Myth #2: Diversity

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diversityThere are six big myths in learning and education today, says Julie Coates, LERN’s Senior Vice President for Information Services and Research.  Coates is one of the leading researchers in education in the United States.

Myth #2 is that we understand diversity, she told audiences in Savannah and Tucson this spring. There is visible diversity, she noted, and most educators understand the concept of visible diversity.

But there is also invisible diversity, Coates stated, and we don’t understand invisible diversity at all, she stated.

Invisible diversity is about neurological differences, especially those that impact a person’s learning.

Two Examples of Invisible Diversity

Two examples of invisible diversity are those learners on the autism spectrum, and those learners impacted by anxiety and stress.

“Students carry a heavy burden when they come into your classroom,”  she says, noting that a recent survey found that more than half of students say they have “overwhelming anxiety,” some 32 percent are too depressed to function at times, and 10 percent are frequently depressed.  “Stress and depression produce chemicals that impede recall, memory and learning,” says Coates.

Learners on the autism spectrum now number 1 in 68 people, up from 1 in 88 just a few years ago. The Center for Disease Control says the number is growing.  And that a growing percentage of learners on the autism spectrum are high functioning, going to college, and then participating in lifelong learning.

“We are not prepared,” says Coates.  “The kind of diversity we can’t see doesn’t always count in the classroom,” she notes, “and it should count.”

Coates also understands visible diversity, being a civil rights leader and speaking recently about how racism today is different from the days of integration but still prevalent.

Photo of Savannah, site of the LERN Institutes this spring, by LERN staffer Layne Harpine.

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