Racism in the classroom

Year: 1994

Author: Vialle, Wilma

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The research literature is replete with postulations regarding the under-representation of ethnic minorities in programs for the gifted and the concomitant over-representation of these same groups in special education settings. One reason for this imbalance of representation has been the almost exclusive use of IQ tests for educational placement. Even where IQ tests are not used widely, however, the academic attainments of ethnic minority groups are still frequently outstripped by their white middle-class counterparts. The author contends that children from ethnic minorities are positioned as non-achievers in classrooms through covert racism. Children from non- English-speaking backgrounds (NESB) and Aboriginal communities are regarded as less intelligent by their teachers because of their non- standard English usage.

This paper will report on research undertaken in schools in the South Coast region of New South Wales that have large proportions of NESB children. Preliminary findings from the study will be grouped into the following three areas: (1) analyses of classroom discourse will be used as the basis for mapping the racism of the classroom; (2) the gap between teachers' stated beliefs regarding the nature of intelligence and their classroom behaviours will be explored; and (3) a framework for determining intelligence without the distortion of language usage (based on Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory) will be analysed.