Pedagogical Poison: a Critical Analysis of Equity

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As a teacher of twelve years, I’m familiar with the obfuscatory language educators often use to repackage Critical Social Justice in a more palatable form for public consumption. One word that perfectly captures this phenomenon, which I know many of you have likely received a condescending lecture on, is ‘equity.’ Yes, THAT word. The word from which questions concerning will inspire a convoluted orientation into the Newspeak of the progressive Left. Equity- teachers will tell you- is very different from equality and is fundamentally rooted in a doctrine of fairness for our students. No, it’s not possible to take issue with the underlying ideology of equity, you misunderstand it, they will tell you.

As a history teacher, I have a deep respect for the etymology of words; after all, the power of language is in our ability to communicate meaning clearly. The more precise language conveys universal meaning, the better it facilitates dialogues. However, the “Woke Newspeak” of the Left advances a different purpose: to constrain and control meaning. How is this done? Through a process in which existing words are hijacked, redefined, imbued with value, and socially policed. New meaning is packaged within the shell of an existing word, thereby obfuscating an idea for political purposes. By losing the old language, we become disconnected from old ideas, and in our adoption of their new language, we are corralled into regime-affirming dialogues.

Despite attempts to distort the meaning of the word ‘equity,’ it is synonymous with equality. The Middle English word equity derives from the Old French word equité, which the French created based upon the Latin word ‘aequitas.’! And what does ‘aequitas’ translate to from Latin? Fairness and equality. So, no, you are not confused when you interpret equity to be a synonym for equality; it quite literally is.

What the Woke Newspeak has done with this word is what they do best with our vocabulary: hijacking existing words for their purposes and imbuing them with ideological meaning. Equity, they will tell you, is very different from equality. Equity, they argue, is not about being equal (even though that is what it means) but being “fair” And what is fair? Despite being another synonym for “equal,” the word “fair” itself takes us down the labyrinthine rabbit hole of their neo-language. “Fairness,” as they understand it, is ideologically significant and rooted in the Marxist tradition of “justice”: according to one’s needs. We know this because the Woke have themselves argued for an understanding of equity in which each student “gets what they need to succeed.” Equity, in many ways, is simply a neologism to describe the Marxist maxim “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” 

As with all things, there exist kernels of truth in their words. People are individuals with unique abilities and needs, and what one person requires to perform may be very different from another. Yet we have never argued against or sought to dismantle IEPs or Advanced Placement classes, so why do school districts feel the sudden urge for “equity?” It is because a revolutionary class consciousness has awoken in our profession, followed by a realization of the efficiency of public education as a vehicle to test and advance radical ideologies and their prescriptive policies.

Let me emphatically state that equity is a radical collectivist philosophy at its core. The origins of equity as an idea are not, as may be suggested, based upon American individualism, rather the unholy fusion of Marxist classism and neo-racialism that views individuals not as meaningfully distinct units but as inheritors of racial dynasties with their own unique needs and abilities. These racial dynasties inherit certain privileges and disadvantages based upon their histories. The gross advantage or burden presented by their privileges or disadvantages determines whether they occupy the station of the oppressive old guard or the revolutionary new guard. These stations, in turn, serve to inform policymakers what the abilities and needs of the group are, who can then construct and institute more “equitable” policies.

What does equity look like as a policy?  How do we know that equity is a collectivist philosophy that makes “needs-based” decisions for entire demographics? We can find the answer within the historical record of “equitable policies!” Consider, for example, the controversy and lawsuit surrounding Harvard’s admissions policies, where the admissions office held Asian students to a more stringent admissions standard than Black students. It did not matter whether a disabled Asian student from an impoverished family was competing for a spot with an upper-class black athlete from a wealthy family, the “equitable” decision did not consider individual differences, but racial ones.  These racial differences were based on a world construct that views blacks as inherently disadvantaged, thus having greater needs, and Asians more advantaged, having fewer needs.

What is particularly revealing about the dialogue concerning equity is the level of dishonesty it presents from its proponents. I began by describing the language of educators as purposefully obfuscatory, and that bears reminding because I believe these ideologues require a deliberately convoluted and esoteric language through which to communicate ideological meaning without rousing the suspicions of communities. If school district equity Tsars advocate for and advance racial Marxism through their policies, they should be honest about it and invite the public to discuss and debate the merit of their ideas. They have done to add to the mounting frustrations the public has with my profession by using language to convey understanding and meaning between themselves that is presented to the public euphemistically. Good ideas do not fear debate or scrutiny, and any word that requires this level of analysis to uncover its true meaning should be highly suspect. As for me? I believe it is pedagogical poison.

Frank McCormick
Frank McCormick is a teacher, writer, and historian. He has taught for over ten years in both public and private educational settings. During the summer of 2021, he decided to publicly speak out against what he saw as the ideological infiltration of Woke politics in public education. He created a blog and various social media profiles to get his message out to connect with other teachers and parents willing to fight back. He has become known under the moniker "Chalkboard Heresy" because he described his heterodox educational views as heretical to the Woke academic orthodoxy.