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Thompson: The Equality Trust

The Spirit Level provides more social science documenting the obvious. Just as out-of-school effects trump schools’ and teachers’ contributions to learning, equality and inequality trumps economic wealth in creating a livable society. Americans living in more equal states live around 4 years longer than those living in more unequal states.

Similarly, "Unicef measured six different aspects of child well-being. Material well-being included such things as living in a home with few books, or where no adult was employed. Health and safety included items like immunization rates and deaths from accidents. Educational well-being included scores on performance tests and the proportion of children going into further education. Peer and family relationships were measured by such things as whether or not children viewed their peers as kind, and the numbers of children living in single parent and step-parent families. Behaviours and risks included smoking and drinking, how many children had sex by age 15, etc. Subjective well-being included self-rated health and other measures of how children felt about themselves." 

Which raises the "thought experiement" of how much could all of the school reforms of our era increase student performance if implemented flawlessly versus how much learning would increase for the upcoming generation if we simply reduced the teenage birth rate.


Since reformers correctly characterize education as a civil rights issue, the international data on social mobility is crucial.

Since the Center for Education Policy is undoubtedly correct that ESEA rauthorization should be linked to health care reform, we must remember the link between equality and health.

Since an American child is killed every three hours with a gun, creating an environment where it is much more difficult to create safe learning cultures in urban schools, shouldn't we ask why gun-toting Canadians do not share our propensity for violence?

And since the United States is already paying a heavy price for its incarceration rate (made worse by the data-driven War on Drugs) the following suggests we should reconsider our priorities.

And since the Chicago School Consortium has shown that trusting relationships are essential for school improvement, we should incorporate the following into our discussion of community schools.


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I attended one of the authors' book tour events for "The Spirit Level." Interestingly, I learned that they entitled their book meaning to simply refer to a tool used in construction. "Spirit level" is the British term for what Americans simply call a "level."

This was a sort-of-a-mistake on the part of the British authors. They never intended to make their book seem spiritual in any way. They were just referring to the phenomenon of the tipping back and forth of a level.

It's not at all that 'obvious' when you take a look at the figures, rather than those graphs which are often missing units and consist of subsets of countries:


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