How can schools encourage and embrace diversity?

  Watch “Diversity.”
Review Section 1 and 3.
Discuss the following question:

1.How can schools encourage and embrace diversity?
How can schools encourage and embrace diversity?

Consider the following question:

3. In what ways might a school elicit feedback from its stakeholders?
Diversity section 1 
Diversity section 3 

Read Ch3 its 4 Questions at then end that needs to answer ….
Then the Diversity video by Diversity recommendations in Breaking Ranks
Chapter 8: Diversity
Topic A: Expert – Diversity 
Juan R. Baughn, Ed.D. Lecturer, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA ■ Former Teacher, Principal and Superintendent
Section Navigation

Chapter 3 Understanding the Community 
After completing this chapter you should be able to … 

■ Identify key community segments important to school–community relations planning and programming. 
■ Distinguish methods for community–audience assessment and identifying influential communicators. 
■ Recognize the characteristics of community power structures. 
■ Distinguish opinion research techniques commonly deployed in school–community relations programs. 

Before attempting any communication, school administrators must study the intended audience for the message. When trying to communicate with a diverse community, it’s imperative that school officials know the various components of the community.Collecting information about the makeup of the community is a major first step toward a communications program. This enables administrators to plan intelligently and reduce guesswork. When gathering information about the community, the following topics should be considered:

• The nature of the power structure and the way decisions are made in the community 
• The identification of the media and long-term challenges that need attention 
• The expectations of citizens regarding education 
• Situations to be avoided based on the history of conflict in the community 
• Identification of individuals and groups who are friendly or unfriendly toward education 
• Opportunities and ways to effect better cooperative relations with various publics 
• The identification of gaps that need to be filled to produce more public understanding of educational policies and programs 
• The channels through which public opinion is built in the community 
• Changes that are occurring in patterns of community life 
• The identification of leaders and those who influence leaders in the community 
• A listing of the types of organizations and social agencies in the community 

To comprehend all of these factors, the study of the community should be directed at its sociological characteristics, the nature and influence of its power structure, and the way in which people think and feel about education and the programs provided by the district. Since the community is constantly changing, continuing studies are necessary to keep knowledge current.
To plan an effective program, the district needs to know about the people who make up the community. The more that is known about them, the better the chances are of designing a program that will achieve its objectives. Therefore, it’s recommended that school districts undertake a sociological inventory of their communities. But—and this is a major but—those inventories should not be so complex, time expensive, and costly that by the time they’re done people don’t want to take the time to implement the findings. Too often some educators get wrapped up in the process and place that completed study on a shelf to do little more than wait for its successor. To conduct such a study and not interpret the findings and use the results would be a waste of time and money.Choosing which items to include in such a study can help ensure the study’s success. Some possible topics to include are the following: customs and traditions, historical background, material and human resources, age and gender distribution, educational achievement, organizations and groups, political structure, leadership, power alignments, religious affiliations, housing, racial and ethnic composition, economic life, transportation, communication, standards of living, health, and recreation. It would be extremely time consuming and expensive to include all of the topics. To ensure the effectiveness of the study, school officials should choose the most important categories, focus on them, gather the information in a relatively short time, and then implement the study.Among the topics that should get serious consideration are customs and traditions, population characteristics, existing communication channels, community groups, leadership, economic conditions, political structure, social tensions, and previous community efforts in the area.
Customs and Traditions 
Customs and traditions are the common ideas, attitudes, and habits of people. They may be referred to as folkways, mores, or lifestyles. Significant in regulating conduct and in predicting behavior, they likewise exert an influence in the shaping of social action and in the determination of services rendered by community agencies.Lifestyle differences found among community groups arise from the impact of race, religion, nationality background, economics, politics, and social class structure. Thus, individuals who live in an urban community may share similar ethnic characteristics and may differ in their way of life, their values, their beliefs, and their habits from individuals who reside in a semirural community. Similar differences in lifestyle also may be found among groups who reside in various geographic sections that make up a metropolitan area. One area may consist of a group having a predominant ethnic or cultural background whereas another area may be a microcosm of the overall population.The problem in this part of the sociological inventory is identifying and defining the customs of groups in the community. This information is important to the school in guiding its relations with students, parents, and others. Nothing evokes a quicker reaction from parents and citizens than the adoption of policies and practices that run counter to their established attitudes, beliefs, and habits. This has been evident on many occasions when new blocks of subject matter introduced into the curriculum caused students to think or act contrary to the convictions held by parents and relatives. Equally strong reactions are likely if students are retained after school on days that have been set aside for religious instruction.From another point of view, it is valuable to know how change takes place in group patterns of thought and action. What are the circumstances and forces that produce orderly change? Studies indicate that safe and rapid change occurs during periods of emergency when the need to make adjustments is immediate. Alterations in the physical features of a community, such as the construction of new highways, the improvement of housing, or the rezoning of land use, open the way for modifying social habits and customs. Significant changes are also possible when members of different groups are given opportunities to discuss and share in finding solutions to problems that have an effect on their ways of living.A note of caution is in order here about stereotyping people and groups.

Stereotyping is the process of assigning fixed labels or categories to things and people you encounter or, in the reverse of this process, placing things and people you encounter into fixed categories you have already established.1 

It can be easy to do this with community groups such as senior citizens and young professionals, for example. Not all senior citizens are against spending for education or rigid in their thinking when it comes to educational issues. Nor do all young professionals aspire to send their children to private schools. When studying the characteristics of any population, it’s important to remember that not all members of a particular ethnic group, race, or religion hold the same attitudes, opinions, or voting patterns.
Population Characteristics 
Population characteristics concerning educational attainment, age, sex, gainful occupation, race, creed, and nationality are important in developing an understanding of the community. Publications and services from the U.S. Census Bureau can provide useful information on population characteristics.In looking at the educational attainments of the population, attention is directed to the years of formal schooling completed by adults. The amount of schooling may be classified as elementary, secondary, and college, unless the exact number of years is wanted. This information is useful in the preparation of printed materials. Vocabulary, style, and layout are fitted to the educational backgrounds of the audiences for whom they are intended. This information is also useful in estimating the best manner of transmitting ideas and factual information to the community so that attention and interest are generated. Another use of educational attainment information is constructing stratified samples of the population for purposes of opinion polling.Age data should be broken down into convenient classifications and the implications carefully studied. For example, one community may expect an increase in school enrollments over the next five years, whereas another may just hold its own or suffer a loss. Age distribution may also suggest ideas concerning the future patterns of growth of the community. A fairly young adult population would almost certainly be more demanding of educational services and quality than a population of mostly middle-aged and older people. Similarly, the younger group would most likely support better financing of the school program, whereas the older groups might be more likely to resist an increase in educational expenditures. Thus, it is possible from age distribution to form working estimates of community reaction to various kinds of proposals.In addition to educational achievement, age distribution and sex distribution are used as control factors in constructing stratified random samples of the population for purposes of opinion polling. Occupational information on gainfully employed adults may be organized according to the classification scheme2 used in U.S. census reports. These data are useful in checking population stability, changing occupational opportunities, distribution of occupational classes, and employment outside the community. Findings influence the selection of program activities. The participation of citizens is also considered.The study of population characteristics should be rounded out with data about race, religion, and nationality. These cultural factors may be important to gain an understanding of the community and some of the underlying causes of social tension and conflict. However, the meaning of the data may not always be clear unless the data are correlated with other information. It is well to treat the data statistically and to prepare summaries of the findings. These summaries should be used in the planning process, and copies of them should be distributed to key personnel within the system. At the same time, as much of the information as possible should be depicted on social base maps, with separate sections being blown up for use in individual attendance areas. Statistical summaries and social base maps often provide leads to the solution of everyday problems that are associated with school and community relations.
Communication Channels 
Since the development of public opinion takes place through the exchange of ideas and information, it is necessary to know what communication channels are available in the community, how extensively they are used, and which ones are most effective for reaching different segments of the public. These questions are sometimes difficult to answer, but they can be worked out by persistent inquiry. It may be found that the public at large relies on the Internet, radio, television, and daily newspapers for most of its news and information, making the news media influential in shaping public opinion on some social issues. However, the investigation may reveal that members of special groups in the community receive information from a variety of other sources. These may include publications of clubs and organizations, religious organizations, labor unions, volunteer fire companies, neighborhood publications and newspapers, and foreign-language newspapers. On this last source of information, it is reasonable to assume that parents who speak and read a foreign language in the home may experience some difficulty in understanding student progress reports, school notices, and school news reported in traditional news sources. Where these conditions prevail, it would be advantageous for the school district to employ a number of bilingual home and school visitors, offer school materials in more than one language, and prepare news releases for foreign-language periodicals and newspapers.The Internet, social media, and smartphone apps have added many new channels for information and notably increased the speed of communications. Web sites and e-mail, and the proliferation of cell phones and text messaging, also allow immediate, two-way communication.An unexpected benefit of this new technology is the reduced need for paper and physical files. E-mail and text messages can deliver information to many people with the press of a button. This saves time and the need to make copies to send by regular mail. Messages also can be retained for quick, on-demand access on school Web sites.
Community Groups 
The American community is a composite of groups of people who are organized around special interests. Some of the groups have little or no influence on community affairs, but others have a great deal. Many are highly cooperative with those who hold similar interests, but a number are uncooperative. The variety is tremendous, and the numbers vary considerably from community to community. Informal groups that come into existence because of some common belief or cause may assume many different forms and often blend into a formal type of organization. No sociological inventory is complete without knowing the purposes and programs of these groups and the influence they exert on public opinion.Although cooperation with community groups having an educative function to perform should be encouraged fully, care must be taken to prevent their possible exploitation of students. To some, cooperation means the right to insist that the school approve their requests and modify its program to achieve the ends for which they are working. To others, cooperation is nothing more than a guise for the privilege of disseminating self-serving information in the classroom, promoting product sales and services, and conducting contests for the sake of publicity.On the other hand, some community organizations dominate school politics but are not concerned primarily with educational matters. Composed of small business groups, property and homeowners’ associations, and civic improvement leagues for the most part, they take practically no interest in such matters as dropout rates, standardized test scores, or the qualifications and selection of professional school personnel. Instead they are concerned about the impact of school policies on the community, and they take a strong interest in school costs, especially tax increases and bond proposals.Other community organizations are those known as special interest groups. Many of these are vehemently opposed to each other; even so, they all converge on schools and pressure them to accept their philosophical positions and to alter educational programs. Often they move to change the school curriculum and to censor textbooks and library books. In any inventory of the community, school officials should attempt to identify special interest groups, become familiar with their philosophies, and perhaps anticipate and prepare for their contacts with the schools.The extent to which individuals and families participate in the activities of organized groups, particularly those having to do with civic welfare, should be addressed in the course of the survey. The amount of participation is usually a rather reliable index of community spirit. Research in sociology shows that individuals and families who are active in organized group programs likewise take a strong interest in what happens to their community and that those who are inactive or take part occasionally show only slight interest in needed community improvements.
The next aspect of the inventory concerns the status of leadership in the community. Leadership is a relational concept implying two things: the influencing agent and the persons who are influenced. In other words, when persons are influenced to express organizational behavior on a matter of group concern, then leadership has occurred. Even though this concept may seem too simple and may represent a variance from others that could be cited, it nevertheless provides a feasible base for the examination of leadership and the leadership process.At this point, it might be well to review a few findings from leadership studies without getting involved in too many details. Leadership is not related necessarily to social status or position in the community. An individual usually holds a position of leadership because his or her characteristics approximate the norms or goals of the group. It is equally true that leaders have traits that set them apart from their followers, but these traits may vary from one situation to another. However, all leaders usually have certain characteristics in common, such as special competence in dealing with a particular matter, wide acquaintanceship, easy accessibility, and contact with information sources outside of their immediate circle. Also, they are sometimes members of several community organizations and have more exposure than nonleaders to mass media. These characteristics are acknowledged as important, but they will not necessarily produce leadership. One school of thought sees leadership more as a consequence of an individual’s occupying a certain kind of position in the social system, whereas another view holds that leadership is a situational matter requiring a particular issue and the exercise of influence on others.In any event, the inventory task is that of identifying individuals who are recognized leaders of community groups and organizations and who have an influence on the attitudes and opinions of the members. Information should be obtained about their personal backgrounds, family connections, group affiliations, business interests, fraternal memberships, social and political convictions, special competencies, methods of operation, attitudes toward public education, and power in the community. Knowing their backgrounds is requisite to approaching group leaders on educational community problems and to determining their value in rendering particular services.In working with leaders, it must be remembered that they are not always free to express their own ideas or to take independent action. Their behavior is dependent on the nature of their groups and the beliefs and opinions of the members. They may be especially sensitive to questions concerning patriotism, private property, economics, religion, politics, and respected conventions. They realize that any radical departure from the feelings and convictions of their followers on matters like these could quickly undermine their own security. Leadership, however, is a reciprocal arrangement in that group members depend on leaders to initiate ideas and execute plans of action. The leaders sense what members think and want, and so they can direct thought along lines that meet with acceptance. In doing this they play a powerful role in the determination of the attitudes and opinions held by their followers.The study of leadership should extend to neighborhoods within elementary- and secondary-school attendance areas. Every neighborhood contains a number of men and women who are consulted by neighbors and friends whenever questions come up about the school and its relations with students and parents. Their opinions and judgments are important determinants of grassroots public opinion. It is vital to locate these individuals and to involve them in school activities. They become channels through which the school may be interpreted better on a neighborhood basis, and they can do much to win loyalty and support for institutional policies and practices.
Economic Conditions 
An analysis of economic conditions will provide essential data for obtaining a better understanding of the community. Though a great deal of information about the economics of the community is available in governmental and business reports, an overview is needed. The overview should be limited to generalized findings on agricultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation activities and to employment, employment stability, and wage conditions. Related information on land use, property values, and tax rates should be considered. Such information is usually available in the school system’s business office, which plays an important part in the planning of the annual school district budget. If further data are wanted, attention should be directed to such items as production output, retail stores, levels of income, amount of savings, and standard of living. These details are relevant, as economic conditions determine in some measure the financial support available for public education. Moreover, these conditions affect public feelings toward the school and the means used for trying to bring about closer relations between the school and the community.
Political Structure 
For generations, the public school has tried to uphold the idea of keeping politics out of education and education out of politics. It has done this on the assumption that the school as a nonpartisan, classless, and social institution should remain apart from the political life of the community. As meritorious as this may seem on the surface, the truth is that the school cannot and should not separate itself from the political scene.More money is spent for education at state and local levels than for any other single function of government. This fact alone makes education a thoroughly political enterprise. The support received is the product of political struggles for the tax dollar. These struggles involve the interaction of special-interest groups, political leaders, members of legislative bodies, boards and departments of education, opinion leaders, professional educators, and others. Such items as formulas for the distribution of state aid to local districts, the assessment of property tax rates, and the location, size, and cost of school buildings are frequently matters of political conflict and resolution.If educational leaders are to cope successfully with the problem of getting adequate public support, they need to acquire a sophisticated understanding of political realities. They should seek this understanding through a somewhat detailed study of the political structure and the political process within the local area. It is important that they know who makes political decisions, how these decisions are carried out, and what political instruments are available. In some matters, a similar type of study should be extended to state and even national levels.
Social Tensions 
Social tensions and conflicts exist wherever people work and live together. Some are normal expressions of human behavior; others are indications of weakness in the social structure. These tensions are evident in the refusal of neighbors to speak to one another, sectional conflicts over the location of new school buildings, claims that the board of education is favoring the better residential part of the district, interracial confrontations, the formation of cliques within parent–teacher associations, and discrimination against minority groups.The causes of social tensions may be nothing more than personality clashes, misunderstandings, spite, or petty annoyances, but they may also be associated with economic rivalry, cultural differences, social class competition, racial discrimination, religious conflict, and other major aspects of society. These tensions, no matter what the causes, are disruptive to life in the community and detrimental to the kind of consensus often needed for school success.In the planning of a school–community relations program, the school must be fully aware of the causes of tension and the number of issues involved. If school leaders are not knowledgeable about these conditions, the program is likely to move in directions that will increase the tensions and deepen the cleavages that exist. Its real job is engagement that leads to consensus building—that is, trying to harmonize differences between individuals and groups in the community when the tensions militate against the operation of the school and the attainment of its objectives.
Previous Community Efforts 
A review of previous community efforts—say, over the last 10 to 15 years—supplies useful leads for designing the school–community relations program. In this respect, it is important to know what kinds of projects were undertaken, who sponsored them, the degree to which they succeeded or failed, and the probable reasons for the outcome. With this information at hand, it is possible to determine specifics such as groups that offer the promise of working well together, types of projects that have a fairly good chance of succeeding, errors made in the past that should be avoided, the pattern values held by the community regarding self-improvement, and the steps that must be taken in setting the stage for future school and community undertakings.
Sources of Information 
If the superintendent of schools and members of the administrative team will start the survey by listing questions for which data are wanted, they will be pleasantly surprised to discover how much they know about the community. The answers they provide can then be supplemented from other sources of information. A valuable and readily accessible source is school records. The entry forms that children fill out when they first enroll in school contain information on family backgrounds. If used in accordance with the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (also know as the Buckley Amendment), these records can provide important demographics of a specific segment of the community. When an annual or biennial census is taken in the district, the returns may supply similar information and other items not contained in the previous records. If supplemental data are wanted, they can easily be obtained by means of questionnaires administered to students. These sources furnish a good picture of home and family conditions in the community.Numerous sources of printed materials, covering practically all aspects of the needed survey, also are available. City directories and telephone books contain the names of organized groups in the community. U.S. Census statistics include detailed information on population. If the community is too small for inclusion in the printed tracts, the information can be secured by writing the U.S. Census Bureau or logging onto its Web site: Most social agencies maintain records that are useful on a number of points. Excellent data are available from the local chamber of commerce. City, county, and state historical societies and planning commissions have documentary materials that throw light on the growth of the community. A review of newspaper files tells an interesting story of happenings, traditional observances, community efforts, group tensions and conflicts, and outstanding leaders. Publications by the U.S. Department of Commerce are helpful in understanding the economic life of the community, and the publications of governmental planning boards often prove to be highly valuable sources of broad information. Online and published research resources may be used for biographical information, religious customs, traditional observances, and related items. The minutes of boards of education meetings are sometimes a rich source of data on leaders, group programs, tensions, sectional conflicts, and relations with the community.Additional information may be gathered through personal interviews with prominent residents of the community. These individuals know many of the intimate details of social life that are seldom publicized. Although the reliability of their statements may be open to question, they can be cross-checked when a sufficient amount of information has been collected by this method. The success of these interviews will depend on how well they are planned and conducted.An inventory should be made of what the instructional and noninstructional staff members know. Those who have lived for some years in the community may prove to be valuable sources of information, as these individuals may be asked to fill out questionnaires designed especially for the survey. Comparison of tabulated replies may be used to test the accuracy and completeness of their information.
After completing the sociological inventory, attention should be turned to the power structure or structures and decision making in the community. The concern here is understanding the essential characteristics of the power structures, the areas in which they operate, and the effects of power decisions on educational policy and the school program.In every community certain people exercise considerable control over decisions relating to social, economic, and political matters. They obtain this power for a variety of reasons, such as family background, financial status, political leadership, social influence, property ownership, or labor connections. Mostly, they are members of informal groups that sustain themselves through mutual interests. Because these relationships can be described as a structured way of influencing community decisions, they are identified as power structures.A power structure is an interrelationship among individuals with vested interests who have the ability or authority to control other people, to obtain their conformity, or to command their services. They are accorded this power because of their involvement in the decision-making process and the influence they have on decisional outcomes.
General Characteristics 
If the school is to deal intelligently with the power structure or structures in the community, it should have some knowledge of the characteristics peculiar to this form of organization. Power structures are controlled by people of influence who try to shape community decisions in ways that either protect or advance their own interests or do both. Those who constitute the power structure may have few if any scruples about getting what they want. They are usually individuals with high intelligence and real leadership ability; otherwise it is doubtful that they would be able to command the status they enjoy.Members of power structures are drawn from a wide cross-section of community life. They may be professional people, business executives, bankers, labor leaders, land speculators, newspaper publishers, or industrialists. Many of them make it a point to be associated with influential clubs and organizations, where they have numerous contacts with others of their kind and where they can use the membership to spread their propaganda and to mobilize popular support for policies and projects they favor. They do this very quietly and without thrusting themselves into the limelight. Typically, they use a secondary corps of influential individuals to handle matters for them and to report on the nature of public sentiment toward their proposals and the effectiveness of the strategies being employed.Interestingly enough, power structure members are sincerely concerned with the well-being of the community, especially from an economic point of view. They know that they stand to gain as well if the community moves ahead and enjoys prosperity. It is not unusual for them to assist in bringing new industries into the community, to put pressure on politicians for modifications in the local tax structure, or to secure public funds for such items as urban redevelopment, a new highway, or a recreational area. However, when the public welfare on an issue does not coincide with their interests, they may take steps to swing the decision in their own favor.Members of

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