The ECEP leadership team sent the following letter on June 4th to our ECEP state leaders and supporters. We are posting our statement here to open dialogue and invite participation in our work to broaden participation in computing, which can only be done if we work collaboratively to dismantle systemic racism.
Dear ECEP State Leaders and Supporters,
The ECEP leadership team acknowledges that our work to broaden participation in computing will only have its full desired impact if we actively confront the structural racism in our society at large and educational institutions specifically. We know that the CS profession and the CS education community has a history of erecting barriers to the participation of persons of color in computing, both explicitly and implicitly. Students have been tracked out of computer science and discouraged from pursuing computing in both K12 and in higher education. Students of color are more likely to attend schools which lack access to CS. CS teachers in majority-minority schools are less likely to have the preparatory privilege of teachers in majority-white schools. All of these institutional inequities, and many more, lead to the disparate access to, participation in and experiences of CS for Black and Brown students. We know that this is still happening today in every state. These are the deeply ingrained biases that the ECEP network is working to confront but the recent violence against Black people that has become the tipping point for an explosion of anger and frustration only highlights how far we have to go to get to the root of the deep seated racism that permeates the societal, educational, and political systems in which we live. The core of ECEP’s work is equity work. Equity work requires that we engage both personally and professionally to dismantle inequitable systems.
So what is ECEP doing, and what do we need to do even more of, to walk this walk?
- As ECEP leaders, we must continue to push for data transparency to ensure that any generalized progress toward increased capacity, access, participation, or experiences in CS doesn’t mask the very real disparities in these outcomes that exist for underrepresented students. This means ensuring that states have the capacity to not only track CS, but to disaggregate data in a meaningful way to ensure that a rising tide is truly lifting all boats. And it means that we must hold ourselves, our colleagues, our educational leaders, and our elected officials accountable for addressing these disparities. We must actively challenge the threadbare tropes that blame students and their parents in a myriad of different ways for these inequities and instead help our communities to reform the system that produces these disparate outcomes.
- We must be cautious about fixating on lagging indicators such as AP CS enrollment and performance and interrogate how leading indicators, such as teacher capacity, equitable access to funding, biased early mathematics course tracking, and policies that exclude students very early on from CS experiences, are impacting long-term enrollment and success in CS.
- We must support our teachers, a majority of whom, like a majority of us, don’t reflect the students of color that we are seeking to serve, to examine their own unconscious biases, their school’s institutional biases, and their communities’ expectations around who CS classes are “for”.
- We must get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This work, if we are doing it right, will be uncomfortable at times. And that’s OK, because we are committed to being uncomfortable to move this work forward.
- Most importantly, we must listen. For those of us whose white privilege means that we do not live with the daily fear of ourselves or our loved ones being assaulted by police, murdered by vigilantes, or threatened by white people who are scared of the color of our skin, we must listen to the experiences of our Black colleagues, teachers, and students, as we collaboratively propose and explore solutions to countering the history of racism and white supremacy that infects every aspect of the American experience. We must elevate the voices of our colleagues of color if our work is to be genuine.
We must challenge each other and ourselves to dig deeper into understanding race, privilege, inequitable systems, and the roles we each play in these systems. We must hold ourselves and each other accountable to change. We must stand with other computer science educators, researchers, and advocates of color who have for far too long been engaged in this work on their own. ECEP’s work addresses only a small slice of the effort required to dismantle systems of institutional bias that are pervasive throughout our culture and educational institutions. But every one of us has a vital role to play in confronting and correcting the structural racism that represents the original sin of the American experiment. Thank you for committing to this journey with us. And for our Black colleagues specifically, thank you for walking with us, teaching us, leading us, and holding us all accountable as we navigate these waters. We can’t walk in your shoes but we can listen, we can learn, we can work to identify our own privileges, and we can make the space for frank and honest feedback when our organization falls short.
As an Alliance of states, colleagues, and friends, the ECEP community will continue our work to put these words into action. We look forward to learning from each other, trying new things, and engaging a diverse range of voices in determining how ECEP will meet this challenge.
Carol Fletcher, Maureen Biggers, Josh Childs, Leigh Ann DeLyser, Sarah Dunton, John Goodhue, Anne Leftwich, Alan Peterfreund, Debra Richardson, and Ryan Torbey