UC Davis researchers find inter-ethnic socialization improves youth’s grades
When I was in elementary school, one of a handful of brown faces in any given classroom at the time, Clueless hit movie theaters. My socially conscious and academic parents maintained television limitations and screened entertainment to determine age-appropriateness. When I finally saw the film, I was close to middle school age. One of my friends, a white girl, and I spent a lot of time together. We even scrawled “Cher” and “Dionne”, like the movie’s main white and Black female characters, on our matching backpack purses in Extended Day. I have no idea where she ended up, if we would be friends today, or if she slithered into a booth for Donald Trump in November. She likely has no idea whether I would associate with real-life Stacey Dash, even though the actress played a classic character. Spoiler: I want to say “as if!” I’ll settle for nah.
But, according to new data, those early “inter-ethnic” experiences might have helped us both learn.
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported new research connecting inter-ethnic socialization with academic improvement. According to a study by University of California, Davis scholars, early adolescents who socialized across ethnic lines experienced a quantifiable academic lift. The researchers studied 800 sixth graders in three states and observed grade changes.
Students who shared lunchtime with at least one student of a different ethnicity had an increased grade point average, by approximately one-third of a point, than peers who kept their lunchtime strictly within their ethnicity. Researchers found that students of all racial and ethnic groups experienced the inter-ethnic GPA bump.
The authors attributed the boost to cross-cultural exchanges that amplify student problem-solving. These findings highlight some reasons why affirmative action advocates and inclusivity champions routinely encourage schooling with people from different backgrounds.
Navigating between people of different ethnicities, “may also help later in life with career success, as individuals become increasingly comfortable and skilled interacting with ethnically diverse peers,” Jakeem Lewis, the study’s lead author, said.
Contemporary education debates often hinge on what kind of futures adults say children deserve. If the qualitative benefits of pluralism do not convince them enough, maybe the kinds of interactions that help their 2.7 -G.P.A.-having students shift themselves above a 3.0 will.