by James Epperson, University of Texas
Certainly not. Look at the statistics--they are awful. But beyond the statistics are poisonous attitudes. Minorities, say in medicine, are made to feel that the only reason they are given the opportunity to study medicine is to go back and to serve their community in general practice.
There are many negative implications. This backlash fails to recognize that access without affirmative action supports the existing power structure and those in power tend to promote, hire, and praise individuals similar to themselves. Without affirmative action, groups that are under-represented in the current structure will stay under-represented.
The anti-affirmative action movement ignores the inherent racist undertones of this society and the continuing need to remedy the problem. For example, this movement endangers programs such as bilingual education that enhance chances for access. Are the groups who benefit from affirmative action really different from the majority, or does our system create differences?
Absolutely. One lesson is widely known: the importance of creating a community in which students feel at home. Another is perhaps more peculiar to mathematics: treat under-represented students first as budding professionals with special talents, and only then recognize ethnic and racial differences. It is a complex issue to create an environment which stresses credentials (which are so essential for future success in graduate school) yet which also recognizes the special obstacles students of color and women must overcome even with stellar credentials.
In a vacuum, yes. Otherwise, no. Teachers impose their own culture by the manner in which they teach mathematics. This is very subtle. However, it could be as blatant as assigning value to certain ways of thinking about mathematical problems or to styles of description. People tend to respect or favor students who are like themselves. In particular, language differences present real barriers that are deeply rooted in culture.
That depends on what "group" means. Students should learn to be critical thinkers in our greater society. While I believe attention and care should be given to a student's culture, it is an educator's obligation to demand from the students and to provide to the students skills (academic and social) that one needs to compete in this society.
Businesses need to allocate funds to schools with high minority populations and provide criteria for continuing support. These criteria should link performance of their students in jobs after they finish school to evaluations of the quality of the teaching or programs in that particular school.