27 Sep Equity or Charity?
In this nation, how we educate our children can at times be abysmal with the best of the most naïve intentions. Far too often, the ones who suffer most are those who can afford it least: children of color and children of low wealth. Those children who do not have external access to resources that would enrich their lives and help to develop broad knowledge, schema, and a curiosity about the world that drives innovation. Why? The reasons for that are the subject of a whole other blog and covered in chapter one of my book.
The point is, many teachers see children of color and of low wealth deserving of charity, based on the children’s lived experiences that are different from their own. Often, they cloak that charity in the name of equity. It sounds good. It makes those educators – and some politicians, to be clear – feel good.
Let’s start with California, where they’ve eliminated accelerated mathematics in the name of equity. One justification: having children show their work to prove an answer was correct made students feel bad. And another, that there was no such thing as naturally gifted. Not equity. The idea that children of color cannot be inherently gifted is, well, racist. Maybe they never learned about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, the black female human computers who calculated, by hand, the equations that allowed white men to travel to space and return home. It’s not taught in our history classes. Of course not! Because the status quo, whether left or right, really doesn’t want our children of color to learn of the academic successes and contributions of their ancestors to American excellence.
And then there’s Oregon, where the governor ended the requirement that high school graduates demonstrate literacy and numeracy at a high school level. They called it “equitable graduation standards.” They justified the so-called equity as a benefit to, and I quote, “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color.” Seems the only color they left out was white. Again, not equity.
Neither California’s nor Oregon’s acts reflect providing an education without bias against or favoritism for children of color. They are just the opposite. They are clear biases against children of color.
These acts are cleverly designed to continue the culture of excuse-ism in our schools that dooms learners of color to low achievement. It allows the continuation of withholding scientifically based instructional methods in literacy and mathematics. It allows too many teachers to teach for their own enjoyment rather than to prepare every child to read, write, think, and calculate at or above grade level. It promotes the provision gaps fueled by implicit bias that fosters the achievement gap.
To be clear, California and Oregon’s approaches to equity are no better than Texas and Florida’s bans on discussing race and racism. They all achieve the same purpose, maintaining a society that continues to relegate people of color to the ranks of the un- and undereducated, the un- and underemployed; to an overreliance on public assistance, and filling their prisons so that they benefit from nouveau slave labor.
These acts of charity in the name of equity are simply the continuation of a long history of systemic racism. And we need to call it what it is.