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I recently came across the concept of “targeted universalism”. It is an idea I have heard most from john a. powell whom I’ve read and listened to before. As defined in this article “Targeted universalism means setting universal goals pursued by targeted processes to achieve those goals. Within a targeted universalism framework, universal goals are established for all groups concerned. The strategies developed to achieve those goals are targeted, based upon how different groups are situated within structures, culture, and across geographies to obtain the universal goal.” (john a. powell).
Here is also a brief video on it.
As soon as I heard this concept, I started thinking of the image I often use in my talks about equity vs equality, and how I tend to suggest something different from equity that is more than just equity. Equality gives everyone the same supports; equity gives people different supports to reach the same goals. I think that targeted universalism still sounds a lot like equity, but perhaps it would account for my suggestion that some people don’t want apples. Maybe they want oranges, and the goal should be to help people feed their hunger (as an analogy) or achieve their goals (what I think they mean by the metaphor). However, I think targeted universalism can still be problematic, because who sets the universal goals? In the video above, he talks about a goal for 100% achievement in mathematics. Who decided that achieving in mathematics is the most important thing? In my diagram, I go beyond apples/oranges and suggest that maybe someone has a different need altogether, the need for care because they have a hidden disadvantage that cannot be satisfied with fruit.
What do you think?
I’m putting my diagrams as a slide deck below:
One thought on “Is Targeted Universalism Enough?”
I do think “targeted universalism” is often the systemic structure in education, and probably good to some degree for some learners that need that guidance… but not an overall ideal construct for learners with different goals, needs, interests, etc.