I am so very tired of hearing about equitable learning spaces in our schools. We have gone left and right and up and down the list of strategies to create equity in school for students. We have gone in every direction except the very center of the construct of equity as compared to what it looks like in today’s schools.
Schools today are structured no differently than schools of generations ago. Nothing of real-life substance has changed. Sure, we have added technology into the classroom and supplement instructional content through infusing technology within the learning process. That is excellent, but it is not enough.
Educators are learning new theoretical approaches to fostering learning and comprehension. We are constantly training educators to differentiate instruction to be more learner-specific in teaching approach to facilitate learning and comprehension. We consider the learning styles of students and we consider the multiple intelligences of learners, to help them learn and absorb material that is adapted to each learner’s preference and ability. That is excellent, but that is not enough.
We even mandate that educators confront their own immaculate perceptions,their implicit bias. We challenge educators to broaden their worldview and operate under a more deliberately culturally-sensitive mindset. We ask that they demonstrate to parents and the students each, that they communicate respect within an inclusive framework of practices. This will reliably impact levels of engagement of students and influence their sense of ‘belonging’ in these learning environments. It ultimately influences the motivation to succeed. That is excellent but that’s not enough.
We talk about mirrors and windows and becoming more inclusive in instructional focus. That is an incredibly ‘deep’ construct and speaks to the heart of the notion of equity in education. White children have been provided mirrors into their cultural importance from the beginning of formal public[and private] education. They are consistently shown their importance and strengths, which fuels their motivation to succeed in society. They are shown where they have succeeded in the past and that details the pathway to success in the future. Whether whitewashed or fairly truthful, the focus has been on them. They see themselves always winning. That is good but not fair nor is it enough.
For children who are non-white, they receive instruction that focus on windows. They do not receive, routinely or truthfully reflects the strengths, contributions or significance of the people who look like them. There is no routinely embedded instruction that demonstrates the importance of who they are, based on the significant triumphs of what came before them. Although we are moving towards a more equity-driven education framework, it is vastly more challenging without entering into instruction accurate historical data.
Equity in education is not only built upon rules, instructional strategies r budgets. It is built upon the instruction itself. From the instructional content, everything else logically falls into place. Just as morals are taught, so is that which creates equity. Without the unadulterated truths, there cannot be equity in any environment. Compassion, empathy, respect, tolerance and fairness are born out of instructional content, not instructional strategy alone.
Creating equitable learning environments is a budget-friendly process. Equity is born out of what appears in our textbooks. Since we don’t write these books, instead we pay for them, to initiate a moratorium on these standard, widely distributed books is cost-friendly…until they reflect truth and inclusiveness.
This is not to say that how we teach is unimportant, but what we teach is paramount to equity. What we teach nurtures mindsets, respect, worldviews and will spark compassion among young developing minds. Simultaneously, it informs educators, as well. Implicit bias, immaculate perceptions, will be confronted, managed and debunked.
What is the closest that schools can grow towards being equitable learning spaces, thus contributing to positive societal change and growth, is that equity found in the information, and information sources from which we teach. When school systems and its decision-makers[which are supposed to represent a cross-section of stakeholders], muster the strength to confront the true issues that support equity, things will change tremendously. Education will finally meet its true purpose and within its framework shall be truth.
It shall be the beginnings of ‘enough’ for optimal learner engagement. It shall be enough for fostering authentic parent and community partnerships.It shall be enough to reduce and eliminate disparities, gaps and chronic absenteeism. It shall be enough to thwart bullying and discipline problems. Achievement across the board will no longer sway towards but one group of students.
Marginalization of the most vulnerable populations will become naturally inclusive. SEL will live within the content and contextualized learning. It is that which we teach that is reinforced and perpetuates inequity and most problems that exist in education and ultimately society at large. When we know better, we are compelled to do better. We owe it to our children and ourselves to tell and teach the truths that deep down, we know exists different from what we tell them. Equity is in the text. I challenge schools to try it out…just for one month. Gather the stats and note the difference in the environment. Equity is in the text!