Join me as I read and review an article on the differences between the ideas and implementations of equity and equality in the American education system.
Below you will find the full show notes and reference list for Episode 8 of The State of Education Podcast, presented by One-Room Education, along with links to the resources mentioned in this episode.
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Question of the Week:
What is your view of equity in education? Would you rather see your students in an equitable or equal classroom?
If you have any questions or comments about this episode or any of the information presented, please make sure to leave a comment at the bottom of this post.
Welcome back to The State of Education podcast, presented by One-Room Education.
Today I have a little bit of a different format for you. I’ll be reading the article “Why Understanding Equity vs Equality in Schools Can Help You Create an Inclusive Classroom” from Waterford.org (Link) and giving you my thoughts on the ideas presented. I also give you how I personally handle equity and inclusion within my classrooms, to great success, through equality of student humanity as well as behavioral and academic expectations.
Equity vs Equality-Definitions
Equity vs Equality in Education
The term “equitable classroom” is replacing “inclusive classroom” within the educational terminology. The “equity” policies that are actually enacted often do NOT reflect the original intention behind the ideas.
Why Understanding Equity vs Equality in Schools Can Help You Create an Inclusive Classroom from Waterford.org
The article starts off by pointing out that the more resources a student has, the more successful academically they will typically be. Reduce the barriers, increase the educational opportunities.
While the article surmises that equity is the goal because it allows for a more personalized education for all students and their circumstances. While that’s all well and good, let’s take a look at if that is an achievable goal in today’s current education system.
Main Differences Between Equity and Equality
These two terms should not be used interchangeably. The article states that equity should be the end goal because, “The reason lies in the difference between being fair vs equal.”
When a group focuses on equality, everyone has the same rights, opportunities, and resources.Waterford.org
While equality offers the same resources for all students, it doesn’t address the student’s individual needs, such as giving every student a laptop to take home without ensuring that every student had access to internet to use those laptops.
What this article fails to mention is the rampant disrespect and misuse of school property that happens in all schools, but especially economically depressed ones. This seems to be a cultural issue more than a funding issues. If you spend the money to get the laptops and other equipment, that money is often wasted from year to year as the equipment gets broken or ruined in some other way.
This goes for things like textbooks as well, not just computers and tablets.
So is it worth the money for the school district to pay for the materials and equipment necessary to provide equity, according to this article; or should they just strive for equally poor standards so that everyone gets that ever allusive equity?
In my opinion, equality always wins out because it allows for all students to be helped, no matter what their background or family situation and ALSO allows for the students who need a little more help to receive it without, or at least with less stigmatization by their peers.
While equity, I believe, is well intentioned, it is simply not applicable in the current education system within the United States. Equity states that the individual needs of each student should be considered when making educational decisions, which is true, but this simple isn’t possible when you have a teacher who is responsible for 25-30 students in each of their 7-8 periods within a school day. The numbers simply don’t add up.
Challenges with Equity and Equality in Schools
The definition of horizontal equity in education is treating people who are already assumed equal in the same way.Waterford.org
I suppose you could say that I use “horizontal equity” within my classrooms to create an equitable environment; at least according to this article and its definitions. I use equality of expectations for my students and myself to ensure that each student’s needs are met to the best of my ability.
If you set equal expectations for your students within your classroom, and then actually follow threw with those expectations and consequences for not meeting them, behavioral or academically, then students start to see that you are fair and your classroom is a safe place where everyone truly gets treated as equals.
If student’s aren’t made to feel like they are the “other” by pointing out their immutable differences, then they can truly start to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. That is what equality can provide all students, regardless of socioeconomic backgrounds, race or gender.
That simply isn’t something that equity provides.
Horizontal equity is only useful in homogenous schools, where each person really is given the same opportunities in life. …educators should focus on vertical equity, which assumes that students have different needs and provides individual resources based on said needs.Waterford.org
The above quote from the Waterford.org article is simply untrue in my experience. I’ve worked in extremely diverse settings, from inner-city to rural and homeschooling groups, and my approach to classroom management and the treatment of my students has never failed…not once. The idea that a student population must be homogenous for equity, or equality, to be achieve is simply absurd and untrue.
advocates for equality, both in education and outside of it, run under the basic assumption that people of a lower socioeconomic class, different race or gender lack the basic abilities to 1. provide for their families, and 2. to understand their own circumstances and then rise to overcome them.
The basic premises of equity assumes that you must need more help because you if you don’t make enough money or are of a certain race or gender that you can’t figure out how to use the resources provided by the system.
Overcoming Our Human Nature to Favor
As educators, it is our mandate to provide equal access to education and to provide fair and equal opportunities within our classrooms. This is hard, I’m not going to say it’s not. We as teachers and educators need to reach beyond our innate human nature to favor one student or one class over another to provide a learning environment that is as fair as possible to all students within it, and allow for differences as much as possible within our classrooms.
Are we going to have off days or inevitably end up favoring one student and one period of classes over the others, absolutely! It is our job when this happens to recognize that it is or has happened, and then work with our students to model humility and what a real apology is. This is how we ensure equity in our schools and classrooms. By ensure that we demonstrate what it means to be an adult and lead by example. They we show kindness to others and treat everyone with respect because they are humans that are under our care.
If we do these things, the students will be able to see what equality truly looks like, and there will be no need for the equitable measures currently taking place in education in the United States.
If we continue to follow the equity model currently being pushed, it will continue to feed into the venomization of our children, or the sense of victimhood by our children, simply for being who they are and their lot in life. By pointing out the differences that students have no control over, you are simply pointing out and othering them, instead of including them in the classroom and societal culture.
Using Equity to Fix Sociological Issues
If any of the above listed issues, save the “Still learning the English language” , should occur, teachers are required by law to report those issues to, at minimum the administration. If the issue is sever enough, the teacher is required, under criminal penalty, to report the issue to the proper authorities either within the school or community.
With this in mind, the idea that equity could help with any of these issues is simply preposterous.
Introducing “…diversity and inclusion activities as well as lessons against prejudice to your school curriculum…”
The school curriculums are already so bogged down with unnecessary things, and adding this as one more thing that students should be learning at home instead of teaching about actual academic subjects or applicable life skills is preposterous.
The topics only need addressed within the classroom if they start to negatively effect your classroom culture. These topics tend to make students feel like they can’t ask questions about each other’s cultures without being reprimanded. It is our job to provide a safe space for students to ask questions of each other and the cultures that they come from, even if those questions might seem rude to us as adults, we need to remember that students are usually asking questions from an honest and pure place.
We have a tendency to project our jaded adult views of things onto children and assume malice where there is often none intended. If you stomp out a student’s curiosity in other people and other cultures for fear of offending someone, then you do that student, and effective the entire culture of the nation a disservice.
This approach tends to increase instances of discrimination and prejudice, and ultimately leads to a decrease in diversity within the community, not just in the school system.
I end the episode by reviewing 2 examples of different ways the idea of inclusivity training could be used. The first is what I would consider a good example. It simply asks questions about your culture like languages your culture speaks, foods they eat, traditional music, holiday traditions and stuff like that.
The second is one that I consider to be a bad example of inclusivity curriculum. It is a word search that includes definitions of the terms in the search. I simply feel that at least half of the words are totally inappropriate to be discussing with the target demographic, especially within the primary educational classroom it is intended for.
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- “Diversity Definitions Word Search.” Mylemarks, Mylemarks LLC, https://www.mylemarks.com/store/p295/Diversity_Definitions_Word_Search_%28GS%29.html.
- “Equal.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/equal. Accessed 11 Apr. 2022.
- “Equality.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/equality. Accessed 11 Apr. 2022.
- “Equitable.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/equitable. Accessed 11 Apr. 2022.
- “Equity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/equity. Accessed 11 Apr. 2022.
- “My Culture and Traditions!” Mylemarks, Mylemarks LLC, https://www.mylemarks.com/store/p300/My_Culture_and_Traditions%21_%28_ES%29_%5BF%5D_%28GS%29.html.
- “Why Understanding Equity vs Equality in Schools Can Help You Create an Inclusive Classroom.” Waterford.org, Waterford.org, 2 May 2020, https://www.waterford.org/education/equity-vs-equality-in-education/.
- “My Culture and Traditions!” Worksheet
- Diversity Definitions Word Search
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