Ladson-Billings, Diamond say schools should not ‘go back to normal,’ and instead work to reduce inequities

UW–Madison’s Gloria Ladson-Billings and John Diamond said we shouldn’t rush to “go back to normal” this school year, because of the growing inequities that students face in the school system.

Gloria Ladson-Billings

Ladson-Billings is a professor emerita with the School of Education, and Diamond holds the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education with the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

Ladson-Billings and Diamond were among many speakers at a summit hosted by the Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN). Milwaukee’s NBC affiliate, WTMJ-TV/Ch. 4, reported on the full-day event.

Ladson-Billings spoke about what can be done to reduce Wisconsin’s achievement gap, which is currently the worst in the nation.

“I hear people say, when we get back to school or back to normal,” Ladson-Billings said. “Well, normal is the place where the problems were for the kids I’m talking about. Their families don’t need to go back to normal. In normal they were in lower tracks, being suspended and expelled (at higher rates).”

Addressing the achievement gap would require everyone to come together, Ladson-Billings said.

“We’ve created an artificial divide between them and us,” Ladson-Billings said. “There is no them. There is only us.”

John Diamond

Diamond continued: “What COVID has laid bare in a lot of ways is our deep interconnection with other people and the consequences of our actions being deeply connected with other people.”

“We have a strong commitment to individualism, high work ethic, competition, to do what’s best for my kid is best for everybody, or at least what is best for my kid and I don’t care about anyone else,” Diamond said.

Diamond further noted that “inequities are highlighted due to the pandemic,” according to the WTMJ-TV/Ch. 4 report. While “wealthier families are able to hire tutors and extra learning opportunities for their kids,” other kids struggle just to connect to the internet.

“There is not that need to change this for my son but need to change to make more equitable schools,” Diamond said. “Make change for what’s good for all kids instead of individual young people.”

The speakers argued that the public school system should take a “constructive internal look at how this upcoming school year can be the start of a greater tomorrow.”

To read more about the conversations that took place at the WPEN summit, visit the WTMJ-TV/Ch. 4 website, here.