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Tackling educational equity at Duquesne
archived from: 2014-06-06


Do you remember when you counted down the days to your summer vacation from school?

For me, those days were yesterdays of long ago, but the memories are still as fresh as if they were last week. I can still remember my favorite teacher and my favorite classes. What I learned in school formed the foundation for the type of person I became and became the focus of where I wanted to help others go in their lives. I became a teacher because I love education and I care about what happens to our young people.

Tens of thousands of children throughout our region are beginning their summer vacations from school.

Unfortunately, their school-time experiences are not as memorable as they could be. Many of our young people in the region are marginalized … mistreated … misguided throughout our educational system. Why, in 2014, does this still happen? What does learning truly need to look like to achieve equity and excellence for everyone?

We in the School of Education at Duquesne University believe that educational inequity should not and will not be an issue in this region. On May 2, our faculty and staff of the School of Education officially launched the Canevin Center for Educational Transformation and Social Justice. No, this is not another building or a classroom. It is not a place or a wing of a building. It is a vision and mission for the work that goes on behind our walls and in our classrooms.

The Canevin Center is named after Bishop John Francis Regis Canevin, a young man who came from humble beginnings to become the first native Pittsburgher to head the local diocese. In the spirit of Bishop Canevin, the center’s work is bringing together educational stakeholders from outside the school to work with faculty and staff to truly make a collaborative difference in education for under-served communities across boundaries and disciplines on issues of equity in education on all levels.

Throughout my teaching career, I have seen how inequities in education impacted the most fragile in our communities. Young people who are marginalized and forgotten in our current educational system are forgotten not because no one cares about them. They are forgotten because we don’t know how to embrace their needs.

We often use the same template for education and apply it to all children. You can’t just teach a curriculum and expect all students to be successful. All children don’t learn the same way — they do not come from the same backgrounds and experiences. Some have behavioral challenges. Others do not eat regularly. Others are homeless or abused.

Yet they all have a right — a social justice right — to learn to their utmost potential, to become a productive member of our society, to get a good job, to be successful. Social justice in education is an imperative that we all must embrace. Our young people deserve this — ALL of our young people.

The Canevin Center for Educational Transformation and Social Justice is where future generations of teachers and administrators in our educational system can now work directly with educational stakeholders in the region to share ideas on the transformation of public education to capitalize on work currently being done.

Instead of developing new programs, the center is collaborating, facilitating and learning from organizations already busy in our region that have social justice projects. These partnerships are vital to educational success. We need to start thinking of public education as a “social justice mandate” for the 21st century. We are nearly 14 years into that century and we need action now. We were honored and truly blessed on May 2 at the center’s launch to have Bishop David Zubik — a graduate of the School of Education — to join us in our mission, bless our work and give us the guiding inspiration to help us in our mission and vision to erase the inequities in education. We know that, with his guidance and God’s strength, the Canevin Center will succeed.

Won’t you join us? Consider this your invitation to help the School of Education’s Canevin Center for Educational Transformation and Social Justice. We invite you and your organizations to be part of our community forum dialogues and share with us what work you are doing that champions social justice in education.

We’ll see you in the fall … after your own summer vacation.

Welch is dean of the School of Education at Duquesne University. She can be reached at welcho@duq.edu.




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