Additions to Our Philosophy on Equity, Learning, and Psychological Safety

Our Philosophy page lists acquired phrases that we steer by. They are compasses and stars that align us on our mission.

I added several phrases on equity, learning, and psychological safety from Human Restoration Project, Equity Literacy Institute, and Timothy R. Clark.

Learning is rooted in purpose finding and community relevance.

Social justice is the cornerstone to educational success.

Dehumanizing practices do not belong in schools.

Learners are respectful toward each other’s innate human worth.

Source: The Need – Human Restoration Project

In order to achieve equity we must prioritize the interests of the students and families whose interests historically have not been prioritized.

Equity requires the redistribution of material, cultural, and social access and opportunity.

Educational outcome disparities are not the result of deficiencies in marginalized communities’ cultures, mindsets, or grittiness, but rather of inequities.

Source: Basic Principles for Equity Literacy

Psychological safety is a condition in which you feel (1) included, (2) safe to learn, (3) safe to contribute, and (4) safe to challenge the status quo—all without fear of being embarrassed, marginalized, or punished in some way.

Giving inclusion safety is a moral imperative.

All human beings have the same innate need: We long to belong.

Source: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation

We highly recommend all three resources.

Contemporary Progressive Education with the Human Restoration Project

Students and teachers are human beings. Schools must bring this to light.

The HUMAN RESTORATION PROJECT supports progressive educators in building systematic change within schools. By providing free resources, professional development, and materials, we can form a coalition of like-minded educators who can revolutionize the education system from the ground up.

This work doesn’t provide firm answers or simple solutions. These do not exist in solving the complex, nuanced issues of the education system which is rooted in inequity, lack of proper funding, and systemic racism, sexism, and greed. This primer outlines the philosophy of progressive education, which is the antithesis of the growing movement to test, retest, and dehumanize the education process.

It may challenge or conflict with one’s ideas – which is why this style of education is needed. Unless educators seek to deconstruct and rebuild the underlying systems of the system, little to no change will occur. Instead, we’ll see more and more educators become burnt out and demoralized as they continually try to make the broken systems work as promised.

A human-centered classroom is needed now more than ever. In a time of growing uncertainty, global challenges, and increased threats to democracy, children need space to question, reflect, and actualize a meaning to their lives. These young people, along with their educators, will build a new future of love, care, and respect for all.

Source: Primer: A Guide to Human Centric Education

The Human Restoration Project’s primer on human centric education outlines equity literate contemporary progressive education compatible with neurodiversity and the social model of disability.

A fantasy of ours at Stimpunks is to start a school for local neurodivergent and disabled people who are not served by public or private schools. “A human-centered classroom is needed now more than ever,” especially for those left out of “all means all”.

If there is ever a Stimpunks school, HRP’s Primer and Handbooks and the book “Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools” would be foundational. They recognize that “creating paths to equity and access for all children remains the grand challenge of public education…”

Creating paths to equity and access for all children remains the grand challenge of public education in America.

Equity provides resources so that educators can see all our children’s strengths. Access provides our children with the chance to show us who they are and what they can do. Empathy allows us to see children as children, even teens who may face all the challenges that poverty and other risk factors create. Inclusivity creates a welcoming culture of care so that no one feels outside the community.

Source: Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools (Kindle Locations 840-841, 878-881). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Human centric education is inclusive instead of eugenic.

Sadly though, the social, political, and economic narrative of schooling in the past has been grounded in a “soft eugenics” belief that while some children have the capacity to become whatever they choose to be in life, others do not. This plays out in the decisions that educators make, often based on decontextualized data and confirmation biases that stem from immersion in traditions of education that did the same to us. Even if lip service is given to words such as equity, accessibility, inclusivity, empathy, cultural responsiveness, and connected relationships, schooling today is still far more likely to support practices from the past that have created school cultures in which none ​of those words define who educators really are, no matter what they aspire to be.

Consider how the “habitable world” concept developed by Rosemarie Garland‐Thomson, Emory University researcher and professor, sits at the core of the philosophy of educators who developed and now sustain the structures and processes of schooling that impact young people such as Kolion (Garland‐Thomson 2017b). Garland‐Thomson views public, political, and organizational philosophy as representative of one of “two forms of world‐building, inclusive and eugenic” (Garland‐Thomson 2017a). Unfortunately, often it’s the soft educational eugenics philosophy that is most often expressed in practice, if not in words, across the nation’s schools rather than the creation of habitable worlds that are inclusive of all learners.

If we want our schools to be learning ​spaces that reveal the strengths of children to us, we have to create a bandwidth of opportunities that do so. That means making decisions differently, decisions driven from values that support equity, accessibility, inclusivity, empathy, cultural responsiveness, and connected relationships inside the ecosystem. Those are the words representative of habitable worlds, not words such as sort, select, remediate, suspend, or fail.

Source: Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools (Kindle Locations 908-920, 929-938). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

How do we get from eugenic to inclusive world building in our schools? HRP has a recipe that very much aligns with Stimpunks philosophy and experience.

HRP has identified twenty systems, summarized within 4 values statements, that must be changed for a human-centric, equitable system that creates a better future for all.

Learning is rooted in purpose finding and community relevance.

  1. Map a Path to Purpose
  2. Learn Experientially
  3. Connect to the Community
  4. Promote Literacy
  5. Create Cross-Disciplinary Classrooms

Social justice is the cornerstone to educational success.

  1. Support a Reflective Space
  2. Demand Inclusive Spaces
  3. Authenticate Student Voice
  4. Adopt Critical Pedagogy
  5. Utilize Restorative Justice

Dehumanizing practices do not belong in schools.

  1. Radically Reduce Homework
  2. Build Strong Relationships
  3. Eliminate Grading
  4. Redefine Assessment and End Testing
  5. Reform Food Systems

Learners are respectful toward each other’s innate human worth.

  1. Self-Direct Learning
  2. Support and Elevate Teachers
  3. Stay Buzzword Free
  4. Cooperate, Don’t Force Competition
  5. Support Multi-Age Classrooms

Source: The Need

A school run on such a philosophy would include us Stimpunks like no school has yet.

Stimpunks shouldn’t have to start our own school to access the inclusive world building of human centric, contemporary, progressive education. For the “all means all” promise of public education to include us, we need allies working “against rules and excuses – to convert an institution to a progressive model of education”.

We’re working – against rules and excuses – to convert an institution to a progressive model of education grounded in an “all means all” philosophy when it comes to every child participating in rich, experiential learning.

Source: Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools (Kindle Locations 1036-1052). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Stimpunks is happy to support the Human Restoration Project and its vision of contemporary progressive education.

Unlearning Deficit Ideology and the Scornful Gaze

Briefly, deficit ideology is a worldview that explains and justifies outcome inequalities- standardized test scores or levels of educational attainment, for example-by pointing to supposed deficiencies within disenfranchised individuals and communities (Brandon, 2003; Valencia, 1997a; Weiner, 2003; Yosso, 2005). Simultaneously, and of equal importance, deficit ideology discounts sociopolitical context, such as the systemic conditions (racism, economic injustice, and so on) that grant some people greater social, political, and economic access, such as that to high-quality schooling, than others (Brandon, 2003; Dudley-Marling, 2007; Gorski, 2008a; Hamovitch, 1996). The function of deficit ideology, as I will describe in greater detail later, is to justify existing social conditions by identifying the problem of inequality as located within, rather than as pressing upon, disenfranchised communities so that efforts to redress inequalities focus on “fixing” disenfranchised people rather than the conditions which disenfranchise them (Weiner, 2003; Yosso, 2005).

At the core of deficit ideology is the belief that inequalities result, not from unjust social conditions such as systemic racism or economic injustice, but from intellectual, moral, cultural, and behavioral deficiencies assumed to be inherent in disenfranchised individuals and communities (Brandon, 2003; Gorski, 2008a, 2008b; Valencia, 1997a; Yosso, 2005).

And this is the surest sign of deficit ideology: the suggestion that we fix inequalities by fixing disenfranchised communities rather than that which disenfranchises them. This, then, is the function of deficit ideology: to manipulate popular consciousness in order to deflect attention from the systemic conditions and sociopolitical context that underlie or exacerbate inequities, such as systemic racism or economic injustice, and to focus it, instead, on recycling its own misperceptions, all of which justify inequalities (García & Guerra, 2004; Jennings, 2004). It deflects our scornful gaze from the mechanisms of injustice and the benefactors of these mechanisms, and trains it, instead, on those citizens with the least amount of power to popularize a counter-narrative, just as the dominant “achievement gap” discourse draws attention away from underlying systemic conditions, such as growing corporate control of public schools, and pushes it toward “at-risk” youth from “broken” homes whose “culture of poverty” impedes them from “making it.” Deficit ideology defines every social problem in relation to those toward the bottom of the power hierarchy, trains our gaze in that direction and, as a result, manipulates the popular discourse in ways that protect and reify existing sociopolitical conditions (Brandon, 2003; Yosso, 2005).

Source: Unlearning Deficit Ideology and the Scornful Gaze: Thoughts on Authenticating the Class Discourse in Education

I really like that definition of deficit ideology and its function.

This, then, is the function of deficit ideology: to manipulate popular consciousness in order to deflect attention from the systemic conditions and sociopolitical context that underlie or exacerbate inequities, such as systemic racism or economic injustice, and to focus it, instead, on recycling its own misperceptions, all of which justify inequalities.

Use these definitions when evaluating mindset marketing. Where are you directing the scornful gaze? Are you directing it “on those citizens with the least amount of power to popularize a counter-narrative”. We are constantly spoken over in the neurodiversity and disability rights movement by narratives that direct the scornful gaze on us instead of on ableist systems. We spend so much time and energy doing counter-narrative that is out-amplified by orders of magnitude.

It becomes easier, then, to train the mass consciousness to pathologize disenfranchised communities—to, in effect, blame them for their own disenfranchisement. Once that scornful gaze down the power hierarchy is in place, so is established the justification for maintaining existing social, political, and economic conditions, such as gross inequities in access to healthcare or educational opportunity, or the waning of social programs and supports for disenfranchised communities.

I’m adding “scornful gaze” to my vocabulary. It and the “conquering gaze from nowhere” are useful for detecting when we’re using the framing of deficit ideology.

Check your gaze.

Previously,

Shiny Thing Equity Arithmetic

Shiny Thing Racial Equity Arithmetic: Racism + diversity programming + an anti-bullying program + Kindness Matters + SEL, PBIS, and restorative practices + grit and growth mindset = Racism

Originally tweeted by Soni Gill (@Soni_Gill1214) on November 10, 2020.

Image description:

Shiny Thing Racial Equity Arithmetic: Racism + diversity programming + an anti-bullying program + Kindness Matters + SEL, PBIS, and restorative practices + grit and growth mindset = Racism

Likewise for ableism and heterosexism. Our family was sold so many shiny things over the last decade of mindset marketing dominated ed-tech when what we needed from educators was a confrontation with structural ableism. Are you practicing shiny thing equity arithmetic? Instead, be a genuine threat to inequity.

Intersectionality and Professionalism

The Center for Intersectional Justice explains that one key aspect of recognizing intersectionality is “fighting discrimination within discrimination, tackling inequalities within inequalities, and protecting minorities within minorities.” If conversations about equity are not considering the intersecting identities of those involved in the planning and decision making individually and as a collective, then the question comes into play of whether equity can exist. The same holds true for conversations about accessibility and inclusion.

I envision a world that considers each part within the wholeness of an individual at all points of the lifespan. A world in which anti-racism and anti-ableism are a natural part of training, education, professionalism, and everyday interactions.

Source: Reflecting on ADA 30 While Reckoning with COVID-19 and Racism – Rooted in Rights

We too envision that world. Intersectionality and equity literacy are necessary professional development.

Previously,

Defining Equity and Inequity

Inequity

An unfair distribution of material and non-material access and opportunity resulting in outcome and experience differences that are predictable by race, socioeconomic status, gender identity, home language, or other dimensions of identity.

Source: Understanding Equity and Inequity (Certificate-Bearing)

Equity

A commitment to action: the process of redistributing access and opportunity to be fair and just.

A way of being: the state of being free of bias, discrimination, and identity-predictable outcomes and experiences.

Source: Understanding Equity and Inequity (Certificate-Bearing)


I really like those definitions of equity and inequity from the Equity Literacy Institute. They are a structurally aware call to action to relieve minority stress.

Equity Literacy: Learning to Be a Threat to Inequity in Our Spheres of Influence

Mindset marketing is no threat to inequity and injustice. It’s bikeshedding of the same old deficit ideology. It flakes off quickly.

A big influence on me is Paul Gorski of the Equity Literacy Institute. I wish every educator with growth mindset, grit, SEL, and PBIS in their social media bios would take Gorski’s equity courses. Our SpEd family and other marginalized families would appreciate not having to do that reframing work over-and-over again for free.

Originally tweeted by Soni Gill (@Soni_Gill1214) on November 10, 2020.

Image description: Shiny Thing Racial Equity Arithmetic: Racism + diversity programming + an anti-bullying program + Kindness Matters + SEL, PBIS, and restorative practices + grit and growth mindset = Racism

Their tagline at the Equity Literacy Institute is “Learning to be a threat to inequity in our spheres of influence”. That distills what we must do. Mindset marketing ain’t it. Get structural, and get equity literate.

With this in mind, my purpose is to argue that when it comes to issues surrounding poverty and economic justice the preparation of teachers must be first and foremost an ideological endeavour, focused on adjusting fundamental understandings not only about educational outcome disparities but also about poverty itself. I will argue that it is only through the cultivation of what I call a structural ideology of poverty and economic justice that teachers become equity literate (Gorski 2013), capable of imagining the sorts of solutions that pose a genuine threat to the existence of class inequity in their classrooms and schools.

Source: Poverty and the ideological imperative: a call to unhook from deficit and grit ideology and to strive for structural ideology in teacher education

We must avoid being lulled by popular “diversity” approaches and frameworks that pose no threat to inequity—that sometimes are popular because they are no real threat to inequity. The basic principles of equity literacy help us ensure we keep a commitment to equity at the center of our equity work and the broader equity conversation.

The Direct Confrontation Principle: The path to equity requires direct confrontations with inequity—with interpersonal, institutional, cultural and structural racism and other forms of oppression. “Equity” approaches that fail to directly identify and confront inequity play a significant role in sustaining inequity.

The Equity Ideology Principle: Equity is more than a list of practical strategies. It is a lens and an ideological commitment. There are no practical strategies that will help us develop equitable institutions if we are unwilling to deepen our understandings of equity and inequity and reject ideologies that are not compatible with equity.

The Prioritization Principle: In order to achieve equity we must prioritize the interests of the students and families whose interests historically have not been prioritized. Every policy, practice, and program decision should be considered through the question, “What impact is this going to have on the most marginalized students and families? How are we prioritizing their interests?”

The Redistribution Principle: Equity requires the redistribution of material, cultural, and social access and opportunity. We do this by changing inequitable policies, eliminating oppressive aspects of institutional culture, and examining how practices and programs might advantage some students over others. If we cannot explain how our equity initiatives redistribute access and opportunity, we should reconsider them.

The “Fix Injustice, Not Kids” Principle: Educational outcome disparities are not the result of deficiencies in marginalized communities’ cultures, mindsets, or grittiness, but rather of inequities. Equity initiatives focus, not on “fixing” students and families who are marginalized, but on transforming the conditions that marginalize students and families.

The One Size Fits Few Principle: No individual identity group shares a single mindset, value system, learning style, or communication style. Identity-specific equity frameworks (like group- level “learning styles”) almost always are based on simplicity and stereotypes, not equity.

The Evidence-Informed Equity Principle: Equity approaches should be based on evidence for what works rather than trendiness. “Evidence” can mean quantitative research, but it can also mean the stories and experiences of people who are marginalized in your institution.

Source: Basic Principles for Equity Literacy

Briefly, deficit ideology is a worldview that explains and justifies outcome inequalities- standardized test scores or levels of educational attainment, for example-by pointing to supposed deficiencies within disenfranchised individuals and communities (Brandon, 2003; Valencia, 1997a; Weiner, 2003; Yosso, 2005). Simultaneously, and of equal importance, deficit ideology discounts sociopolitical context, such as the systemic conditions (racism, economic injustice, and so on) that grant some people greater social, political, and economic access, such as that to high-quality schooling, than others (Brandon, 2003; Dudley-Marling, 2007; Gorski, 2008a; Hamovitch, 1996). The function of deficit ideology, as I will describe in greater detail later, is to justify existing social conditions by identifying the problem of inequality as located within, rather than as pressing upon, disenfranchised communities so that efforts to redress inequalities focus on “fixing” disenfranchised people rather than the conditions which disenfranchise them (Weiner, 2003; Yosso, 2005).

At the core of deficit ideology is the belief that inequalities result, not from unjust social conditions such as systemic racism or economic injustice, but from intellectual, moral, cultural, and behavioral deficiencies assumed to be inherent in disenfranchised individuals and communities (Brandon, 2003; Gorski, 2008a, 2008b; Valencia, 1997a; Yosso, 2005).

And this is the surest sign of deficit ideology: the suggestion that we fix inequalities by fixing disenfranchised communities rather than that which disenfranchises them. This, then, is the function of deficit ideology: to manipulate popular consciousness in order to deflect attention from the systemic conditions and sociopolitical context that underlie or exacerbate inequities, such as systemic racism or economic injustice, and to focus it, instead, on recycling its own misperceptions, all of which justify inequalities (García & Guerra, 2004; Jennings, 2004). It deflects our scornful gaze from the mechanisms of injustice and the benefactors of these mechanisms, and trains it, instead, on those citizens with the least amount of power to popularize a counter-narrative, just as the dominant “achievement gap” discourse draws attention away from underlying systemic conditions, such as growing corporate control of public schools, and pushes it toward “at-risk” youth from “broken” homes whose “culture of poverty” impedes them from “making it.” Deficit ideology defines every social problem in relation to those toward the bottom of the power hierarchy, trains our gaze in that direction and, as a result, manipulates the popular discourse in ways that protect and reify existing sociopolitical conditions (Brandon, 2003; Yosso, 2005).

Source: Unlearning Deficit Ideology and the Scornful Gaze: Thoughts on Authenticating the Class Discourse in Education

  • Attend to the practices, policies, and aspects of institutional culture that traumatize children at school
  • We must infuse trauma-informed education with a robust understanding of, and responsiveness to, the traumas of systemic oppression
  • Dislodge hyper-punitive cultures and ideologies

Being trauma-informed means consciously cultivating space in our mental models so that, even if we know nothing about a particular set of circumstances, we avoid the temptation to mindlessly apply rules.

Source: How Trauma-Informed Are We, Really? – ASCD