Would you want people to make broad assumptions about you based on where you live? Would you like it if strangers were talking about your struggles in secret? Would you be ok if people used a formula to formulate your future?
I imagine most of us would not feel comfortable with any of the above. Even if the acts were well intentioned, your lack of involvement or knowledge would be troubling.
This cuts to one of the major criticisms of a new rating that will now accompany SAT scores that the College Board sends to admissions officers. (It is currently being piloted at 50 schools and will roll out to another 150 next year).
While it is officially referred to as their Environmental Context Dashboard, many are describing it as an “adversity score.” According to this article the New York Times, “The score will be calculated using 15 factors, including the relative quality of the student’s high school and the crime rate and poverty level of the student’s neighborhood.”
Its goal is noble – to try to address the huge disparity in test scores among different classes. But currently, neither the methodology nor the score itself is being shared with the students.
This is not a singular incident. I’ve heard from renowned authors and scholars whose life work is trying to understand the underlying factors that contribute to poverty and economic mobility. This research is informing public programs to help people move up the economic ladder.
But when asked if they ever share their work with the people they are trying to help, the answer isn’t just “no”. They are surprised by the very question itself.
No one, regardless of how well intentioned, can be an expert in another’s life experience. Each life is unique, regardless of what aggregated data or a gifted storyteller may suggest.
But too often we use data or our own observations to tell someone else’s story. Instead of sharing it with them so they might better tell their own.
It is the difference between advocating for someone vs. advocating with someone.
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