I used to tell my students that ideology never announces itself as ideology. It naturalizes itself like the air we breath. It doesn’t acknowledge that it is a way of looking at the word; it proceeds as if it is the only way of looking at the world. At its most effective, it renders itself unassailable: just the way things are. Not an opinion, not the result of centuries of implicit and explicit messaging, not a means of upholding a power structure. It just is.
With this in mind, my purpose is to argue that when it comes to issues surrounding poverty and economic justice the preparation of teachers must be first and foremost an ideological endeavour, focused on adjusting fundamental understandings not only about educational outcome disparities but also about poverty itself. I will argue that it is only through the cultivation of what I call a structural ideology of poverty and economic justice that teachers become equity literate (Gorski 2013), capable of imagining the sorts of solutions that pose a genuine threat to the existence of class inequity in their classrooms and schools.
The Direct Confrontation Principle: There is no path to equity that does not involve a direct confrontation with inequity. There is no path to racial equity that does not involve a direct confrontation with interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism. “Equity” approaches that fail to directly confront inequity play a significant role in sustaining inequity.
The “Poverty of Culture” Principle: Inequities are primarily power and privilege problems, not primarily cultural problems. Equity requires power and privilege solutions, not just cultural solutions. Frameworks that attend to diversity purely in vague cultural terms, like the “culture of poverty,” are no threat to inequity.
The Prioritization Principle: Each policy and practice decision should be examined through the question, “How will this impact the most marginalized members of our community?” Equity is about prioritizing their interests.
The “Fix Injustice, Not Kids” Principle: Educational outcome disparities are not the result of deficiencies in marginalized communities’ cultures, mindsets, or grittiness, but rather of inequities. Equity initiatives focus, not on fixing marginalized people, but on fixing the conditions that marginalize people.
In the U.S., we have become so accepting of the fact that poverty is not a symptom of a grossly unequal economy, or the result of numerous systemic failures, or the product of years of trickle-down economics, but instead, that the only thing standing between a poor person and the life of their dreams is their own decisions, their own choices, and their own failures.
STUDENTS: the US Dept of Education just released data on racial disparities in every school and school district in America (from preK-12). Here’s how you use the data to show if/how your school discriminates against black students and other marginalized groups. A thread.
Search for your district on this page, and then follow the link to its discipline report.
Click on the Discipline Report on the right side and you’ll see which groups of students your school is most likely to suspend, expel, and refer to law enforcement. You can also see who’s more likely to be arrested at school using the “school related arrests” tab. pic.twitter.com/6ZJKrvPRec
When you present data showing black students are more likely to be disciplined, you will inevitable find people who try to say that it’s because black students misbehave more. That’s a racist lie. Be prepared to shut them down with the facts: https://t.co/Ld0NDIE4hXpic.twitter.com/y5bmp2b8jq
Make sure you are intersectional in your analysis: black girls tend to be disciplined at particularly high rates compared to white girls and students with disabilities (defined as IDEA on the site) – especially students of color tend to be disciplined at the highest rates.
Read about how other schools have taken action to address the issues you’ve identified. The Advancement Project / Dignity in Schools are good resources. Reach out to activists and organizations #onhere if you have questions. Share your insights with others, organize, take action.