Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel
Click for next page ( 166

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement

Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 165
CHAPI~ER 20 Striving Toward Cultural Diversity Edward M. Wilson Peggy S. Meszaros, Rapportew Central to the future successes of our colleges of agriculture is how we adjust to the changing ethnic and racial composition of our student body. AS the provocateur, I will introduce several issues in order to stimulate discussion, in light of the changing ethnic and demographic picture. I will suggest that our college curriculum emphasizes critical thinking instead of a focus on technical knowl- edge and touch on the need for foreign language competency, cognitive diversity, development of a global perspective, ethnic studies courses and programs, and an effective socialization process. Changing Demographics Demographic changes, ethnic diversity, global competition, and fundamental changes in the U.S. economy are a few reasons why we must reexamine the focus of our agricultural curriculum, educa- tional philosophy, and the total academic environment. in Workforce 2000, Johnston and Packer (1987) project that, by the year 2000, nonwhites will make up 29 percent of the new entrants into the labor force. immigrants will represent the largest share of the population increase, and almost two-thirds of the new entrants into the work force between now and the year 2000 will be women. Nonwhites, women, and immigrants will make up more than five-sixths of the net additions to the work force between 1985 and 2000. Data from the lasso census support this prediction and reveal that over the past decade the number of Asian Americans increased by nearly 108 percent, the Hispanic population grew by more than 50 percent, and those identifying themselves as American Indians grew about 38 percent, while the number of black Americans in 165

OCR for page 165
AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE creased by 0.4 percent. These data not only support the Workforce Logo projections but also underscore the rapid pace of the nations changing ethnic demographic picture. A U.S. Department of Education report (National Center for Edu- cation Status Survey Reports, 1990) released in June 1990 corre- lates well with the 1990 census data and with the Workforce 2000 projections. It shows a substantial minority pool among currently enrolled students. Over the 1 1-year period from 1978 through 1988, the number of minority students enrolled in college increased by 97.9 percent. The fastest-growing group was Asians and Pacific islanders, which increased by 111.5 percent, followed by Hispanics at 63.1 percent and American Indians and Alaska natives at 19.2 percent. Blacks showed the slowest growth, increasing by 7.2 percent. This minority enrollment trend is particularly striking when one looks at the fall lasso freshman class. At a number of universities, freshman students of all minorities now form the majority. For example, Denise K. Magner reported in the November 14, lasso, issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education that from 1980 through 1989, the white undergraduate population at the University of California at Berkeley shifted from 66 to 45 percent. In the current freshman class, 34 percent of the students are white, 30 percent are Asian Americans, 22 percent are HiS- panic, and ~ percent are black. Berkeley may not be typical, but it provides a barometer of the trend. The ethnic makeup of the student body must be a primary con- sideration as we review and revise our undergraduate curriculum, contemplate the need for U.S. agriculture to become more competi- tive, examine the global nature of our economy, and strive to de- velop a harmonized multiethnic, multicultural campus environment. These enrollment shifts provide both opportunities and challenges. Critical Thinking Versus Technical Knowledge With the evolving multiethnic student enrollment, along with the need for U.S. agriculture to become more competitive in a global economy, curriculum revitalization should emphasize as its main purpose teaching critical thinking (i e.' how to think). This is espe- cially important to a large number of minorities who are often underprepared for college. What we should pursue is an educa- tional process that will teach our students to think and reason, which will improve their employment and earning prospects, add to their poise and deportment, develop their Judgment, and round them out for a fully successful and happy life. It is virtually impossible to make technical curriculum changes to keep up with the estimated 40 percent annual increase in technol 166

OCR for page 165
STRIVING TOWARD CULTURAL DIVERSITY ogy and scientific knowledge. However, one suggestion for re- sponsiveness is that curriculum review and revision should con- centrate less on technical knowledge and more on the liberal arts, with a focus on communication, problem solving, the international and interdisciplinary perspectives of agriculture, foreign languages, and concepts that enhance lifelong learning. When they are care- fully honed, these skills will provide students with the capacity to better cope with the knowledge and technology explosion. Foreign Language Requirement Foreign language competency becomes increasingly important as we increase our participation in the global economy. Evidence suggests that competence in a foreign language is more easily attained if it is introduced before the college level. Colleges of agriculture should consider requiring 2 or 3 years of high school foreign language credits for admission and requiring all agricultural majors to gain competence in at least one foreign language. Cognitive Diversity The increasing ethnic diversity not only supports the need for us to examine what we teach but also, and equally importantly, who and how we teach. We must critically analyze the teaching and learning process, which may provide insight and remedies for re- ducing the high dropout rates among members of some minority groups. We must recognize that not every student learns in the same way and that different teaching approaches may be neces- sary. ~'e are reluctant to examine the concept of cognitive diver- sity and to accept the fact that we may have students in our classes whose cognitive styles reflect their varied cultural backgrounds. James Anderson, professor of psychology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, points out that cognitive styles are greatly influ- enced by the cultural values of individual ethnic groups and by socialization practices (Anderson, 1987). For example, Euro-Ameri- cans are influenced more by Western values and culture, while black Americans are influenced more by non-Western values and culture. The differences between these two cultures have created difficulties for some black students in our major universities, not because of a lack of ability but because they have not learned the skills and habits intrinsic in the Western culture. Anderson sug- gests that secondary and postsecondary school curricula must cre- ate a new awareness of multicultural, multiethnic characteristics, especially those that enhance the learning environments. He points out that minority students are successful in science programs that develop cognitive and noncognitive profiles of students, have preentry 167

OCR for page 165
AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE programs, encourage bonding between faculty and staff, foster eth- nic identity, and maintain high standards of excellence. Annette Kolodny, dean of the faculty of humanities at the Univer- sity of Arizona, points out that in any population, however homoge- neous, one can always find evidence of different intellectual talents and cognitive patterning (Kolodny, 1991). But it is also true that different cultural groups may emphasize one cognitive style over another, for example, reasoning by analogy instead of a strict linear logic, problem solving through an inductive rather than a deductive approach, and learning through an empathetic identification with people rather than through abstract principles. One may also say that science methodology is not the absolute teaching method for colleges of agriculture and that the laws of logic are not the laws of understanding. We can teach by taking into consideration the differences in the ways that people see the world. Kolodny suggests that new instructional technologies allow fac- ulty members to design programs, software, and classroom strate- gies tailored to a full spectrum of cognitive styles. In designing new teaching strategies, faculty members can experiment with tech- nologies that appeal to cognitive styles other than their own. Global Perspective Another aspect of cultural diversity is the presence of increasing numbers of foreign students on our campuses. This provides a unique opportunity for our universities to add a global perspective to the learning environment. Foreign students can provide first- hand knowledge of a country's language, culture, history, economy, geography, and politics through formal and informal settings with students and faculty. These opportunities abound on most cam- puses as the number of foreign student enrollment continues to increase. in the academic year 1989-1990, the United States hosted 386,000 foreign students, a 5.6 percent increase over the previous academic year. Colleges of agriculture should also consider a study abroad ex- perience as an option for expanding the multicultural awareness of undergraduate students. Ethnic Studies The presence on our university campuses of significant numbers of ethnic minorities, Asian Americans, black Americans, Hispanic Americans, and American Indians, does not by itself constitute a multicultural, multiethnic education system. The university must take positive steps to ensure the respect for and sharing of the 168

OCR for page 165
SlRIVING TOWARD CULTURAL DIVERSITY cultural values of the various ethnic groups and for the socialization of all students. If they are left without guidance or direction, stu- dents will gravitate to their own demographic group and look at others in terms of ethnic identity rather than individual characteris- tics. This quickly undermines a sense of community on campus. The practice of establishing singular ethnic studies courses and programs tends to segregate rather than unify the student body. The cultural values of different ethnic groups should be woven into the fabric of the component elements of the curriculum and not isolated in special courses. The Socialization Process Universities have the opportunity and the obligation to design a socialization and educational process that draws ideas and contri- butions from all sections of our heterogeneous society into a unify- ing core curriculum. The process of education and socialization should give recognition to our differences and individuality; how- ever, emphasis should be on the common ground, that is, on the ideas, values, and norms we share as Americans. The undergradu- ate agricultural curriculum must prepare our students for the chang- lng environment of U.S. and international agriculture. A base of technical knowledge is necessary; but it should be bolstered by communications, problem-solving, and foreign language skills as well as multicultural awareness. Students should join the work force with learning skills that enable them to benefit from the an- nual explosion of scientific knowledge. Summary and Conclusion The demographic shifts require that faculty members be sensi- tized not only to curriculum review and revision but to who and how they will be teaching. The university should conduct work- shops to educate faculty and staff members about the history, cul- ture, and cognitive styles of all ethnic groups. The faculty should develop a wide range of teaching styles to support the varied cog- nitive styles. Programs should be designed to guide students through a socialization process and help them appreciate the values of other cultures and reduce the culture shock that many students feel when they come to a campus. The changing student demographics in U.S. universities provide the richest cultural diversity in the world. This diversity should be used to enhance the educational process; to create a sensitivity, awareness, and appreciation of different cultural practices and val- ues; and to develop a sense of a multicultural community. No group should abandon its own culture; instead, the various groups 169

OCR for page 165
AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE should use their differences to contribute to the strength and unity of the multiethnic, multicultural community, not to divide it. References Anderson, J. 1987. Enhancing the research skills of minority students through knowledge of their culture and cognitive assets. Address deliv- ered at the Seventh Biennial 1890 Research Symposium. Johnston, W. B., and A. H. Packer. 1987. Workforce 2000: Work and Workers for the 21st Century. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hudson Institute. Kolodny, A. 1991. Colleges must recognize students" cognitive styles and cultural backgrounds. Chronicle of Higher Education, February 6, 1991, p. A44. Magner, D. K. 1990. Amid the diversity, racial isolation remains at Berke- ley. Chronicle of Higher Education, November 14, 1990, p. A37. National Center for Education Status Survey Reports. 1990. Trends in Racial/Ethnic Enrollment in Higher Education: Fall 1978 through Fall 1988. Washington, D.C.: Office of Educational Research and Improve- ment, U.S. Department of Education. RAPPORTEUR'S SUMMARY Edward M. Wilson, the session provocateur, began the session by asking how colleges of agriculture and related disciplines will adjust to the changing ethnic content of the student body? Demographic changes force a reexamination of today's curricu- lum. Wilson outlined five major areas for reexamination: ( ~ ) critical thinking, (2) foreign language, (3) global perspective, (4) cognitive diversity, and (5) ethnic study programs. The demographic changes driving our reexamination were high- lighted in two recent reports, Workforce 2000 (Johnston and Packer, 198~7) and Trends in Racial/Ethnic Enrollment in Higher Education (National Center for Education Status Survey Reports, Woo) Both reports emphasize the increase in nonwhites, women, and immi- grants as new entrants to the work force. By the year 2000, the U.S. work force will look very different from that of today. Minority students are now the majority at many universities. These enroll- ment shifts provide challenges and opportunities. Wilson challenged the group to consider examining their college curriculum and asking whether critical thinking is emphasized. The importance of this skill for minority students outweighs the empha- sis on technical skills. He further challenged the group to have colleges require 2 or 3 years of a foreign language. We must pre- pare students to understand different cultures, and understanding another culture's language is a step toward these goals. College curricula must be examined for their emphasis on global 170

OCR for page 165
STRIVING TOWARD CULTURAL DiVE=I~ perspectives. Foreign student enrollments are increasing, and both domestic and foreign students must realize that they live in a global economy. Study abroad experiences should be an expectation for all students. Cognitive diversity is a curriculum dimension of great importance today. All faculty must analyze their teaching styles and student's learning styles. Cognitive styles reflect cultural values and the so- cialization of students. Science methodology is not the only impor- tant approach. Tools are available to faculty for diversifying their teaching methods. Wilson was adamant that universities must take positive steps toward developing a multicultural perspective in students. He be- lieves that singular ethnic study courses segregate students and that the better approach is to weave ethnicity into one approach, with emphasis on the common ground. This is crucial for under- graduate students. The group discussion focused on several issues of great con- cern on campuses nationwide: Recruitment and retention of minority students are needed. The perception of agriculture in the minds of minority students is a major problem. University faculty must be sensitized to the demographic shifts. Many are not living in the twenty-first century. More minority faculty must be recruited, because role models are crucial to recruiting and retaining minority students. Corporate support is needed for scholarships and internships. Colleges have culturally biased curricula. Everyone should ex- amine course content to be sure that we know what is being taught. Land-grant universities have a rich pool of foreign students. We should use them to provide experiences for all students. One participant gave the example of a dormitory for living and learning in which both domestic and foreign students are roommates. An example of a student organization, the Society for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, has been formed. its goals are to put more students in the pipelines and to help departments understand who they are teaching. A participant gave the example of an agronomy club sponsor- ing a multicultural event for which foreign students prepared their native foods; this is a way of exposing students to a multicultural perspective. A representative of the U.S. Forest Service gave an example of recruitment through special scholarships and internships, which has great promise for attracting women and minorities. In the end, session participants realized that we are striving to- ward cultural diversity but that we have a long way to go to achieve it. 171

OCR for page 165
AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE References Johnston, W. B., and A. H. Packer. 1987. Workforce 2000: Work and Workers for the 21st Century. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hudson Institute. National Center for Education Status Survey Reports. 1990. Trends in Racial/Ethnic Enrollment in Higher Education: Fall 1978 through Fall 1988. Washington, D.C.: Office of Educational Research and Improve- ment, U.S. Department of Education. 172