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Concerns With Highline Schools District’s Use of the Book “Street Data” (Part 1)

street data shane safir jamila dugan highline school district burien news

street data shane safir jamila dugan highline school district burien news
Highline Public Schools uses the book Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation co-authored by Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan, in their Strategic Plan.

In Street Data, Safir and Dugan advocate moving away from collecting measurable academic data, which includes standardized testing, and towards student-based learning, where they gather stories and observations from marginalized students. In this series, I will expand on the issues with this book, how it will harm education, and further the inequities it purports to solve. 

Since the Woke/Radical Left’s way of thinking relies on changing the traditional meaning of words without explicitly stating it, it’s essential to start with definitions. The way the authors define “Street Data” is: “the qualitative data that emerges at eye level and on lower frequencies when we train our brains to discern it. It is the day-to-day, the moment of knowing. It is not just a shift in what we do but in mindset.” What exactly are “lower frequencies?” What exactly is the “moment of knowing” beyond a completely subjective experience that can only be reported on by the knower, with the rest of us simply having to take the knower’s word for it? 

In an interview that the publisher did with the authors (more on this in my next article), co-author Jamila Dugan explained “eye level” by drawing a comparison between street data and Google Maps. Dugan gives lip service to the occasional helpfulness of big-picture data but then declares without further explanation that “big-picture data” — or satellite data Google Maps collects — is “deficit thinking.” She sees the kind of data that can detect population-level trends and patterns as deficient because they flatten individual differences and make it harder to avoid objective claims. She does not address the fact that anti-racist groups often cite this big-picture data to back up their proposals and activism for equity and reparations as she advocates for centering the experience of each individual student, or “street data” in Google Maps terms. 

“Street data,” Dugan declares, again without further explanation, is “abundance thinking.”

This term “street data” sounds benign enough, as most of the Radical Left’s words and ideas do at first, but it paves the way for feelings to be elevated as facts. One of the many dangers of this is that person A can claim harm by person B’s words, and Person B can be swiftly stripped of resources and reputation regardless of Person B’s intention or actual meaning. Meaning gets eclipsed by interpretation, and I have yet to hear a good reason why this should be so, especially given the chaos it’s causing in society. 

In other words, Street Data is advocating for the systematic elevation of feelings over facts.

You’ve likely heard the complaint from both/all sides of the political spectrum that “we don’t share the same set of facts or the same reality anymore;” this is why. As Dr. Emdin, one of the special guests in the interview with the authors and the publishers, put it, “Data needs to meet the needs of the most marginalized students.” This is what Street Data aims to do–bend data. Manipulate it to serve subjectively identified needs rather than portray objective reality. The policies and practices for “equitable data collection,” as well as the overall framework and “mindset shift” that Street Data pushes, will destroy the ability to collect and find objective data in favor of the subjective experience, which cannot be argued with or disproven but only claimed and asserted. This is already wreaking social havoc, and it will make it much more difficult to hold proponents of the Woke agenda responsible for the damage it’s already doing to young people and society in general.
In my next article, I’ll provide additional background for Street Data by discussing key points of the hour-long interview the publisher conducted with the author I referenced above. Then, I’ll take us through the book Street Data, highlighting what parents, educators, and students need to know about this book and encouraging the community to advocate against its use in the Highline School District.  

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Megan Wildhood is a writer, editor and writing coach who thrives helping entrepreneurs and small business owners create authentic copy to reach the people they feel called to serve. She helps her readers feel seen in her poetry chapbook Long Division (Finishing Line Press, 2017), her upcoming full-length poetry collection Bowed as if Laden with Snow (Cornerstone Press, May 2023) as well as Yes! Magazine, Mad in America, and increasingly less captured outlets like Gem of the Sound. You can learn more about her writing and working with her at meganwildhood.com.

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