December 10, 2013
November 27, 2013
The New York Times ran an article earlier this week on the gentrification of San Francisco’s mixed income neighborhoods with infusion of many new highly paid high tech workers.
There’s a brief follow up in a tech column in today’s paper (where more typically, I’d expect to find reviews of holiday gifts for geeks). This quote caught my eye:
“They come to San Francisco,” said Peter Cohen, co-director of the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations, referring to workers in the industry, “they’re paid a premium for whatever they do, they don’t know the impact they’re having.”
Over a year ago, I was in the Mission for a few days for a workshop. As a visitor focused mainly on my computer screen for those days, I saw the anti-gentrification signs all over the neighborhood. I heard about the resentment over the private vans and busses that picked up tech commuters were picking people up at regular bus stops and delaying the city busses. Over a year ago, as a visitor there for only a few days, I was very aware of growing tensions and the real impact on people in places like the Mission where housing costs were soaring.
I’m making no claims to particular social sensitivities or righteousness.
I am saying that if these many wealthy tech workers don’t know the impact they’re having, it’s because they’re willfully oblivious.
A faculty member at the University of San Francisco weighs in:
“They’re sort of a new proletariat,” she said. “They are working tremendous hours. They want to live in San Francisco because it’s San Francisco — for the cultural experience that’s changing because of their presence. But I think it’s a mistake to blame them individually, personally. They are part of this larger structural process that’s happening.”
People who are able to pay so much for housing that the elderly are being evicted from a city are not a new proletariat.
And this structural process is not just “happening”.
People are making conscious decisions based on the huge amount of money now available to only a small segment of population of the city.
And that segment responds by touting their new charities.
November 13, 2013
I’ve been talking about this in my courses for years:
We’re the only nation in the developed world that relies so heavily on education for addressing core inequalities in the economic system.
The entire transformation of schools into test-prep factories in being done in the name of preparing students for the many jobs requiring higher levels of education. Every week, I see someone argue that our schools — and our economy — are failing because kids can’t pass the tests of knowledge that they need for competing in an increasingly technological world.
Today, the New York Times published an analysis about why education alone can’t account for growing income inequalities.
There is good reason to resist the proposition that education and technology are solely responsible for growing inequality. It provides political leaders an excuse to cast the problem as beyond the reach of policy.
“It can suck all the air out of the conversation,” Professor Autor acknowledged. “All economists should be pushing back against this simplistic view.”
Professors Katz and Autor agree that an array of policies is needed to address the labor market’s lopsided distribution of economic rewards. They range from a higher minimum wage to help lift the income of service workers at the bottom of the market to a larger earned-income tax credit.
More technical training could help upgrade the skills of high school graduates. Steeper income taxes on the very rich could curb the accumulation of income at the top. Perhaps most important, the design of macroeconomic policies might give more weight to maintaining low unemployment.
“Education is certainly part of the answer, but it is certainly not a complete answer,” Professor Katz said.
Yes. Education is certainly part of the answer and we need excellent schools for all children.
But the air has been sucked out of most any other conversation, especially conversations about creating the same basic safety nets and social policies that support children in so many of the countries with those elusive higher test scores.
November 12, 2013
Powerful teaching resources here, incorporating art, interviews, and data about social class.
November 8, 2013
I wrote a few days ago about my unease with programs that send students to cultural events so that they’d “absorb” cultural capital. My unease was based in part on how such settings are laden with unwritten expectations that when violated, can mark newcomers as “unworthy”.
In contrast is this piece arguing that, because we are separated by social class, colleges have the responsibility for teaching those unwritten rules explicitly. Matt Reed argues:
As the distribution of social capital becomes more polarized in America, following the distribution of economic capital, it becomes much more important for community colleges in particular — and public education in general — to help students learn some existing unwritten rules, learn how to discern unwritten rules for themselves in unfamiliar settings, and eventually learn how to shape unwritten rules. We can’t rely on them “just knowing.”
That’s a big job. And it requires rethinking some of our own unwritten rules.
Most basically, it requires acknowledging the reality of social class in American life. That’s a tall order in itself. Americans have trouble saying the word “class” without first saying the word “middle.” We have to choose, consciously, to violate — and then change — the unwritten rule that we pretend that class doesn’t exist
And to that I say Amen.