Major Annual Meeting Lecture Speakers Examine Significant Topics in Educational Equity
Major Annual Meeting Lecture Speakers Examine Significant Topics in Educational Equity

May 2022

The 2022 AERA Distinguished Lecture and 2022 Wallace Foundation Distinguished Lecture featured two prominent scholars who engaged attendees in important conversations about developing equitable education systems and educational reform efforts that aim at achieving equity.

The 2022 AERA Distinguished Lecture was given by Carol D. Lee, Edwina S. Tarry Professor of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. Lee addressed systemic challenges to developing equitable systems of education, including institutional practices and broader policy structures. This session was chaired by Na’ilah Suad Nasir (Spencer Foundation).

Carol D. Lee

Lee pointed to some of the current battles in education: that the presence of systemic racial injustice in the U.S. should not be taught in K–12 schools, that certain topics must be banned, and that teachers addressing these areas should be punished or banned. Meanwhile the education fields argue that schools must address the holistic needs of students.

“These calls are coming as we navigate over these past two years with a worldwide pandemic that has highlighted sources of inequities that existed before the pandemic, but have been heightened by virtue of the pandemic,” Lee said.

Lee’s recommendations were informed by arguments in the recent report by the National Academy of Education, Educating for Civic Reasoning and Discourse, which asserts that preparing young people to engage civically now and in the future is a special and unique role of public schooling. Lee stated that addressing these issues “should be informed by this overarching goal, learning to engage in civic reasoning and discourse as the resource for civic engagement.”

Lee closed with a video of Aretha Franklin singing Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma,” “for the hope I want to convey in this lecture,” she said. “It reflects a country, a world in which crossing cultural boundaries, presumed to be separate worlds, are actually laminated sites of opportunity.”

Also chaired by Na’ilah Suad Nasir, the 2022 Wallace Foundation Distinguished Lecture, “Education Reform Past and Present: Asking Equity Questions and Looking for Hope,” was delivered by Amanda Datnow, Professor and Chancellor’s Associates Endowed Chair at the University of California, San Diego, whose research has focused on educational reform and policy, particularly in regard to issues of equity and professional lives of educators.

Datnow’s lecture drew from her 30 years of experience conducting research on educational reform efforts, beginning with a collaborative study of Achievement via Individual Determination, a now well-known college preparatory program aimed at untracking students who show academic promise. This experience led Datnow to consider what it would take for all students, not just those in a special program, to have opportunities.

Amanda Datnow

Datnow reflected that, when we ask equity questions in studies of school reform, we are left with much work to do, as there are instances of deep-seated belief systems that undermine efforts to create more equitable education systems. Using the words of bell hooks, Datnow shared that she still feels a sense of hopefulness that school systems can be reinvented to support the talent and wellbeing of all young people. She asked, “As we begin to emerge from a global pandemic and schools attempt to engage in fundamental change, what might be the role of education researchers?”

Datnow said that research needs to support communities, not extract from them, by partnering more closely with practitioners, policymakers, and community members to address equity issues. Researchers must examine not only how and with whom they are doing this work, but also the theories and disciplines on which they draw.

“We must find ways to cross disciplinary boundaries and form bridges with scholars in other fields so that we can address equity issues in a more multifaceted way,” said Datnow.

All 2022 registrants continue to have access to these lectures on the AERA Annual Meeting platform. These two lectures will be available on the AERA website after the completion of post-production editing.