Equality. Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. We hear all four words all the time. Used independently, in pairs, in threes. We hear it is a movement. Some say a revolution. Certainly, they can be a revelation, an eye opening, an “aha!” Yet are we moving towards true change in our public schools, or are we merely embracing the next big thing until something new comes along?
Equality: I was a 7th grade student when court ordered desegregation came about in the 70’s. The whole focus then was racial equality. The idea that if we simply moved the bodies about by busing, balanced the headcount racially amongst all schools in a district, race-based discrimination in education would end. In certain microcosms of schools, it did. The great experiment in which I took part, from 1977 – 1980 at Edison High School in Stockton, California (#SoulVikes) may have been an anomaly. There, it worked. Throughout public education and public education policy the words were equality, desegregation, and integration. But people often miss the real meaning of the word integration and think that simply changing the headcount suffices. The root of the word integration is integer. The Latin meaning of which is “to make whole.” (Thank you Mr. Sousa. Those three years of Latin still come in handy.) Here it is 2018. I would argue that most students of color in our public schools have yet to be “made whole.”
Diversity is a bit of a monkey wrench thrown into the mix. In the 1970’s it was referred to as multiculturalism. In California we celebrated it. Now, diversity is typically treated as a headcount. A data point. Numbers in the spreadsheet reported to state and federal governmental authorities. Diversity, though, is more than Black and White. When you have true diversity, you have the wonderful richness of all the cultures of the nation. Some schools and districts, some communities, some states, are more diverse than others. However, in the 64 years since Brown vs. Board of Education that launched this journey, our schools have become more segregated. White flight remains, and we’ve identified the tipping point that triggers the flight in any given block of houses. Poverty and Blackness still doom far too many children to underperforming schools with no opportunity to overcome multigenerational poverty and incarceration.
Equity enters c. 2007. Equality was all about the inputs of education. With NCLB, we started looking at the output: academic achievement. We officially recognized that “sameness” of books, facilities, courses, teachers does not necessarily change the academic or behavioral outcomes. Perhaps it was because we were being held accountable, to some degree, for the outcomes of the learners, that we had to scream from the rooftops, “Some children need more and different!” RtI became the great salvation. MTSS followed on its heels. Some leaders and systems got it right. Some are still learning: not every child is the same. Some come to school ready to learn. Some come to school with much less. For some it is all they can do to get to a school every day. To provide an equitable education means that each child receives the scientific pedagogy, appropriate methodology, and the right intensity of instruction to be college and career ready at their highest possible level. It means that we do all of this in a climate that is conducive to learning.
Inclusion is a mindset. It is the missing link in moving from a reform movement to a revolution. To use the mathematical definition, inclusion is the relationship between two sets when the second is a subset of the first. Inclusion is the relationship between diversity and equity when equity is a subset of diversity. Think first about the diversity of your student population. Your diverse demographic. Think then about providing equity of instruction to every child in that classroom, school, district, city, state… the type of equity that provides for high academic outcomes for every child. To paraphrase @kgtara: We know what works, but we don’t do it.
Inclusion as a mindset involves everyone in public education policy, from classrooms to school boards to Congress to the White House focused on providing the operational tools to create systems where academic achievement is the norm. Two weeks ago, I posted about two young men, Malik and Miles (see inset). We celebrate them because, unfortunately, they are not the norm. They destroy the stereotypes to which too many still cling. They exemplify what so many more learners of color could achieve if we have an inclusive mindset in public education policy that provides equity for the diversity of our public schools.
As educators and leaders, we must first check our #implictbias at the door. No matter our color, we must examine our own #internalizedracism, then look at our children and do better, because we know better. Jeff Lawrence said it best, “There is no such thing as a dysfunctional organization, because every organization is perfectly aligned to achieve the results it currently gets.” So, what does this say about our educational system, and those that run it?