The idea of equity is something that I have been hearing a of people talking about in schools and at the university. With the failure of policies like No Child Left Behind, the Common Core, and Race to the Top to “fix schools” and solve intractable problems like the achievement gap, now educators have turned to equity as a possibility. Education leaders and educators themselves have begun to realize that academic achievement will not be resolved by curriculum or testing fixes, but what do we mean when we talk about equity?
Equity is different than equality. Equality is providing everyone the same thing. Equity is acknowledging the differences between people, and providing what they need to succeed. Equity is harder work, and forces us to examine historical and institutional nature of inequality. Once we engage in that process, we have to go along the journey of continually checking ourselves around the ways in which we contribute to and enact inequity in our every day so that we can interrupt it. Those of us who are white have an important role to play because so much of what we do reifies inequity. We are blind to it often, and until we go down the road of deep self-reflection, we cannot notice how we are contributing to inequity.
For the first time, my university, a predominantly white institution, began to open up a space for dialogue and reflection around equity in education. They spent the day on October 7th listening and learning about how to apply a racial equity lens. The whole day, which we entitled Envisioning Equity, allowed educators at public schools, universities, non-profits, community centers, to start to explore what equity can look like in classrooms, in whole schools, as part of discipline practices, in access to the arts. Here is a video one of my students made about the day. It is optimistic because they are hopeful about equity. I am a little more realistic in that I think this will take hard work, and some people will not be up for it, but I do believe it’s a start.