• by Bradley Scott, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • November – December 2013 •
In an article called, “The Challenge of Seeing” (September 2012), I began to describe a sixth generation of civil rights and educational equity: “The sixth generation is calling us to examine the quality, correctness and suitability of the inputs to produce different outcomes for all learners regardless of their differences to provide them with knowledge, skills and competencies that raise their global competitiveness in this 21st century world.”
We now are in the second decade of the 21st century, and we have walked through discussions of the generations of civil rights and educational equity from the perspective of the federally-funded equity assistance centers. We have understood these generations in the context of key activities that have driven how each generation was approached and described. (Scott, 2012; Scott 2001; Scott 1995).
What are the equity concerns today that are shaping this sixth generation of civil rights and educational equity? What should concern us in this new era that calls for shaping the sixth generation, which captures where civil rights, educational equity and public education are at present and into the future?
This article will comment on the Sixth Generation of Civil Rights and Educational Equity and create a contrast with the fifth generation that we have left behind.
The fifth generation focused on systemic equity (Scott, 2001). I defined systemic equity to be: “The transformed ways in which systems and individuals habitually operate to ensure that every student has the greatest opportunity to learn enhanced by the resources and supports necessary to achieve competence, excellence, independence, responsibility and self-sufficiency for school and for life.”
The fifth generation challenged us to look at educational reform in the context of the No Child Left Behind Act. NCLB was not the magic bullet it was intended to be for many reasons. Some schools were successful under it; too many schools were not.
The sixth generation has this same focus, with considerations of the Blueprint for Reform applied, but now also must have a profound commitment to “every student” equaling “all meaning all.” We must guarantee good schools for all. We must guarantee excellent teachers for all. We must assure great leaders for all. We must assure great curriculum that prepares all students for college and for life. When we say all, we cannot mean some, or the privileged, or the chosen, or the elite, or the preferred, or the desirable, or the deserving – we must mean all.
I was disappointed when I learned that the run up to the Common Core Standards and the initial presentation of them had not really factored in their application to learners who are below grade level or to English language learners or to those with special needs. Not to have factored these populations into the fullness of conversation and consideration is segregation. No, these populations deserve to have been talked about with all other groups, even though the conversations would have been tough. Either all means all or it simply does not. And, if it does not, then it is a lie.
To have states receive approvals for the ESEA flexibility waivers and have many of the approved plans still have questions or concerns about English learners and how assessment and flexibility will apply to them is egregious. This is differential treatment and may violate these learners’ civil rights under Title VI and possibly equal protection. Either all means all or it simply does not. And, if it does not, then it is a lie.
In this sixth generation of civil rights and educational equity, we need to have tough conversations that lead to great possibilities and outcomes for students. Following are some of equity conversations I think we need to have. In considering these concerns, please keep in mind the Goals of Educational Equity, the equity lens, the equity context, and IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework all of which were discussed in Part I of the “Challenge of Seeing.”
Sixth Generation of Civil Rights and Educational Equity – Topics for Conversation and Action
- Technology equity for management, instruction, creation and development.
- Heightened educational stakeholder collaboration.
- Parent involvement and engagement
- Safe, secure, non-hostile learning environments.
- Pre-kindergarten through grade 20 education and school completion.
- Resolution of persistent “gap” issues.
- Institutionalizing innovations that create comparable high achievement for all diverse learners.
- Eradicating barriers that block high achievement for all learners.
- Transformed curriculum that is relevant, meaningful, powerful and dynamic to produce excellent academic and other outcomes.
- Mastery of English language literacy.
- Mastery of math, science and other core content areas at a global competence level.
- Reformed, expanded and targeted professional development, staff renewal and staff support systems.
- Confronting new and re-emerging discrimination.
- Confronting all of the “isms” in school, including racism, sexism, classism, ethnocentrism and any other forms of privilege and exclusion.
- Embracing the historic and emerging civil rights concerns.
- Creating cultures of positive change.
- Building 21st century efficacy.
- Creating good community and school health.
- Creating a cradle to college and career pipeline.
- Change the cradle to prison pipeline.
- . . .
The last item (#21) represents other conversations we need to have in states and localities that prevent good education from happening for all – all – students. Each of these conversations should lead to specific, measurable actions that make a difference for learners. It is a challenge of seeing once again, that leads to action that makes a difference for every single learner and his or her life.
In truth, this sixth generation is a monster, no, it’s a beast, no, it’s our reality, that we must face because the fact of every learner requires that we must. While it may be tough, it is not impossible, and it is impossible only if we act in weak, unimaginative ways.
I think we are better than that. Let’s prove each other right, not wrong.
Robledo Montecel, M. “Equal Access to a Quality Education – The Civil Rights Issue of Our Generation New Orleans,” keynote address, U.S. Office for Civil Rights national conference (March 29, 2011).
Robledo Montecel, M. “Fulfilling the Promise of Brown vs. Board of Education,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, November-December 2003).
Scott, B. “The Challenge of Seeing – Shaping the Sixth Generation of Civil Rights and Educational Equity,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, September 2012).
Scott, B. “Coming of Age,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, March 2001).
Scott, B. “The Fourth Generation of Desegregation and Civil Rights,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, January 1995).
Bradley Scott, Ph.D., is a senior education associate in Field Services. Comments and questions may be directed to him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2013, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the November – December 2013 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]