Journey to Excellence


race - (n) 1) A family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock; 2) a class or kind of people unified by co mmunity of interests, habits, or characteristics; 3) of or relating to people groups classed according to common national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background

The words “race” and “ethnicity” are two words, often used interchangeably, to distinguish between people groups. Race was once thought of simply as the biological differences among humans. In other words, race refers to innate characteristics of a group. However, many today question the validity of considering races as biologically distinct groups. In fact, it is considered more appropriate to use the concept of race as a cultural and historical invention for thinking about and grouping human beings. Used in this way, race encompasses ethnicity, because ethnicity is most often used when refering to the social or societal characteristics of a people group. As you can see, the distinction is often blurred in common usage and in discussions about the impact of race/ethnicity on student learning.

Unfortunately, identities related to social groupings may lead to stereotyping and misperceptions. Too often, race becomes a construct which describes inequalities between groups of people with different ancestries, natural origins, and histories. Despite legitimate differences among individual, educators must guard against allowing the categorization of students into people groups (races) to affect their view of students’ learning potential. The ultimate goal of all educators is to offer each individual the optimum opportunity for personal achievement in a safe nurturing learning environment.


Dilg, M., Banks, J. A. (1999). Race and culture in the classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

Grant, C. A. & Sleeter, C. (2003). Turning on learning: Five approaches for multicultural teaching plans for race, class, gender, and disability. NY: Jossey-Bass.

Jeynes, W. H. (2003). The effects of black and Hispanic 12th graders living in intact families and being religious on their academic achievement. Urban Education, 38(1) p. 35 – 57.

Jones, R. (April 2000). Schools and the law. American School Board Journal.

Mukhopadhyay, C. & Henze, R. (May, 2003). How real is race? Using anthropology to make sense of human diversity. Phi Delta Kappan, 84 (9) p. 669 – 678.

How real is race? describes two historical viewpoints in regard to race. The authors spend two-thirds of the article developing the idea that the biological underpinnings for racial categories have no scientific base. They then build a credible description of race as a social reality and conclude with an explanation of why this is important to educators. In addition, the authors include suggestions for educators and an extensive resource list.

Utley, C. A. & Obiakor, F. E. Addressing diversity in special education research. contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED461195

NAD Education   Copyright © 2004-2008 North American Division Office of Education   SDA Church