Author of the Newsweek article “Why Calling Merit Racist Erases People of Color.”
One of the raging debates today in education centers around the ways in which we can expand access to fruits of high quality education to more students. And that is a wonderful debate to have, and an important one. However, a troubling strain of that song is the tendency to take the easy path toward equality: Attempts to include by EXCLUDING things. Headlines abound about school districts removing or lowering testing standards, or gifted programs citing the lack of equitable outcomes. In the music world, we talk of eliminating blind auditions or auditions all together. There are TONS of fair criticisms of standardized tests, or audition and screening practices for example, but those are problems that could be addressed to simply make a better, fairer, but still rigorous test. Where is that conversation? What if our focus was “how do I raise more people to the bar?” rather than implying without actually saying “we need to lower the bar or remove it?”
I say this is “taking the easy way out” because it absolves the institutions, and even worse, the politicians that oversee the budgets, of doing the HARD work of finding and solving the true barriers of access allowing more students to benefit from these programs. Cancelling the program is simply easier, leading to an appearance of equality, and makes no one actually better off.
“We need to devise and develop other paths to prosperity, more robust social safety nets, and better education systems. We need to talk about solutions that will truly uplift those being harmed by our meritocratic obsession. But calling merit racist is not the way to do it. Meritocracy is a kind of tyranny, but merit still matters.”Angel Eduardo
In this episode, my guest, Angel Eduardo takes the argument a step further and says the easy way out also erases the talents and merits of students of color. Giving voice to the often unexpressed concern of how young people might interpret hearing the implication that “the standards might be too high for you. So we are lowering them.” What types of long term impact may that have on the psyche?