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Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Overall I would say I am in agreement with Michael Petrilli here, though possibly not for the same reasons, and there are some caveats. No matter. He argues that "when aiming for equity, we should level-up instead of leveling-down." That makes intuitive sense. Nobody wants to "make all kids equal by making them equally unable to learn." But some forms of advantage cannot by definition be applied to all. A degree gives you an advantage in the job market because most people don't have one; give everybody a degree and your advantage disappears. The same with things like enrollment at a prestige institution, access to an exclusive circle of contacts, membership in the right golf course, etc. That's why it's so hard to focus on advantages by inputs, that is, to "focus on closing gaps between affluent students and their disadvantaged peers, not between high-achieving students and their lower-achieving peers." Not that I disagree with Petrilli here. But we need an analysis of what those advantages are - and this is exactly the sort of analysis to which some critics are most vehemently opposed.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
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Last Updated: May 22, 2024 5:28 p.m.

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