Discussion 1: Critical Race Theory & Educational Equity (UNST 421)

IMG_4598Although they come from very different backgrounds and approaches, all of the authors we read in this course address issues such as community, the culture of power, inequity, and social justice.  As part of our continued gathering of context/background information, please perform the following informal research on some of the community issues/experiences that impact the community partner with whom we are working.  Please read the assigned reading in our course text AND at least 2-3 other linked readings in order to participate fully and critically in this week’s discussion thread.

Reading Spotlight #1

In Billings and Tate’s article “Toward a Critical Race Theory of Education,” they posit three ideas on page 48:

  1. Race continues to be a significant factor in determining inequity in the U.S.
  2. U.S. society is based on property rights
  3. The intersection of race and property create an analytic tool through which we can understand social (and consequently, school) inequity.


STEP 1: Read and Connect

As a starting point for gathering your thoughts and questions, consider the following as you read:

  • What is your most significant learning from these readings and why?
  • How have these readings (or one reading in particular) impacted your understanding
    (personal view) of educational equity and the big picture?
  • How might you integrate this learning into your approach at the community partner
    site and/or in class?
  • What questions have arisen or remain unanswered as a result of this reading?



Then, develop a question or highlight a specific text or intersection between texts to get the conversation going.


15 thoughts on “Discussion 1: Critical Race Theory & Educational Equity (UNST 421)

  1. The relationship between ones race and ones education, or lack there of, is connected to the rising percentage of dropout rates, incarceration rates, and un-employment rates in today’s society. Race is a significant factor when determining educational inequity in the United States. Many educational problems arise due to inadequate education and lack of equal access to resources such as quality teachers and support. “In the years from 2001 to 2006, a 21-year-old high school dropout who was Black had less than a one-in-four chance (25%) of being employed full-time, and the odds for his White counterpart were less than 45%” (Darling, pg. 23). This statistic brings attention to the importance of earning a high school diploma and also promotes the fact that students who do not complete high school are putting themselves at risk for failure by limiting their productive engagement in society.

    So, what can be done to prevent students from dropping out, ending up in prison, and becoming a part of this statistic? Do we take the next step as shown in, The Flat World And Education, to provide well-prepared and well-supported teachers, promote standards and curriculum that focus on learning goals, and provide schools that are organized for in depth learning (Darling, pg. 26). In my opinion, we are already doing this; but even more can be done.

    We can sit a student in a room filled with his or her best friends, the schools favorite teacher, and promote the learning of the material, but unless the student wants to learn or engages in the material, their chances of success are limited. A student’s motivation must come from within. As a future educator, my goal is going to focus on relating the material of which I teach to each and every one of my student’s interests. It won’t be enough for me to see a passing grade on their report card. I want to know that my student’s who are leaving my class are leaving not only with a high school diploma, but also with an education that will get them to where they need to be.

  2. I guess the questions that I want to ask are…

    Do you think that there will ever truly be an educational system that is colorblind?

    How much of the current racial inequities, do you believe, stem from nonracial dynamics (Cultural, Naturalization, etc.)?

    I ask these questions because many schools claim that they do not discriminate against race. If that’s truly the case, what other reasons could we possibly have to explain the terrible racial inequities that we currently face in our education systems?

    -Tony Steele

    • Tony: Thanks for adding your questions to the mix. I would counter or add the question…do we want an educational system that is colorblind? There are a lot of articles out there grappling with the premises of colorblindness. This is one from Psychology Today: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/colorblind/201112/colorblind-ideology-is-form-racism. It’s a little pop-cultury, but I think it does the trick in terms of complicating the idea of a colorblind world or melting pot ideal. Let me know your thoughts, everyone!

      • Perhaps I don’t really know what colorblind means today. I made the assumption that colorblind meant that people wouldn’t be discriminated against due to the color of their skin or their cultural background, but I see now that it’s really just another form of ignorance. What we need is an educational system that is more racially conscious. We cannot identify a racial issue and expect that ignoring the issue will lead to resolution.

  3. I find the topic of this class incredibly relatable to my major, which is Community Health. Some people have a disadvantage in life which usually is an indicator of their health status. This can also be an indicator on how well they will do in school. It is not enough to blame it on one thing, but instead it is importlant to look at the entire picture, because you will probably find a slew of things that can be connected with a kid dropping out. I think one of the biggest links in regards to dropout rates would be socioeconomic status. This is because a variety of problem with the environment a child is raised in, from school funding to community influences. Black children, as well as other minorities and especially immigrants, tend to be over-represented in lower socioeconomic brakets, when compared to the percentage of the population as a whole. With that said it’s not enough to throw money at people, there need to be programs that improve community’s concerns.

  4. In regards to Tony’s question and comment on schools being colorblind. I would say that our schools today are almost “colorblind”. We don’t take into account the backgrounds of our children. We have one standard, that from the statistics we have seen seems to be working best for the white students while students of other backgrounds are being ignored and left behind.I think it is important that we get to a point where all children from all different backgrounds have the choice and the chance to do well in school. We need to set all of our students up for success and in order to do this I think we need to stop being “colorblind” and embrace the fact that we are all different. As a community in general I think we find it hard to call ourselves out and accept the fact that we have race inequality in the United States. It’s one of those things that we like to smooth over and not address. If we plan to make a change it needs to be brought to the surface and discussed no matter how ugly it is.

  5. On page 65 there is a passage from this chapter that I found so profound. The passage states: “Young people are very observant. They note these patterns, and they understand when they have been identified as not deserving a high-quality, humane education.

    I think regardless of the sad statistics on how race impacts education, we need to make a conscious effort to mentor, educate, tutor, and nuture our students in a way that recognizes the issues of race and addresses those challenges. I think most of all, our students–who come from so many difficult backgrounds–are watching more how we teach and interact with them. And by our methods race either becomes a tool of empowerment or destruction.

    • Adrian,
      I think that is a great quote that you posted. It is very profound and I would agree with it. I think kids are very observant and will play off what interactions we give them. I don’t think that school systems are in place to show that we think they can strive for whatever goals they want. I think they are more restrictive and take away the power of the students to be the masters of their education. I believe that better supported and prepared teachers to properly interact with all ranges of youth would help across different races and learning styles.

  6. An interesting point from the book The Flat World and Education was that state budgets are now going to correctional facilities rather than education. “state spending on higher education increased only by 21% in real dollar terms while spending on corrections grew by 127%…many states also find prison costs eating into the funds they want to spend on early childhood education.” (Darling, pg 24)

    We know that early childhood education leads to further education and increased graduation rates. It also keeps kids out of juvenile crime, which can also lead to keeping them out of crime later on in life. Why are we spending so much money on creating facilities to keep people from performing more crimes and punishing them for previous crimes instead of preventing the crimes from happening in the first place by supporting them in the earliest years in their lives? Show them we care where they end up and believe in them.

  7. One of the most difficult barriers in overcoming racial inequity today is the fact that many people do not believe that there is racial inequity. Objectively, however, people of color are disproportionately represented in prisons and generally earn less money annually than white people. Anecdotally, I live right near a low-income housing development and residing in it has to be the highest concentration of non-white people in southwest Portland. So what we’re doing here – just talking about it – is a good step, even if we are preaching to the choir.
    Obviously I don’t know the most effective way to turn this around, but maybe we can start with the kids, hence the emphasis on education. As a white woman, maybe I can learn to sit with the discomfort I feel (the defensiveness?) when the topics of race or racism come up, and help to open some dialogue. I find kids appreciate openness and honesty; they could probably really benefit from some real-talk with the adults in their lives.

  8. I whole heartily agree with Adrian. I watch and I listen as a nanny/student/teacher to people in the parks or other social situations and hear them say things such as “kids don’t understand what your saying” or “they won’t remember that”. But they do remember that situation or what you said or how you acted/reacted. They are smart individuals who start learning as soon as they are delivered into this world. So making that conscious effort to not treat them different and to give all the kids the same opportunities no matter their race or background is important. Because they are taking their ques for the adults around them. And we can either empower them to raise above what society says is where they belong, or we can set them down the path to destruction.

  9. I knew going into these readings that things like class difference tremendously effects education in public schools and that a majority of ethnicities other than white are on the lower end of the economic scale. I was even aware of how white middle class hegemonic culture asserts its power by teaching it and understating other methods. What was particularly interesting about Billings and Tates article to me was the idea of race as an intrinsic property. And I suppose the reason I found it interesting is that I hadn’t really thought of the “race issue” in that way, probably because I am white and therefore have some of the hegemonic privilege–although I am neither a man nor really middle class. In any case, it just does not seem right to limit a child because of their background. Maybe I’m teetering a bit on the edge of the nature vs. nurture debate, and I cannot remember exactly where I heard it or the exact wording, but there is a quote I recall about a persons “only mistake being where they were born into,” or something like that, and that a child cannot help who their parents are or what race they are so why should they be punished? That’s what this feels like to me and unfortunately, only a small percentage of people who have the resources to do something about this are even aware of their own ignorance on the subject.

  10. A significant learning I found from our reading was; how the US education and training systems are suited for a past era, not focused on our present and students. This learning is in a macro perspective I would have never known and really thought about.
    I am developing a mindset of a social worker. And going through the last page bulletins of this week’s Darling reading, it reminded me on how outside of the school setting has an impact on students in school performance.
    I can approach my students by being well prepared and supportive as well as simply taking part in this early learning environment.
    A thought/question I asked myself is why the government focuses on a education and training system from the past?

  11. When reading this article, i started thinking about the students that I’ve been interacting with this past week. The first thing I notice is that most of the students are minorities, a mix of African American, Latino, and Asian students with a few White students. I’ve come to respect and admire the ideas and goals behind Upward Bound more and more, because these students are given a chance to succeed and learn. As Dakota mentioned, students can only succeed if they are personally motivated to do so.

    Apart from the desire to learn, students would also benefit from being treated as equals. On page 51 of this article, I really connected to how female students are usually advised to avoid advanced science and math courses. I was lucky enough to have a strict science teacher who encouraged students, especially females, to continue taking difficult courses. I have heard some students claim that a certain math or science course is too difficult for them, and as a mentor/tutor I think it’s my responsibility to let them know it is possible and within their means.

  12. I feel like the quantitative analysis of Portland’s shift in diversity over the last decade in the article “In Portland’s Heart, 2010 Census Shows Diversity Dwindling” was what I needed to truly understand the diminishing of Portland’s already minimal diversity. I moved here in 2007 and have lived in North Portland since my first house on Albina. Working in bars has given me the opportunity to talk to many born-and-raised Portlanders about North/Northeast Portland’s transformation and I have heard hundreds of stories about what these areas used to be like. For some reason though, census numbers painted a more devastating picture of Portland’s transition into an even whiter city than it already was. In the short time that I have been here, I have noticed a visible change in the Kenton, Alberta, and Mississippi neighborhoods and along MLK as “nearly 10,000 people of color, mostly African Americans, moved out”. This article struck a chord for some reason by giving me a count of displaced minorities, pushed out by “affluent whites”. As Portland becomes whiter, we must realize that a lack of diversity directly affects our education system as many Portland children of color are forced to struggle with a loss of community and “limited access to equal opportunities”.

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