Search This Blog

CCE in brief

My photo
Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Equal vs Equitable Opportunity

I don't want my sons to have the same opportunities as me.

In fact, I'm certain they won't - many of the opportunities I had, like being among the first to use a scroll-ball computer in small-town school would be of little use to them in their modern context.  While I enjoyed growing up in a small town, they will enjoy growing up in a big city - a different experience providing different value.  They likely won't know what they've lost any more than they'll know what they gained; such is the nature of experience.

The goal isn't to have my kids be a replica of me; the context of my youth simply doesn't exist any more.  If I had started off with the exact same opportunities as my parents had, I would have been at a significant disadvantage.  It's not about ensuring equal access for subsequent generations to horses and bayonets, but empowering them to maximize their use of tomorrow's tools.

For the same reason, I don't want a deaf child, or the child of refugee parents, or a child with severe OCD to have the exact same opportunities my kids have.  If I want my son to live in the safest, most opportunity-filled world possible, it's in my best interest to ensure all kids have the tools they need to succeed and offer meaningful contributions to the world.  Simply offering them all the same opportunities doesn't do that.

By ensuring the deaf child has the necessary supports to achieve their maximum potential; to help the child of refugee child bridge language, cultural and experiential gaps and ensuring the child with OCD has the internal and external supports they need to function at their best, I'm motivating them, empowering them and creating a better environment for my sons to thrive in.
At the same time, I'm exposing my own child to more diversity from which he can learn and daily examples proving that nothing needs to hold you back, given the right accommodations and support.

That's not about equal opportunity - truly, no two people are created equal.  It's about providing equitable opportunity, ensuring everyone has the accommodations they need to reach and contribute their personal maximum potential.

This isn't something people are instinctively good at - after all, our lenses on the world are shaped by our own experience.   If we aren't exposed to diversity (of language, culture, technology, differing forms of social interaction) we have precious little cognitive capital to start with - this is why I don't bemoan the fact I didn't grow up on a farm any more than my kids feel the loss of not growing up in a small town.  
If you aren't familiar with, say, the cultural depth of Cantonese, you might think a native Cantonese speaker is dumb for not getting your ironic jokes.  If you don't know how OCD works, the person suffering from it might seem to be annoying and stubborn - and you might not know how to look past your own feelings to find the value offering they present.

We have a society that's largely predicated on independent, individual achievement without sufficient thought given to context.  It was easy, natural even for Mitt Romney to decry the 47%; it validated his position of laissez-faire governance much as the same inaction was justified by those who dismissed Suffrage and the Civil Rights movement.

It is a great challenge for the disadvantaged of this world to get into the head space of society's Class of Success; were it easier, they'd be in that class themselves.  This is why it's so encouraging to know that people who have overcome personal challenges to find success - people like the Economic Club of Canada President Rhiannon Traill or Public Servant Katie Kilmartin, who is deaf - are driven to create equitable opportunities for success among their peers, helping to bridge the gap between their worlds.

There's another way to bridge this gap; those with resources are far better positioned to explore the world if the disadvantaged than the reverse.  By participating (not just donating) in charitable activities in marginalised communities, the well to-do of the world can see first-hand how great a chasm of experience and opportunity exists between success and far too many people in this world.  With that understanding and a sense of how success is achieved, these 1% can also serve to bridge the gap.
This is not idealistic, nor is it irrationally optimistic.  It's simply good planning.

1 comment:

  1. Equal vs Equitable Opportunity Yes Equal balck vc with