Equity, Equality or Justice


Centennial as a school this year has been focusing on creating a culture of inclusivity and equity. This has been important not only among students, but staff as well. Mary Mannon, along with other teachers, have been working for years to understand and help spread equity through the halls of Centennial. When describing equity vs equality, equity is the idea that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome for the individual. Equality is when each individual is given the same resources and opportunities as another, thus becoming equal. Think back to 6th grade when your mind would wander around the classroom to a poster you teacher had- three kids at a baseball game all different heights. Making them equal, you would give each of them one box to stand on to be able to see the baseball game. The one who is the tallest of the group has the most advantage being able to see the whole game with or without the box. The shortest of the group still could not see the game with or without the box. That description was equality. Equity is the shortest being given the boxes they need to see the game, whereas the tallest is not given a box because they can already see the game with or without the box. This is equity. Equity is more equal than equality. The idea is that people are given what they need to succeed.

I was able to interview Mary Mannen in regards to discussing what a culture of inclusivity at Centennial would look like among the halls at this school. Mannen is a teacher here at Centennial; she is an ELA teacher in room 108. She has been involved in the school’s equity team for the last 8 years. The equity team has been around for over 10 years. With the help of Portland State and Lewis and Clarke, five teachers joined a year and half long class in an intensive learning of race and culture. Bringing the information given at these meetings back to the school to help colleagues and students understand equity and diversity. Those that were in the program and that helped run the equity team felt as though students needed a voice and opinion on what diversity looks like in the building. Mannen mentioned the importance of student voices and how teachers don’t know what is going on and vice versa, students don’t always know what’s going on. With the team of equity involving students, students’ voices will be heard more. Mannen mentioned she would love to see more representation of students within the team, with more representation of students in different cultural groups. The most important thing and mission to the equity group is how they can make the halls of Centennial safe and have equity.

To discuss my own personal connection to what equity means to me, I would say I feel as though [Justice] should be what we as a humanity and school should be focusing on. Teaching equity in school is great, but justice is better. Like I said, the difference between [Equity] and [Equality] are similar in the way that both parties are either getting the same amount, or an amount that would help both parties be successful. [Justice] is looking at both parties and coming up with solutions to make both equal. To explain this, imagine there is a tree with apples and two people picking them. One side of the tree has more apples than the other because it is leaning to that side. [EQUALITY] would be each person is given the same length of ladder. Problem is, the one on the left side of the tree can’t reach the apples and the one on the right can reach the apples perfectly causing injustice; this being because the one on the right side of the tree has the perfect length of ladder to reach whereas the other side does not. That is [Equality], only one party is successful. [EQUITY] would be if the person on the left side of the tree has a taller ladder than the person on the right now able to reach the tree and apples. But another problem has risen. The tree is leaning more to the right, thus the person on the right still has more apples. This is still not being equal to either side. [JUSTICE] is the idea of problem solving. To solve the problem in this situation, you would cut down the tree. Both parties are now able to get an equal amount of apples. [Justice] is more equal than [Equality] or [Equity] combined. That is why I think schools should be focusing more on getting proper justice than equity.