It’s not news that minorities are severely underrepresented in both science and science education. Efforts to increase diversity typically fall into two broad classes: some motivated by a concern for equity and social justice, and others motivated by a concern for increasing the pool of scientists that are prepared to address contemporary needs in science and technology. Our purpose in this column is to draw attention to another compelling rationale for increasing diversity in the sciences, a rationale that is intrinsic to the process of scientific inquiry and to the effectiveness of science education. We start from an expansive conception of science that includes not only the biological, physical, social, and psychological sciences, but also the practices within these disciplines, the ecological validity of their research programs, and the manner in which novices — especially K-12 students — learn these disciplines.
Our point is that attention to cultural membership and cultural practices is central to equity goals and national needs, but also equally important for the construction of knowledge and for the enterprise of science itself. Moreover, we cannot and do not shed our cultural practices at the door when we enter the domain of science, science education, or science learning.
Before defending this claim, we need to clarify that we do not subscribe to a “box model” of diversity in which gender or ethnicity are essentialized or reduced to a list of internal traits. Instead, we focus on the diversity of life practices, perspectives, values, and motivations that are often correlated with these groupings (Gutierrez & Rogoff, 2003).