Teaching the Acceptance of Diversity: an Ant-Bias Education Initiative that Empowers Student Leaders to be the Agents of Change
Contributor(s)Smith, Kimberly J. (Smith, Kimberly J.) (Authoraut)
Twomey, Elizabeth (Twomey, Elizabeth) (Thesis advisorths)
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AbstractAs our world continues to evolve as a global community, schools must prepare students to live, work, and thrive in a diverse society. Teaching the acceptance of diversity to our students is a significant step in building a safe and peaceful culture within our school communities. Teaching the acceptance of diversity to a generation of young people is a significant step in building a peaceful world. This qualitative case study examined an anti-bias education initiative that empowered students to become leaders and activists in their high school. The findings of this study revealed that the diversity education initiative did not have an immediate impact on school culture, but the students who took active leadership roles encountered a transformational experience. The student leaders demonstrated substantial growth in the skills and understandings essential to anti-bias activism. Significant to this development was heightened awareness of discriminatory language and behavior, a more comprehensive view of diversity and its role in community, and the ability to engage peers in dialogue about challenging diversity topics. In a dialogic exploration of individual differences, student leaders discovered the commonality that connects all humanity. This insight led them to affirm individual identity, to conceptualize the richness that diversity adds to community, and ultimately to embrace diversity as fundamental to community. The findings of this study point to the incremental nature of school culture change and the need to institutionalize a diversity education/student leader effort as a long-term initiative in order to achieve substantive school improvement. The findings compel educators to provide leadership opportunities for students, cultivating their ability to become productive citizen-leaders in an increasingly global community. This is the subject matter of their lives, an authentic curriculum that activates their knowledge, their ability, and their responsibility to transform their world (Starratt, 2008). This dissertation captures the lived experiences of a group of students who led this diversity education initiative, and how their reflections inform educational policy, practice, and leadership.