Campaign 2012: Ignoring Inequality, Missing Opportunity
There's a long New Yorker article you might find useful to read about why income inequality hasn't emerged as a powerful policy or political issue despite its massive growth in recent years. The collapse of Occupy Wall Street, single issue advocacy efforts, and infighting among groups with different responses to income inequality are some of the main factors, according to writer Nick Lemann.
Reading through it, I thought about how sad it is that the two main education factions -- both deeply concerned about equalizing educational opportunity -- are spending so much of their time and energy attacking each other and defending themselves rather than banding together to fight against the status quo. Both sides are to blame, of course -- reformers for abandoning wraparound services & being tone deaf on societal and economic issues during a recession, reform critics for letting themselves be convinced that the folks they disagree with were mortal enemies rather than merely obnoxious and somewhat misguided allies.
It occurs to me that it's been a difficult struggle for reformers in particular to come to terms with the reality that education is not longer the route out of poverty that it once might have been -- that economic mobility is no longer a hallmark of American society. Some elements of society are better than they were 20 years ago -- violence, teen pregnancy -- but social mobility is way down and inequality is way up. You can hear in the rhetoric from the reform folks that they haven't fully absorbed that yet.
It's possible that the economy will recover and the campaign will be over before anyone figures out a way for reformers and educators and parents to form a powerful coalition for change. But studies like this recent Brookings Institute report and articles that have been written off of it (Living near a good school will cost an extra $205,000, Education For Poor Students Threatened By Exclusionary Housing Policies, Report Says) are a constant reminder of all that's being left out of the current policy and political debate over education, and of the crisis that reformers and reform opponents together seem to be letting let go to waste.