What Covid-19 Teaches Us About Educational Inequity
by Asia Peters, AmeriCorps VISTA
As we approach the beginning of a new school year that is sure to be unlike any before it, Outside the Lens is thinking about innovative, responsive solutions to our classrooms. Amari Dixon, one of our core Media Educators, offered her perspective on Covid-19’s impact on education and what we can learn from it, emphasizing the need to repair the ever-growing opportunity gap in our classrooms and communities.
When asked to address the challenges she recognizes as an educator, Amari started by pointing out that Covid-19 highlights many inequities that were already a problem before the pandemic began. The most important, she believes, is “ What students have access to is different… some still don’t have laptops,” which makes virtual learning very difficult, if not impossible. She is concerned that lack of access to technology at individual schools, usually in low-income areas, will exacerbate the growing digital divide among the schools we serve.
“Representation matters. Our teachers should represent the student body and the rest of the world,” Amari asserted, adamant that non-white and non-binary underrepresentation in teachers slights students’ education. She then pointed out that the traditional public school curriculum barely touches on the history of “Native American People, Black People, LGBTQ+ People...” and most other marginalized groups. If the educational system’s objective is to raise well-informed decision-makers, critical thinkers, and “better humans, “ we need to educate young people on the truth of the past, the truth of today, and the truth of people who look like them.”
In the spirit of Outside the Lens, Amari proceeded to consider what opportunities and possibilities digital media brings to education. She reflected that since classes have gone virtual, some students are more willing to “express themselves without fear of judgment.” Whether this is a reaction to the buffer of a screen, a reduction in distractions from other classmates, or having more time to dedicate to their studies, “it has been very inspiring and beautiful.” As one of several Digital Media Educators at Outside the Lens, Amari said it has also “forced us to look at creating art differently…” and presented the opportunity to show students “that you don’t have to have the most expensive equipment to create.”
That is the silver lining, but Amari warned that the negative impacts of Covid-19, particularly on students from low-income families, outweigh the positives, and we should not forget this. She concluded by reiterating that inclusivity and representation are the keys to improving our educational system. She hopes that because “Covid-19 has pushed these discrepancies to light after being brushed over for so long…” we will finally start to see the change necessary for progress, innovation, and equity in education.
Check out this animation by Evan Apodaca, to showcase how we are striving to support this change.