Promise and Reality in Higher Ed

Education, we are told, is the great equalizer in the United States. It is the “key to the American Dream,” and the pathway to a more egalitarian society.

The data backs this up in many ways. The average Latino and African American earns less than the average white American and they are less likely to obtain a college degree. We know that the more educated you are the more you will earn over your lifetime and the less likely you will be to be unemployed. By many measures, education is the key to your individual and group prosperity.

It stands to reason that the promise of higher education to surmount our historic and engrained structural inequalities is only as strong as the institution’s own ability to surmount those inequities as it educates. If education is inherently unequal and inequitable then the effects it produces will also be.

inequality

The conclusion of this report from researchers at Georgetown University is that US colleges and universities are failing on that front. (You can read the full report here.)

In the report, researcher find that “The postsecondary system mimics and magnifies the racial and ethnic inequality in educational preparation it inherits from the K-12 system and then projects this inequality into the labor market.” Far from being the great equalizer we want it to be, education is becoming another way to fracture equality of opportunity based on race and class.

This isn’t a surprising conclusion to anyone working on diversity in higher education. It also doesn’t mean those poor or working class and/or nonwhite students who get in and do well aren’t working hard and achieving a great deal.

But it should help fuel the debate about what equality and equity mean for the 21st century. For colleges like mine, I hope it helps us confront the ways we fail to confront the larger problems of equality and equity while we hide behind “excellence.”

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Why I love baseball

(…or “Why I hate the Giants.”)

Brian Wilson signed a one-year contract with the Dodgers today. It’s kind of an easy, no-brainer move for the Dodgers to make–certainly better than the gamble of a trade–and so I don’t have much to add to the world of sports analysis and commentary.

But the news today was just one more reminder of the increasingly childish way I view, experience, and enjoy the game of baseball. When I first heard the rumors that the Dodgers were considering signing Wilson, I thought to myself “I hope they don’t.” In my mind Wilson is a SF Giant and “once a Giant always a Giant” seems to be my default position. The same general set of thoughts ran through my head today when the news broke.

I love baseball as a game and as a professional sport. When I have the time, I enjoy the history of it. I also increasingly love the numbers behind it, not in a sabermetrics kind of way but just in the general way statistics mark the contest between teams. But the older I get the more I seem to love baseball mostly as a simplistic form of allegiance. That is, the older I get the more I seem to be a “Dodgers fan” more than a “baseball fan.”

A photoshopped image of the newest Dodger

Being a Dodgers fan in this way has always been a part of my conscious life. It’s the way I was a fan as a kid. The players on the Dodgers were, in my mind, like Tommy Lasorda–they “bled blue.” When Steve Garvey became a Padre in the early 80s my heart had the hardest time making sense of it. After all, Steve Garvey grew up as part of the Dodger family. How could they trade a son? Even more, how could he choose to become a Padre? I felt the same when Dusty Baker was let go.

That means that being a Dodger fan has always also meant, first and foremost, hating the New York Yankees. Coming in at a very close second, it has also always meant hating the San Francisco Giants.

This is stupid, I know, at least from an intellectual perspective. But I think it makes a lot of sense to the way I feel, and likely the way thousands of other fans feel.

So when Brian Wilson takes the mound in Dodger blue (if he ever does, which he probably will) I will be rooting along with all the other fans for him to do his job and do it well. But I won’t be wearing a fake beard. I can’t. Because even though I will root for him as a Dodger, a little part of me will also hate him as a former Giant.

Not a Way of Life

“But it is not enough to stand on the opposite river bank, shouting questions, challenging patriarchal, white conventions. A counterstance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed; locked in mortal combat, like the cop and the criminal, both are reduced to a common denominator of violence. The counterstance refutes the dominant culture’s views and beliefs, and, for this, it is proudly defiant. All reaction is limited by, and dependent on, what it is reaching against. Because the counterstance stems from a problem with authority–outer as well as inner–it’s a step towards liberation from cultural domination. Bt it is not a way of life. At some point, on our way to a new consciousness, we will have to leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed so that we are on both shores at once and, at once, see through serpent and eagle eyes. Or perhaps we will decide to disengage from the dominant culture, write it off altogether as a lost cause, and cross the border into a wholly new and separate territory. Or we might go another route. The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.”

–Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987)

Reflections

I’ve been in a reflective, angry, disappointed, and sad mood since the news of the verdict. Here’s a few things I want to get down:

There is a difference in being “shocked” as in you could not have envisioned the outcome before it happened, versus “shocked” as in you knew it could happen but had every hope and confidence it would not. I am the latter.

The hope and confidence I felt a day ago comes from a pretty empty place right now. It is, I think, a place that needs to be filled in order to go about a life that builds greater human justice. Without it there is only revolution without a vision of the other side.

The poise and restraint of the Martin family says so much to me, especially in these past hours. What a testament to the values that raised this young boy into the young man he was becoming.

How telling is it that many self-described conservatives find themselves celebrating the verdict without any expression of the complexity, the history, or the contradiction that frames their thinking. How telling and revelatory about the power and position of race.

I am emboldened by the expressions of confusion, shock, and anger by so many (seemingly) unpoliticized, white folks. My social media has been a window into the experience of those who are new to certain realities and analyses. Every single time one more person is open to the truth that is the beginning of progress in the long run.

The justice we must really seek is the justice that would have made George Zimmerman question his own motivations, prejudices, and judgments before ever picking up a gun and pursuing the young Trayvon Martin. The justice we must seek is, ultimately, the one that results in the humane protection of all young, black, male lives.

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