Megan McArdle ponders income mobility, specifically that middle-class and upper-class people brook no challenge to their children’s current economic strata. The result is that we think of mobility as only going in one direction — up — so higher-income parents “pay lip service to mobility, but they work damn hard to make sure that their kids don’t get exposed to a peer group that might normalize dropping out and working low-wage, dead end jobs, or going on welfare.” She continues,
No matter how deeply ideologically committed you are to public education and income mobility, you will not leave your kid in a high-poverty school where gangs are valorized and college is not–or even in a working class school that will close off the chances for admission to Harvard. You’ll agitate against zoning that would bring poor people in (though of course, not because of the poor people, it’s just that, you know, the character of the town is quiet single family houses and the infrastructure won’t support multi-family plus we don’t really have the social services here and they’d be much better off in Camden, actually.) With other like-minded parents, you’ll take over the school and reshape its priorities to match those of the upper-middle class. Or you’ll move to a different school system, naturally talking about the enrichment programs rather than the more affluent, education-focused peer group you’re buying for your kids.
The one thing you will not say–unless you are isolated in a rural area with exactly one school and no critical mass of similar parents–is, “Oh, well, I guess the best we can hope for is a third-tier state school.” It is no accident that the middle class bits of the New York City school system have managed to hijack the best resources for themselves, in the process building a pretty good public school system which exists cheek-by-jowl with a very lousy one.
Somebody tell Megan:
“While Americans have an optimistic
faith in the ability of individuals to get ahead within a lifetime or from one generation to the next, there is growing evidence of less intergenerational
economic mobility in the United States than in many other rich industrialized countries,
at least according to the relative
mobility measures commonly used
in economic research.”
–“International Comparisons of Economic Mobility”, Julia B. Isaacs, The Brookings Institution
Given your admirable support for giving low-income children the same educational opportunities as wealthier ones, we at Save Our Schools NJ look forward to working with you to pass revisions to the Interdistrict School Choice program.
Hopefully, you also will be able to convince the Lawrence School Board, which you chair, to participate in this program.
The research is clear that the best way to raise the educational achievement of low-income children is by enabling them to leave concentrated poverty. This program would do so by giving them more opportunities to attend public school in wealthier districts such as Lawrence.
Hi, Julia. Please send me an email. I do keep my hats separate, the one I wear as a school board member and the one I wear as a blogger. I'd welcome the opportunity to speak with you.