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DSST's commitment to educational equity: Navigating the post-affirmative action landscape

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education” - Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Written by: Aaron J. Griffen, Chief Equity Officer

Equality is a zero-sum game in which each of us must work hard to achieve our goals, regardless of each person’s starting point. This trope of equality presented by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not the equal hope and determination to achieve an “American Dream,” but the equal ability to pursue life, liberty and happiness. 

Affirmative Action

The founding purpose of affirmative action was to “reverse historical trends of discrimination against individuals with certain identities.”  However, in a recent disappointing decision, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down affirmative action in higher education, changing the way colleges and universities assess applications.

Feelings across the nation over this decision have ranged from shock and despair to surprise and joy. DSST believes this decision to incredibly harmful. It is the latest attack in a war that has been waged since the inception of affirmative action, including Regents of University of California v. Bakke (1978) and Fisher v. University of Texas. In both instances, affirmative action was upheld and found to be constitutional in majority decisions. Given the context of our nation, one can’t help but wonder, what changed? 

Weaponizing Affirmative Action

Affirmative action was never meant to ensure underqualified people would receive opportunities over well-qualified applicants. The goal was to ensure qualified individuals from historically marginalized groups had a fair chance at attaining higher education and jobs, thus reversing years of discrimination and systemic racism. Despite the multiple examples of students of color, particularly Black and Brown, achieving and entering college with the prerequisite grades and test scores, there persists a societal undercurrent and belief that certain groups are, by default, superior to others. Although ruling for the majority, even Justice Clarence Thomas had an uphill battle as a recipient of affirmative action: “You had to prove yourself every day because the presumption was that you were dumb and didn’t deserve to be there on merit.”  Claims that the removal of affirmative action means the people can finally “earn” their opportunities are further examples that “fair and equal” remain merely an experiment. DSST will remain steadfast in our commitment to eliminate educational equity and “actively working to ensure that outcomes of DSST students are high-achieving and do not correlate with any predictable social or cultural factors.”

What Does This Mean for K-12 (and DSST)

DSST was created to fight against this issue, and while we are sure there will be ripple effects of this ruling, DSST will uphold our mission to end educational inequities through integrated schools, focused 1:1 work with students and more. Our College Success team remains focused on ensuring our students have the opportunity to compete for scholarships and acceptance in four-year universities. Some of the steps being taken include ensuring all students apply to a best-fit college or post-secondary program, 1-1 family support and 9-12 grade career and college exposure. DSST is also in the process of making connections and learning how best to navigate this change to minimize the impact on our student’s college acceptances. We will continue to partner with colleges to adapt to the new legal context and co-develop strategies to maximize access and diversity in admissions and to level the playing field.

DSST’s Commitment to you

What does this mean for us individually and collectively? Our charge to fulfill our mission, our definition of educational inequity and our commitment to our families remains steadfast and is more important than ever. We are fortunate to have such a dedicated group of educators working every day to make this happen. We each need to ensure we are breaking down barriers in our teaching practices every day (e.g., hitting our GPA goals) and inspiring our students to reach their best potential. Our mission and our graduate profile point us in the right direction. When our students graduate from a DSST school with a strong sense of self, when they are academically prepared and have the STEM skills and mindsets for the 21st century, and when they have received the strong college counseling we provide each one of our students, we know they will be prepared to take on the societal inequities that still persist. 

Thank you for your trust and support. As we continue to navigate the new challenges put in place by the decision against affirmative action, we ask that you continue to unite with us as a community to voice the importance of all students' success and to ensure all students have an equitable future.