A few weeks ago, the New York Times published their often-blogged article on the growing achievement gaps between rich and poor  children.  In contrast to otherwise careful analysis, the article ended with the unfortunate and widely criticized quote:

The problem is a puzzle, he [Douglas J. Besharov, a fellow at the Atlantic Council] said. “No one has the slightest idea what will work. The cupboard is bare.”

Among those begging to differ are the scholars at the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College who recently released five white papers around the theme “Achievable and Affordable: Providing Comprehensive Educational Opportunity to Low-Income Students”.

Poor kids and their families are neither exotic nor inscrutable, and until we’ve begun to provide at least the minimal levels of support taken for granted in other Western countries, it’s intellectually and morally dishonest to pretend that their marginalization in US public schooling is a mystery beyond solution.

It’s too easy, when teaching about class and economic inequality,  for the conversations to turn to what to do for them, as if  economic justice were primarily a matter of charity.

The Equality Trust is compiling very good resources for shifting that conversation beyond talk of safety nets and foodbanks.   Their data (based primarily in the UK but also based on studies in the U.S.) makes clear that everyone is harmed in unequal societies.

One example:  They document the correlation between income inequality in a state and the rates at which young people in that state drop out.   I can imagine sparking all sorts of conversations with students about possible explanations for this data (including, likely, conversations about the limits of correlational analysis, but those are always good conversations, too).

The Trust is working on compiling studies on the effects of inequality on areas from health care to global warming.

I’m updating my course websites with many of these links.


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