Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Choices and Opportunities

Yesterday, my students had an excellent debate in class.  I posed the following questions:

For things to be equal, do they have to be the same?
Are there situations where it is ok for people to be treated unequally? Name these situations and explain why it is ok.

At first, many students said that, of course, "equal" and "same" are synonyms, so things that are equal must be the same.  But several students offered rebuttals to this thinking...

"I mean, think about in math.  A balanced algebraic equation has be be equal on both sides but the expressions don't have to be the same."

"What if a mother took her two children to the grocery store?  If one wants a chocolate cupcake and the other one wants a vanilla cupcake, they're receiving equal treats, but those cupcakes aren't the same."

"What about in school? We all deserve an equal chance to do well on a test, but some of us need glasses and stuff to have an equal chance.  That's not the same, but it's equal."

We've worked on Socratic, student-led discussion all year, so I had the wonderful opportunity to pose the original questions and then sit  back and listen to all of this thinking and debate.  As the conversation continued, each class eventually got to a place where they were debating what should be equal.

"Well we're all humans, so we should all be treated equally."

"Yeah, like equal rights, but not necessarily like equal things.  Wouldn't that be like socialism or something?"

"Right! America is a democracy.  We all work and go to college and stuff a different amount. But we all have equal choices to do that."

"And opportunity! We all should have equal opportunities in America!"

Guys, this exact conversation happened in one of my classes. It was like music to my ears, hearing them think beyond their initial thought, reason with each other, and come to new understandings together.  I totally agree with their final concensus.   We should all have equal opportunities and equal choices, and I think that those are things we should be able to guarantee.  Some people have to work really hard to take advantage of those equal opportunities, while others seem to have an easy road from the beginning, but those opportunities are there, regardless, waiting to be taken.

I feel like this conversation offered me a lot of wisdom, or at least some things I needed to hear.  Yesterday morning, my principal asked me if I had heard about the anti-Common Core demonstration at our state's capitol over the weekend.  I told her I had not, but I wasn't surprised by it.  Like I've said before, people love to hate change, and there's a lot of misinformation out there about the CCSS.  As the day went on, I began to think about that conversation in connection to my students' discussion.  All of those protesters have an equal opportunity and equal choice to be involved in the education of their children.  They can choose to go on defense, to exert lots of time, energy, and anger in their fight, or they could come across the battle lines. A colleague said to me yesterday, "Man, what if those people put all that time and energy into being in our classrooms and supporting our instruction! Think about the amazing things we could do together to help and support our kids."  What a lovely thought. Yes, we definitely all have equal choices and equal opportunities.  It's what we do with those choices and opportunities that can make all the difference

1 comment:

  1. Loved this! I always thoroughly enjoyed their Socratic discussions.