Beyond the Usual, Passive DEI Efforts in Tech

Blog:Democratize Education

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Manny Becerra as a child

April 2010

Non-Traditional Ways of Learning

I've been working as a professional in higher education for the last seven (7) years, specifically in the community college sphere out of Northern Nevada. It's been an incredible journey so far. I believe, in large part, because the communty college is an environment that is geared to serve and be more accessible to a diverse subset of the extended community. Like most institutions though, it's not without its flaws or room for improvement.

Though these aren't the only barriers-of-entry, they are often common denominators that tend to be tied to some form of economic and racial discrimination reinforced by laws and policies.

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It's inspiring to work in this environment, particularly, because it's more-and-more clear, year-after-year—that all people, generally speaking, have a desire to learn, to improve, and do work that brings them a sense of dignity and self-worth all while making a living. This perspective and understanding is not entirely new to me though, it's something I witnessed—day-in, day-out—as a child in my mostly immigrant, low-income and working-class neighborhoods: people with not a lot of financial means, but an abundance of will, grit, and motivation to work hard and help others along the way. The only thing often holding them back from pursuing their fullest selves, and to over simplify it, was and often continues to be barriers like earning potential and access to continued education. Though these aren't the only barriers-of-entry—and I say the following through personal, lived experience—they are often common denominators that tend to be tied to some form of economic and racial discrimination reinforced by laws and policies.

As a society, we need to explore and value other forms of education. We need to create and accept more ways of non-traditional learning. We need to redefine education all-together.

This is why, I appreciate community colleges: they're intended to serve a wider base of the community, giving folks that normally wouldn't have access to university options, for instance, a path toward continued education; however, the catch here is that even community colleges can fall prey to the Systems meant to keep the status quo in-place. I'm not dismissing community colleges and what they have to offer, what I'm getting at is that we—society as-a-whole—need to explore and value other forms of education, like education received in community colleges in addition to other educational pathways. We need to create and accept more ways of non-traditional learning. We need to redefine education all-together. More ways for people—all people in our communities—to learn for both personal and professional reasons. In doing this, we can effectively democratizes education and help individuals and society better reach their fullest potential.

The current System is setup where a subset of institutions and individuals gatekeep knowledge, by extension, power. They get to decide who has certain economic value and opportunities for advancement in our society, which is not always aligned with actual merit or skill. That is silly and harmful to both individuals and society.

The current System is setup where a subset of institutions and individuals gatekeep knowledge through the avenue of accreditation, by extension, they keep power—in various forms—limited to a few, rather than distributed equitably. They get to, effectively, decide who has certain economic value and opportunities for advancement in our society, which is not always aligned with actual merit and skill. That is silly and harmful to both individuals and society. It doesn't makes sense for people to be solely assessed on whether they are professional worthy for a career solely based on whether they have a degree from a higher education institution, of which, they may not have been able to have access to in the first place.

While a higher education is of value and in many cases necessary for entry into certain professions; let's not forget and disregard the priceless value of continuously learning inside and outside of a classroom, even through non-traditional channels and learning methods, and the willingness to openly share knowledge with others.

Technological advancements are allowing more-and-more information and collaboration to easily occur between people from all over the world. Advancements are also making online learning more viable. With these advancements, there's a potential for a wider set of people to learn in non-traditional ways, including for a wider array of individuals to be seen as masters of their craft outside of the current System. Society just has to be ready and willing to value this shift; ready to accept new ways of how people can and want to learn, and, simultaneously, be willing to breakdown power structures that currently prevent everyone from reaching their fullest potential.

There's value in the desire to continously learn and grow, particularly compared to someone with great privilege that may merely go through the motions of obtaining a college degree without interest nor understanding of what they learned.

So, while a higher education is of value and in many cases necessary for entry into certain professions; let's not forget and disregard the priceless value of continuously learning inside and outside of a classroom, even through non-traditional channels and learning methods, and the willingness to openly share knowledge with others. There's value in the desire to continously learn and grow, particularly compared to someone with great privilege that may merely go through the motions of obtaining a college degree without interest nor understanding of what they learned.

Never stop learning and removing barriers so others can do the same.

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Manny Becerra as a child

I operate from a place of compassion, possibility and imagination. My work and efforts share a common goal: create a better, sustainable and equitable world by building inclusive communities, products & experiences.