Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Crucial Questions for the HBCU Multicultural Classroom

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Crucial Questions for the HBCU Multicultural Classroom

Article excerpt

Corning from a South Asian country - India - where diversity is an integral part of one's life, the definition of "diversity" and "multiculturalism" became clearer when I came to Howard University. The student body includes young men and women from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and from more than 100 countries. And the faculty and administrators are as diverse as the student body.

How important is diversity at a minority institution? How do other minorities feel being at a minority institution? How do different minorities relate to one another at an HBCU? Are there tensions?

In a multicultural classroom at an HBCU, issues of race and other social inequalities are to be particularly kept in mind. The level of sensitivity required on both sides of the table-the students and the teacher-is expected to be higher.

And in a diverse classroom at an HBCU, wherein African-Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics, Latinos and Asians - which includes South Asians like Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis andNepalese -might be present, the challenge to teaching and learning is even greater.

The fact that American classrooms in general are multi-ethnic has been noted in many studies. It is important, therefore, that in a multicultural classroom the diversity of the student body is taken into account both by the teacher and the students. Often times this does not happen. Research suggests that it is not uncommon for teachers and students to impose their own standards ofbehavior upon one another, with convoluted results.

Much has also been written about the dynamics when international students are placed in diverse classrooms in the United States. The University of Wisconsin undertook one such study and concluded that most students had a problem with the international teaching assistant. Numerous reasons were cited for the students' dissatisfaction. …

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