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Summer Blog Series: Visions of Throughput, or, the Equity Factory

Equity and Efficiency

Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley’s “Vision for Success” for California Community Colleges represents the most dramatic reform to the CCC system since the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education. To the Master Plan’s emphasis on open access, the Vision adds an ambitious focus on two new goals: achieving equity in completion rates for students from historically underrepresented groups and increasing the efficiency of the CCC system’s production of completions—degrees, certificates, etransfers, and specific, high-demand job skills. This conceptual coupling of equity and efficiency is the Vision’s core premise. It frames inequity in terms of inefficiency and it offers efficiency as the means to achieve equity.

But the Vision never defends or even inquires into this premise. The authors simply assume that the economic means of efficiency will achieve the political end of equity, and everything in the Vision follows from this. And so this assumption deserves critical scrutiny. In making it, the authors of the Vision, without acknowledging it, draw on core tenets of neoliberal ideology: that the public sector should model itself on the private sector, and so that political and social goods are best pursued by applying the economic laws, so-called, of the competitive marketplace. If we want equity, we should seek to produce it as if it were a good being produced for the market: with maximal efficiency, and the highest possible return on investment.

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Introducing the Pedagogy of Social Justice

This past spring, California community college faculty convened at Contra Costa College to discuss the “Pedagogy of Social Justice.” The conference featured workshops for advancing social justice in California community college instruction.  Diablo Valley College (DVC) professors of sociology and political science spearheaded one such workshop, urging faculty to consider “transformative possibilities” for themselves and their students. Sociologist Sanga Niyogi and political scientist Albert Ponce explained that “the goal of Social Justice pedagogy is to develop consciousness of injustices while empowering students with the tools to work towards justice.”

The conferences came on the heels of a concerted effort to integrate social justice into the educational aims of Contra Costa community colleges. For example, DVC approved a three-tier curriculum for a social justice program in conjunction with Rainbow Youth wherein community leaders attend as guest speakers and students report on observations of campus learning communities as well as perform fifteen to twenty hours of service for a community agency. During the 2019-20 academic year, DVC will also offer “Introduction to Social Justice,” engaging with a spectrum of “intersections” between gender and sexuality, racial injustice, art, music, history, and equity. For Janice Townsend, who helped craft the Los Medanos College social justice proposal, “Social Justice is about making the world a better place, it’s about empowerment, not just about the history of yourself. It connects you to others, affinity of the things we all differ, and share in common, as humans.”

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