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I was quoted earlier in the Washington Post story on pandemic pods. I’m quoted saying, “Most parents will act in the interest of their child and you can’t tell them not to... [I tell them] act in the interest of your child, and add some equity to it.”
This is true, but there is more useful context to my quote. First, when we are talking about equity, it has implications for all families. From those who opportunity hoard to those who are just getting by. Whenever I work with communities around educational equity,
I have to start from a place of “I know you care about your child & at the end of the day you’re going to ask me, ‘what’s this all got to do with my child?’” While that’s not where I begin personally, it’s a fair question. It’s where most USians begin conversations about equity.
I’d much rather have folks say, “Oh my gosh, I realize something is wrong in my community and school and I’ve got a role to play. What have i missed? What can I do?” But that didn’t even happen in Wakanda, so 🤷🏾‍♂️
Second, I think the best equity work begins local, hyper local even, with the practices of one’s family and their immediate networks. Any equity work that doesn’t start at home asking the question, “who gets invited into your home? And who never steps foot inside?” is dangerous.
People live in segregated neighborhoods, and even when they live in “integrated” ones, their social networks are economically and racially segregated; when you add the layers of school, including classrooms and ability grouping, the levels compound.
Third, most people who are “good folks” act in the interest of their child & if they’re concerned about equity, they legit are asking how can they help address what they see coming. In the case of pandemics pods, I keep getting asked, “should I invite a kid who can’t afford it?”
To me, the answer is a partial yes with a good amount of no. Why you ask? Because that kid you invite is much more likely to satiate the individual’s feeling of charity and doing good, than actually doing them good. If you’ve been a ‘beneficiary’ you know that charity =/= equity.
Instead, what I said in the interview and say to friends and others who ask me is, “you can invite someone in, but if you really are concerned with equity, maybe consider what greater role the resources you have, can play collectively.”
By this I mean, the “extra” money you pour into your kid in this moment will surely hoard opportunities and influence disparities for years to come, full stop. But what if you didn’t try to just take that money and apply it to your kid or a tiny cluster of kids?
What if you turned the question back to your district, schools, classroom parents, and PTA to ask: What can we do about the inequality we’re about to drive wider out of school?
Can we creatively and ethically make sure that in schools where there are families with lots of money and families with a lot less money, that we find a way to structure collective educational supports?
That’s a big ass ask, but guess what, it’s the kind of ask that actually starts to get at equity. It’s the kind of ask that moves from individual to other collectives.
If you want equity, you will have to give up something. Ironically in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big ask, but we walk in baby steps.
Admittedly in more cash-strapped schools and communities, this is a different question, but in many ways the folks who are doing pandemic pods and the types of schools they attend, something like this could be tailored.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from working with affluent suburban districts & their residents is, there is a belief in how special their town and community is. If that belief is real, show me the special magic by working on an infrastructure that works to mitigate against... inevitably widening gap. Show me that the tight knit community that cares about “all kids”, “diversity, equity, and inclusion” or whatever the buzzwords are in your town, can do something suprising and unique.
Whenever we leave equity work to individual families and don’t seriously consider how it can be extended across groups and into institutions, we’re starting on very shaky ground. Is inviting a _____ child to your pod better than nothing? Possibly, though I’m not sure.
“...add some equity to it.” Means literally stretching and reaching in different ways than you normally do to make a little bit of progress. In these unusual times, I hope that some folks take up this unusual challenge.
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