As a new mother of twins I learned the difference between equality and equity early. One baby seemed content to lie peacefully, soaking in her surroundings. The other needed either stimulation or soothing. I worried I spent more time and attention on one and not enough on the other; that I wasn’t being fair.
When I voiced my concerns in an ECFE class, the wise facilitator told me that being fair didn’t always mean providing the same thing. I loved them equally, to be sure, and I realized responding to them in the way they each needed was good parenting.
That’s why I can easily embrace Eastern Carver County School’s equity work. Their equity vision statement says: “Our district celebrates students for who they are — their unique personal story — and provides students with a personalized, exceptional education that will help prepare them for who they want to become.”
Unfortunately some people oppose the equity work in our school district. They maintain the focus should be on equality, not equity.
Being created equal, as our Declaration of Independence states, we all are born deserving basic human rights, liberty and that pursuit of happiness. Providing equal rights for all citizens is imperative. While I figured out early my children needed to be nurtured differently, nobody gets preferential treatment when it comes to food, clothing and shelter.
But that didn’t happen in our country, which after 1776 went on to write inequality into our constitution and laws. Even after slavery was abolished, for a time people of color were counted as three-fifths of a person in our census. Until 100 years ago, women couldn’t vote. Still today, women make 79 cents to every dollar a man makes. For women of color, it’s far less. Being created equally and being treated equally are two different matters.
Because our country didn’t begin treating citizens equally, changing course to true equality has been a long, difficult process. Today that rewiring requires the work of equity to dismantle the ways we intentionally or unintentionally make it difficult for some people to experience equality.
In our schools, that manifests in various ways, say for someone living in poverty who comes to school hungry, someone who has learning challenges, or as is at the forefront in our community, someone who is held back or harmed because of the color of their skin or the religion they practice. And here it’s important to note that providing equity for students and fighting racism are two different, though sometimes related, objectives that require different action. (You can read more about that at www.roar112.com/post/provide-equity-and-fight-racism).
We want students to believe they are no more or less valued than any other child, that they each have access to the same opportunities, but also that their individual needs are met through outreach, resources and an environment that values their full potential. Equity advances equality. Schools are where this work begins for our youngest citizens.