We went though diversity training this week. As always, I was disappointed in that diversity was seen as an option and not a requirement. I understand that from a pedagogical and social point of view it was necessary. We as teachers have to start where the students, the public, the audience is, and the reality is that diversity is seen as a convenience and not a necessity. They have not seen that limits on what a person can be based on if they were born with white parents are social constructs, not inherent to the person.
For example, one African American acquaintance told me that when he was a teacher he knew that the hispanics would be ok as they tended to be construction workers, and that the best bet for many others to make it is sport, so he tried to help them succeed in that way. As my Hispanic relatives were doctors, surgeons, architects, teachers, pharmacists, and my neighbors or many skin colors were not athletes, but professors, lawyers, a wide range of professionals, I tended to disagree with him.
So I do think of diversity as a necessary condition for success, not an option. I think the science agrees with me as well. As we are doing medical research this week, I will focus on that.
We are working in the Scalable Health lab on a devices that may be able to collect and interpret the photoplethysmogram(PPG) in such a way to diagnose or predict medical outcomes. One issue that effect the collection of data is the quantity of melanin in the skin. If there were only light skin participants, we might develop a machine that only worked on light skinned people, and it might go to market. It reminds me of the time when most cardiovascular researchers and participants were men, This lead to results were the presentation of cardiac events in women were not well understood. This may be happening in autism research now, where it is possible girls are are not receiving appropriate interventions as they are not being diagnosed, because we assume they present identically to boys.
As a science teacher, I take it as a directed and funded mandate to increase the diversity of the researchers in the world. I find talent to be independent of any of the physical characteristics that so defined who has opportunity and who does not in this country. It is not a just my opinion that diversity in research in critical. I think as science teachers we need to take this challenge seriously. It is up to us to show some coordination in maximizing opportunity so that all who might do research have equal opportunity.