The opportunity gap and abundance

Though Paul Tough rejected my premise in a debate that went from odd to ugly educators must understand that the way to challenge scarcity is abundance. Schools must come to believe that instead of an achievement gap — a concept that almost requires a deficit model response — what we have is an opportunity gap.

Where ‘rich kids’ have a million opportunities for engagement and second chances— arts and gifted programming, music, a world of sports choices, vacations, houses filled with choices, even opportunities for quick redemption when they run afoul of the law — poor kids have none of that, and it falls on schools to provide what we can.

This should begin with aggressive efforts at desegregation — what Tough, schooled in his world of privilege, refused to understand is that Chicago and New York have chosen to have schools segregated by class — so that poor kids are not just warehoused together. But it can begin without that.

Even with no additional resources schools in communities of poverty can choose to offer kids abundant choices simply by shifting to a student-centered model in which child interest drives the path into the curriculum.

Even with no additional resources teachers can throw out scripted direct instruction and engage their kids with the stories and storytelling of both the kids’ world and the teachers’ world.

Even with no additional resources classrooms can allow kids to learn to make good choices for themselves by allowing them to make choices.

The racism inherent in the eugenicist-derived Grit Narrative lies in the assumption by elites — from Angela Duckworth to Paul Tough to David Brooks to those in the MacArthur Foundation — that the poor can not learn as they do, and that students in poverty come to school lacking in anything of value.

That’s just wrong.

  • Ira Socol

Author, Dreamer, Educator: A life in service - NYPD, EMS, disabilities/UDL specialist, tech and innovation leader for education. Co-author of Timeless Learning

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