Abstract: Does multicultural education work? Attributions of hostility and dangerousness among Israeli Jewish and Arab SW students (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12117 Does multicultural education work? Attributions of hostility and dangerousness among Israeli Jewish and Arab SW students

Sunday, January 17, 2010: 8:45 AM
Marina (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Guy Enosh, PhD , University of Haifa, Senior Lecturer, Haifa, Israel
Adital Ben-Ari , University of Haifa, Associate Professor, Haifa, Israel
Background and Purpose: All over the world, social work education has focused on issues of educating SW students towards multicultural perspectives, increased trust and acceptance of diversity. Those issues become even more imperative in societies that suffer from internal schisms, such as the Israeli society. The ethnic composition of the student body at the school Social Work at the University of Haifa, reflects mostly the general composition within the population in Israel, with a somewhat higher percentage of students of non-Jewish (i.e., Arabic) ethnicity. The school invests extensive efforts at multicultural education, using both explicit teaching within classes, and informal experiences and small group encounters that set the basis for all the practice classes through the three year BSW professional program. The purpose of the current study was to examine the effectiveness of those efforts. It was hypothesized that the more students will be exposed to multicultural training and experiences; the less they would tend to attribute dangerousness and hostility in ambiguous situations to persons belonging to the other ethnic group.

Method: The study was based on a survey questionnaire distributed in Social Work classes. The survey was anonymous, and students were instructed that participation was entirely voluntary. Overall, 158 students participated, comprising about a third of the student body. Of those, 99 (62.7%) were Jewish. The questionnaire was composed of background questions, four vignettes, and a Multiculturalism Education Scale. The vignettes were manipulated within four different versions, describing ambiguous situations, in which a person presented as either Hebrew speaking or Arabic speaking, has either done something unpleasant, or was situated in a potentially dangerous position. Each vignette was followed by Hostile Attribution Scale or by Dangerousness Attribution Scale, according to the nature of the vignette. All scales had high levels of internal consistency (Cronbach's alphas ranging between .80 and .95).

Results: Contrary to hypothesis, there was no significant difference between first, second and third year students in Multiculturalism Education Scale, Hostile Attribution or Dangerousness Attribution. Surprisingly, there were significant differences between Jewish and Arab students on most of those scales. Arab students had a higher mean on the Multiculturalism Education Scale, and tended to higher levels of Hostile Attribution compared to Jewish students, yet, no difference in tendency towards attribution of dangerousness was found between the two groups. However, when examining the targets of attribution, Jewish students attributed more hostility to Jewish characters than to Arabic characters, and more dangerousness to Arabic characters than to Jewish characters; whereas Arabic students attributed both more hostility and more dangerousness to Jewish characters.

Discussion: Although SW students report relatively high levels of perceived Multiculturalism Education, such results may be due to social desirability. The results of the current study raise major concerns regarding the effectiveness of current efforts at multicultural education, both formal and informal. It seems that despite all the efforts, SW students tend to preserve their basic untrusting attitudes and beliefs regarding the other ethnic group.