Is Teaching a Meritocracy?

Flickr photo by Daviniodus
After reading the recent article,The face of education: Is it too white? I made the mistake of reading the comments that followed the article. More upsetting than the sad facts about the lack of diversity in the teacher population, were the many inflammatory comments that based their argument on the statement that teaching is a meritocracy and that "teachers are hired based on their teaching skills, not their skin colour".


Suggesting that this lack of diversity is simply a result of meritocracy ignores the reality of the diverse population that makes up the Canadian education system, other than the school staff room. 


What does it mean when the teaching population is not as diverse as the students they teach? - Maybe the system is not a meritocracy after all.


I recently came across a Tech Crunch article, Racism and Meritocracy, that highlights a similar problem in Silicon Valley. The author, Eric Ries, suggests we use a scientific approach to examine this problem. Even though I've included a few excerpts below, I strongly recommend that you read the entire article.


While it doesn't provide a complete solution for the lack of diversity in education, it may help the education community to begin thinking about the selection process and whether teaching is a meritocracy.

Excerpts from Racism and Meritocracy by Eric Ries

What accounts for the decidedly non-diverse results in places like Silicon Valley [or teaching] ? We have two competing theories. One is that deliberate racisms keeps people out. Another is that white men [people] are simply the ones that show up, because of some combination of aptitude and effort (which it is depends on who you ask), and that admissions to, say Y Combinator [teacher education programs or school district hiring], simply reflect the lack of diversity of the applicant pool, nothing more.


The problem with both of these theories is that the math just doesn’t work...


When we see extremely skewed demographics, we have very good reason to suspect that something is wrong with our selection process, that it’s not actually as meritocratic as it could be. And I believe that is exactly what is happening in Silicon Valley [and education].


*Please note I added the italics, bold and [ ] font colour for emphasis. 




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