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Kamil James 16525694

Diversity, Social Justice and Learning

Race and Ethnicity: Assignment 1
Q2. Are Australian schools meeting the challenge of equity and access in our
democratic society? Discuss the importance of equity in schooling practices by using
examples from your own experience and knowledge of schools to substantiate your
point of view.

Race is a term that has been socially defined from biological differences between people,

whilst Ethnicity defines a group of people with a shared language, history, nationality,

religion or significant cultural factor (Naidoo, 2015) The historical context of Australia plays

an important role in shaping how we perceive racial groups in society, and how these

identities of self form through the education system. Within the Australian schooling system

there are inequalities amongst different racial and ethnic groups that are not considered the

norm and the privileged that are considered normal in our society (Mansouri and Jenkins

2010, pg 96). Outlined within is the lingering effects of Post-Colonialism and how it has

formed societal constructs and shaped the face of the current education system and the idea of

whiteness, privilege and colour blindness discussed as elements of Critical Race

Theory (CRT), with reference to the impact on the Indigenous population in Australia. An

example case study: Lampert, Burnett and Morse (2015) with reference to policies: Close the

Gap (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2007). Australias Multicultural Policy

(Department Social Services, 2014) with reference migrants and Self reflection on personal

experiences that have created internal conflict and debate on self identity, and the role it plays

in education.

To understand cultural identity and who the ruling norm is, we need to delve into the

historical context of Australia. The early years of colonisation were dark and brutal times, but

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are often left out of the narrative; the indigenous population were slaughtered in large

numbers while the country was being built (Moran 2005). The White Australia Policy

Immigration Restriction Act commenced in 1901 to restrict certain immigrants (Department

of Education 2015) to keep Australia white. Then with the 1930s came the ideology/policy

of Assimilation to preserve racial purity (Moran, 2005), this ideology forced upon the

Indigenous population the idea to disregard their own cultural view points, and adhere to a

white cultural identity, in essence that their culture was inferior (Townsend-Cross, 2011).

The introduction of the Multiculturalism policy occurred in 1973 (Department Social

Services, 2014). This historical context is the precursor of the underlying issue in education

in Australia, who controls the power dynamics and what does this mean in an educational

context? Mansouri and Jenkins (2010, pg 96) touches on this question, with the majority of

teachers, administrators and students in the Australian school system being white, whiteness

can be seen as the norm and everyone else falling into other (includes minority groups).

This power dynamic may encourage negative relations in which race and racism are

perceived as normal and part of the inevitable routine for students.

Post-colonialism is a theory that takes the view of how society was formed from a colonialist

viewpoint, it gives privilege to white domination in postmodern context (Watkins 2015).

Nereda White (2010) raises an interesting point on the term post meaning after colonialism

but the theory post-colonialism refers to a passing of a historical period. White (2010) also

discusses the point that prior to colonisation Aboriginal society was self sufficient, and post-

colonising Indigenous children did not achieve the same level of success in education, and

quality of life. This link to post-colonialism raises the issue of inequities and accessibility in

education experienced by Indigenous population as a whole and that marginalisation is still

occurring. With white domination the Indigenous community have been placed in a deficit

discourse (Forde et. al, 2013), the negative implication this can have on Indigenous students

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is very damaging, and can perpetuate stereotypes. From my own experiences, the Eurocentric

viewpoint of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders was the only frame of reference for

understanding prior to University. Forde et al. (2013) discusses on how these prejudices are

formulated in our minds and how the colonising culture have labelled the Indigenous

population. These negative implications are not separate from our education system and that

is the problem posed here by being able to marginalise on a societal level we are unaware of

our own perspectives until we critically reflect. What teachers expect of students makes a

difference, and the same is true for low expectations (Ullucci and Battey 2011) with negative

stereotypes and pre conceived prejudices to Indigenous students. Without further reflection

and research the same mistakes may have been made by me as a pre-service teacher.

CRT has been used as framework for unravelling how white supremacy has continued to

subordinate minority groups of colour (Frefolja, Diaz and Ullman 2015). Solorzano and

Yosso (2002) mentions the constructs of race by white cultures has resulted in policies that

are preferential for white supremacy and the concept of whiteness, this can be seen around

the globe (Australia included) where white students experience educational advantage and the

other is disadvantaged (Zamudio, Russell, Rios and Bridgeman 2011). The example that

can be linked with this is language and the role of storytelling. Shipp (2012) contrasts

Standard Australian English (SAE) with Aboriginal English in constructing a story, these are

different forms of the written language, however only one is correct, SAE. This is the

message that is given not just to the Indigenous community but to migrants and refugees who

speak English as a second language, there is a lack of attention paid to the loss of the mother

tongue and the separation this can cause for previous generations to the current generation

(Srinivasan 2014). The contrast of what the story means to Indigenous students contrasted

to the non-Indigenous viewpoint sends a powerful message as to what silencing a culture can

do, words such as: family, law, truth, spoken, and elders vs. Fiction, for entertainment,

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written in books, anybody can create (Bevan and Shillinglaw 2010). This is a strong message

that resonates the need for more equitable approaches to learning for diversity as in some

cases these needs are not being met.

CRT can also explain why standards on which the other has been judged have been based

on white values, these values are throughout Australian society on multiple levels, from

policy making to institutions right down to the personal level (Durie, 2003). Whilst creating

this benchmark on white values the educational system fails on an equitable level to judge

those students who do not have the appropriate support and structures in place to be assessed

on these standards. There are multiple reasons as to why students are disengaged which

include: language, cultural barriers, poor achievement, family situation, socio economic

background and other school based factors (McGregor and Mills, 2012). Privilege is a term

that is linked with CRT and whiteness as being a part of the dominant group has with it

unequivocal benefits (McIntosh, 2012). The issue of colour blindness raised by Zamudio,

Russell, Rios and Bridgeman (2011) criticise policies that treat all children as equal as this

creates an illusion of being put back into the dominant learning element as the colour blind

policies create a sense of us and them, note that pre-service teachers need to be aware of

the privileged eyes and that there is a need to view the invisible power relations (Lampert,

Burnett and Morse 2015).

Lampert, Burnett and Morse (2015) Destabilising privilege, uses pre-service teachers

experiences from the National Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools program

(NETDS), while using this case study links will be made to current policies and theories

outlined above.

I found myself standing in my second prac in front of a very different class that

included mostly Indigenous and Polynesian kids. They were just so different from me: they

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walked with a swagger, dressed in baggy jumpers despite sweat dripping down their faces,

and spoke to me with edgy attitude. Throughout this four-week placement, I never saw a

single parent in any of my classes. Most of them just dont care was the response from my

supervising teacher. How was I supposed to make this group of kids excited about colonial-

Australian bush poetry with so many of the other teachers suggestions along the lines of:

Dont try group work with that class- they dont have the social skills... Just get them to sit

and write a lot it keeps them quiet? Kristie Morse Written response to early placement.

In Kristies experience she has experienced a classroom that she may not have experienced

and is viewing a scenario from a context of whiteness and privilege (McIntosh, 2012).

Through this experience there is evidence of prejudice to the students from teachers. In this

case study pre-service teachers were asked questions relating to their experiences and the

challenges they faced. The study found acceptance to process privilege but did not notice and

held back on race, this falls into colour blindness and defaulting back to treating all children

the same (Lampert, Burnett, and Morse 2015). The NETDS pre-service teachers in this study

would fall back into pre conceived notions that situate them as part of middle class

(Lampert, Burnett, and Morse 2015). Kristie revisits her initial impressions and only through

critical reflections can we move forward through the understandings of our own prejudices as

middle class educators. In contrast to the first entry Kristies entry several weeks later reveal

a change in how to view the initial problem. In another pre-service teacher entry we see a

supervising teacher say, You know, I dont mean to be offensive but the kids at this school

are absolute bogans. By doing this we see another example of educators failing the

challenge of equity and access to education. The policy introduced in 2007 (AHRC) Close

the Gap there is a commitment to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous in

relation to standards of living and education and employment. Through more pre-service

teachers experiencing self reflectivity and reaching self awareness like those involved with

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NETDS this may help to close the gap in relation to education. There is a need for much

more work in relation to education as the statistics from 2014 showed a stark comparison in

non-Indigenous and Indigenous populations aged 20-24: 85% non-Indigenous have a year 12

or equivalent qualification (ABS 2013) compared with 54% of Indigenous (Australian

Government, 2014). This statistics suggest that even with support the schooling system is still

failing the needs of the Indigenous community, Sarra (2007) talks about the teachers blaming

the community, the parents, the social and cultural environment for failing to educate in

Cherbourg State School His voice is one that suggests the failing of the school and the need

for change in education and embracing a positive ideal of Aboriginal identity and criticises

mainstream Australia for living an unhealthy lie, teach for the students to be proud of their


Multiculturalism is a policy in place by the Commonwealth of Australia, in which the

commitment to the people, is that which embraces cultural diversity and the right to practice

traditions and languages free from discrimination (Department of Social Services, 2014).

The term multiculturalism can be perceived as a policy that has been introduced to mange

cultural diversity this policy has been critiqued by Ladson-Billings and Tate (2006) to carry

with it forms of covert racism which is part of my experiences. With the current political

climate on refugees and the need for intercultural curriculum ACARA (2012) developed new

curriculum which included intercultural understandings, however inconsistencies with

funding for some, but not for all in the case of NSW refugees experiencing successful

funding, whilst Queensland did not receive the same benefits (Taylor and Sidhu 2011). As

with Indigenous marginalisation outlined above Keddie (2012) sees the teachers struggle with

diversity in the classroom, this lowering of expectations from teachers due to the prejudices

of ability, Taylor and Sidhu, (2011) find the range of issues are being addressed with just

providing English Second Language teaching and that the result varies due to the nature of

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state curriculum. In my own experiences with what was considered multiculturalism during

the events of 9/11 at our school, prejudices were formulated against Muslim students in the

classroom in that questions are asked of these students with the intention of not being

offensive, the students that received these prejudices ended up changing schools as it became

severe. The term Multiculturalism was thrown around a lot during my schooling period.

Growing up as a South African Indian student in the Australian education system was

difficult to say the least. The conflict of self identity at the forefront of this issue, being the

one of 3 children of colour in a year group of approximately 100, I held constant experiences

of covert racism, overt and unintended racism on the individual level: my examples of each

are as follows; overt intentionally being called curry muncher, covert Hes Indian, they

are fine with Maths, unintended Teacher would make a reference about an Indian-Indian

not realising even though they are aware of my origin and that I am not from India. These

experiences in school would shake the foundations of self awareness; the biggest conflict of

social justice in my educational experience still lies with the Muslim students that left our

school. During the 9/11 crisis the media swarmed the airways with anti-Muslim sentiment, to

this day I am still ashamed of not standing up for my fellow students experiencing prejudice

as I myself have experienced to a lesser extent. My part-time job in sales lets me meet many

people daily the most common misconception customers discuss with me are telemarketers,

because they once spoke with an Indian telemarketer. These examples in my personal life

suggest that although multiculturalism is the current political stance to cultural diversity, is it

working to tame tensions between different groups or is it further marginalising and creating

a void between the privileged and the other. These experiences have also helped shape the

hybrid nature of my own Identification as a fluid ethnicity that shifts between Australian,

South African, and Indian.

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The need for equity and access in education is paramount and our democratic society is trying

to appease this need with closed eyes, there needs to be deep critical thinking occurring as

outlined in Lampert, Burnett and Morse (2015) but not only in regard to the Indigenous

community but to formulating the Australian diversity as the rich mosaic that it is.

Colonisation and globalisation have made the world a smaller place while also placing

cultural and religious groups that would not normally be found together in close proximity,

this tension has fuelled racialisation in Australia (Srinivasan 2014). Identifying the issues

that come from within as privileged educators will help to address the deficit of the equity in

the Australian schooling system as a society education is failing minority groups and critical

reflection to help change self prejudice will be a small step in the right direction.

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