by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director
“You’re a girl; you don’t need to take calculus.”
I’ve never forgotten those words stated by my high school counselor when I inquired about registering for calculus my senior year. That was then. I didn’t even question the statement. Not taking calculus in high school probably closed some doors for me, but other doors — education and psychology – opened.
Many decades have passed since then. Legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sex or “…any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual[i]” has opened doors to more opportunities for more people. We are all better off because of those legalities. Nevertheless, much work remains concerning nondiscrimination, societal racism, and social justice. Furthermore, we have not fully addressed the most significant issue facing students, families, and educators: inequality in educational programming, especially in access to gifted education. The gifted programming inequalities in schools nationwide are society’s way of saying, “You’re a _________; you don’t need access to gifted programming.” Educators, researchers, and psychologists can do better.
This spring, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) dedicated an entire issue of their flagship journal, Gifted Child Quarterly, to equity in gifted education. I applaud my colleagues who contributed to that special issue, which catalyzed the entire field to reflect and act. We can all make a difference in addressing this pernicious problem in education, which reflects a broader problem related to discrimination and lack of respect for diversity. At the Belin-Blank Center, we continuously aspire to offer services and programming focused on talent development through our student programs and professional development opportunities. We seek to recognize the strengths and potential of a diverse student population more fully.
As a high school junior, I didn’t know then the impact of being excluded from an educational opportunity based on one educator’s bias about girls and advanced math. Now I recognize that that experience was the entry point to a career as an educator, administrator, and researcher dedicated to ensuring that we extend opportunities to all who would benefit from them.
Bias, whether implicit or explicit, leads to exclusion and discrimination that has long-term consequences. It denies marginalized communities and people opportunities that would positively contribute to their lives and to society. Each of us has the power to chip away at discrimination through our words and our actions.
There has been improvement for some, but there is much more to do. I have hope because of a new generation of educators. This generation has greater awareness of the vastness of human potential, which we should not limit based on “classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual.” As we look to the future, professional educators must ensure that inclusion and equity become focal points of practice and policy. We aim to lead the way.
[i] The University of Iowa prohibits discrimination in employment, educational programs, and activities on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, associational preferences, or any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual. The university also affirms its commitment to providing equal opportunities and equal access to university facilities. For additional information on nondiscrimination policies, contact the Director, Office of Institutional Equity, the University of Iowa, 202 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242-1316, 319-335-0705, email@example.com.