Teachers in Australian schools are daily confronted in their classrooms with students from widely divergent backgrounds, bringing with them a range of different experiences and interpretations of the world around them. All too frequently this divergence from the 'norm' becomes linked to lower educational achievement and to social disadvantage.
Given the complexity of the issues involved in accommodating such a diverse range of needs, and the limited resources available to teachers and to schools to do so, it is not surprising that Australian schools are still far from coming to grips with both the theory and the practice of accommodating diversity, while maintaining a cohesive and non-discriminatory education system. Meanwhile, classroom teachers must cope daily with the tensions and difficulties that diversity and difference can create. As a result, short-term solutions abound in our schooling system. A very real danger is that short-term solutions become long-term solutions, without any real analysis of their adequacy, their appropriateness or the problems inherent in them.
Those classroom teachers who are anxious to provide the best education for all the students in their classes will often solve the problem of diversity of student background by individualizing their teaching approach, attempting to build relationships with individual students and thus identifying and attempting to meet the students' individual needs. While recognizing that this is an appropriate, caring and demanding response from teachers, and that it may do much to assist individual students in the short term, this chapter seeks to draw attention to the limitations of such a response when it is adopted as the major solution to the difficulties encountered by students from 'disadvantaged' groups.
It will be argued that an adequate solution needs to focus not only on the micro-social level of individual and classroom interaction, but also on the macro-social level of class, gender and cultural interaction. Good