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Coming to terms By Theresa Kelly Gegen

Theresa Kelly Gegen is editor of The Illinois School Board Journal.


t’s a relatable image, and a

commitment to bringing about

individuals, in organizations, and

familiar one to those embarking

equitable and empowering change

in our society as a whole.”

on a study of equality and equity:

to organizations, our communities,

Hack man redefines busi-

three people of different heights,

and our society as a whole.” When

ness-as-usual as institutional rac-

usually children, trying to peer over

she speaks of “The Urgency of Now:

ism and acknowledges that it makes

a fence. What each can see depends

Developing and Utilizing an Equity

people uncomfortable — in having

on how tall they are and what size

Lens for 21st Century Education,”

existing systems challenged and in

boxes they have to boost them.

her work starts with coming to

being part of a system that is unjust. But it’s a necessary discomfort.

Heather W. Hackman, a featured

terms with a framework centered on

speaker at IASB’s upcoming Equity

social justice and equity, as opposed

“Why? The long-term answer

Event, isn’t a fan of this image — she

to diversity or cultural competency.

is, because this is untenable in

calls it “tired” but for the purposes

“Diversity work is fantastic for

education,” Hackman says. “We

of dicussion, she’s willing to work

what it’s designed to do, and that is

aren’t learning the real history,

with it and, indeed, take it a step

to create awareness and apprecia-

we aren’t able to make engaged

farther. If equality is when every

tion of difference. And we need that

decisions. We need to drill down

child has the same box, and equity

in our society,” Hackman says. “But

into the system and structures,

is when each has what they need

it’s not enough to substitute diversi-

because that’s what’s killing these

to see, then social justice is getting

ty work for social justice and equi-


rid of the boxes and “tearing the

ty. It’s not a sufficient substitute,

Hackman acknowledges anoth-

fence down.”

because social justice and equity

er, more practical discomfort: “It’s

Hackman’s team at Hackman

work does what diversity does not:

a lens, not a list. People want a list.

Consulting Group has an “unyielding

it looks at systems, power, privilege,

Developing a lens is harder than

and access to resources.

developing a list. We must funda-

Hack ma n says the sa me is true for cultural competency —



Courtesy of the Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire. and


mentally shift how we view these dynamics.”

cross-cultural skill development.

It’s harder, but for school dis-

It ’s wor thwhi le, fant a stic, and

tricts, each in a unique situation

invaluable in society. But it too,

relative to equity and social justice

does not look at systems, power,

work, it’s better.

privilege, and access to resources.

“Starting in the right spot,”

The only framework that can

Hackman says, “means every dis-

address the issues — the big-scale

trict can engage and work their way

issues like sexism, and classism,

into this concept at their local lev-

and racism, is a social justice and

el. The framework and cognition is

equity framework. That is the path-

non-negotiable, but how they apply

way to create substantive change, in

it is.”


The Illinois School Board Journal, March/April 2018  

A bimonthly magazine for public school board members and administrators highlighting issues in education.

The Illinois School Board Journal, March/April 2018  

A bimonthly magazine for public school board members and administrators highlighting issues in education.