Equity and Access: Questions and Issues
Historically, educational institutions have established special
"affirmative action" programs to promote diversity for many different
As these programs are under attack in many forums, it is appropriate to
re-examine these rationales. The motivations for programs that promote
equity and access in mathematics education are often different from those
expressed in support of programs at an institutional level. The following
questions may help disentangle issues of special importance in mathematics
from those that apply as well to education in its broadest sense.
- Restitution--to remedy past wrongs;
- Enrichment--to enhance the educational environment;
- Fairness--to assure equitable opportunities;
- Empowerment--to achieve equitable outcomes;
- Civic--to prepare a multi-cultural society;
- Professional--to strengthen teaching and the professions.
Questions for Mathematics Education:
- What is the rationale for special efforts to achieve diversity in
- Is there any difference in the way mathematics is learned or taught
in a class that is ethnically and culturally diverse from one that is not?
- Do students from different ethnic backgrounds bring anything
distinctive to the study of mathematics?
- Is mathematics really as objective and culture-neutral as people
- Are there lessons that schools can learn from the experience
of universities in increasing minority persistence in
mathematics, science, and engineering?
- What can schools do to help business better meet its need for a
diverse work force?
Question for State and Local Policy:
- Does equity require equality of opportunity or equality of outcomes?
Is equality of access sufficient?
- What have we learned from two decades of effort to achieve equity for
minorities in mathematical and scientific fields?
- What are the implications for access and equity of the rapid erosion
of support (both public and legal) for affirmative action?
- What are the implications of the devolution of authority for
educational access and equity from federal to state to local agencies?
To add your voice to this discussion, e-mail comments, letters, and op-ed
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Last Update: 07/06/96