Monday, October 4, 2021

The Language of Inclusion and Equity


As we increase the dialogue around inclusion and equity, it is important that we examine the language and terms that we are using. Below are some terms that we often use as synonyms followed by their definitions and differences, courtesy of Karen Pittman and the Forum for Youth Investment (FYI). She later offers some of her thoughts on this. To read her full article, click here.

Equality | Equity. Equality is a good goal given where we are, but it is not at all a sufficient one. Equity is achieved when all kids have a shot at getting the essentials they need to succeed because 1) the differences in their starting points have been taken into account, and 2) the systemic or institutional barriers to their success have been addressed. People often use a baseball analogy to get at equality vs. equity. Equity is achieved when the playing field is leveled and the fences are taken down, providing young people with real opportunities to get into the game. 

Access | Quality. Access is necessary, but far from sufficient and sometimes harmful. Providing young people with opportunities to get into the game is only useful if these opportunities are appropriately structured to support youth success. Opportunities that are mismatched to youth’s capacities and motivations significantly reduce the chance that young people feel that they matter and want to put in the effort to master the game. 

Completion | Readiness. Grades and diplomas have become necessary tickets for youth success, but they are not sufficient. 40 percent of employers report that high school graduates lack the competencies they need to succeed at entry-level jobs – such as responsibility, initiative, problem- solving, teamwork and a strong work ethic. When learning opportunities lead too heavily with content and don’t create safe and engaging contexts, youth may gain rote knowledge but miss the opportunity to name, practice and master the skillsets and mindsets that economists now confirm are more important for adult success than academic grades. 

Readiness, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as 1) being willing to do something, and 2) being prepared to do something. This dual definition is important. To embrace the opportunities and survive the challenges that come their way, young people need to be willing and prepared to tackle things they cannot anticipate. This means that every opportunity to learn new content (e.g., how to bake a pie, hit a double, build an engine) is also an opportunity to use the skills and knowledge they have. Young people who “hit the wall” when trying to learn something new have not only internalized the idea that they can’t learn, they have missed the opportunity to use and improve the skills employers are looking for.
Young people who have repeatedly hit the wall and found that no one notices, no one is surprised, or no one helps, tune out, act out or drop out. Ultimately, they lose out on opportunities they could easily have been prepared for. The cost to them, and to the country, is absurdly large. This is not just because these young people are more likely to earn less or stray into trouble more. It is because these young people are the ones best suited to change the odds in their communities. They are willing, if asked. They can be ready, if supported. History shows that they are able. 

To tackle the country’s readiness problem, we also have to address equity issues. And when the path to readiness goes through quality, young people not only build skills and competencies, they develop a sense of agency and a sense of urgency to take action to change the odds for themselves and their communities.  

Karen J. Pittman
served as the President & CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment (FYI) until February 2021 then transitioned to a senior fellow role to dedicate more of her time and energy to thought leadership. FYI is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan “action tank” that combines thought leadership on youth development, youth policy, cross-system/cross-sector partnerships and developmental youth practice with on-the-ground training, technical assistance and support. Karen is a respected sociologist and leader in youth development. Prior to co-founding the Forum in 1998, she launched adolescent pregnancy prevention initiatives at the Children’s Defense Fund, started the Center for Youth Development and Policy Research, and served as senior vice president at the International Youth Foundation. She was involved in the founding of America’s Promise and directed the President’s Crime Prevention Council during the Clinton administration.

We are hosting a webinar/ Speaker's Forum on Wednesday, October 6, 2021 from 10:00am- 12:00pm (PST) entitled, Youth Civic Engagement and Activism in Afterschool. The purpose of this webinar is to inform and encourage expanded learning programs to offer youth opportunities to be civically engaged. It is our intention to capture and share valuable and intriguing ideas and information. To learn more and register, click the banner below.

We are hosting another webinar/ Speaker’s Forum on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 from 10:00am- 12:00pm (PST) entitled, Engaging Youth as Workers in Afterschool. The purpose of this webinar is to inform and encourage afterschool programs to offer youth opportunities to serve as workers within these programs. It is our intention to capture and share valuable and intriguing ideas and information to help programs enlist youth as workers. To learn more and register, click the banner below.

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