The discourse of diversity in a working-class high school
Carter, Julie H
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This qualitative dissertation explores the implementation of a school-based diversity initiative mounted in a Northeastern suburban high school. Since it addresses the processes and outcomes of a non-traditional model of school-based implementation--the diversity workshop, this particular initiative can be instructive to us as educators. Unique to the project is its context, one in which the diversity workshop is employed to address perceived racial tensions stemming from a shifting demographic terrain--away from historically white and working class, and toward a more racially balanced suburban school district. Often derided in the literature on multicultural education, the "one shot deal" style of workshop may hold more promise than previously indicated by educational research. This dissertation highlights major themes culled from interview and observational data from workshop participants and committed facilitators who, seeing themselves as part of a racial discourse, attempt to establish spaces of possibility where students can either address issues of equity directly, or carve out and define their identities. The creation and enactment of productive alternative discourses to those embedded within diversity initiatives must call into question the critique of "one shot deal" approaches to ameliorating racism and bias in schools, if they are expressed in activities that enrich students' knowledge of and interaction with issues of oppression.