It can be easy to get caught up in the heat of the conversation. To help, here are some tips on how to talk about educational equity. 

 

How to be effective

Speak on our terms — not theirs: Avoid using hot button language that is intentionally being mischaracterized. Say what you mean with simple language that reflects your community values.

 

Aim to engage, not educate: People tend to shut down when they feel like they’re being “educated.” Instead, bring them into the conversation, by hearing their perspectives, asking questions, and thanking them for sharing.

 

Share the truth, but know when to leave: Remember that not everyone will be willing to listen, and it’s not your responsibility to convince everyone at the table. Make sure to acknowledge how you’re feeling and take time to practice routines of selfcare. 

 

As we continue to navigate fraught and intense discussions, it’s important that we step away from hot-button language and humanize the debate. This language will help allies transition away from the opposition’s framing so that we can get the conversation back on our terms.

 

When confronted with opposition talking points or concerns:

  • DO address concerns earnestly, and inoculate against the worst misconceptions 

  • DON’T debate the meaning of jargon, or dismiss concerns outright. 

 

Sample pivot and inoculation statements:

  • I hear what you’re saying. I think we can both agree that we want our kids to feel valued and accepted. That’s why…

  • I hear your concern, and I want to be clear that isn’t what is happening in our classrooms. What we both care about is… 

  • Parent involvement is great and I am so glad you are involved in your kids' education. In fact, parents and teachers should work together to…

 

How to talk about education issues with family and friends 

Do
Don't
DO speak about bans on historical figures, authors, and other local concerns.
DON'T use national examples or viral media that isn’t actually based on the local reality and context.
DO ensure that everyone has enough time and space to clearly discuss their point of view.
DON'T apologize for elevating, listening to, and advocating for students, especially students of color.
DO ensure that everyone has enough time and space to clearly discuss their point of view.
DON'T use yelling or attacking language (e.g. refrain from calling someone racist or using hot topic buzz words).
DO appeal to the shared values at the table—whether that’s about kids learning life skills, compassion, or empathy—and look for common ground in education.
DON'T use jargon that they might not be familiar with or zero-sum language (i.e. describe the type of environments every student deserves rather than saying “equitable learning environments”).
 

How to talk about education issues at school board meetings

Do
Don't
DO speak from your own personal experience and about local examples and local concerns
DON’T use national examples or rhetoric that isn’t actually based on the local reality and context
DO use messaging that brings in the widest tent (i.e. focus on the benefits for ALL children)
DON’T apologize for elevating, listening to, and advocating for students, particularly students of color or LGBTQ+ students
DO appeal to shared values (e.g. the importance of students being able to see themselves and their cultures in the books they read, etc.) and look for common ground in education
DON’T repeat the other side’s negative framing to address criticism
DO define restrictive laws in clear terms (e.g. “these laws stop teachers from teaching about race relations and inequality”)
DON’T use jargon (i.e. avoid formal language and focus on making your point clearly) or zero-sum language (i.e. refer to history as “expansive” or “full” rather than “accurate”)
DO ensure that each speaker has a clearly defined ask for the board
DON’T yell or use attacking language (e.g. refrain from calling someone racist)
DO clearly define the impact, rather than focusing on motives. Share examples of real-world harm, specific to your school district, regarding discrimination and inequality
DON’T get into a semantics debate on what CRT and SEL really is, and how your work is or isn’t CRT or SEL
DO start by thanking the Board and acknowledging the difficult work they do on behalf of their constituents, even if you don’t agree with them
DON’T start with anger or accusations – that doesn’t help leaders receive your message with openness