Equity in the Classroom

Tue, 30 Apr 1996 10:00:37 -0400

J. Solheim wrote:

> I read the book School Girls in a womyn's studies class here at the UW.
> In it, there was the story of a history teacher in an elementary or
> junior high school (i dont recall which) whose classroom was only
> decorated with pictures of women in history, and books about women
> in history.

> Personally, I am glad there is at least one classroom taught in this
> way to point out how obviously women have been ignored in the writing
> of history. BUT, i think it also defeats the goal of equity in the
> classroom. (I.e., doing what we didn't agree with, double standard).

Perhaps what this teacher is doing could be seen as an overreaction,
as going to the other extreme. Her justification, however--the fact
that virtually all other history classes are focused on male figures--
is certainly adequate and reasonable. If all of the science classes
in a school district were devoted to the Life Sciences, and a teacher
decided to correct the imbalance by teaching a class solely devoted
to Physics, we would not object.

The equity question has been raised as an argument against affirmative
action of all types, often by people who were never concerned about
equity when the prevailing system favored white males. The only
realistic response to such concerns is summed up by these two
interpretations (admittedly ideological, but based on experience):

1) The present system (economic and educational) is set up
to favor white males, and it does so through ordinary
everyday transactions and assumptions.

2) The only way to counter this tendency of the system is
to create situations in which the preferences are reversed.
These situations will always appear unfair when viewed
separate from the overall system, but within the system,
they will never come close to balancing the original bias
which favors white males.

We cannot let the "defenders of the status quo" make us feel guilty
for creating reverse-biased niches. In an inherently unfair system,
any subsystem which strives for exact equity and "fairness" will
remain unfair.

Having said that, I will also say that the attempt to create and
maintain an equitable environment provides a useful and important
example. This example is at least as valuable (and as controversial)
as the reverse-biased subsystem. Both types of classrooms, or
workplaces, or home environments, should be encouraged.

-- Bob

Robert Tighe Resource Teacher tighe@apsicc.aps.edu
Instructional Technology
Albuquerque Public Schools ..if you can't explain it to fourth graders,
220 Monroe SW you probably don't know what you're
Albuquerque, NM 87108-2811 talking about. - Kurt Vonnegut

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