell Curve in a 1996 newsletter. "Simplistic claims about the inheritance of such a complex trait as cognitive ability are unjustifiable" (Human Genome News). They, being the premiere source of human genetic information, avoid a concrete position on the genetics in intelligence issue. This is because there has been no conclusive DNA information confirming either argument. Based on their research, most of the genes that they have found code for very simple proteins. These proteins build the structures of the body, and perform simple signaling tasks to keep our cells alive. Intelligence seems to be a much more complex function of the human body than what just a few simple proteins can do. DNA alone cannot be the sole cause of such an elaborate human function. With all this information, they emphasize the idea that human intelligence is largely not inherited.

Genetically, human being are very similar. Variations in the genetic code make all humans individuals. At the same time, we all perform the same basic cellular tasks. The Human Genome Diversity Project has found that "the darkest-hued African and the lightest-skinned Scandinavian are 99.99 percent identical in their genetic composition" (Tozer et al 370). Very little room for discrepancy exists in this figure. The odds of this slight variation between races is simply of differences of skin color and IQ is very slim. Even if geneticists find that intelligence does have a small genetic factor, the genes would probably take up numerous smaller chunks of DNA since intelligence is so complex. And to fathom that this huge set of genes is somehow completely paired or linked to the gene that makes pigment for skin color, is almost impossible. Since scientists do know the gene that codes for pigmentation, one would think that they would have found any other genes that always coexist with it.

Even among the same ethnicity there are variations of IQ scores. In the Bell Curve, it is said that "African blacks are, on average, substantially below African-Americans in intelligence test scores" (Murray and Herrnstein 289). Both African blacks and African Americans have the same skin color. African Americans have their roots in Africa. If African blacks have lower IQ scores than African Americans on average, then it seems fairly unlikely that genetics plays a role in intelligence. Both of these populations have the same skins color and even the same heritage. The one thing that differs between the two is their environment. This data not only rejects the genetic hypothesis of intelligence, but it also helps to validate the theory of environmental differences in intelligence and IQ scores.

The Bell Curve, since it’s publication in 1994, has caused controversy and disharmony in the public eye. Many researchers and scientists have formulated their own ideas about the variation in IQ scores among white and African Americans. Many studies have been done to learn more about this topic. In 1998 at Washington University, a study was done comparing the college educations and respective IQ scores of many white and African Americans. "Our study shows that differences in IQ test scores among blacks and whites may have little to do with genetics, and much to do with the relative quality of the educational opportunities afforded to blacks and whites" says Mark R. Rank Ph. D. from Washington University. This study helps to substantiate the idea of environmental differences that influence IQ scores between races. It was found that even the middle- to upper-class African Americans have less access than whites to good K-12 educations in public schools. They suspect that accusations, similar to that of the Bell Curve, of genetic inferiority of African Americans are causing students to believe that they are not as smart as white students. Regardless of the reasons for the lack of equal educations, this study found that environment and more specifically, education cause discrepancies in IQ scores rather that genetic factors.

As new discoveries about intelligence come about, new ideas about why they are like how they are, are always brewing. Murray and Herrnstein believe that IQ scores are mainly caused by a genetic factor. As the focus of the book surrounds white American and African American differences in IQ, the men are driven to generalize this phenomenon in society. They seem to express that a genetic factor causes low IQ scores, and that in turn causes many African Americans to have a different environment. On the same token, it can be argued that the environment that one lives in determines their IQ score. It’s a classic case of correlation not signifying causation. In a book writing expressly as a forum to discuss the book The Bell Curve, Howard Gardner writes, "it is possible that staying in school causes IQ to go up (rather than vice versa) or that both IQ and schooling reflect some third causative factor" (Gardner 26). Solving this mystery could help to unlock the answer in the nature verses nurture debate.

As more and more experiments and studies are done to solve this social dilemma, the data seems to be pointing in the direction of more environmental factors influencing intelligence. As African Americans move to more urban area from the rural south, a rise in their IQ scores have been noticed (Gardner 27). Generally, this indicates, as schooling gets better for these African American, their IQ scores increase. Another finding is that when an African American child is adopted into a family with a high socioeconomic status, their intelligence scores go up (Gardner 27). Another indication that a more stable, wealthy environment is more condusive to learning and therefore, higher IQ’s.

Overall, The Bell Curve has brought up many good issues in American society. Murray and Herrnstein bring up a very controversial topic that deserves to be discussed. As more and more information becomes available, the debate over nature versus nurture in human intelligence simply becomes more complex. As of yet, no one truly knows the why different people are more intelligent than others. In terms of human genetics, most of the research on the topic is directed towards no genetic linkage to intelligence. This opinion is continuously under review by scientists working to better understand human genes. Many studies have shown that the environment which one lives and learns plays a role in intelligence levels. As more studies are done, the issue of environment is thought to be a more major cause of intelligence levels. The idea of genes controlling our level of intelligence has not been completely dismissed though. If it is found that intelligence is completely genetic, or completely environmental, this will impact American society and public schooling. If genetics is involved, will it be linked to ethnicity? How would this knowledge alter society? More likely than the genetics hypothesis, intelligence may be found to be completely environmental. In this case, public schooling will more than likely work towards equal educational opportunities for all Americans. As far as we know now, environment is the main factor, and until it is found otherwise, opportunities should be heightened for less fortunate children. Regardless of skin color, all children have the right to learn. Their IQ’s may be determined by schooling and home life. Now, all that is needed is a positive environment and a chance, and all people, no matter what their race, can have equal intelligence.

Works Cited

Everding, Gerry. "Challenging ‘The Bell Curve’: College Education Halves Black, White IQ Score Gap." [Online]. http://wupa.wustl.edu/Record/archive/1997/11-06-97/7682.html. Accessed 4/26/01.

Gardner, Howard. "The Bell Curve Wars: Cracking Open the IQ Box." HarperCollins Publishers Inc. 1995.

Herrnstein, Richard J. and Charles Murray. "The Bell Curve." Simon and Schuster Inc. 1994.

The Human Genome Project. "ELSI Working Group Responds to The Bell Curve." Human Genome News, January-March 1996; 7(5). [Online]. http://www.ornl.gov/TechResources/Human_Genome/ publicat/hgn/v7n5/16bellcu.html. Accessed 5/3/01.

Tozer, Steven E., Paul C. Violas, and Guy Senese. "School and Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives." McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1998.

 

 

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