Including “The Other”: Diversity and Multiculturalism in Social Organizations
Stephanie L. Tatum, Ph.D.
March 25, 2015
The changing demographic landscape in educational and social organizations requires leaders and members in these organizations to have not only an awareness about diversity; rather an understanding of cultural norms that endorse multiculturalism or the inclusion of multiple perspectives to explain phenomenon should be a part of the discourse. To shift the discourse from deficiency orientation to difference orientation (Sleeter & Grant, 2009) and recognize “The Other” has become a euphemism for traditionally disenfranchised groups, leadership responses and instructional practices can provide agency and give voice to those traditionally marginalized because of their self-identification culturally through multiculturalism (Banks, 2013).
When considering “The Other,” questions that emerge are: who is “The Other”? What are the attributes of “The Other”? Who establishes the standard to label one as “The Other”? In a 21st Century educational context, “The Other” is not only those traditionally marginalized because of their ethnicity, gender, age, language, socioeconomic status, region in terms of places and spaces to name a few; in some regard students considered digital natives who may be instructed by digital immigrants (Prensky, 2001) are “The Other.” That is, many students seek the delivery of information in the digital language and technological platform they have come to understand and they may not receive the information through those means, as that is not the instructional practice. Entering college freshman, other undergraduates, and graduate students, tend to want a more interactive learning environment that includes collaboration, real world simulations through case studies, project based leaning and other knowledge, skills and professional dispositions that will prepare them for the 21st Century work environment, which requires critical thinking, deep learning, and collective intelligence. While digital natives can be members of diverse groups simultaneously, instructional technology provides a platform that promotes pluralism, equality, parity, and learning.
To attract and retain 21st Century students, educators must engage them and with them. Today’s students interact more frequently through digital means and want to connect, communicate, and collaborate in real time. Although many students prefer 21st Century instruction whereby they engage with the text and solve problems using various mediums of expression, there are students who may prefer a more traditional instructional practice. Consideration for diverse learning styles is imperative, and the plan of action should include differentiated instruction. To achieve these goals, leaders, then, must inspire change that is inclusive by starting with why. Why should a potential student or employee choose to come to an educational or social organization? Frequently responses start with what a prospective student or employee can ultimately receive or gain choosing that educational or social organization rarely is there the consideration of why to the same degree.