“I don’t see color” is a harmful perspective shared by many people, including a fair number of educators (see THE BEST RESPONSES TO “I DON’T SEE COLOR”).
A new study – the latest of many – finds that schools pushing that kind of policy harm students of color (see Policies valuing cultural diversity improve minority students’ sense of belonging):
“Approaches that ignore diversity, with rhetoric like ‘I don’t see color’, or those that reject diversity, such as banning headscarves, may intend to minimize discrimination, but in reality these approaches can be harmful for marginalized groups,” says Dr. Laura Celeste a social and cultural psychology researcher and lead author of the study.
I am concerned, however, by how some of the results of the study might be misused.
The authors appear to suggest that policies that promote a sense of “belonging” can eliminate the achievement or opportunity gap (see The Best Resources For Learning About The “Achievement Gap” (or “Opportunity Gap”) ).
I’m obviously all for maximizing support and acceptance of students of color. However, I’m also always wary of studies that purport to show strategies that schools on their own can implement and eliminate opportunity gaps, and how they can be used by those who want reduce school funding and avoid making important systemic change.
I have raised the same criticism about research suggesting that helping students develop a growth mindset can have similar effects (see Opportunities & Dangers Of Big New Growth Mindset Study).
Yes, schools need to do far more to welcome and support our students of color.
And, yes, schools need to do far more to help our students develop growth mindsets.
But, as vast quantities of research have found (see The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher (& Outside Factors) Have On Student Achievement), eliminating opportunity gaps faced by our students and their families is going to take institutional change.
Yes, I know, researchers aren’t responsible for how their studies are used by others. I’ve heard it before when I have criticized other research, like the study where a researcher literally pulled a trophy out of an elementary student’s hand to show that loss aversion was an effective school improvement strategy – and laughed when she told an interviewer about it.
But I don’t buy it.
What do you think?
P.S.: I also didn’t buy it when some researchers suggested that developing social capital in schools gets better results than increased school spending (see New Study Shows That Researchers Don’t Always Think Through How Their Studies Can Be Misused).
P.S.S.: One of these days, I will create a “Best” list on how schools can help our students feel a greater sense of “belonging.” For now, though, you’ll find those resources here.