How do we ensure those without privilege have equal access to quality education and opportunity?

Volunteer Moderator Name and Contact Info: Brandt Schneider

  • Civil Rights Movement in America (changes laws, history, etc...)
  • Teach For America (mission is to combat inequality in education)
  • NCLB (part of the purpose of this USA legislation was to ensure equal access)
  • Rural vs. Urban (differences/similarities)
  • Quality teachers (is this the key?)

Would this question mean something completely different if asked in 1958 in the USA? the same inequalities exist?

There's one guaranteed way to figure out how to ensure we have an inclusive system: ASK!
Too often (and with the best of intentions), we assume what people need or what their biggest problems/barriers are. But the reality is that we've never lived in another's shoes and, even if we've had similar experiences, we can never be inside someone else's head and heart!

First, we need to give those within our communities and in our system "permission" to build relationships and create trust. With students, with brothers or sisters, with moms and dads, with uncles or grandmas or neighbors, with teachers... Don't reprimand anyone for taking a few minutes to chat about the weather, the dog, or the football game - for it's in these trivial moments that we build the foundation for the important stuff! We have to make counselors and youth workers part of the fabric of our schools, so that we remove the stigma of asking for (and receiving) help. And how do we let everyone know what the signs are to watch for, that trigger us to know someone needs help (even if they're pushing us away)?

And then these people (who have established relationships) need to ask:
1) What stands in your way? What are barriers for you? What do you need?
2) What can I do to help?

Second, we need to empower these people to do what they have to do to help - whether that's get a child a lunch or connect a family to support resources or help navigate/change the system.

Finally, we have to do this again and again and again. Because every family may be slightly different and have individual needs.

A great resource for perspective on poverty is Donna Beegle
Here's a little taste of her presentation:

What barriers could exist to "equal access"?
  • poverty
  • language/cultural barriers (immigrants, minorities, aboriginal, etc...)
  • single parents families (emotional difficulties, could be issues with poverty, lack of time, etc...)
  • geography
  • special needs of all sorts (learning disabilities, gifted, physical disabilities, etc...)
  • abuse (physical and emotional)
  • mental illness
  • ineffective teaching/systems/curriculum/resources