Guest Opinion: ‘Equitable’ education viewpoint only further divides
I read with interest Rob Stein’s column (July 25), “Creating a more equitable education system starts by reflecting on our own privilege.” Then my interest turned to dismay.
Let’s parse some of the superintendent’s thoughts.
Stein believes that “conversations about equity are best undertaken by first looking inwardly at ourselves.”
Conversations about equity are best undertaken by first explaining what is meant by “equity,” why “equity” has replaced “equality,” and what that means for our system of education.
And, “looking inwardly” is best left for the personal and spiritual realm.
Stein says that he is “not advocating that we suddenly or radically equalize resources or take away privileges.” He is merely advocating that we gradually “share some of our advantages” and “pursue changes that make our schools more equitable.” For example, it seems he is suggesting that we eventually (but not suddenly or radically) do away with our AP classes, which are resource intensive.
Again, I disagree.
Instead of pursuing changes that make our schools more “equitable” (which is not the same as equalizing opportunity) we should pursue changes that make all of our students more capable of academic excellence.
Stein quoted an essay written 30 years ago in which the author cited her “white privilege” for being able to “do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to her race,” (which, as far as I know, is nothing that anyone in any of our schools would ever say). Furthermore, in any school system, the allocation of resources should be unrelated to whether people can “go shopping without being unduly scrutinized.”
The essay referenced above was written by a white woman whose economic privilege was indisputable. Her assertion that her “privilege” was simply about being white is difficult to reconcile with the fact that she grew up in a town where the median income was four times the national average and she was so aristocratic that her wedding was announced on the New York Times social register.
Yet, she managed to classify her elite level of privilege as something shared by every white person across the country by virtue of the color of their skin.
Thirty years later, parents in our school district who struggle to make ends meet are being told by a man who chose to send his own children to private schools that they should “examine their privilege.” And it was 25 years ago when Stein undertook his “informal experiment” at Harvard. He seems to imply that since then, no progress has been made.
His references to Harvard certainly make him seem important, but his column, while offering no practical solutions, will likely serve to inflame an existing undercurrent of resentment. In a time when we need unity and cooperation, our superintendent has created more discord and resentment.
Stein’s children never came home from our high schools complaining that they had to sit quietly, doing nothing while the teacher let others catch up.
He never had to listen to his children tell him that, because of disruptive children, they weren’t learning in our schools.
He never had to watch his children transform before his eyes from students who once loved to learn, to children who have no interest in school.
No child should be left behind, including those who are left unchallenged.
Every child in our district should be able to obtain an education that reflects their potential and should not be constrained by some administrator’s idea of “equity.”
In my experience, the vast majority of parents in our district are deeply committed to providing remedial and other appropriate educational opportunities for any student who needs it.
It is profoundly unhelpful to demand that parents — especially those who make education their priority and stay actively involved in their children’s education — “examine their privilege.”
The board is elected by parents, and the superintendent answers to the board. I encourage all parents in our district to get involved.
Ask some hard questions of our superintendent. Attend board meetings. Find out how many of the parents on the district accountability committee don’t send their own children to our schools. Demand that the board members in your zone step up. Have a meeting with the CFO of the district and really take time to understand the school budget. Learn how much money the school takes in and how funds are allocated. It is quite eye opening, I assure you.
We need a leader who will prioritize providing the best education for all of our children, not someone who will prioritize his own ideological guilt.
Rachel Hahn grew up in Aspen and has two children in the Basalt schools. She describes herself as an “interested mom” who likes to do research and pays attention to what the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 is up to.
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