Schools as Scapegoats

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.

8 thoughts on “Schools as Scapegoats

  1. Kristie August 28, 2008 / 7:03 am

    I do not believe that schools are to blame for the declining wages that people are struggling with today. Though I do believe that everyone who can should get a college degree in a particular study that they are passionate about. This way, their bosses will not only pay them more than what they would pay someone without a college degree, but they will be doing something that they love to do and get hired more easily also. I hope people come to realize that schools are not the ones to blame in this situation, they are the ones trying to help the situation by giving students the knowledge they need to succeed in the working world today.

  2. Kristie August 29, 2008 / 6:49 am

    I do not believe that schools are the reason for the declining wages that many families are facing today. If anything, schools are the ones trying to make it better for their students by giving them the knowlege they need to succeed in the working world. People with college degrees earn more and would get hired more easily than a person without a college degree would, but it is that persons choice on weather they want to further themselves or not.

  3. Anthony Quinn September 2, 2008 / 11:14 pm

    I largely agree with this, because regardless of how many degrees are granted, even if educational levels sored, these positions would still need filled and I have encountered people who work food service without attending an institution of higher learning, and are, presumably, content enough with their situation to not pursue other opportunities (mostly the younger people I’ve met – the middle-aged people, saddled with children and mortgages seem to regret their earlier complacency). Of course, there are categories of these jobs that are just as difficult to master (carpenter, skilled steel worker, chef) as any professional career with extensive abstract knowledge. I think an education approach that combines a period of working in some of these lower-level job markets with education and subsequent pursuit of a professional career, with the continued prescence of other obligations, mostly social, humanitarian, civil and political in nature, is the best plan, satisfying the need to fill service jobs, professional jobs, and voluntary service positions within the same person’s more fully-rounded lifetime.

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