Equity is about Voice

Equity is about voice.

It’s not about Christmas Trees or Kwanzaa. It’s not about posters with a black girl standing next to a redhead standing next to an ethically ambiguous is-he-Spanish-is-he-Asian-is-he-Middle-Eastern boy. It’s not about which songs play over the public address speakers. Sure, those things can be important too, but more for marketing purposes, or just for manners’ sake. We should never forget that political correctness is more about exercising power than it is about distributing it.

Equity is about powerful voices and marginalized voices, and the entire spectrum in between. Equity is fluid, not fixed. It is political. It’s implicit, rarely overt.

Equity is about voice.



  1. I would add, too, that true equity is about reconciliation. It’s about empowering and humbling through a truly horizontal relationship.

    1. So true. Thanks for adding that. And thanks for always making my posts richer by commenting in such insightful ways. Sometimes I feel like you’re a collaborator on my blog:)

  2. Hear you loud and clear here, Royan. What a powerful piece to read at the start of my day.

    When I look at equity work – & more generally, any education initiative – at school board/political levels, I wonder about power dynamics. Why are particular causes or projects passed more quickly than others? Do I need to explicitly align myself with particular people in order to get my voice heard? Who wants these initiatives? Who’s pushing for the initiatives? Who is part of the discussion & who is omitted? Who benefits from the initiative? Who is not represented? Are we doing something to get those unheard, marginalized voices/groups the support they need?

    John’s statement speaks volumes about the ideal scenario in the classroom, in schools, at board and political levels: TRUE equity is “about empowering and humbling through a truly horizontal relationship.”
    How do we establish EQUITY, these horizontal relationship in our classrooms, in our boards, at political levels? Not as easy as it looks…

    1. Hmmm… I wish there was room for editing.

      I’d claim it’s easiest to do it at classroom level – the environment you set up & develop with students. Outside the classroom of an equity educator, now that’s where more work needs to be done.

      1. Hi Monica,
        I agree that creating within-classroom environments that promote equity and inclusivity are the easiest to foster, however there is MUCH work to do establishing equitable and respectful communities between classrooms (AKA across the entire school community). During one insightful conversation right before the break, a veteran teacher pulled me aside and admitted that of all the PD she has attended in her career, becoming more averse in how to foster equity in her classroom is an area that she would really like more professional growth in. I’d hazard to say she is not alone either.

        Chris D’Souza’s equity message and talk at the 2011 YRDSB Quest conference http://www.yrdsb.edu.on.ca/page.cfm?id=ITQ000015 rings in my brain. More importantly, I am reminded of the strategies for provoking THOUGHT to create positive social change as described on the http://www.unlearn.com/ site. Definitely worth checking out!


  3. Reminds me of a lyric from a Billy Bragg song, “in a perfect world we’d all sing in tune, but this is reality some give me some room” from ‘Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards’ – a song about finding your voice. Sad thing is he’s always able to update the song… as the name of power may change but the message doesn’t seem to:

    Original lyrics: http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=ZIaq9eB0ayc
    Updated lyrics: http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=J7d6ZwAp28Y

    The question for us, I think, is how do we value all voices? How do we ensure everyone is listened to?


  4. As a school, equity is something that we discuss frequently. Your post really has me thinking. I’m going to share it with the other staff members at my school too. I think this post will result in lots of great discussion. Thanks Royan!


  5. The impetus for my post can be traced to my allergy for equity as an ‘initiative’. Equity is not a birthday party. Thanks for commenting, everyone.

    1. “The impetus for my post can be traced to my allergy for equity as an ‘initiative’. Equity is not a birthday party.”

      THANK YOU!!!! That’s right, it is NOT at birthday party to be celebrated once a year. It’s 2012 and yet we are definitely still there.

      Well said, that is my quote of the day. Thank you

  6. Royan, great post here. I’m wondering where opportunity fits in here? Or, do you see “voice” and “opportunity” as the same?

    I’m just thinking of those kids without access, without resources, without (fill in the blank). Do they have the opportunity to even share and develop their voice?

    1. Tony,
      I was thinking the exact same thing. In order to have VOICE, students first need ACCESS to opportunities to have a voice. This stems from purposeful planning for differentiated outcomes. Do teachers use the right variety of approaches to ensure a variety of all voices can be heard/viewed/shared?

      Part of me thinks a barrier to creating opportunities for ALL voices to be heard is a lack of assessment literacy among teachers. How can I assess it if I don’t already know what it will look like?

      Bottom line: If we are looking for one size fits all SAME-NESS answers that are easiest t grade/mark, we are NOT/NEVER going to achieve equity nor voice.


  7. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful and thought-provoking post. In response to the comments above, I would like to add that I believe it is important we recognize that so-called power dynamics — or at least the perception of same — will always exist within politically organized communities. Is not ‘horizontal’ an impracticable if not impossible goal? Alternatively, an aim-worthy ideal might be that accountable processes are in place to ensure that political leaders allow for all voices to have input in the definition of respectful outcomes in order that the community moves itself toward equity of outcomes.

  8. One of the greatest difficulties my teacher candidates have is understanding that equity needs to be embedded in all the work they do with their students. We recently had a conversation about student voice and I will be asking them to read this series of posts so that we can further our discussion. It’s a process that all educators need to continually reflect on and never feel that we are “there”.

  9. (in)Equity is deeply embedded in culture and thus what is visible is just the tip of the iceberg. It is socially determined as well.

    Hence it requires knowledge AND willingness to uncover the rest. To go beyond the Fs (foods, festivals, flags) that we usually teach students when engaging in “gobal” projects.

    The hidden curriculum is also part of this discussion – what is left out, what is not taught in our schools and thus is perceived as either irrelevant or not in accordance to mainstream thinking by our students.

    Teachers are not enough in revealing this – community is critical, too.

    It is surface versus depth. Central versus peripheral.

  10. Pingback: Speak Up |
  11. Very valid points have been made in your post and the follow up comments. I hope we can truly look at ways of how we see rich values based on universal goodness embedded in every stream of our school life. We live in a democratic country and by focusing on ethics and morals, and not the surface level namesake issues, we can truly make equity and inclusivity possible.

  12. There seems to be so much written about equity in education lately. Some focus on funding, some on community issues/supports, some on opportunities and barriers, some are about what it means and how it is different from equality. This is a great post and discussion from Royan’s point about voice.

    This may sound very geeky or keen, but I have reviewed Ontario’s policy document for Equity and Inclusive Education a few times. It was released in 2009, but school boards were required to establish their own policies in the spring of 2011 (I attended a number of input sessions). The Ministry document has a definition for equity, and also diversity and inclusive education. It also outlines vision, guiding principals, and actions plans for Ministry, board, and school levels. Lots of good stuff. I think there is a great framework there for inclusiveness. The vision refers to a education system in which “all students, parents and other members of the school community are welcomed and respected”. Some guiding principles include meeting individual needs, promoting a sense of belonging, involving the broader community, to mention a few.

    It may be up to all stakeholders now to help move the vision along in all aspects of education. What I am not sure of yet is if the implementation has supported the “voice” part yet at local level — of all teachers, students, parents, and community members.

    Sorry for the focus on Ontario only, but maybe others from other districts have strategies they can share that have helped reach and include the “entire spectrum” that Royan referred to.

  13. Equity is a philosophy and way of thinking that includes fairness, equity and diversity in our lives everyday. It is not an add-on to lessons, it is embedded in our everyday lives and in the way we treat students, colleagues, family and community with understanding and compassion.

  14. Equity is a philosophy and way of thinking which includes fairness, inclusion and diversity in our everyday lives. It is not an add-on to lessons, it is embedded in the way we think and in the way we treat students, colleagues, family and community with understanding and compassion.

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