09 Jun Greta’s Challenge
I did a keynote the other day at a Title I conference, and like most speeches and presentations, there were questions to field. One stuck with me. One for which I didn’t have a quick and simple answer but promised the educator who asked it to give it some thought.
Essentially, Greta, an educator, wanted to know how to address the inequities that someone is deeply connected to.
Let’s start with my simple definition of equity, the one provided in the keynote: without bias against or favoritism for any group. That’s it. It can be academic equity, disciplinary equity, device equity… you get the picture.
If someone is deeply connected to an inequity, they hold on to bias against some group or favoritism for some group of learners. Of children. Children they have been hired to teach. Children whose parents have entrusted their care and development.
Let that seep in a bit.
It may seem difficult to believe that some teaching in our classrooms and leading in our schools hold inequity in their hearts, biased against some of the children they are paid to serve. Unfortunately, I know from my 30 years in public education and educational research that this is not only true but unfortunately common.
Bias is rooted in emotions and programming over our lifetimes. We have been socialized into our biases which we may either name (explicit bias), or show through our words, actions, microaggressions without being conscious of doing so. That would be implicit or unconscious bias. Disconnecting people from those biases is not like unplugging or rebooting a computer. There is no control-alt-delete for implicit bias.
The average person needs a rational reason to make what might otherwise be an emotional choice. And disconnecting from a bias is an emotional choice. Through social and traditional media, there are, unfortunately, organizations hard at work to make equity and diversity into something they aren’t. They say the quiet part out loud. They rely heavily on emotions such as fear, hate, and anger to keep those deeply connected to inequity firmly entrenched, further socialized into their bias.
So, what can Greta and others like her do? Create a compelling rational story that will override negative emotions.
Take all the knowledge you have about the inequities in your school or district and distill it down to a simple story that sticks. A “sticky” story.
Find the core of your ideas. Make it resonate. Because despite all the facts and data that fill the pages of educational journals and the websites of state departments of education and school districts report cards, people won’t necessarily change based on facts and data.
Unlike Spock, humans are emotional beings. They’ll remember stories that resonate, stories that touch their souls, much more so than a list of facts and data shown in a PowerPoint presentation.