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Educational Debt: What is specifically owed?

couldntthinkofanoriginalname's picture

For two days now, I have been thinking about the term, "eduactional gap" mentioned in Girl Time. I think it is a more accurate term than the acheivement gap. I have always disliked this term because it implies that this gap, which never seems to closes, is the fault of the students who are "low-acheiving." It implies, much like in Haney with the female offenders, that it is the responsibility of the student to make up the difference. I used to be all for individualism, which Meiners mentions, but now I see how our society's mindset on individualism can obscure reality and make people believe that the conditions of their lives, good or bad, are a result of their own actions...or lack of action. When, in fact, systems of oppression play a huge, and yet distant, factor in everyone's lives whether to an advantage or disadvantage. I 100% agree that the gap in our education is actually a collection of overdue debts, particularly to inner-city youth. However, as I write this, I am not sure about what exactly is owed us--yep, that includes me--to succeed. What kind of reformation needs to happen? And is it the responsibility of the students who are negatively impacted by the "gap" to make change? This debt that we speak of is more than money, it is SO big--it's like asking to undo the history of racism! This seems highly impossible even though I really want to be optimistic.



couldntthinkofanoriginalname's picture

Hmmm...Great Question

I was thinking reparation because I think it means more than financial debt but it still sounds like something is owed. However, I don't see the word debt in this case as further embedding us into "a structure of social capitalism where some people just deserve things more than others on the basis of race, class, etc." Giving marginalized students what they deserve is not hierarchical, it is leveling them onto the same playing field...finally. Does this make sense?

360 Love,


jccohen's picture

more on the education debt

Here's a link to the speech/article where Gloria Ladson-Billings lays out the idea of 'education debt' rather than 'achievement gap':

I definitely appreciate this reframing of 'achievement gap,' which I too see as an ongoing way to blame urban young people for the inequities and institutions that get in the way of their education.  And it's a great question about how the reconceptualization of an 'education debt' might really help us intervene in meaningful ways... I think she gives some clues in her speech and/but this is also an invitation, I think, for others -- and I do mean us -- to take this up and move it forward!

ishin's picture

If not debt, then what else?

That one phrase has stuck with me as well.  Personally, the bitterness has to do with the diction choice.  I'm not entirely opposed to using engrained metaphors based in economy and capitalism ("I need to spend my time wisely"), but "educational debt" left me with a sour taste in my mouth--like someone (i.e. people of privilege) should pay up for the damage done, should be punished in some way, should suffer the same things you and many others have gone through.

By no means did you present yourself to mean that "people should be punished".  In fact, I think you, I and everyone in our 360 are still grappling with the same issue: what measures should be implemented to give inner-city youth educations that don't streamline them over to prison.  I do find myself more secure in saying that I don't think it's appropriate to necessarily think of it in terms of debt.  To do so would only further embed us into a structure of social capitalism where some people just deserve things more than others on the basis of race, class, etc.

What to call it besides educational debt is something I want to think about a little more.