Structural Ideology

Educators with a structural ideology understand that educational outcome disparities are dominantly the result of structural barriers, the logical if not purposeful outcome of inequitable distributions of opportunity and access in and out of school (Gorski 2016b).

Poverty and the ideological imperative: a call to unhook from deficit and grit ideology and to strive for structural ideology in teacher education: Journal of Education for Teaching: Vol 42, No 4

This is equity literacy: having the knowledge that a commitment to equity requires us to ask these questions and then having the will to ask them. There is no path to equity literacy that does not include the adoption of a structural ideology because there is no way to cultivate equity through an ideological standpoint, like deficit or grit ideology, that is formulated to discourage direct responses to inequity.

Poverty and the ideological imperative: a call to unhook from deficit and grit ideology and to strive for structural ideology in teacher education: Journal of Education for Teaching: Vol 42, No 4

There is no path to inclusive design that does not involve direct confrontation with injustice. “If a direct confrontation of injustice is missing from our strategies or initiatives or movements, that means we are recreating the conditions we’re pretending to want to destroy.” Structural ideology — an ideology shared by intersectionality, the social mode of disability, and design for real life – is necessary to good design.

‘Everybody works hard?’ one student asked timidly. ‘There must be more to the story than hard work?’ another proposed.

With this we began our exploration on socioeconomically based educational outcome disparities and how to eliminate them.

Poverty and the ideological imperative: a call to unhook from deficit and grit ideology and to strive for structural ideology in teacher education: Journal of Education for Teaching: Vol 42, No 4

In this article I explore the educational equity implications of three popular ideological positions that drive teachers’ and teacher educators’understandings of, and responses to, poverty and economic injustice in schools: deficit ideology, grit ideology, and structural ideology. The educator’s ideological position, I illustrate, determines their understandings of conditions such as socio-economic-based outcome disparities. Those understandings, in turn, determine the extent to which the strategies they can imagine have the potential to eliminate or mitigate those disparities. I then argue that teacher education for equity and economic justice must equip pre- and in-service educators with a structural ideology of poverty and economic injustice, based on a sophisticated understanding of relationships between structural inequalities and educational outcome disparities, rather than a deficit or grit ideology, both of which obscure structural inequalities and, as a result, render educators ill-equipped to enact equitable and just teaching, leadership and advocacy.

‘Everybody works hard?’one student asked timidly.‘There must be more to the story than hard work?’ another proposed.

With this we began our exploration on socioeconomically based educational outcome disparities and how to eliminate them.

In this essay, I draw on the principles of equity literacy (Gorski 2016a; Gorski and Swalwell 2015; Swalwell 2011) in order to demonstrate what my students and I began to uncover in class that day. The students were not lacking desire to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to create equitable learning environments for their future students. nor, thanks to their more methods-oriented coursework, were they short on practical strategies or ideas for solving the ‘achievement gap’. The trouble, instead, was that a majority of the students had been socialised to fundamentally misunderstand poverty and its impact on educational outcome disparities. as a result, despite good intentions, the strategies they were capable of imagining – trendy instructional interventions, the cultivation of grit in students experiencing poverty, programmes designed to encourage higher levels of parent involvement by economically marginalised families – sidestepped completely the causes of the disparities they felt desperate to redress. The trouble was not dispositional or practical. Instead it was ideological, borne of faulty belief systems that, if not reshaped, would undermine their potentials to be the equitable teachers they hoped to be.

With this in mind, my purpose is to argue that when it comes to issues surrounding poverty and economic justice the preparation of teachers must be first and foremost an ideological endeavour, focused on adjusting fundamental understandings not only about educational outcome disparities but also about poverty itself. I will argue that it is only through the cultivation of what I call a structural ideology of poverty and economic justice that teachers become equity literate (Gorski 2013), capable of imagining the sorts of solutions that pose a genuine threat to the existence of class inequity in their classrooms and schools. After a brief clarification of my case for the importance of ideology, I begin by describing deficit ideology, the dominant ideological position about poverty that is informed in the US and elsewhere by the myth of meritocracy (Mcnamee and Miller 2009), and its increasingly popular ideological offshoot, grit ideology (Gorski 2016b). after explicating these ideological positions and how they mis- direct interpretations of poverty and its implications, I describe structural ideology, an ideological position through which educators understand educational outcome disparities in the context of structural injustice and the unequal distribution of access and opportunity that underlies poverty (Gorski 2016a). I end by sharing three self-reflective questions designed to help me assess the extent to which my teacher education practice reflect the structural view.

On the other end of the continuum are people who tend to understand poverty and issues such as the family involvement disparity as logical, if unjust, outcomes of economic injustice, exploitation, and inequity. adherents to a structural ideology (Gorski 2016b), they are likely to define gaps in in-school family involvement as interrelated with the inequities with which people experiencing poverty contend. So, recognising people experiencing poverty as targets, rather than causes, of these unjust conditions, they might understand lower rates of in-school involvement as a symptom of in-school and out-of-school conditions that limit their abilities to participate at the same rates as their wealthier peers. These conditions, such as families’ lack of access to transportation or schools’ practices of scheduling opportunities for in-school involvement in ways that make them less accessible to people who work evenings (as economically marginalised people are more likely than their wealthier peers to do) are rendered invisible by the deficit view.

Poverty and the ideological imperative: a call to unhook from deficit and grit ideology and to strive for structural ideology in teacher education: Journal of Education for Teaching: Vol 42, No 4

These conditions … are rendered invisible by the deficit view.

Poverty and the ideological imperative: a call to unhook from deficit and grit ideology and to strive for structural ideology in teacher education: Journal of Education for Teaching: Vol 42, No 4

The Direct Confrontation Principle: There is no path to equity that does not involve a direct confrontation with inequity. There is no path to racial equity that does not involve a direct confrontation with interpersonal, institutional, and structural racism. “Equity” approaches that fail to directly confront inequity play a significant role in sustaining inequity.

The “Poverty of Culture” Principle: Inequities are primarily power and privilege problems, not primarily cultural problems. Equity requires power and privilege solutions, not just cultural solutions. Frameworks that attend to diversity purely in vague cultural terms, like the “culture of poverty,” are no threat to inequity.

The Prioritization Principle: Each policy and practice decision should be examined through the question, “How will this impact the most marginalized members of our community?” Equity is about prioritizing their interests.

The “Fix Injustice, Not Kids” Principle: Educational outcome disparities are not the result of deficiencies in marginalized communities’ cultures, mindsets, or grittiness, but rather of inequities. Equity initiatives focus, not on fixing marginalized people, but on fixing the conditions that marginalize people.

Basic Principles for Equity Literacy

In the U.S., we have become so accepting of the fact that poverty is not a symptom of a grossly unequal economy, or the result of numerous systemic failures, or the product of years of trickle-down economics, but instead, that the only thing standing between a poor person and the life of their dreams is their own decisions, their own choices, and their own failures.

If You’ve Never Lived In Poverty, Stop Telling Poor People What To Do

1. Money doesn’t have to be an obstacle

2. Race doesn’t matter

3. Just work harder

4. There is a college for everyone/everyone can go to college

5. If you believe in yourself, your dreams will come true

Taken together, the five assumptions listed above can be dangerous because they reinforce the deeply held American belief that success is individually created and sustained. “If I could do it, so can you” is an echo of the “just work harder” assumption. It is the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” ethos to which so many generations of Americans adhere. Yet data repeatedly show how poverty, social class, race, and parents’ educational attainment more directly influence an individual’s success and potential earnings than any individual effort. We clearly do not yet have a level playing field, but this belief is all but impossible to challenge. Whenever we hear of another bootstraps story, we want to generalize. We disregard the fact that luck often plays a major role. And in generalizing and celebrating the individual nature of success, we disregard the imperative to rethink social and economic policies that leave many behind.

Nathan, Linda F.. When Grit Isn’t Enough: A High School Principal Examines How Poverty and Inequality Thwart the College-for-All Promise (p. 6, p. 8). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.

Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic parent and retired tech worker. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they

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