Earlier today, I was excited to see that the Association for Educational Communications and Technology—at this point, my home professional organization—had sent out a survey in conjunction with their “considering the viability of contracting with child care providers within the cities of our future conventions in order to provide child care services in future convention hotels.” After taking a look at the survey, though, I’m finding it somewhat disappointing—to the extent that I’m choosing not to fill it out. I’ve pasted a screenshot of the survey below, after which I’ll explain my thinking:
My first concern with the survey is the wording “enable you to attend” in the first question. Survey design is not my area of methodological expertise, but I know enough to know that wording matters, and a focus on “enabling” seems to me to be overly narrow. What about an academic parent who has been making different arrangements for the past five years in order to attend AECT but for whom the provision of local child care would be much easier than those existing arrangements? “[H]aving child care available at the AECT convention” wouldn’t necessarily “enable” them to attend—after all, they’ve so far been a regular attendee—but they’d still benefit enormously from the provision of childcare.
The focus on “enabling” gives the unfortunate impression that AECT may only be interested in providing childcare if it encourages higher attendance numbers, not if it only benefits people who would come either way. I’m no stranger to the constraints of budgets and pragmatism (especially at academic conferences), and I don’t think they’re invalid concerns, but if AECT is considering taking such a progressive step, couching the investigation in what seems to be utilitarian language seems counterintuitive. Why not ask whether each AECT member “would be interested in using child care available at the AECT Convention and other annual activities”?
My second concern is about how to respond if I’m in favor of providing child care even if it wouldn’t benefit me personally. The reality of my personal parenting situation is such that I don’t need childcare when I attend AECT. However, because I recognize that that’s largely due to privilege on a number of different levels, I’m a big fan of this overall effort even if I am not likely to benefit from it personally. So, I’m concerned that my “no” response to the first question (which would be honest in my case independent of my concern about its wording) would be used as evidence against the need for the provision of childcare.
I applaud AECT for looking into providing childcare, and I’m doubtful that any of these issues are the result of malicious intent on the part of the AECT leadership team: my overwhelming impression of AECT from the beginning has been that of a wonderful, supportive community. However, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed by the specifics of the survey—perhaps because I was so excited by the existence of the survey to begin with.