Where We Slipped Up

Opinion | Diversity and Equity

Where We Slipped Up

By Betsy Corcoran, Mary Jo Madda (Columnist) and Tony Wan     Jul 19, 2016

Where We Slipped Up

Last week, the editorial team at EdSurge chose to write about issues in which we are hardly experts—namely issues of social justice. Our past public involvement in conversations surrounding race, bias and inequity has been modest: some articles both by us and by contributors, an occasional meetup. We wrote last week because we felt the collective pressure of recent events was so powerful that writing little or nothing seemed woefully inadequate. And we stumbled.

Our intention was to heighten our readers’ attention to this critical issue and show support for the ongoing dialog about race and inequity. As we explored how to do this with sensitivity and authenticity, people we respect—including EdSurge contributors and members of the #Educolor organization—encouraged us to take a closer look at our internal practices, including our own biases. Our resulting post was a collection of questions and guidelines intended to share how we are consciously thinking through these issues as a team and in our public work.

Yet in our rush to contribute in a meaningful way, we misstepped. The outside feedback we had received prior to publishing our July 13 post was intended to guide us on what EdSurge could do internally within the company. But we put individuals’ thoughts into our piece—an opinion piece—without their explicit consent.

Specifically, in an exchange with educator Rafranz Davis, she offered a collection of steps that we then brought into our article. We should have attributed that advice directly to her. We treated this as a typical article, and treated those sharing their input with us as sources. But in doing so, we not only co-opted their voices, but breached their trust.

As Rafranz Davis described in a post following our piece, when addressing personal issues, especially those of race and oppression, “You need to make sure that the words that you publish are your own,” and that when you quote people, “you have [their] permission.” In writing our op-ed, we used the words of Rafranz and others from the #Educolor community without taking time to reflect on what we truly need to do or should say.

We are deeply sorry for this oversight, and to Rafranz, Shana White, Jose Vilson and others whom we have disappointed. In writing about examining our own “privilege,” we reinforced our privilege in an unconstructive way.

We all know that there are many stories not widely told—stories about and by peoples of varying ethnicities and backgrounds and with different perspectives and experiences.

As a media organization, we need to help make the conversation about education more inclusive. One way we hope to do this is by soliciting and publishing a far broader range of voices, especially from writers of color. Sharing and reading these stories is crucial to building an education system that serves all of our nation's learners. We also hope to do more than publish words, and will take time to reflect critically about other ways to engage.

In our last piece, we asked for feedback—and we received it. We are learning to listen more carefully. We will keep reflecting and thinking—as a team, an organization and as writers. In this way, we hope to contribute to building a more inclusive and thoughtful edtech environment that values diverse contributions.


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