MIE TIG Week: Building on the AEA Dialogues on Race and Class in America by Melvin Hall

Melvin Hall

Greetings, I am Melvin Hall, Professor of Educational Psychology at Northern Arizona University, a recent AEA Board Member, and moderator of the recently completed dialogue series. I am pleased to have been asked to kick off this week of posts from the MIE TIG.

Rad Resource #1: An Evaluation Voice from the Past

For years, I have read the AEA365 blog. I have often found information that fills a gap in my knowledge about how to get something done in evaluation, where I previously hadn’t a clue that the issue was even important. I would like to send you back to the evaluation profession’s past to a Rad Resource that is just as timely today as when originally penned by Lee Cronbach and Associates in 1980. Lee would undoubtedly smile if he knew “Toward the Reform of Program Evaluation” would be cited as a Rad Resource in 2017, but that is my contention. In our quest for the new and practical, the field has become estranged from important wisdom of the past.

The first of 95 thesis statements from that book says, “Program evaluation is a process by which society learns about itself”. This underscores the clarion call from the AEA Dialogues, that evaluation and evaluators take up more space in the public sphere where institutionalized sources of potential racism and classism should be identified and interrogated. The call is to have evaluative thinking become more prominent in public debate and policy reviews, an appeal to evaluators to identify and engage the important societal issues embedded in work we do. Who is better situated to engage those issues and promote societal reflection, dialogue, and change?

We know that inequity based upon gender is forcefully imposed by the powerful, who have bent institutions to their will, making them accomplices in hiding abuses and marginalizing victims. It is institutional power that silences victims and wipes away culpability; the same is done with racial animus and classist disdain.  Social institutions normalize this behavior, obscuring its damage, particularly from the perpetrators.

Rad Resource #2: Excuses, Excuses

This week consider how evaluators unwittingly play into the power of the status quo, and examine when and where our roles in this should end. Another Rad Resource–Racism without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva–exposes the excuses we often use to explain why the institutions we serve are not perpetuating inequity, or if they are, why it is not our place to intervene.

Lesson Learned: In the end, society will benefit if we use our skills to hold up a mirror so that it can learn about its collective self. Through posts this week the MIE TIG will highlight relevant lessons learned and examined through a variety of lenses. The online discussion forum for the Dialogues is open and available, if this week of posts prompts you to want to join the discussion.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Multiethnic Issues in Evaluation (MIE) Week with our colleagues in the MIE Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from MIE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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