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The Bottom Line ‘Equity’ Is Eroding Education

Originally published at Chalkboard Review

‘Equity’ is dominating K-12 public education. Look no further than the mission statement and core values of most school districts. Set foot on a primary or secondary campus, and you’ll see the word predominately displayed in hallways, classrooms, faculty lounges, and staff offices. Some schools even include the word on their school logo or crest.

The drive for equity has bypassed the traditional goal of education in our public schools. Equity is no longer about providing equal opportunity but forcing uniform performance outcomes. This is problematic for multiple reasons. 

Dr. Ben Carson explains the shift from equal opportunity to equity:

Instead of pursuing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideal of judging people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, equity would reward and punish people because of the color of their skin. Rather than equality of opportunity, equity would mandate equality of outcome. This goal is not only un-American — it is impossible to attain.

Dr. Ben Carson

Lowering Learning Standards

The equity agenda pursues equal results among races by lowering learning standards, which guarantees to exacerbate the learning crisis of our country further. United States’ students currently place 26th on the world stage amongst their international peers, with more than 77% of public school students exiting their K-12 years failing to reach proficiency across core subjects.

Equity is no longer about providing equal opportunity but forcing uniform performance outcomes.

Keri D. Ingraham

In the name of equity, opportunities for high-achieving students are being removed — including honors classes, and gifted and talented programs — and expectations for all students are being lowered. Instead of providing the required time, instruction, and support each unique learner needs to reach proficiency, America’s K-12 public education is dumbed down under the guise of achieving equity.

Removing Personal Responsibility

Additionally, key factors important for life success, such as hard work, dedication, and motivation, are downplayed. Instead of emphasizing each student’s individual accountability and responsibility for one’s actions, students are grouped based on skin color. One group is held responsible for the sins of its forefathers, while another group escapes responsibility due to its perceived victim status. Without learning personal responsibility, the youth of both groups are harmed.

Plummeting Student Discipline

Student discipline has also suffered under the equity agenda. The Obama Education and Justice Departments advanced the implementation of race-based disciplinary measures. Heather Mac Donald notes that they “threatened schools with litigation and the loss of federal funding if they did not bring down black and Hispanic disciplinary rates to the same level of whites and Asians.” Giving no regard to whether black and Hispanic students disproportionately violated school rules, the policies have created a culture of chaos in classrooms. Furthermore, the policies ensure that students of brown and black skin color often experience little to no consequences for inappropriate and even dangerous behavior at school.

According to Mac Donald, “Excusing insubordination and aggression in the name of racial equity is not a civil rights accomplishment. The third-party victims of such behavior are themselves disproportionately minority—whether fellow classmates who cannot learn, or the law-abiding residents of high-crime neighborhoods.” Mac Donald explains that “the alleged beneficiary of a racial double standard in conduct—the student who is exempted from strict discipline—is also a victim, since he will be handicapped in life by his failure to learn self-restraint and respect for authority.”

Misplaced Curriculum & Assessment Priorities

Equity also means that curriculum is selected based on what equity champions consider culturally sensitive and responsive content rather than academic rigor. Especially problematic is ethnic studies, which advances the notion that America is inherently racist. In California, for example, rather than teaching students about the founding principles of our country enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the ethnic studies curriculum is based on themes of “racism, systems of power and oppression, white supremacy, white fragility, white privilege, colonialism, patriarch, implicit bias, and anti-Semitism.”

Grading also employs a lens of the so-called equity. Wesley J. Smith explains the severe negative ramifications of such an approach: “I can’t think of a more effective way to hurt students of color and impede their success as adults than to relieve them of the responsibility to comply with the requirements and efficiencies basic to receiving a good education. Talk about the bigotry of low expectations.”

One example of such bigotry was Oregon’s 2021 decision to remove the requirement for students to pass a basic reading, writing, and math exam in order to graduate. Contrary to Governor Kate Brown’s assertion that “Oregon’s Black, Latino, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color” would benefit from the removal of the graduation requirement, graduating students who can’t read, write, or perform basic math problems is far from beneficial to themselves and society.

Hiring & Teacher Training

Race-based hiring practices are also a key component of the equity agenda. Prioritizing race over teaching qualifications and proven performance, equity warriors advocate that “intentional efforts should be made to hire teachers with diverse identity backgrounds.”

The practice is justified by a claim that students of color need more teachers who look like them. While that may sound good to some in theory, what students need are highly qualified subject matter experts skilled at engaging and equipping them with the tools, skills, and knowledge needed to master content — skin color should be irrelevant.

Once hired, school employees are inundated with “equity, diversity, and inclusion” training to indoctrinate them with a so-called “anti-racist” ideology. This belief system sees everything through the lens of race and its preoccupation with the evils of “whiteness” is nothing short of racist itself.

Concluding Thoughts

The best way to serve students is to provide equal opportunities and ensure high standards for all. Students are unique in their gifts, abilities, interest, and background knowledge they bring into the classroom. These factors contribute to learning readiness and student motivation.

Instead of claiming the system is racist and forcing a low, uniform outcome, it’s time our K-12 public education system employs innovative measures to maximize each unique learner’s achievement. We must end the practice of placing widely differing learners into a one-size-fits-all factory education model while hoping for a good outcome.

Instead of continuing to drive equity to erode our nation’s education, schools must provide the time, instruction, and learning support needed for all children — of all skin colors — to succeed to their full potential.

Are you concerned about educating the next generation?
The American Center for Transforming Education is a program of Discovery Institute, a non-profit organization fueled by its supporters. Will you help us advance the timely and vital work of transforming our K-12 education system so that it better serves students and their families?