I think the overarching theme of the readings revolves around the ‘myth of meritocracy.’ We all would like to believe that input = output in the real world. That if we work hard, we will succeed. However, there are social constructs and systemic forces that throw off the balance of this equality and turn it to inequality. The privileges (or burdens) we each receive are in all reality disproportionate to the individual efforts and merits we bring with us. For those with privilege, or conferred dominance, they receive more than those who do not, even if their societal contributions are ‘equal’. (Note: How we determine if efforts are equal is subjective and subject to inequality as well).
As teachers, we see an underlying principle at the heart of our work. There is no utopia, no ideal teaching method, no ‘perfect student’. A level playing field does not exist. With every action, we will inevitably inconvenience someone, be unfair to someone. We will have an off day that will impact our students. We have bias that will make us partial judges even on our best days. There will be students that come to our classes with clear advantages and better likelihood for success, yet we are to work toward universal success for all our students.
The key to all of this is doing all we can to be aware – to know the power structures we work within, to know our communities and students, and above all, to know ourselves. We need to actively look for our bias, for the inequality in our classrooms. I know that I (and my students) have both suffered from and benefited from privilege, and I need to be consciously aware of the proportion and circumstances of each case to have a clearer picture of my reality. This awareness process needs to be continual.
Then, once I am aware of inequality and injustice, it is my duty as a human as well as an educator to do all I can to ‘use my powers for good.’ To use the privilege I have been afforded to reconstruct power systems and do what I can to bring about a more just world. And as an educator, to use the privilege and authority afforded to me by my position to make the playing field more level, to do what I can to bring about awareness in my students, and empower them to change their world. Empowering (all) our students is at the core of what it means to be a teacher.