Giving Compass’ Take:
• Understanding why people are afraid, and helping them to understand why they shouldn’t be, can bring skeptics into the fold.
• Why are these discussions often combative? How can this productive method of discourse be spread?
North Dakota’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kirsten Baesler unpacks why some people in her community feel threatened by the word, and she describes the challenges school leaders face in implementing reforms to promote equity in their communities.
You’ve said there are people you know who have been left out of this conversation on equity because they feel that it is something that’s threatening to them. Explain how you’ve seen this play out and why that is.
I think in a lot of middle America there is that feeling that because things are changing so quickly, that that old way of life has been disappearing. There is a lot of fear and risk. People want to return to the days when everyone that looked like each other that looked like me had the same opportunities and were successful. Now that is being threatened, and I think that they feel that they haven’t achieved what they wanted to or what their father, their grandfather, grandmother, mother or grandmother did.
How do you tell someone who feels threatened by others advancing in society that their advancement does not have to come at the expense of someone else’s? Or does it?
Specifically for North Dakota, we have a severe employee shortage. So I say to all of the business owners, those that are being successful, those that are feeling threatened, to imagine what we could be as a state. We are not reaching our fullest potential in our industry, workforce, innovation, and creativity until we have 100 percent of our workforce pulling in the same direction. When we only have 80 percent, 77 percent or even 67 percent of our workforce fully educated and reaching their full capacity, we are operating at a deficit. I come at it from economic terms. Then they begin to understand. But each conversation is individual. I take time to understand why that person is feeling threatened, and then I counter with an argument of how it really would benefit.
Read the full interview with Kirsten Baesler on embracing equity by Jenny Abamu at EdSurge.
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