Americans appear to be preternaturally ignorant. We just don’t do very well with facts and figures. Much of this syndrome can be blamed on our equally strong tendency to adhere fast to bullshit theories about human nature and religion, which render us impervious to reason and reality.
Unfortunately, the ignorance is widespread, though it’s most evident among our politicians, who will do or say anything to obtain your stupid vote. And, yes, I’m suggesting that we look in the mirror.
This episode of my periodic rant concerns a spate of research confirming two obvious features of American society, in particular. First, the rich continue to get richer. Second, the children of the wealthy do much better academically than the offspring of the Rest of Us.
I’ve posted extensively on the wealth gap, so no need to restate my position here. Just perform a search of my site with the words “wealth gap.” I’ve also commented on the second point, about the growing educational achievement divide between children of the rich versus everyone else.
Recently I wrote about “educational apartheid.” Before that I commented on the rigidity of achievement gaps—once rich or once poor, always so. Research suggests that money spent on schools to close those gaps may be wasted.
Today I came across this article written by a Stanford professor for the New York Times. Sean Reardon tells us:
Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.
Professor Reardon chides all of us for blaming the schools and the teachers therein for academic failures. The achievement gap increases by only ten percent from kindergarten to high school between the children of the rich and the children of the Rest of Us . The disparity, which is huge, already exists before five-year-olds start school.
Moreover, test scores of poor and middle class students have actually risen over time. What is so remarkable is the rapid improvement of rich kids, and it has everything to do with enrichment, which begins at birth and continues throughout a wealthy child’s educational development.
Liberals like Barack Obama deceive themselves by insisting that the focus of reform should be on creating better schools. Wrong. Here’s Reardon:
The more we do to ensure that all children have similar cognitively stimulating early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills — how to solve complex problems, how to think critically and how to collaborate — essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy.
What gets me angry is how far away we are as a society from recognizing this important truth. We don’t build a more egalitarian society through education. Rather, we increase educational achievement by fashioning a more egalitarian society. Indeed, children of impoverished homes actually have difficulty learning in the first place.
Yet, as the New York Times editors exclaimed, we’re “heading the wrong way” by slashing funding for public services. To our point, and as Professor Reardon urges, government dollars should be aimed at reducing inequality and providing enrichment for all children, not just those of the wealthy.
Writing for the New York Times, Floyd Norris opines that we are “starving the beast” as conservatives have long desired. But in so doing, we’re depriving our children of both educational and economic opportunities over their lifetimes. Norris:
In the 1950s, government spending fell quickly after the Korean War ended. In the second quarter of 1956, the total government gross domestic product was $91.4 billion, at an annual rate. That was 0.4 percent lower than the $91.8 billion rate three years earlier, in the third quarter of 1953.
Notions on high and low finance.
It would be almost 60 years before another such decline was recorded.
The G.D.P. report released Friday states the total government part of G.D.P. – federal, state and local – came to $3.0306 trillion in the first quarter of this year. That is 0.01 percent below the $3.0309 trillion recorded four years earlier.
Those are nominal figures, not adjusted for inflation (as are the figures in the chart below). On a real basis, the decline was 6.5 percent.
When are we going to wise up, folks? We can—and must—do better.