Perils of Democracy Change Series: Making Education More Equitable
“What were some of the highlights from the talk that resonated with you? “How can you advocate in your classrooms, on campus, in your communities, to bring about more equity in higher education?” “What concerns do you have?” (350-700 minimum word count)
I’ve been a fan of Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom for a looong time on Instagram, so I was very excited to attend this event. Her Instagram and Twitter posts often enlighten me and push me to think beneath the surface of higher education. She has me in tears both good and bad. I hadn’t heard of Dr. Carla Shedd before the talk, however, her insight on primary education was enlightening.
Something that resonated with me was a comment from Dr. Cottom. She iterated that generally, colleges and universities do not encourage the public’s population or lend itself to the public in any way. Therefore, we don’t have the idea that college belongs to all of us. Resistance to having higher education be accessible is tied to the idea that a level playing field is not conducive to a capitalist system. Dr. Shed pointed out that community colleges stand out in this regard. Community colleges offer classes to the public and are accessible to people who would otherwise be discouraged from higher education. This resonated with me greatly because of my experience at BMCC. I grew as a person and student there, and I found that most of my professors were very invested in our enrichment as people, not just students. The campus was very diverse in race, ethnicity, age, and education level. There was immense support for me as someone coming in with a low GPA. I was referred to the Futures Initiative by my sociology professor at BMCC. I think community colleges can be a blueprint for the institution of higher education at large. As Dr. Shed pointed out, accessibility is important, however, the point should always be economic mobility regardless of their initial socioeconomic status.
At an early age, my parents expected me to go to college. They always framed having a degree as a tool that I needed to utilize as opposed to expecting a degree to magically open doors. Black women are the most educated demographic in the U.S.yet earn 61 cents to the dollar compared to White men. According to the National Women’s Law Center, “Black women’s share of the high-wage workforce—jobs that pay more than $48 per hour, or about $100,000 annually—is less than half their representation in the overall workforce.” With this in mind, I advocate for myself and peers by centering on the needs and perspectives of students. I also encourage students to actualize their power in the University, despite efforts to diminish the student’s voice. Kashema and Lauren exposed me to the concept of student-centered pedagogy and the fact that knowledge is developed from the bottom up. Students should have the freedom to shape their education and learning journeys because students are not passive agents. We absorb knowledge in a multitude of spaces outside the campus and we have unique needs regarding why we choose to pursue higher education.