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Reflections from NECC – Equity, Diversity, Social Justice

Something (perhaps some thingS) is (are) rubbing me the wrong way about NECC.  I’ll reflect a bit more over time, but for today I want to write a bit about a related set of issues about which I am incredibly passionate.  My ed. leadership professorial friends/colleagues and I joke about what we perceive as an over-emphasis on issues of “social justice” “equity” and “diversity” at the annual conferences we attend.  Please understand that we all care deeply about those issues; it’s just that it’s gotten to the point where it seems like it’s all that gets discussed at a comprehensive conference. Well, after being at NECC for a few days, I long for some conversation about…”social justice” and “diversity” and “equity.”  Hang around the blogger’s cafe for a bit and tell me how much diversity you notice.  Sure, there are international folks and that’s awesome.  But, racial diversity?  Forget it.

I did a keyword search of the program and came up with the following results:

EQUITY – other than the Digital Equity Summit (which I’ve written about before), there are only two other instances of the word “equity” in the program.  One is for a session about “[r]ole playing a seventh to ninth grade student, participants will complete an inquiry activity using technology for supporting diverse learners.”  The other is about how the addition of interactive white boards have promoted classroom equity in one school district.  This is a joke and a crime.  Sorry.  That’s how I feel.

DIVIDE (looking for references to the digital divide) – appears two whole times in the program.  The first reference is for a session about the “digital divide” between what teachers and students can do with technology.  Give me a break.  The second reference is for a session I’m sorry I missed.  The session was about research showing what works for disadvantaged students.  Hooray for Dennis Harper, Generation Y with Trina Davis, Susanna Garza and Martha Peet.

JUSTICE (looking for references to social justice) – shows up twice but only because one workshop is being run twice.  In what sounds like a really interesting session, participants are asked to “[e]xplore the merger of social justice and technology by creating a podcast on the Civil Rights Memorial Center and learning from student producers.”  Nice.

DIVERSITYZero.  Zilcho.  NEVER appears in the program.

I’ve asked quite a few people I’ve spoken with either at the conference or out on the town if they watched Hard Times at Douglass High, the documentary that was all over HBO last week.  Not a single person I asked had seen the film.  How could that be?  How could there be so much attention on books like Here Comes Everybody and Wisdom of the Crowds (the author gave the keynote) and virtually no attention to an important film like Hard Times (and I don’t mean the Ridgemont High version)?

I DARE YOU to watch Hard Times (see preview below) and then to walk through the exhibit hall at NECC.  The conditions and consequences of poverty documented in the film stand in complete contrast to the glitz and excess of the exhibit hall.

Please people, how can we continue to talk about the pedagogical applications of Google Earth and how much we need to talk about how to do good presentations and, and, and?   And how can we continue to soak in the excess and the free giveaways when so many young people don’t have basic necessities of life.

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