Friday, February 10, 2012

Educational Disparity

Let's take a trip in the way back machine.

Way back as in mid 2000s. There was a huge push for an education voucher system. This system would allow parents to take a voucher from the state and use it to pay for private schools. Essentially allowing the state to use public funds to pay for private education.

I quickly pointed out that this "idea" was not a good one, nor was it new. Rather, the education system in Chile, where I had resided for some years had used a voucher system for a long time. Almost all schools in Chile are privately ran. The "public" free schools are the ones that people who are barely able to eat on a day to day basis attend. The voucher system effectively means that if you have money or come from money, you get to go to an awesome school that will get you the chance to go to university and then acquire a job that will pay you enough so that you can send your kids to school.

When hiring for jobs in Chile, the primary and secondary schools the applicant attended are strongly scrutinized making it nearly impossible to break out of the cycle. Making the poor, poorer and ensuring the wealth stays with the wealthy.

The idea that all men are created equal is one that is broadly accepted in the modern world. It is even often touted as an argument for capitalism, viewing it as a weeding out of the weak. The problem with this idea is that wealth is accumulated and passed on, inheritance effectively eliminates any idea that the intelligent and strong will be wealthy. If that were the case, how the hell did Paris Hilton become wealthy? The answer is obvious, inheritance. So if all men are created equal, it must be opportunities that are created unequally.

For us to enjoy a society where all men are created equally and are given equal opportunities we need certain equalizers to balance the advantages of the wealthy and discount the disadvantages of the poor. In the US, we always had public education. Every child regardless of wealth was given a relatively equal educational experience.

The NYTimes recently reported:

Education was historically considered a great equalizer in American society, capable of lifting less advantaged children and improving their chances for success as adults. But a body of recently published scholarship suggests that the achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, a development that threatens to dilute education’s leveling effects.
Ah, what? So as our country has continued to get wealthier and wealthier we have been able to keep the poor, poor and uneducated. The data used for the study goes back to 1940s. The curve demonstrating the widening gap flattens out during the '60s and '70s and then shoots upwards through the last portion of the century.

Full article here,

With data like these, it is interesting that the Occupy movement was seen as suddenly breaking onto the scene. As if the Battle of Seattle never happened, or that the '60s didn't exist. The underlying issues the movement is protesting have been around since, forever (how's that for going back in the way back machine).

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