Is equality enough?

پکیج: TED Education / سرفصل: سخنرانی های دانش آموزان / درس 3

TED Education

13 سرفصل | 232 درس

Is equality enough?

توضیح مختصر

We all think we want equality in education, right? But can equality be unfair? In this thought-provoking talk, Olivia Chapman introduces us to the difference between equality and equity, and she prompts us to consider whether some situations call for "fairness" rather than "sameness." About the speaker- Olivia loves school, but recently realized that school is one of the best examples of negative equality. One of her greatest passions is writing poems and she hopes to become an occupational therapist or at least have a job in the medical field. She gave this Talk at TED-Ed Weekend. To find out more about TED-Ed Weekend, go here- To start a TED-Ed Club at your school, visit

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Equality is one of the most influential and powerful words in the development of what our society is today. It is a word that represents fairness. A word that signifies justice. A concept that people have fought for and that has revolutionized our global culture in innumerable ways. Today, I challenge you to consider a different side of equality, one that isn’t always positive. My question today is can this amazing concept of equality have another side? Can equality ever be unfair? If you were to look at America about 150 years ago, you would find that it was radically different from the America we know today. For example, this was a time where women were expected to wear a large hoop skirt and a very tight corset. A time when lower-class women were expected to have a labor-intensive job such as a servant, a factory worker, domestic help, etc. Middle and upper-class women were expected to either help with the family business or to become a homemaker. This idea of equality inspired both women and men alike to start a revolution that would come to completely change the face of society for the better. Let’s take a look at Mother Teresa. Born August 26, 1910, Saint Teresa of Calcutta was accepted into the Loreto Convent in Dublin, Ireland at the age of 18. From there, she was sent to India. Although she was not an American, in 1999, she was voted by Americans as “The Most Admired Person of the 20th Century.” Her goal in life was to provide help to the helpless, home to the homeless, love to the lonely. In her words, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for a smile is the beginning of love.” Through her work, she advocated for the rights of the people whom society had deemed unworthy. She dedicated herself entirely to her goal and by doing so, became one of the most respected and beloved people ever to live. And she was a woman. Amelia Earhart. She was the first female aviator to ever fly solo over the Atlantic Ocean. Did you know that Earhart was so admired by the public that people would write her and tell her that they would name things, such as children, lakes, and even sometimes homing pigeons Amelia after her? Earhart once said, “women must try to do things as men have tried. And if they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others.” These amazing women are just two examples of the many people throughout history who not only broke stereotypes, but demolished them. They completely destroyed the idea that women weren’t strong enough or qualified enough to change the world. Now women’s rights is no doubt one of the first things to come to mind when thinking of equality. It rightfully gives us a sense of pride and accomplishment. This brings us back to the question of how can equality possibly be unfair? Let’s take a moment to compare the word Equality with the word Equity. As you can see, both words have the same prefix that means equal. And at first, you may notice the only difference between these words is two letters, “a” and “l”. I’m here today to tell you that those two letters make all the difference. If we break through the layer that is the “a” and the “l” we realize that equality and equity have about as much in common as left and right. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that equality is a bad thing, rather that it’s not the best option for every situation, such as this one. Personally, this is one of the most powerful images I’ve ever seen. It beautifully illustrates a concept so hard to explain. As we can see, equality represents sameness, which in some situations is a great thing. Equity, on the other hand, represents fairness, which in all situations is the best thing. When each child gets the same number of boxes, not everyone can see. But when each child gets the amount of boxes they need, all three children are able to see over the fence. My father is a special education science teacher and has been for the last eleven years. He says that the very first thing he has to do is determine what the students’ current levels of educational functioning are, and from that, he can modify their assignments and their exams to fit their current needs. He says that he views his job as leveling the playing field to set every student up for success. Leveling the playing field. In my perspective, to level the playing field means to give every student the opportunities and tools to compete as equals in the game of life. Now, this not only applies to special education students, but to gifted students as well. Research shows that roughly 18-25% of gifted people are underachievers. They simply quit trying because nothing they do leads to any measurable success or satisfaction. And in my opinion, this is unacceptable. School is supposed to be a place to learn and to grow. But not all students grow well in the same conditions. Oddly enough, neither do plants. A cactus can store water for long periods of time. It doesn’t need much of any attention, and it is very large and very strong. An orchid, on the other hand, is a small, delicate flower that needs the precise temperature and amount of water in order to survive. So, if you were to plant an orchid in the same environment as a cactus and expect them both to bloom, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Likewise, if you plant students in the same classroom environment, and expect them all to flourish, you’ll once again be disappointed. Not taking the time to think about every student as an individual is like telling a flower that it’s not beautiful and that it doesn’t deserve to bloom because its petals aren’t the exact same shape or color as all the other flowers. But really, if you think about it, no two children or flowers are exactly alike. Imagine, instead, if schools were focused on equity rather than on equality, on providing the students with what they need rather than teaching everybody the same way. I strongly believe that the learning environment should reflect the learning diversity among all students in all schools. At my school, I’m in a class where we have the opportunity to learn in whatever way best helps us to understand. If you could see us on a normal day, you might see some students standing, some sitting alone at a computer with headphones in, some working in a small group, and maybe even some working with the teacher who is helping them. Now, to create this situation in every classroom wouldn’t be easy at all. It would take extra time, extra effort, and extra manpower, but in the end, leveling the playing field would instill self-confidence in the students and help them to achieve their full potential to shine bigger and brighter than ever. My message for each and every one of you today is not to overlook those two seemingly insignificant letters because though they are small, they represent the difference between equality and equity, between fairness and sameness. And my question is what flower doesn’t deserve to bloom? Thank you.

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