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Presentation on theme: "DIRECTIONS & MIS-DIRECTIONS IN EQUITY INITIATIVES PAUL C. GORSKI 2.28.11."— Presentation transcript:


2 A Bit About My Experience  Since 1998 have worked with schools across the US  Faculty development  Organizational change  Assessment regarding equity and diversity

3 A Bit About My Scholarship  Largely focused on equity and diversity practice in educational institutions  Gaps between philosophy and practice  Gaps between “best practice” and actual practice  Common “pitfalls” (or how schools operationalize “diversity” in ways that create more inequity

4 So today I’d like to…  Talk about common ways “diversity” and “equity” are operationalized at schools across the U.S.  Share my thoughts about some of the common pitfalls I have observed (and I and others have documented)  Recommend some of the principles of practice I’ve seen move institutions forward effectively around “diversity”


6 Common Approaches 1. Celebrating Diversity 2. Cultural Competence 3. “Support” Programming 4. Human Relations 5. Equity and Justice

7 1. Celebrating Diversity Characterized by:  Surface-level cultural activities and programming (fashion shows, food fairs)  Stereotypical minimizations of “cultures” (Taco Night)  Institutional resistance to addressing diversity concerns in ways that don’t feel good to most privileged groups

8 2. Cultural Competence Characterized by:  Focus on learning about cultures, often in ways that minimize or essentialize them (“Latino culture”; “African American culture”)  Focus exclusively on those in the “minority” while ignoring systemic power and privilege  An expectation that those in disenfranchised groups will “teach” those in privileged groups about their “culture”

9 3. “Support” Programming Characterized by:  Focus on offering support services and programs for disenfranchised communities  Often aimed at retention of faculty, staff, and students  Avoids real systemic, cultural change—sometimes called “deficit ideology” because it’s aimed at “fixing” or “saving” disenfranchised people rather than “fixing” what disenfranchises people

10 4. Human Relations Characterized by:  Structured opportunities for community members to come together across differences to hear and learn from each other’s experiences (Mix It Up Lunch; intergroup dialogue)  Interpersonal focus rather than institutional focus

11 5. Equity and Justice Characterized by:  Institutional commitment to creating an anti-racist, anti-sexist, etc., environment through policy and practice  Continual institutional and individual assessment of the extent to which equity and justice or present  Strong, public, and consistent support from campus leaders  Full cultural, social, political, and other access by all community members

12 Common Approaches 1. Celebrating Diversity 2. Cultural Competence 3. “Support” Programming 4. Human Relations 5. Equity and Justice Where is your school? Where is your unit? Where are you? * * *


14 Focus Exclusively on “Support Programs”  Effort is placed mostly on “fixing” disenfranchised people rather than on fixing that which disenfranchises people  Classic deficit ideology  Parenting workshops, mentoring programs, etc.

15 Marginalization of Diversity “Experts”  Failure to take advantage of institutional expertise around  So, those who want to place effort here are alienated  Sends implicit message that “diversity” isn’t important, because if it was, the most knowledgeable people at the school would be shaping the policy and practice

16 Stuck on “Celebrating Diversity”  Too many resources going into programs which celebrate diversity but which have no impact at all on how equitable or just the institution is  Food, festivals, and fun  Mix It Up

17 Test Score Obsession  Just because an LGBTQ student scores well on a standardized test does not mean she or he experiences school as equitable or just

18 Doing “What’s Hot,” not What’s Effective  Adoption of cool or popular (and uncool) paradigms and programs despite lack of evidence that they make a school more equitable  PLCs  Culture-specific “learning styles”

19 Missing Critical Issues  “Diversity” framed entirely around race (which, of course, is critical), to the exclusion of other identities (sexual orientation, religion, and so on)  Tough to get buy-in if you’re asking me to work on an issue that privileges me, but you’re ignoring the issue that oppresses me

20 Peace Before Justice  Temptation to avoid controversy or to lean on “conflict resolution” or “peer mediation” rather than responding in a more justice-oriented way to inequity

21 Lack of Transparency  So people who feel alienated or who have experienced oppression can’t “see” that the institution is responding, even if it is

22 Talk, Talk, and More Talk  Responding to incidents with opportunities for dialogue, but ending the response with the dialogue  Lack of attention to policy change, cultural change, leadership change, and so on

23 Lack of Clear Processes  Often schools do not have clear processes for students or adults to report experiences of discrimination  Or processes are in place, but many folks don’t know what they are  Or processes are in place, but feel unsafe to some people * * *


25 The “Culture of Poverty” and Other Stereotyped Paradigms  Avoid models which suggest we can know anything about a student based on one dimension of her or his identity  CoP model empirically debunked in the 1970s, yet remains most popular way we talk about poverty in schools today

26 Professional Learning Communities  Research demonstrates modest amounts of increased teacher morale and connectedness when done certain ways  No evidence that PLCs play any role in creating more equitable learning environments (or even in raising test scores)

27 Student Diversity Clubs  Can be great educational experiences for students if “diversity” isn’t completely depoliticized, but…  No evidence that diversity clubs make any school more equitable or just because these clubs don’t have the power to change policy or larger school culture

28 Mix It Up at Lunch Day  Fun, perhaps, and especially for white students  Implications for students of color..?

29 Learning Styles  Research indicates that teaching directly to “learning styles” does not help students learn or decrease achievement gaps  Mostly because it has been shown to encourage simplification and stereotyping (especially when culture-specific)

30 Others  Intergroup dialogue programs  Peer mediation programs  Conflict mediation programs  Respect policies  Cultural festivals


32 Acknowledgement  Acknowledge the work diversity advocates are doing and, in some cases, have been doing for years with little recognition and often in the face of strong resistance  Worst possible scenario is that these folks burn out and walk away

33 Set Expectations  Leadership (both school and district)must set expectations that people are to do their part to make schools and classrooms equitable, just environments  But equally important, schools need some measure of accountability for those who choose not to “participate” in this commitment

34 Make Family Involvement Accessible to All Families  Leadership (both school and district)must set expectations that people are to do their part to make schools and classrooms equitable, just environments  But equally important, schools need some measure of accountability for those who choose not to “participate” in this commitment

35 Reject Deficit Ideology  Must focus on cultural change at the classroom, building, and district level rather than trying to “fix” the cultures of disenfranchised communities

36 Engage in Policy Review  Inequities often are buried in policy in very implicit ways  Pay-to-play extracurriculars  Inaccessible family involvement opportunities  Others?

37 Provide Safe Feedback Outlets  People who are feeling alienated will not tend to step forward and share their feelings of alienation; they need opportunities to share issues safely and anonymously

38 Perform Full Assessment  Full diversity assessment should include various data collection methods (surveys, focus groups, and so on), all constituencies (students, staff, faculty, admin, community, and so on), complete demographics (for cross-comparisons), and detailed disaggregation  And really ought to be performed by an outside group that can do observations, as well

39 Place Equity First  Effort on addressing educational inequities must be prioritized  Starting with policy and clear indications (through accountability measures) that racism, sexism, and so on, even when it’s unintentional, is not acceptable and carries repercussions

40 Provide Ongoing and Advanced Professional Development Opportunities  Often schools are stuck in the “awareness-building” process, so that the conversation starts over each time— instead, provide a group of dedicated folks with professional development to continue doing the work in a more advanced and sustained way * * *




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