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A 4 Pages Term Paper on Conformity and Self Concept

     Conformity is the tendency to adjust one’s thinking or behavior toward group norms or standards. Many people conform to obtain a sense of belonging and to avoid social rejection. Integration of society is incorporation of disparate ethnic or religious elements of the population into a unified society, providing equality of opportunity for all members of that society. In such a society, an individual's attainment of an education, access to any public or private facility, opportunity for employment, and ownership of property are neither denied nor limited by reason of race, religion, or national origin. In many countries civil rights activists have sought complete integration of minorities, especially black people, into a predominantly white society, through legal and administrative steps.

       Historically black colleges and universities have stood poised as a catalyst for educational opportunity for generations. These institutions were born of the belief that black freedmen should become immediately educated.  Institutions, which were created for this purpose, remain intact today. Historically black colleges and universities were founded for African-Americans as centers for the intellectual leadership and knowledge necessary to strengthen the black community as it adjusts to new levels of competition and equality.

     A black student coming out of high school today is not better off at a predominantly white college, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is more likely to succeed at a historically black college, such as N.C. Central University. Why it happens? It’s a question that tens of thousands of minority high school seniors are wrestling with right now. And it is a question that is taking on even more importance as many historically black colleges face what is at best an uncertain future in the increasingly competitive higher education market. Integration without proactive advocacy implies that these minority individuals will be called upon to adjust their worldviews to conform to the majority, and not be accepted as equals with equally valid backgrounds or heritages. This isn't policy; it's not written in any bylaws anywhere, it just happens, unacknowledged by the public at large. There are many unseen obstacles, and students are not made to feel welcome.

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The problems black college students are wrestling with, from inadequate state and private funding, to increased competition for the brightest students and to the increasingly difficult effort to remain predominant.  Historically black colleges and universities have stood poised as a catalyst for educational opportunity for generations of African Americans.  Black colleges and universities were founded for African-Americans as centers for the intellectual leadership and knowledge necessary to strengthen the black community as it adjusts to new levels of competition and equality. American students attending HBCUs have always received positive attitudes toward historically black colleges and universities. Today due to the better performance of the students in black colleges people support continual racial integration of HBCUs in that it fosters racial understanding and mutual respect.

     The open-ended responses also confirmed that American educators support historically black colleges and universities. Their responses to the advantages of African-Americans attending HBCUs included: Opportunity to integrate with their own racial group for those students, who have not experienced an all black setting and Getting to know the African American learning process and appreciating our uniqueness. Besides having felt Self-esteem and friendship, the dominant group at HBCUs seems to give greater self-esteem and a desire to succeed for African American students. The higher expectations for African American students - socialization climate instills a sense of belonging, ownership and responsibility. Black students have a chance to identify and associate with positive role models to network. Students develop personal pride and self-esteem and a stronger sense of belonging as well. The access to positive role models (African-Americans), such as professors, administrators, scientists and so forth also plays a vital role in this aspect. There is opportunity to study in a positive cultural atmosphere and the opportunity to be in a setting generally perceived to be more supportive of students of color. There is less culture shock for many African-American students. The Teachers become aware of the problems of African-American students. Maintenance and development of self-identity; form a bonding of comradeship; and deal responsibly with our own diversities is also possible.

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     Institutional racism has had a major impact on the development of African American self-esteem and group-identity. Through the years, African Americans have developed strong, tenacious concepts of self partially based on African cultural and philosophical retentions and as a reaction to historical injustices. The Concept of Self examines the historical basis for the widely misunderstood ideas of how African Americans think of themselves individually, and how they relate to being part of a group that has been subjected to challenges of their very humanity.

     Today one can explore the relationship between the motive to achieve and achievement-related (as well as no achievement-related) behaviors in African American female adolescents. They are generally less good in performance. Many factors are cited for the underachievement of minority students, including economics, parents, community, and the environment. The Effective Schools Research makes it clear that whatever influence is exerted by these factors, schools can make a difference. Researchers who study effective schools have found schools serving lower-income neighborhoods where student’s performance on standardized tests is average or above. While we may not be able to control other variables, evidence indicates that schools can have a significant impact on the minority student’s academic performance.

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    Improving black student achievement by enhancing Student’s Self-Image help the teachers as well to better understand the factors that contribute to a positive self-image for Black students and to design and implement instructional strategies that will enhance Black students academic self-concept. While a positive academic identity is important for all students, it is a particularly critical issue for underachieving Black students.

    The experience of schools provide a concrete example for understanding how disadvantaged African American youth can be assisted without being marginalized. The fact that such help can be provided in a racially separate setting is important because there are so few examples of programs that are effective at serving the needs of low-income minority students. The failure of urban public schools in particular is so widespread that in many cities such schools serve only those too destitute to escape them.

     The situation has become so intolerable that many districts are experimenting with new approaches to education, which depart significantly from past practices.  Various forms of choice, privatization and contracting out, are just some of the better-known proposals being debated by policy makers. At the same time, community groups and parents are pushing for reforms at the local level that provide greater accountability, autonomy and control. Charter schools, site based management and various forms of cultural enrichment are just some of the reform measures that are being implemented in schools throughout the country.

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     The concept of conformity is entrenched in the American education system, both presently and historically. Within public education, there are established expectations for student conduct and behavior. To succeed in the institutionalized public system of education, students of all race and socio-economic backgrounds must conform to Anglo-American Protestant middle class values. To understand the implications of having one set of cultural values idealized and standardized, it is important to examine the history of public education and the processes that enforce the dominance of Anglo-Protestant cultural values.

     Conformity was a central theme in early American public education. The goals of common school reformers of the Mid-19th century were to assure the dominance of Protestant Anglo-American culture, reduce tensions between classes, eliminate crime and poverty, stabilize the political system, and form patriotic citizens. Early reformers envisioned a public school system that broke down class divisions and created a common culture for all students. Inherent in this vision is the expectation that all students benefit by conforming to a pre-determined set of "common" cultural values. Furthermore, common schools placed the burden of social reform with the ability to which students and teachers are able to conform, rather than on the systems and processes that create social inequality. The official ideology of the common school accepted the existing political and economic organization of society and held that any problems were the result of individual deviance or failure. Therefore the common school could create a utopian world by educating the individual to conform to the needs of existing political, social, and economic organizations. Common school reformers saw common schools as a solution to social inequality, but this vision never became a reality because conformity itself perpetuated Anglo-Protestant superiority.
     For many students, the degree to which they are able to assimilate depends greatly on the values common to their home environment and the community they grew up in. The current education system marginalizes people without color and class privilege by promoting a standardized curriculum that perpetuates the dominance of middle-class, Anglo-Protestant values. The performance of students and teachers are evaluated based on their ability to conform to Anglo-Protestant values, rather than on their ability to think critically and creatively.  Teachers are expected to control their classrooms, and students are expected to understand and prescribe to a singular cultural definition of "good behavior." Behavior deemed inappropriate by white-middle-class standardized values, may not be inappropriate to the values of the home environments of students.  Misbehavior is in itself a value statement, a judgment is made, based on the assumption that there is a proper, correct, standard, or agreed manner of carrying oneself. Too often, success in education is not determined by the degree to which students construct their own understanding of the material, but rather by their degree of conformity and accommodation to a predetermined set of values.

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     There are many different cultural values represented in American classrooms. The expectation that all students should conform to a common set of values and behaviors, denies the importance of culture and the degree to which it shapes our lives. The implications of having Anglo-Protestant values idealized and standardized in education are that students are punished or rewarded based on their cultural backgrounds.

     A student’s ability to succeed will always be predetermined by class, race and ethnicity as long as there exists a social hierarchy in education. Deconstructing the dominance of Anglo-Protestant values requires deconstructing the expectation of conformity. Incorporating an awareness of the variety of ways students communicate and understanding the importance cultural values are essential for ensuring equal access to education for all students.

     Racism has been a steady problem all through time. One of the most troublesome areas of racism is in places of education. Finding a cure for this would be a major step towards ending racism in general. No one has ever thought of a solution yet, and racism will be strong as long as there isn't one. It all started back when the concept of colonialism was created.

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Teaching students to understand cultural differences and value diversity changes the role of education. Teaching diversity awareness reverses the roles of education as a perpetuator of white cultural supremacy. One should try to create learning environments where students relate their understanding of cultural awareness in the classroom to their communities. Unless the boundaries between classrooms and communities can be broken, and the flow of cultural patterns between them encouraged, the schools will continue to reproduce communities of townspeople who control and limit the potential progress of other communities and who themselves remain untouched by other values and ways of life.

    The HBCUs today are open to all. Unlike white colleges, [Black colleges have never engaged in race-exclusive admission policies. However, although HBCUs include faculty and students of all races, they serve a unique function in educating Black students. This function is not merely historic and traditional, but ongoing as well, and oriented toward the future. But the achievements of the HBCUs and their continuing vitality are not as well known, as they deserve to be. It has been suggested that here is a profound dissonance in the way these institutions are viewed by African-Americans and the way they are perceived by other groups.

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    Their performance can be judged from the fact that the contributions of the HBCUs are the economic value that may be ascribed to the education that they offer. Although in 1990 they enrolled only 17 percent of the nation's Black students, they graduated 27 percent. Despite their ongoing financial woes, the success rate of historically Black institutions in graduating African-American students with bachelor's degrees is impressive. Their ability to accomplish this graduation rate is probably based on two facts: first, that most HBCUs are four-year institutions, and second, that "drop-out rates for Black students at four-year HBCUs are much lower than the rates for Black students at other four-year institutions. These graduation rates, and the subsequent performance of graduates in the job market, led the economist to conclude that HBCUs are a "higher education bargain," and that they appear to be doing the most with limited public dollars.

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Steinberg, S. (1995). Teachers under suspicion: Is it true that teachers aren’t as good as they used to be? In Kincheloe, J. & Steinberg, S. Thirteen questions: Reframing education’s conversation. . New York, NY. Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

Berry, K. (1995). Students under suspicion: Is it true that students misbehave more than they used to? In Kincheloe, J. & Steinberg, S. Thirteen questions: Reframing education’s conversation. . New York, NY. Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

Heath, S. (1983). Ways with words. New York, NY. Cambridge University Press

Spring, J. (2001) The American school! 642-2000. New York, NY. McGraw Hill Higher


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