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Ensuring the Success of Latino Males in Higher Education: A National Imperative
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Why do so few Hispanic males enroll in and graduate from institutions of higher learning? Why are Latinas, by contrast, enjoying so much more success than Latinos? Moreover, why is there a dearth of research addressing these questions? This book, which includes twelve chapters written by leading Latin@ scholars, addresses these questions with the goal of broadening readers’ contextual understanding, deepening their comprehension of the specific challenges faced by Hispanic males in higher education, and securing their commitment to Latino success.
The book’s contributors adroitly explore the complex challenges that Latino males face in the context of American society and higher education. The book’s first two chapters discuss many of the socio-economic factors contributing to the current Latino “crisis” in higher education. They carefully examine the Hispanic gender gap and the ways in which it is manifested along the educational pipeline, alternate life pathways for Latino males (such as military, low-paying labor, prison), and factors that frequently hinder Latinos from enrolling in college (such as lack of financial aid literacy and inadequate academic preparation).
Multiple chapters investigate key cultural factors that significantly impact Latino experiences in higher education. Chapters Four, Five, and Eleven, for example, focus on Latino identity and intersectionality, probing complicated issues (for example, relationships between caballerismo, Latino persistence, and high attrition rates) and introducing humanizing nuances (such as the Latino male privilege paradox). Chapters Two, Seven, Eight, and Nine pose critical questions about the role that familismo plays in hindering and promoting Latino academic success. Those chapters also address other relevant topics such as the unique features of Mexican sub-culture and various forms of Latin@ cultural wealth.
The final section of the book calls on academics to more thoroughly research the crisis pertaining to Latinos in higher education. Chapter Ten describes research on college administrators’ levels of awareness about the challenges faced by Latinos in academia. Their findings, namely that administrators’ awareness not only varied widely, but also that some administrators resisted acknowledging problem areas altogether, underscore the urgent need for more research. Chapter Eleven suggests that studies which compare and contrast the experiences of Latinos and Latinas might yield much fruit, while the authors of Chapter Twelve advocate for a strengths-based, data rich, interdisciplinary approach to research on Latinos, an approach which is successfully modelled throughout the book.
In conclusion, educational leaders and researchers are sure to find this book – and especially the new research that it presents – a valuable and generative resource. The book’s contributors helpfully shift the research focus from Latino students’ resiliency and deficits to exploration of the social and cultural factors that shape their educational experiences. While the authors do not offer many substantive recommendations for educational programming and practice or directly address issues pertaining to Latinos in graduate education, they do make a strong case for “ensuring that the success of Latino males in higher education” becomes a national imperative. After reading the book, one also hopes that educators will wholeheartedly embrace Latino success as a moral imperative.
Transforming Understandings of Diversity in Higher Education: Demography, Democracy, and Discourse
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
The National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan invited contributors to this volume to share work that “pushes the edge of [the] latest conceptualizations of diversity” (xiv). Scholars of education, sociology, organizational leadership, policy studies, communication and speech, and social work contribute to the book’s study of “diversity issues in higher education,” offering a range of disciplinary vantage points (xvi). Diversity, the volume argues, is a natural state, not a problem to be eliminated. The book invites readers to consider multiple diversities in order to avoid generalizations that hide the complexities of difference. An introduction and conclusion outline how higher education has approached diversity over the past century (for example, as a variable to be controlled, a goal to be achieved) and point toward avenues of continued research. The book’s subtitle points to the volume’s claim that attention to the details of demography and democracy (“the arrangement of the distribution of power”) is “central to…public and political discourse” (226).
Chapters appear in pairs, with the first in each set written by accomplished scholars who have “entered their professional careers after the twentieth-century framings of race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, nationality, and ability have lost their authority” (223). These primary chapters address: diversity at historically black colleges and universities; college access for low-income students; inclusion of LGBTQ students; pathways to college for Latin@ students; the experience of space on campuses for students of color; disability; media influences; and Black male student athletes, African American female faculty at community colleges, and the mandate rhetoric of historically black colleges and universities.
Reflections by graduate students form the accompanying chapters and develop from interviews with each author. These secondary chapters highlight each author’s “research and career trajectory” and attend to topics including social agency and the power of resistance, the value of uncertainty and the need for nuance, visibility, the value of alternate vantage points, racial battle fatigue, and safe spaces (13). Together, the paired chapters provide engaging research and unique insight into scholarly agendas and motivations.
Religion appears in a handful of unexpected places in the volume. Biblical notions of the diversity of creation as a gift provide the editors’ first example of diversity as a productive good, not a problem to be solved (1). Reference to the Black church as a positive influence on educational attainment appears in an interview with one of the book’s contributors and another interview includes note of a Bible verse that summarizes the scholar’s sense that divine help supplements human effort in working toward the creation of safe spaces (119, 204). A primary chapter investigating religious diversity in higher education would have enriched the volume.
Though undergraduate classrooms and campuses are the main focus of the book, for those who teach in graduate programs (whether secular or religiously-affiliated) the volume offers insight about the prior educational landscapes that shape students who pursue advanced study. In addition, the text draws attention to the complexity of diversity alongside the need for students to understand potentially negative implications and for instructors, researchers, and institutions to recognize blind spots.
I was scheduled to write a blog post on teaching about controversial issues and how they are shaping contemporary Muslim identities in North America. Guessing, however, that many readers may be fatigued from the barrage of unfavorable events – from the U.S. travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries ...
Gender and Diversity Issues in Religious-Based Institutions and Organizations
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Gender and Diversity Issues in Religious-Based Institutions and Organizations offers a chilling reminder that much remains to be done to educate people on race, gender, and diversity. Blanche Jackson Glimps and Theron Ford craft a goldmine filled with breathtaking essays insisting that schools, institutions, and organizations cannot afford a wait-and-see attitude hoping that these issues will somehow work themselves out. They argue that education to inspire intentional acts to diversify is quintessential. This is accomplished in thirteen chapters written with a national and international scope by concerned experts who agree that although progress is being made in the areas of gender, race, and diversity, many people still feel alienated. For this, the authors marshall copiously documented arguments that expose relational problems in many religious schools, institutions, and organizations around the world. A dense annotation of each chapter is implemented with meticulous summaries and abstracts to offer a clear layout of the entire book. Readers are graciously guided to address a timely need while also given actionable solutions to these nagging issues and further recommendations on helpful publications to consult. In the end, what Glimps and Ford offer is a timely well-written encyclopedic work not just for socially and religiously engaged teachers and leaders but for any caring person willing to make a difference in human relationships for many years to come.
As an African scholar teaching in the United States, I am particularly struck by Sheri Young’s “Psychological Essentialism” (80-123). Aspects of her argument permeate the entire book in many ways. She explores how religious institutions handle diversity matters and wonders if “there is a benefit to being ‘essentialized’ versus ‘essentializing’ others?” (84). In other words, do religious and social institutions have a good grasp on how to diversify their spaces? Case studies suggest that this is hardly the case. To essentialize self or someone else, she avers, has little if no benefit at all. To deal with psychological essentialism, religious and social institutions must own up to their stated mission goals because most of them “have an institutional mission statement that includes a goal to develop individuals who stand with, and serve, their fellow human beings” and “hold a view of education that includes promoting education that does justice, as faith does justice.” Exercising this noble mission by avoiding the biases that transform religiosity into wars about hierarchy and superiority, while upholding messages of faith, hope, and equality, religious institutions are better prepared to create positive changes to develop positive campus climates than religious institutions that are held in place by waging outdated superiority wars. (114)
In many ways, the contributors to this volume testify to the fact that ours is anything but a postracial or gender sensitive world, even in religious circles. Racial and gender objectification is a daily experience for many people around the globe. A resilient hope runs through the book that well-meaning religious educators and leaders inspired by their mission statements will strive to reclaim their confessed commitments and goals to do the right thing by exercising genuine gender diversity, justice, and equality. This book is long overdue and should be read, studied, and its content applied in every institution, school, and social organization worthy of its socioreligious commitment to the betterment of human interrelationships for a foreseeable and lasting future.
Culture and Online Learning: Global Perspectives and Research
Date Reviewed: September 7, 2016
This helpful collection of seventeen essays addresses two important concerns within religious and theological studies: culture and online learning. Scholars of religion are giving increasing consideration to culture. (A search of Amazon for books on “religion and culture” yielded a hundred pages of “hits.” The first four books were simply entitled Religion and Culture.) Furthermore, more and more courses in religion and theology are offered online. Surprisingly, little research has been done in culture and online learning, and this book seeks to address this lack.
Authors in this collection hail from Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Australia. (Unfortunately, none are from Africa.) The book appears as the third in a series, Online Learning and Distance Education. Editors Jung (from Japan) and Gunawardena (from Sri Lanka, teaching in the U.S.) write solely or collaboratively in eleven of the seven essays. The essays are grouped around eight themes: (1) learners, learning, and learner support, (2) non-native speakers, (3) facilitating learning, mentoring, and professional development, (4) learning design, identity, gender, and technology, (5) visual culture, (6) leadership, (7) quality, and (8) research.
Many of the authors wrestle with a definition of culture. In the first essay, “Perspectives on Culture and Online Learning,” the editors write, “Culture impacts every facet of online learning, from course to interface design, to communication in a socio-cultural space, and to the negotiation of meaning and social construction of knowledge; thus a definition of culture that is flexible, dynamic, and negotiable is more appropriate to understand the online learning context” (1).
Interesting insights are scattered through this collection. In “Online Identity and Interaction,” Gunawardena notes that students from Sri Lanka and Morocco “look to the online medium as a liberating environment that equalizes status differences” (35). In “Emerging Visual Culture in Online Learning Environments,” Ilju Rha (South Korea) urges online educators to integrate more visuals in their online courses. In “Accounting for Culture in Instructional Design,” Gunawardena, Casey Frechette (US), and Lumila Layne (Venezuela) introduce the Wisdom Communities instructional design model (WisCom), which “was developed to inform the design of collaborative online learning experiences” (57). (For more about WisCom, see https://prezi.com/1unppl6dh2a-/new-model-new-strategiesinstructional-design-for-buildingonline-wisdom-communities/.)
In “Transformative Learning through Cultural Exchanges in Online Foreign Language Teaching,” Kerrin Ann Barrett (US) includes tips for instructors, such as “remember to breathe,” and tips for learners, such as “show your creative side in activities (asynchronous and synchronous)” (146). In “International Interpretations of Icons and Images Used in North American Academic Websites,” Eliot Knight (US), Gunawardena, Elena Barberà (Spain), and Cengiz Hakan Aydin (Turkey) write, “Many of the images and icons used in online environments depend on the meanings, concepts, metaphors, objects, and so on that are bound to the particular cultural context in which they were designed” (149).
Just as neither religion nor culture is monolithic, neither is online learning. This stimulating collection from around the world will help online teachers to negotiate better the various cultural divides and thus offer our students better online learning experiences.