A week or so ago, I wrote about why AP English is unfair for my students. In short, my students might work harder than their privileged peers, yet pass the AP exam at a lower rate.
I’ve thought about inequities in education and society for a long time. After all, I’m a teacher. But there’s something about this year that’s making me angrier. Maybe it’s that I’m working with seniors right before they enter college. Or maybe it’s that I’m teaching AP, which offers a “stamp of approval” by dominant culture of academic excellence.
Whatever is it, my senses are heightened. Everywhere I look, there’s unfairness.
Here’s another one: the digital divide. Most of my students have computers with Internet access at home, but three do not. Two of those three are currently failing the class.
A decision: Lower my standards for these students? This happens too often. So that can’t work.
Yes, I can tell students to suck it up and deal. Go to the library — late at night, in a sketchy neighborhood, and only while it’s open, which varies day to day. Or go to a friend’s house — far away, on the bus, and once you’re there, be nice because you’re preventing your friend from finishing her homework. Or stay late at school — past the time teachers leave, instead of going to work or participating in sports.
Sure, I’ve had students figure it out. One lived 20+ miles away, worked full-time, took care of her brother, crammed in homework on the train, and just graduated from Columbia.
But why do we require our students to take on Herculean tasks? Why must they be Superman? It’s much better if my students could go home and have access to a computer without so much stress.
That’s why today I posted on Facebook a request for old computers. Already, I have two leads, which makes me happy. But even if I get the computers, that’s only half the problem. Getting free or cheap Internet access is the much trickier part. Luckily, there are some internet service providers in San Francisco who might help me out.