Sunday, February 12, 2012

Are you sitting down? It turns out that the class divide in education has gone through the roof! (Who could have guessed?)


"Blaming the problem on the richest of the rich ignores an equally important driver, [Besharov] said: two-earner household wealth, which has lifted the upper middle class ever further from less educated Americans, who tend to be single parents.

"The problem is a puzzle, he said. 'No one has the slightest idea what will work. The cupboard is bare.' "

-- from Sabrina Tavernise's NYT report, "Education
Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say

by Ken

Sometimes a "news" story can be totally unsurprising and still be incredibly important. I've been stewing over this NYT story for a couple of days now. Is there a response to it more useful than anger and hopelessness?
Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say


WASHINGTON -- Education was historically considered a great equalizer in American society, capable of lifting less advantaged children and improving their chances for success as adults. But a body of recently published scholarship suggests that the achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, a development that threatens to dilute education’s leveling effects.

It is a well-known fact that children from affluent families tend to do better in school. Yet the income divide has received far less attention from policy makers and government officials than gaps in student accomplishment by race.

In another study, by researchers from the University of Michigan, the imbalance between rich and poor children in college completion -- the single most important predictor of success in the work force -- has grown by about 50 percent since the late 1980s.

The changes are tectonic, a result of social and economic processes unfolding over many decades. The data from most of these studies end in 2007 and 2008, before the recession’s full impact was felt. Researchers said that based on experiences during past recessions, the recent downturn was likely to have aggravated the trend.

What's infuriating is that this somehow becomes a story about race division even as it's telling us that the actual story is class division -- and a division that hardly arose accidentally. When are the infotainment noozers going to get it through their thick heads that the elites who have been so lustily sucking the lifeblood out of the economy for their personal edification are now in the progress of mopping up the leftovers.

For decades now right-wing dogmatics have been working furiously at turning this broad mass of America into a nation of imbeciles, because imbeciles are so easily manipulated and controlled. The cultivation of ignorance goes hand in hand with the propagation of evil -- and of course the squadrons of religious authoritarians have been enlisted as front-line warriors in the struggle, not against, but for evil.

The two studies cited by the NYT's Tavernise --
were first published last fall in a book of research, "Whither Opportunity?" compiled by the Russell Sage Foundation, a research center for social sciences, and the Spencer Foundation, which focuses on education. Their conclusions, while familiar to a small core of social sciences scholars, are now catching the attention of a broader audience, in part because income inequality has been a central theme this election season.

The connection between income inequality among parents and the social mobility of their children has been a focus of President Obama as well as some of the Republican presidential candidates.

One reason for the growing gap in achievement, researchers say, could be that wealthy parents invest more time and money than ever before in their children (in weekend sports, ballet, music lessons, math tutors, and in overall involvement in their children’s schools), while lower-income families, which are now more likely than ever to be headed by a single parent, are increasingly stretched for time and resources. This has been particularly true as more parents try to position their children for college, which has become ever more essential for success in today’s economy.

A study by Sabino Kornrich, a researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid, and Frank F. Furstenberg, scheduled to appear in the journal Demography this year, found that in 1972, Americans at the upper end of the income spectrum were spending five times as much per child as low-income families. By 2007 that gap had grown to nine to one; spending by upper-income families more than doubled, while spending by low-income families grew by 20 percent.

"The pattern of privileged families today is intensive cultivation," said Dr. Furstenberg, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.

For their own devil spawn, the elites have fashioned an elite education system that turns them into a highly motivated class of high-functioning botlike mental defectives. For the rest of society, the plan is indentured servitude. In the restructuring, the only "middle" class countenanced is the ranks of the would-be fluffers of the 1%, willing to fellate their masters for economic advantage.

Naturally the propaganda arms of the 1% are at work. All you have to do is dial up the University of Chicago and ask for a class-oppressor professor. Right on cue --
James J. Heckman, an economist at the University of Chicago, argues that parenting matters as much as, if not more than, income in forming a child’s cognitive ability and personality, particularly in the years before children start school.

"Early life conditions and how children are stimulated play a very important role," he said. "The danger is we will revert back to the mindset of the war on poverty, when poverty was just a matter of income, and giving families more would improve the prospects of their children. If people conclude that, it’s a mistake."

You see? It's not income, it's parenting. And of course parenting isn't an "income" issue. Easily said by people who aren't struggling against income issues.

Then you can always turn to the right-wing think tanks. Again, right on cue --
Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute whose book, "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010," was published Jan. 31, described income inequality as "more of a symptom than a cause."

The growing gap between the better educated and the less educated, he argued, has formed a kind of cultural divide that has its roots in natural social forces, like the tendency of educated people to marry other educated people, as well as in the social policies of the 1960s, like welfare and other government programs, which he contended provided incentives for staying single.

"When the economy recovers, you’ll still see all these problems persisting for reasons that have nothing to do with money and everything to do with culture," he said.

There you go! "A kind of cultural divide that has its roots in natural social forces." And never mind that those "natural social forces" happen all to be principally income-driven.

Fortunately, when all else fails, there's a solution at hand. You can just throw up your hands.
There are no easy answers, in part because the problem is so complex, said Douglas J. Besharov, a fellow at the Atlantic Council. Blaming the problem on the richest of the rich ignores an equally important driver, he said: two-earner household wealth, which has lifted the upper middle class ever further from less educated Americans, who tend to be single parents.

The problem is a puzzle, he said. "No one has the slightest idea what will work. The cupboard is bare."

Yes indeed, it's a puzzle. Say, has anybody told our Dougie about how it's not income, it's parenting? Funny, that he should come up with a bare cupboard as a metaphor for idea exhaustion -- at a time when more and more American cupboards really are bare, or nearly. Probably not for anyone affiliated with, or known to, the Atlantic Council, though.

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At 7:11 PM, Blogger Cirze said...

I know what will work.

And it's not even higher math.

Go back to the tax rates of the Eisenhower administration.

And educate everyone in the country who wants to learn.

Love ya,


At 7:58 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Well, that's one plan, Suzan. Or we could do what Noot seems to be suggesting: reduce the capital gains tax rate to zero and lower the top tax bracket to "pay what you wish."


At 5:34 PM, Anonymous me said...

Well, duh. Reagan cuts public spending on education* and now only the rich can afford it.

* Thereby killing two birds with one stone. First, it cut taxes for his corporate masters, and second, uneducated people are more likely to vote conservative. It was a win-win for that piece of shit.

At 5:37 PM, Anonymous me said...

Another thing. Remember the economic boom we had during the 1950's and 60's (until the expense of the Vietnam war killed it, of course)?

That was due in large part to the widespread education of commoners paid for by the GI Bill, which, naturally, conservatives strenuously opposed.


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