Do you see what I see?

Adapting education and learning experience to accommodate personal differences is one of the prominent topics in today’s pedagogy. In this blog, by using an example from color and language research I try to emphasize to what extent our cultural background can influence our vision and ultimately understanding of different phenomenon. Specially in the United States with its culturally diverse population, it is important to notice how language impact one’s perception of the world.

Cultural groups throughout the world talk about color differently—some don’t even have a word for color. The question is whether color perception a universal human experience or not? According to sapiens website 

The debate sits at the center of an ongoing war in the world of color research. On the one side stand “universalists,” including the authors of TheWorld Color Survey and their colleagues, who believe in a conformity of human perceptual experience: that all people see and name colors in a somewhat consistent way. On the other side are “relativists,” who believe in a spectrum of experience and who are often offended by the very notion that a Westerner’s sense of color might be imposed on the interpretation of other cultures and languages.

In light of the fact that the Candoshi trip in Peru do not even have a word for the concept of “color,” Surrallés concludes that they are probably not using the words in reference to color at all but rather comparing one object to another more holistically. People’s notions of color are not the only perceptions that can be shaped by culture. According to some cross-cultural studies by Carlos Crivelli, interpretations of emotion as expressed in human faces can also be culturally influenced. The point is, if it is not only our genes and biological characteristics that shape our perceptions, knowing the influencing elements and adapting our teaching/learning methods according to those is a critical step towards a more inclusive pedagogic system.

Source:

Do You See What I See?

 

 

Affirmative Action, how you do it?

We all have heard about the concept of  affirmative action (an action or policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination, especially in relation to employment or education; positive discrimination) or positive action in UK or the term I prefer which is used in Canada and South Africa employment equity. Consdering both pros and cons of such policies, in this blog I mainly focus on how affirmative action should take place in higher education:

Schools should educate and employ individuals while being just and democratic. What is meant by these normative statement, however, can be terribly unclear or vastly different from person to person (JZF, EPC, & JDN, 2013). The first ambiguity is the meaning of justice and democracy. How these terms are defined and from whose perspective, would be critical issues in defining affirmative action policies adopted by institutes of higher education. To Rawls, social justice is about assuring the protection of equal access to liberties, rights, and opportunities, as well as taking care of the least advantaged members of society (Rawls, 1958). Here, the problem is the challenge between providing equal opportunity for everyone and maintaining the quality of predicted performance. If one values both diversity and the performance outcomes, then a key question emerges: What are the prospects for achieving diversity without minority preference and without sacrificing the predictive accuracy and content relevancy present in knowledge, skill, ability, and achievement tests (Sackett, Schmitt, Ellingson, & Kabin, 2001)? It would be quite simple if a university wants to sacrifice quality of measurement and predictive accuracy, since there are many routes to achieving diversity including “random selection, setting a low cut score, or the use of a low-impact predictor” even though it may possess little to no predictive power (ibid).  Also it would not be a difficult task for universities to maximize their predictive accuracy of performance outcome by only focusing on test results without considering engagement in “efforts to improve opportunities for historically excluded groups in American society”(“Affirmative Action | Overview,” 2014). Clearly, the use of traditional tests without race-based score adjustment fails to achieve a balance between diversity concerns and performance outcomes.

Universities are responsible for creating a sufficient common basis for shared civic action instead of erasing differences. For reaching this goal, it is suggested that it would be wise for campus leaders to utilize a multidimensional approach to diversity and anticipate that the effects of diversity policies may differ. ALL students should be considered when developing a multidimensional approach, so that cultural “border crossing” is pursued by everyone (Williams, Berger, & McClendon, 2005) The question is HOW to involve all the students and how to cross the cultural border, in other words, what a “sufficient common basis” for shared civic action can be. In Ben-Porath’s opinion, a view of education for citizenship based on this idea of “citizenship as shared fate envisions schools that build on and develop a holistic notion of society” while maintaining a commitment to the well-being of individuals whose complex identities arise from their memberships in multiple groups, namely linguistic communities, cultural and religious groups, and social classes (Ben-Porath, 2013).

Another important issue regarding diversity in university and affirmative action in higher education, is about employment. Equal opportunity for employment of faculty members from different backgrounds (i.e. cultural, religious, political affiliation and etc.) is a part of affirmative action policies which must be adopted by universities. However, there are discussion regarding the existence of left universities. For example, in “The Ideological Profile of Professors” chapter of the book “The politically correct university” which gathers up numerous studies that reveal the political affiliations and ideologies of university faculty the author tries to link the higher number of liberal faculty members in universities (especially in humanities and liberal arts) to biased system of employment in the higher education institutes. However, one must pay close attention to details and reasons of this difference, while probing why there are so few conservative faculties on campus, for example, studies have shown that liberal students are more likely to find faculty mentors who guide them toward graduate study, and thus toward the possibility of becoming professors in the future. Therefore, the difference in employment rate of members of a certain group in comparison to its counterpart does not necessarily imply lack of affirmative action nor presence of prejudice towards certain set of beliefs, however the underneath reasons must be explored in order to address the roots of these imbalances (Maranto et al., 2009, pp. 15–32).

Cited Works:

  1. Affirmative Action | Overview. (2014). Retrieved December 8, 2016, from http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/affirmative-action-overview.aspx
  2. Ben-Porath, S. (2013). Education for Shared Fate Citizenship. Education, Justice, and Democracy, 80.
  3. JZF, EPC, & JDN. (2013). Education, Justice, & Democracy. Harvard Educational Review, 83(3), 529–539.
  4. Maranto, R., Redding, R. E., Hess, F. M., & American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (Eds.). (2009). The politically correct university: problems, scope, and reforms. Washington, D.C: AEI Press.
  5. Rawls, J. (1958). Justice as fairness. The Philosophical Review, 164–194.
  6. Sackett, P. R., Schmitt, N., Ellingson, J. E., & Kabin, M. B. (2001). High-stakes testing in employment, credentialing, and higher education. Prospects in a post-affirmative-action world. The American Psychologist, 56(4), 302–318.

Abolish tenure! Are there alternative mechanisms for ensuring academic freedom?

According to recent studies college professors actually get paid less for every additional hour they spend in a classroom. This finding is true not only at large research universities but at state “teaching universities” and small liberal arts colleges (Fairweather, 2005). Some argue that the institution of tenure encourages this problem. There are scholars who believe that tenure should be replaced by a system of multiyear renewable contracts for all instructors instead of shifting the burden of teaching to lesser-paid adjunct professors.

Opponents of tenure consider tenure as a static system of promotion that gives people a permanent job for what they have already accomplished, while teaching is a dynamic profession. Defenders of tenure claim that it protects academic freedom (O’Neil, 2009), however, one might question this possibility of tenure by pointing out issues such as departmental majoritarianism, repressing ideas for a long time before being granted tenure or even after that, as one of tenured professors at Ohio University wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “I must try to be less bold in expressing unpopular opinions about campus policies, curriculum goals or the use of increasingly limited resources…” (“What Does Tenure Get You?,” 2011).

If we accept that there are disadvantages to tenure as well as its positive aspects such as securing academic freedom, then the question is whether there is an alternative mechanism which can provide academic freedom without the mentioned problems of tenure. To answer this question, I looked for real-world examples of “In Lieu of Tenure” to see whether alternatives of tenure can secure academic freedom. The first mechanism I found is faculty development leave (FDL), which ensures semester-long sabbaticals every five years, rather than every seven at Webster University. FDL faculty members must undergo performance evaluations and contract reviews every five years. Although, the university’s chancellor and several of FDL members consider this track as effective, enriching, rewarding and refreshing, but still in FDA, the status option denies them the same job security as tenure. According to the chancellor “every single faculty member at Webster University has academic freedom and the day that that is not the case is the day that the university ought to rise up and vote no confidence in its president”, nevertheless when the university fell on tough economic times or should a controversial issue arise, the non-tenured faculty could well be at greater risk (“In Lieu of Tenure,” 2010).

Work Cited

  1. Fairweather, J. S. (2005). Beyond the rhetoric: Trends in the relative value of teaching and research in faculty salaries. The Journal of Higher Education, 76(4), 401–422.
  2. In Lieu of Tenure. (2010, March). Retrieved December 9, 2016, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/03/10/webster
  3. O’Neil, R. (2009). Academic freedom in the wired world: Political extremism, corporate power, and the university. Harvard University Press.
  4. What Does Tenure Get You? – Brainstorm – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education. (2011, May).

Let them study if you “really” care! Educational Inequalities Regarding Afghans in Iran

In spite of  Iranian government’s attempts to provide educational opportunities to Afghan refugee students, a generosity which has been one of the greatest assets for repatriating Afghans (Koepke, 2011), still Afghan children do not  have an equal right to a fully adequate educational opportunities as their Iranian peers. Although the children of legal immigrants are entitled to the same education as citizens under Iranian law, and refugees from the north and west of Afghanistan adjust quickly due to strong linguistic similarities between Farsi and their native Dari, however, undocumented Afghan children and those non-farsi speakers suffer from educational inequallites.

Until 2005, Afghan refugees had the option to enroll in either Iranian schools or in Afghan-run private schools, which also admitted undocumented Afghans. Certified by the Iranian government, these Afghan-run schools were registered with the Afghan Embassy in Tehran. In 2006, Afghan refugee children were permitted to enroll in Iranian schools only following the payment of basic school fees; Afghan-run schools were closed and undocumented Afghan children generally prohibited from enrolling in any school at all. In this period, a new government directive rescinded the existing residence permits of Afghan refugees, and many Afghan students were unable to get new documents before the beginning of the school year, thus they were forced to interrupt their schooling as the government reevaluated the legal status of its expanding community of refugees.

However, following a decree issued by President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in 2009, all Afghan children, including undocumented Afghans, have been permitted to enroll in Iranian schools once their family has registered with Iranian government Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs (BAFIA) and paid school fees. [1]

In early 2010, undocumented Afghan children who enrolled in 2009 were still able to continue with their education, but those who did not enroll in 2009 were no longer permitted to register and enroll. The last official figures from 2010-11 indicate an 8% annual rise in school enrollment among documented Afghan refugees. But mercurial government policies hindered Afghan pupils’ ability to attend school regularly, and many parents often turn to underground networks to ensure their children do not fall behind in their studies.

Currently, some progress has been made in order to facilitate the education of refugee children. In early 2015, Ayatollah Khamenei, The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued an order regarding education support for Afghan’s children. He stated, “Any Afghan children, even illegal immigrants without documents, who are present in Iran, should not be kept out of school and all of them must be enrolled in Iranian schools”(ACEI, 2015). Although this would be a great step forward in reducing discrimination against Afghans in Iran, yet there are institutional injustices that avoid actualization of such goals.

  • Currently, only Afghan children are permitted for school registration. There are no plans for Afghan adults who were deprived of education in the past years.
  • According to school administrators’ decision, Afghan students still have to pay fees even in public schools which are free for Iranians.
  • The vast majority of the children in Iran attend public schools, but these schools are far from equal. Public schools located in affluent, predominantly Iranian areas tend to have more modern facilities and better teaching resources than schools in marginal, less affluent areas, which means that economic status often determines the quality of education a student receives. Majority of Afghan students are not welcome in high-quality uptown schools and are rejected with false pretexts.
  • Registered in schools with unsatisfactory environmental conditions in marginal urban areas, Afghan students are often forced to attend second shifts of double-shift schools. Aside from unequal education opportunity, this will lead to more segregation of Afghans and Iranians.

[1] Following this decree, BAFIA also approved a UNICEF project for the basic education of 2,000 Afghan children in Karaj, Mashhad and Tehran. This project is being implemented by six Iranian NGOs and the agreement with BAFIA will be renewed on an annual basis.

Resources:

ACEI. (2015, May 19). Education for Afghan Refugees in Iran | Association for Childhood Education International. Retrieved December 2, 2015, from https://acei.org/news/education-for-afghan-refugees-in-iran

Koepke, B. (2011). The situation of Afghans in the Islamic Republic of Iran nine years after the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Middle East Institute: Refugee Cooperation, 4. Retrieved from http://www.refugeecooperation.org/publications/afghanistan/pdf/03_koepke.pdf