The previous post focused on how poverty affects child development and parenting practices. This part sheds light on how we might see the effects of economic deprivation in educational outcomes. For the first part, click here.In the next posts we will look into how increasing income disparities since the recession are changing consumer patterns and creating a whole new market for child entertainment.
If you haven’t lived under a stone for the past ten years you are aware of the growing concern that American schools are underachieving. When compared to many international competitors American students lag behind in language as well as in math skills. Education pundits have offered a variety of reasons for this low education performance. As a result we have gotten No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top, alternative voucher and charter schools, standardized tests and the mushrooming of for-profit companies that all promise to deliver more effective education across the U.S.
Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) earlier this month showed that national test scores are slightly improving. But after all this focus on early education of recent years, fourth- and eighth-graders around the country are still not proficient in math and reading, and a sizable portion only have a basic understanding of the core subjects. In this test crazed era, where the whole national self-esteem seems to be measured in the extent to which our kids are beating Asian tiger cubs in STEM-proficiency, the alarmists tend to overlook that the level has risen across the world. The international scores are moving targets. And while higher test scores in other competitive countries are often the result of an improving economy, the economy has actually gotten worse for most American school children. One study showed that American students’ PISA scores are most strongly dependent on income and that if you control for poverty, American students score higher than any other country in the world. But too much spotlight on that particular fact and the whole private education industry will suffer. That, at least, is the premise of former assistant secretary of education Diane Ratvick ‘s new book Reign of Error. Private educational entrepreneurs are the winners in a school system where ever more public schools are closed down if they fail to lift poor children out of their ‘literacy-poverty’. Hence, the underlying assumption is that poverty does not act as an independent variable when performance is measured. Based on the poor children’s’ physiological development alone, we know that is not the case. Education alone cannot lift the performance for these children if their basic needs are not met. Trends in elementary and secondary education are paralleled by trends in the tertiary education field as well. While many other countries offer free tertiary and even doctoral education to it’s citizens, tuition costs in the U.S. have increased more than any other service. During the skyrocketing tuition increase, real wages stagnated for regular wage earners and more families slid out of the middle class. Yet, public funding of for-profit universities has grown from zero to billions. In 2010 a staggering $1.46 billion of our tax dollars were allotted to Kaplan alone, thereby accounting for 85.89 percent of the company‘s higher-education revenue!
So when it seems like everything is stacked against our youngest citizens are there really any good reasons to believe that the progress that has been made this far will continue? Is there any reason to believe that amidst food shortages and housing insecurities Keisha and José will put in efforts to exalt the status of their schools and their teachers? Especially if college is out of financial reach anyway? In psychographic surveys the youngest generation shows clear signs of favoring smarts, but yet they express doubts about going to college. Most likely they are channeling their parents worry of the price tag. A pretty radical change since the days when prospective college students were drawn to campus by the prospects of an active social life and long party nights.
We get to the question, who goes to private school, elite university and receive quality tutoring services in the economic downturn when it’s so expensive? Answer: 1) Disposable Youth, Surplus Populations of Unemployed and Veterans who are now undergoing personal bankruptcies in record numbers. 2)People who can afford private education for their children. Often these are the very same people who have been able to keep the luxury brands going through the recession and beyond. Because just as the ranks of the economically disadvantaged are growing, growing are also the pocketbooks of those who do have money. The last ten years have actually been very good time for high-priced brand items. But for how long? To learn more please read The Rise Of ‘The Thrifties’.