Equity in Education
Issues Opinion

Equity in Education

Disruption from a Red Herring, CRT

(By WM House)

Equity practices in US secondary schools are under attack, and local school boards grapple with protests against teaching Critical Race Theory. But most, if not all, secondary schools in the country don’t teach courses in Critical Race Theory. So campaigning against teaching a non-existent curriculum is a red herring. The protests attempt to conflate Critical Race Theory with equity, factual history, and open discussions of social diversity. The conversations generated by these protests often discuss equality versus equity. One of the underlying themes in the fight against equity pushes equality as the basis of American values and downplays the role of equity in our schools. What are the differences between equity and equality?

Equity and equality in education are related but different. Let’s take a school district with a goal of 95 percent achievement in reading skills. How does the district treat two schools with large differences in reading skills, one at 98 percent achievement and one at 70 percent achievement? Equality dictates each school gets one reading tutor. Equity dictates the low-performing school gets both tutors, giving the entire School District its highest chance of achieving its goals. Reading is a critical skill, and equity seeks to provide all students with the resources needed to maximize their educational experience.

But, equity and equal opportunity are similar. Equity acknowledges that when a student is consistently harassed based on race, religion, gender, or gender identification, they don’t receive the same educational opportunity as other students. An equity approach seeks to provide an environment free of harassment. Where equality often addresses only an equal distribution of resources, equity attempts to address the whole educational experience and provide all students with equal opportunities to succeed.

America and Equity

A false narrative permeates many discussions about equality and equity. This narrative dictates America is built on equality. Our long history of slavery, followed by emancipation, then Jim Crow suppression, and finally the Civil Rights movement, is largely ignored in this narrative. The narrative stipulates barriers to inequality are gone, and all citizens now have equal opportunity to exercise their rights and control their destiny. However, current attempts by State legislatures to suppress minority voting counter this narrative and are marketed as controls to ensure a “fair vote,” when in reality, they are a movement backward toward the Jim Crow days.

The truth is, America’s system of governance rests on principles of equity. Every four years, we go to the ballot box and elect a President. Equality would embrace a system where everyone’s vote is equal. But we know this is not the case. The electoral system makes the vote of a California resident approximately one-third the value of a vote from a Wyoming citizen. Our founding fathers deliberately gave smaller states — states with fewer residents — a voting advantage to help protect their rights. One group of people receives greater resources to overcome a perceived disadvantage. This practice constitutes one of the key principles of equity.

But equity in governance doesn’t end with the electoral college. Wyoming has one senator per 290,000 people. Each senator from California represents 20 million people. This disparity gives Wyoming voters 69 times the voting power of each Californian in the US Senate. Residents of small states enjoy voting-oriented privilege, ensuring all States maintain equal opportunity in the Senate. The pretense that America is built on equality is demonstrably false. Our founding fathers deliberately built a political system based on their vision of equity.

America’s foundations embody the concept of equity. We should ensure our local school systems also embrace equity. Equity translates into true equal opportunity.