In the process of preparing to help a remarkably intelligent high school senior with his essay on “a word” (he chose “equity” – because I told him to!), I have done a complete about-face on the concept of equity. To reference “The Sound of Music” (for no reason other than to reference it😳), I have remembered that “a little bit of research helps the medicine go down in the most delightful way.” I was looking at the concept as if it were one-dimensional rather than the multi-faceted entity that it is, a concept which most politicians ignore. And the medicine, of course, in this case, is knowledge (kickstarted here by critical thinking).
The research I’ve done, and that is considerable since I realized I have been more opinionated than educated on the equity-equality-social responsibility (see Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal, the first chapter of “Invisible Man” for the classic rift between equality and social responsibility) confusion. I have concluded that equality of opportunity simply does not exist. Consider: Just because there is a boat available for two people in the water, if one has had access to pools and swim lessons and, therefore knows how to swim and the other has not had access to any of that, the one who knows how to swim will reach the boat. The other swimmer will either drown or spend eternity treading water. The boat was an equal opportunity, but the training with which the swimmers were equipped was obviously woefully unequal. Yes, equity predicts same outcomes on an abstract level, but what it really does is elevate the (e)quality of opportunity to a level at which it can benefit everyone.
People who denounce equity are often operating out of self-centered fear, usually people in power who think they’re going to lose their standing because other people will be “given” positions. They will NOT be given positions; rather, they will be given the same schooling and cultural opportunities that all people in this country enjoy – swimming lessons in our boat metaphor. This country was built on the perverse dichotomy: freedom and slavery.
We have always had an obligation to reach back for those behind to bring them to us to strengthen our freedoms, to strengthen our right to worship as we choose, to strengthen our causes, to strengthen ourselves. No one at the top need feel threatened; equity is not a threat to anyone’s stature… Instead according to the Harvard Business Review (and I truly believe this), the talent pool will be broadened and equal opportunity will have a whole new meaning because it was reinforced by equity.