As educators we often forget that the word “socioeconomic” has two parts – “socio” and “economic.” Socioeconomic status has come to refer only to financial means. We have all but forgotten the first part of the word. There are many individuals within our communities with a rich diversity of experience and opinion. This diversity makes our schools better learning communities. We have children whose parents are first generation immigrants, artists, or carpenters. They are from Argentina, adopted from China. Some come from interfaith households, some have single parents. They may live in homes that are multigenerational or include extended families. They may have relatives to care for in other parts of the world. Some of these families are also poor.
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Diversity in day schools usually goes well beyond the denominational spectrum that falls under the rubric of pluralism. It includes socioeconomic disparities, gender and sexuality, color and ethnicity, and other differences of religious practice and customs. In this issue, authors recommend ways for day schools to become sensitive to a range of diversity, to welcome all students and teachers and find ways for them to validate these identities within the school community.
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Community day schools have the potential to become powerful points-of-entry for interfaith families. They can serve as pivotal institutions, acting as exemplars for the way that the entire community responds to the opportunity presented by interfaith marriage.
According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s 2005 National School Climate Survey, two thirds of LGBT students report being verbally or physically harassed at school because of their perceived sexual orientation. Three quarters of students surveyed for this respected, nationwide study reported feeling unsafe in school, with predictably negative impacts on their school performance.
So many of us are engaged in the challenge of introducing new people to the marvelous world of Jewish day school education. One of the concerns that day school advocates hear most frequently from potential parents or donors is the perception that day school culture is, by definition, too homogenous to adequately prepare graduates for life in “the real world.”
The debate regarding homogeneous and heterogeneous classes has simmered for decades. Every educational journal and many a conference paper have wrestled with the issue: Is it educationally sound to have students of mixed abilities in the same classroom? Do we deprive students of growth opportunities if we group them according to academic ability?
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