Thanks to Doug over at Borderland for the tip to
Mishel and Rothstein outline the history of recent rhetoric linking the state of the economy to educational achievement and argue, as the have so effectively elsewhere, that schools alone cannot be held responsible for declining wages and growing income inequality. They write:
It is cynical to tell millions of Americans who work (and who will continue to be needed to work) in low-level administrative jobs and in janitorial, food-service, hospitality, transportation, and retail industries that their wages have stagnated because their educations are inadequate for international competition. The quality of our civic, cultural, community, and family lives demands school improvement, but barriers to unionization have more to do with low wages than does the quality of education. After all, since 1973 the share of the workforce with college degrees has more than doubled; over 40 percent of native-born workers now have degrees beyond high school. Additionally, the proportion of native-born workers that has not completed high school or its equivalent has decreased by half to just 7 percent.
They go on to argue:
These are not problems that can be solved by charter schools, teacher accountability, or any other school intervention. A balanced human capital policy would involve schools, but would require tax, regulatory, and labor market reforms as well.
I think that in the end, I think that I’m agreeing with Doug when I note that Mishel and Rothstein are suggesting that even kids with stable and loving –but underpaid – parents are stressed in ways that few expected, because their hard work is supposed to be paying off. And it’s not.
Early childhood education, parents in stable relationships, and homework turned in neatly every day are not going to solve the problem of declining wages and growing inequality.
Scapegoating in any form is merely a diversion from the bigger policy questions that have to be addressed.