The problem of educational disparities among various ethno-racial groups that make up the United States has been a long studied topic. Theories have ranged widely in what they consider as the primary factors for these disparities. Biological and individualist perspectives have cited inherent genetic inferiorities as the cause of these disparities. Others have taken into account social forces but have maintained that the cause is due to the creation of a culture of subordination and poverty that does not allow social advancement. Still others have tended to focus on systemic inequalities and on the roles of prejudice and discrimination (Sidanius et al, 1998).
This paper will attempt to frame the issue of educational disparities among marginalized minorities through the idea of “social dominance theory,” which states that social systems and structures are arranged hierarchically to benefit the dominant group and in turn create low-status among others (Sindanius et al, 1998). I will then more specifically look into the role of cultural mismatch between a student’s home culture and the cultural ideals that are embedded in the educational system. These cultural discontinuities affect minority students’ identities during this crucial period of development. From there, I will turn the focus to highlighting some possible solutions and alternatives to this problem of cultural mismatch and oppositional identity. These solutions will focus on the role of reclaiming education as a part of student’s home culture as well as the educational system’s role in recognizing and accommodating to these differences.
In order to understand the relationship between marginalized minorities and the educational system, it is important to look into the role of the educational system as a product and perpetuator of inequality. This can best be examined by considering “social dominance theory.” Introduced in the early 1990’s by Sindanius and Pratto, “social dominance theory (SDT) argues that complex human societies appear predisposed to organize themselves as group-based social hierarchies with one or a small number of dominant social groups and at least one subordinate group” (Sindanius et al, 1998; pg. 138). These hierarchies are based on various factors such as social class, religion, nationality, race, ethnicity, or any other social distinction recognized by both society and the individual. Along with pointing out what other, mainly sociological, theories have highlighted about social stratification, SDT considers structural factors and makes the important step in considering psychological factors. Along with considering these different factors, SDT recognizes the way structural factors (i.e. institutional and societal) create psychological factors (i.e. attitudes) and how those in turn influence structural differences through mutual constitution (Sindanius et al, 1998).
SDT is most clearly exemplified in issues dealing with the criminal...