Surveys Suggest Positive Trends Related to Diversity
and Civic Education
Two recent surveys by the Higher Education Research
Institute (HERI) at the University of California-Los
Angeles suggest positive changes in faculty and student
attitudes toward diversity and civic engagement goals
in higher education. HERI researchers reported these
promising findings in "The American College Teacher:
National Norms for the 2007-2008 HERI Faculty Survey"
and "The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2008."
Access during an Economic Downturn
Higher Education Research Institute's recent report
indicates promising trends in faculty members'
goals for their teaching. Yet these goals are
ineffectual for students whose pathways to the
classroom are interrupted by economic distress.
The following suggest some economic challenges
that hinder students on the road to higher education.
College Participation for Low-Income
The February 2009 issue of Postsecondary
Education Opportunity highlights a 19-percentage-point
gap in participation rates between students from
low-income families and their more affluent peers.
In 2007, 23.8 percent of students from low-income
families participated in higher education, compared
to 42.9 percent of all other students. These figures
represent declining participation for both groups
as compared to the previous year, and continue
a pattern of declining participation for low-income
students since 1999. The newsletter breaks down
participation rates by state, identifies geographical
patterns, and suggests a general convergence in
participation rates for low-income students. To
download the newsletter (available by subscription),
Financial Barriers for Undocumented
The College Board issued a new policy report
on undocumented students and higher education
in April 2009. Titled "Young Lives on Hold: The
College Dreams of Undocumented Students," the
report draws from available data and new interviews
to support the passage of the Development, Relief,
and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The
report takes aim at the significant economic barriers
for those undocumented students who are eligible
to attend college, but cannot legally obtain financial
aid or employment. With more than 65,000 undocumented
students graduating from high school each year
and immigrants and their children expected to
constitute all of the U.S. labor force's growth
between 2010 and 2030, the report argues that
providing access to affordable higher education
is not only socially just but also economically
necessary. To download the report, visit professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/
In "The American Freshman," researchers reported that
more than half of incoming full-time students described
themselves as "above average" or "top 10 percent" in
a range of skills collectively summarized as "pluralistic
orientation" (including "ability to see the world from
someone else's perspective" and "tolerance of others
with different beliefs") (6). Multiracial students rated
themselves more highly across all categories than students
of any single race or ethnicity (6). Researchers also
reported the highest level of political engagement in
the survey's history, with 35.6 percent of students
reporting that they had "frequently discussed politics
in the past year" (3). The percentage of students who
report that "keeping up with political affairs is an
'essential' or 'very important' goal" (39.5 percent)
has also continued to rise since falling to a historic
low in 2000 (4).
In "The American College Teacher," researchers likewise reported faculty beliefs
that support student development in the areas of diversity
and civic engagement. Nearly all faculty (93.6 percent)
believe that campus diversity "enhances the educational
experience of all students" (13), and few faculty (23.7
percent) believe that "promoting diversity leads to
the admission of too many underprepared students" (7).
Seventy-five percent of faculty (compared with 58 percent
in 2004-05) reported that "enhanc[ing] students' knowledge
of and appreciation for other racial/ethnic groups"
was a "very important" or "essential" goal for their
teaching (3). In the area of civic engagement, 87.9
percent of faculty believe "that colleges have a responsibility
to work with their surrounding communities to address
local issues" and that "colleges should encourage students
to be involved in community service activities" (12).
Only 46.2 percent, however, have worked with their communities
in the past two years (12).
Both reports include extensive tables that disaggregate data by gender and institutional type. Each is available for purchase on the HERI Web site (www.heri.ucla.edu).
DeAngelo, L., S. Hurtado, J. H. Pryor, K. R. Kelly, J. L. Santos, and W. S. Korn. 2009. The American college teacher: National norms for the 2007-2008 HERI Faculty Survey. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute, University of California.
Pryor, J. H., S. Hurtado, L. DeAngelo, J. Sharkness,
L. C. Romero, W. S. Korn, and S. Tran. 2008. The
American freshman: National norms for fall 2008.
Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute, University
Remembering Ronald Takaki
With the death of Dr. Ronald Takaki on May 26,
2009, the higher education community and the nation
at large lost a committed and inspired educator
and scholar. As a pioneering chronicler of our
nation's continuing struggle to form that "more
perfect union," Takaki helped launch an intercultural
education movement that has transformed the academy
and significantly developed higher education's
capacity to educate all students for meaningful
participation in our diverse democracy.
In his many publications and especially his award-winning
book, A Different Mirror, Takaki helped
us all see with greater clarity and understanding
the many narratives that are comprised in our
nation's continuing struggles toward inclusive
democracy and liberty and justice for all. His
scholarship illuminates the power of American
ideals to kindle hope in the face of adversity,
even as his work also presents in unsparing detail
the human and societal cost of the prejudice that
different groups have experienced as they sought
to take their own place in the larger American
Ronald Takaki's work is, if anything, even more
relevant in 2009, as it is a patient, evidence-based
reminder that our progress toward a more open
and mutually respectful society has never been
smooth. It has always included--and includes today--contestations
that are themselves a reaction to milestone accomplishments.
With humor, grace, generosity, and empathy, Takaki--through
his scholarship and his teaching--demonstrated
that engaging the diversity of our nation and
its many braided narratives enriches us as individuals
and deepens our understanding of our responsibilities
as democratic citizens.
He understood that teaching about history, literature,
and culture as part of a liberal education helps
students develop the ability to take seriously
the perspectives of others as a crucial and indispensable
dimension of both critical thinking and civic
responsibility. He knew that the ability to see
the world as others see it must be a central aim
of a college education and that when students
develop this capacity, they are far better prepared
to grapple with the complexity of this nation's
Across the many layers of AAC&U's continuing
work on diversity and democracy over the past
two decades, AAC&U's members have benefited
both from Takaki's vision and from his scholarship.
A Different Mirror was a cornerstone
text of AAC&U's American Commitments summer
institutes, through which hundreds of college
faculty members developed their own abilities
to teach about diversity, American history, and
American struggles for justice--those won and
those that continue to be waged.
His legacy is renewed in the scholarship and
teaching of the many who have learned from him.
As one of his former students noted on Facebook,
"Professor Takaki's class was one of the few I
clearly remember for the profound change it had
on the way I viewed myself as an Asian American
and minorities in America as a whole. I feel privileged
to have experienced his teaching and comforted
that his words will live on in his books."
AAC&U, too, is grateful that both his scholarship
and his generosity of spirit will continue to
inform our ongoing national dialogue about diversity,
identity, democracy, and justice. We extend our
sincerest sympathies to Dr. Takaki's family and
all his many former colleagues and students at
Editor's note: A version of this text was
originally published on June 2, 2009, at www.aacu.org.
Questions, comments, and suggestions regarding Diversity & Democracy should be directed to Kathryn Peltier Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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