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Equity Shmekwity

Sometimes I really wonder what people are thinking.

Last week I was having a great time going through the data from the CSTA Member Satisfaction Survey when I saw a comment that rocked me back on my heels. It said "NO MORE "EQUITY" ARTICLES!!! Its time to move on and focus on important issues."

I was astounded. This was clearly someone who cares passionately about computer science education, someone who understands that it is important. Why would she or he not care that young women and minority students are rejecting our discipline en mass. Why would it not matter to this person, just in terms of his or her own job security, that a huge portion of the population believes there is no place in this discipline for them?

I am not going to repeat all of the statistics here. We all know that fewer women and non-Asian minority students write the computer science AP exam than write any other science AP. We all know that women are still highly underrepresented in computer science departments and in industry. And we all know that the gap between the numbers of skilled IT workers we are producing, and the number we need is continuing to grow to an extent that major industry players are starting to worry about this very publicly.

So what is it that has this person all riled up? Is it that she or he really thinks that equity doesn't matter? Is it because he or she believes that computing is, and should always be, a boy's game? Or is it that this person has just reached what I call "misery overload" (that state when you just cannot stand to hear about a problem anymore because you don't believe that you can do anything about it)?

Believe it or not, this last possibility bothers me the most. As educators, we are incredibly powerful in terms of our influence over students. The day you stop believing in your ability and responsibility to engage and enlighten all students, regardless of their race or gender, is the day you should shut down the computer and walk out of the classroom. That is how I feel.

But what do you think? Should CSTA be doing equity work (it is certainly not the only thing we do, but we think it is important) or do you really not care?

I am puzzled and would very much like to know how you see this issue.

Chris Stephenson
Executive Director


Personally I think the focus is too much on gender.

I teach at an urban high school. Half of my AP test writers were speakers of other languages which has been common over the past few years. We polled our students a few years ago, and we showed that 56 different languages were spoken at home. Thus focusing on Spanish speakers would not be an answer either.

The biggest thing I need is tools that make computer language more accessible to speakers of other languages. So far, I have not had one of those students score higher than a 1 on the exam, though I am hoping that might change this year.

In my opinion, CSTA, along with the rest of us, need to care. We need to continue our focus and commitment to equity. The comment "NO MORE "EQUITY" ARTICLES!!! Its time to move on and focus on important issues" makes me think we need to find more effective ways of helping people understand and appreciate that there's simply nothing more important than how we treat each other.

We live in times where events in our history are documented and available right at our finger tips. These atrocities, which erupted from inequities, are not hidden from us. This information can easily be obtained. In many of these historical examples, we could likely track many overt and subtle actions, reactions, and interactions that ultimately lead to the peak in oppression, violence and/or inhumanity. Inequities within societies seem to be circulated and reproduced almost transparently. As we examine these examples is it fair to say these are isolated incidents? Yes. However, together they illustrate a profound historical pattern of the serious consequences that may continue to occur, possibly due to our lack of internal checks to ensure equity.

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