Council on Anthropology and Education
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Walker Johnson (2012) posits that neoliberal policies shift the goals of schooling from democratic purposes to those that are more economically focused. One way this happens in education can be seen in how schools respond to diversity as a result of immigration. Sleeter (1996) critiques the overreliance on discussing “diversity” as a method of avoiding conversations about racism and xenophobia. This paper, part of a larger ethnographic study, examines the way that neoliberalism was perpetuated as school personnel and students in two majority-Latino school districts presented diversity as a form of “property,” similar to how Harris (1995) delineates whiteness as property. Harris states, “White identity conferred tangible and economically valuable benefits, and it was jealously guarded as a valuable possession, allowed only to those who met a strict standard of proof” (p. 280). Attending a diverse school was seen as preparation for the “real world” and an experience that (White) students could write about in their college entrance essays. While such exposure to difference ostensibly “benefits” White students, its uncritical nature tends to reinforce, rather than combat, stereotypical, monolithic depictions of “Other” cultures. Similar to Harris’ (1995) concept of whiteness as property, diversity was commodified in Springvale and Stockbridge. While White students acquired the benefit of diversity as “property,” Latinx students endured a system that was, at best, not made for their success. Simple exposure is not enough to combat oppression. To truly “make diversity work,” the one-way, assimilative nature of the status quo must become a true two-way exchange.