Diversity education important for exposure to a variety of cultures

By Georgiana Rushworth
November 16, 2000

by Georgiana Rushworth

staff writer

Diversity education is becoming a required piece of most U.S. colleges, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Cabrini College is part of that poll.

We are living in a very diverse world and undergraduates need to be exposed to a variety of cultures. More than half of the American colleges and universities responded to the survey from The Chronicle saying that it is a requirement for undergraduate students at their school to take a diversity course.

The results showed that colleges do believe teaching about diversity is very important.

Shirley Dixon, head of diversity initiatives, would strongly agree.

She said, “The major theorists and researchers in multicultural education agree that the movement is designed to restructure educational institutions, so all students will acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to function effectively in a culturally and ethnically diverse nation and world.”

There are those that do not see eye to eye with a diverse education. Some critics do not believe that this should be a significant part of the education curriculum.

Bradford Wilson, executive director of The National Association of Scholars, says, “I worry that diversity requirements are taking place of important general-education courses, like American history and Western civilization.” He sees the emphasis on race, class and gender as being politically, not academically driven.

Dixon does not feel this issue as being an ethnic- or gender- specific movement.

“A diverse education is designed to empower all students to become knowledgeable caring and active citizens in a deeply troubled and ethnically polarized nation and world.”

Colleges believe that teaching about diversity is an important function of higher education and is important for the community. People and businesses are realizing this and say that students need diverse knowledge and skills to function effectively in diverse workplaces and diverse communities.

Fifty eight percent of the institutions with diversity requirements ask students to take at least one course, but does one course make a dent in promoting a global vision?

Dixon does not feel that one course will do the job. “In order to provide students with a multicultural diverse education it must be embedded in the curriculum.” Dixon has been working hard and is looking to expand Cabrini’s diversity courses. She wants students to see commonalties and differences and understand how the differences can broaden student’s horizons.

Cabrini not only offers diversity courses such as: Images of Women in Literature, African American Women Novelists, Asian American authors and Multiculturalism of the workplace, but also expands your knowledge of diversity out of the classroom in organizations like, the “Latinos and Friends” club.

Nelsi Vasquez, president of the “Latinos and Friends” club, feels that this organization is important on Cabrini’s campus. They introduce everyone to the Latin culture through their events and the college community.

Vasquez explains, “Everyone needs to come together with people from different backgrounds and learn from each other. My club provides a great opportunity for all to become aware of the people around us and not just the color of their skin, but different cultures.”

Students at Cabrini feel that it is necessary for diversity courses to be offered here.

Amanda Campbell, a junior sociology/psychology major, feels that diversity education should not just begin in college, but should be taught by their families when children are young.

“The knowledge of a diverse education beginning in the home or school breaks down cultural barriers and gives students a chance to compete in the global market and make them an all around better person.”

Kendra Ryer, a junior sports science major, is taking a Seminar 300 course with Shirley Dixon called Reflections on American Education. She feels that this class deals with many diverse issues in the education system and she is now very aware of diversity.

“I think it is important for people to become familiar with their surroundings and to be respectful to everyone because you never know what nationality they could be.”

Cabrini’s mission is to give its students a well-rounded education and allow them to function well in the diverse world. Dixon adds, “Teachers have an obligation to create the best possible educational environment for the young adults whose lives are likely to be significantly changed during their years on our campus.”

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Georgiana Rushworth

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