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Wed Sep 19, 2012, 07:27 PM

Is poverty destiny? Ideology vs. evidence in school reform

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/is-poverty-destiny-ideology-vs-evidence-in-school-reform/2012/09/18/cf121d2e-0201-11e2-b257-e1c2b3548a4a_blog.html



At the center of the school reform debate is the role that poverty plays in student achievement, as explained well in the following post. It was written by Paul Thomas, an associate professor of education at Furman University in South Carolina. His newest book, “Ignoring Poverty in the U.S. — The Corporate Takeover of Public Education,” was recently published. A version of this post appeared on dailykos.com. This is long but worth the time.

<snip>

The short answer, then, to whether or not poverty is destiny in the Unite States is “yes.” In fact, all categories of socioeconomic status in the United States are primarily static. In other words, the majority of people in the United States remain in the social class of their birth.

Poverty is destiny, and affluence is destiny in the United States. And these facts have almost nothing to do with the effort of anyone in those categories.

<snip>

Why, then, do the ideological claims of “No Excuses” Reformers resonate with the public against the weight of evidence?

Sawhill and Morton show that the American public holds unique beliefs about equity that contrast significantly with most other countries. Americans disproportionately believe that the United States is a meritocracy (people are rewarded for intelligence, skill, and effort), but reject the notion that people need to start with privilege in order to succeed, that income inequity is too large, and that government should help alleviate opportunity inequities.



The whole article is long and fascinating but the bolded section (I bolded it) really caught my eye. Why, against all evidence, do Americans believe in magic merit dust? I've never felt like opportunity was just around the corner for me, but maybe I just grew up gloomy. And realistic...

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Reply Is poverty destiny? Ideology vs. evidence in school reform (Original post)
Starry Messenger Sep 2012 OP
LWolf Sep 2012 #1
HiPointDem Sep 2012 #2
eppur_se_muova Sep 2012 #3
Starry Messenger Sep 2012 #4
Igel Sep 2012 #6
mbperrin Sep 2012 #7
HiPointDem Sep 2012 #8
jody Sep 2012 #13
jody Sep 2012 #14
HiPointDem Dec 2012 #20
jody Sep 2012 #5
HiPointDem Sep 2012 #9
jody Sep 2012 #10
HiPointDem Sep 2012 #11
jody Sep 2012 #12
HiPointDem Sep 2012 #15
jody Sep 2012 #16
HiPointDem Sep 2012 #17
GMR Transcription Dec 2012 #18
Starry Messenger Dec 2012 #19

Response to Starry Messenger (Original post)

Wed Sep 19, 2012, 09:13 PM

1. This line stands out for me:

the majority of people in the United States remain in the social class of their birth.

I am one of the very, very, few who pulled herself up by those non-existent boot straps. I raised 2 kids, worked, sometimes 2 jobs, and put myself through school. I paid all of my student loans. I bankrupted myself rescuing my grandson from a life-threatening health crisis. In my 50s, I don't have a lot to show for "pulling myself up."

Those 2 kids? One did just like I did...became a parent straight out of high school and gave up his plans for college to raise the kid.

The other did 2 years at community college, then left to take a retail job, which paid him more after 2 years than I was making after 2 decades in education. When the economy crashed and he was laid off, he went back to school, finished his BA, and is finishing his MA this year. His student loan debt terrifies me. He's going to be 35 next month, and it may take him the rest of his life to pay it down.

None of us have lived that middle class life with the nicer home, the newer cars, the vacations, etc..

We're in better shape than the generations before me, but not by much.

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Response to Starry Messenger (Original post)

Wed Sep 19, 2012, 11:02 PM

2. I think one of the reasons is that within living memory americans (my grandparents and parents'

 

generation) made the transition from farm to office.

When I was a kid there were still people I knew of living without running water and electricy, outdoor toilets, etc., raising a lot of their own food largely outside the market economy.

The WW2 generation, a significant percent, went from those conditions or somewhat better into factories & offices, & sent their kids to college to see them enter the professions. That seemed like a huge improvement, partly due to their own hard work, scrimping, etc, & that memory of 'rising' is still cherished in a lot of families -- even though it had more to do with an overall societal/economic transformation than any individual's hard work.

It sure is a ruling myth in my family & the families of their friends, anyway. It had a huge impact on me & my siblings (somewhat pernicious, I'd say). But less so in the next generation down from mine & on, who never experienced farm life.

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Response to Starry Messenger (Original post)

Thu Sep 20, 2012, 11:43 AM

3. "Magic merit dust" -- there's a memorable phrase. :^)

I think our belief in self-starting, rugged individualists got started in our frontier society. Anyone who was willing to slaughter a few Indians, or talk the Army or militia do it for him, could start his own farm, and if he worked hard enough, make a go of it (particularly back East, where the farmland was productive without irrigation). Or he could start cutting every tree in sight and get rich in the lumber business -- no one to stop him. If he wanted to start a mine, the gov't made it absurdly cheap and easy to stake a claim and acquire mineral rights -- hey, there was plenty to go around! The advancing frontier meant a constant influx of new land, new mines, new forests, new opportunities, while the growing influx of immigrants provided cheap and abundant labor, which opened up all manner of opportunities for robber barons to flourish. Once the frontier was closed, things were bound to slow down, and as the "empty lands" were settled, things slowed down even more. The endless expansion of opportunity is not there anymore because the mechanisms which provided it are not there anymore.

Making your way in a society where every niche is already occupied means competition becomes a factor in a way it never was before. You can't just move on to new territory and start over anymore. But our mythology has never caught up with the facts.

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #3)

Thu Sep 20, 2012, 05:22 PM

4. "But our mythology has never caught up with the facts."

Boy is that the truth. I can't imagine what it is going to take to shake that myth loose, but I feel it has to eventually. We can't just keep doing this!

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Response to Starry Messenger (Reply #4)

Sun Sep 23, 2012, 01:16 AM

6. Don't be so quick to denounce it as a myth.

Meaning "meaningless story."

It's not. There are still niches to be filled, and for those there's a good chance of upward mobility. But there are fewer than there used to be, so upward mobility, once common, is more restricted.

The key word is "competition." If you can compete, then you can move upwards. By saying there's no chance to successfully compete, you're saying there's no point in preparing for competition.

I teach a wide mix of kids. Some of them have good imaginations and can see themselves competing, they can see themselves moving into jobs that don't exist. Many can't see themselves moving into jobs that they don't see adults around them filling already. Many of those jobs are going to go away, and they can't conceive of an alternative. Unrealistic dreams are more likely to produce something innovative than a relentless prosaicism that merely asserts that what is is and what is will be.

There's not much of an alternative except simply paying people the same for doing something that requires a lot of education and hard work as for doing something that requires no education but still a lot of hard work. That won't wash. You simply don't produce as much flipping burgers and cleaning toilets as you do on an assembly line or producing a new medicine. It would require massive redistribution of income to less efficient companies in order to pay them. We could pay directly through the IRS, but then the risk is paying people to breathe.

We don't like doing that kind of redistribution. It accounts for much of the rising cost of higher ed. Colleges aren't efficient. They have virtually 0% productivity gain over the last 50 years.

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Response to Igel (Reply #6)

Sun Sep 23, 2012, 02:26 AM

7. Colleges are not efficient? At what?

To my knowledge, no long-term longitudinal study has ever been performed to see if people are happy as they grow older.

If the purpose of education is not to produce happier people, I wouldn't know what it might be. So let's do a study and discuss it in 40 years.

Productivity is just code for doing more work for the same money, anyway.

Some things are not subject to "productivity." For instance, the damned Moon is still the same distance from the earth that it has been for millions of years. The highly inefficient thing has never gotten a bit closer or farther away (whichever would be defined as productive), and it just does what it always has. On that basis, we need to destroy it and replace it with something more productive.

There's more work to do than can ever be done, period. Problem is, not all work is monetized, so by definition, it is worthless. We need a new paradigm of value. Careful with that cleaning toilets not being worth anything business. I must remind you that a surgeon's highly paid work will come to nothing if there are bacteria left in the operating room that cause a fatal infection in the patient.

And then there are those who are paid lots, but are really cancer on society - bankers, stockbrokers, and other casino operators, for example. Our current pay scale does not reflect value, and we have no current way to measure it.

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Response to Igel (Reply #6)

Sun Sep 23, 2012, 04:09 AM

8. "if you can compete, you can move up". everyone can compete. most people lose.

 

the more stratified the society, the more losers.

it's not about how well you compete, it's about how stratified the society is.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #8)

Sun Sep 23, 2012, 03:51 PM

13. Do you mean your assertion to apply to professional athletes? If not how do you define exceptions?nt

 

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Response to Igel (Reply #6)

Sun Sep 23, 2012, 04:08 PM

14. OR upward mobility is more restricted to STEM fields and some entertainment fields. nt

 

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Response to Igel (Reply #6)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 12:11 AM

20. If most jobs are of the burger-flipping variety, that means most people will not be 'competitive,'

 

no matter how much education they have.

Universities and colleges have added massive overhead & administrative costs & questionable building in the past 30 years, too. While cutting the percent of secure faculty they employed.

Perhaps this is part of the reason for their alleged low 'productivity gains' -- though what you mean by 'productivity gains,' i suspect, has to do with things like adding computerized classes.

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Response to Starry Messenger (Original post)

Thu Sep 20, 2012, 10:26 PM

5. Didn't the Head Start Program have any effect on reducing poverty?

 

Isn't "poverty is destiny" another way of saying poverty is genetic?

Head Start Impact Study and Follow-up, 2000–2012 http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/hs/impact_study/

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Response to jody (Reply #5)

Sun Sep 23, 2012, 04:11 AM

9. head start has no effect on the poverty rate. it's an educational enrichment program intended

 

to ameliorate some of the effects *on children* of living in poverty.

it has an effect but it tends to weaken by later grades. last research i saw anyway.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #9)

Sun Sep 23, 2012, 09:02 AM

10. OK Head Start has only minor effects on children. Its purpose is

 

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
Sec. 636.
It is the purpose of this subchapter to promote the school readiness of low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development—

(1) in a learning environment that supports children’s growth in language, literacy, mathematics, science, social and emotional functioning, creative arts, physical skills, and approaches to learning; and

(2) through the provision to low-income children and their families of health, educational, nutritional, social, and other services that are determined, based on family needs assessments, to be necessary.

I guess it's a leap of faith but if Head Start had been successful, then children living in poverty would benefit from education and be able to rise out of the poverty.

Implicit in my conjecture is a belief that education is a road from poverty to Good Times.

On the other hand, the Minnesota Twin Family Study suggests what a child becomes is strongly influenced by genetics and not the environment in which raised. https://mctfr.psych.umn.edu/ and papers written on the results of the study.

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Response to jody (Reply #10)

Sun Sep 23, 2012, 01:16 PM

11. it has been successful. it's the most successful educational intervention ever.

 

the minnesota twin study, and *all* studies that suggest people are poor because they have inferior genes, are fascist crap.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #11)

Sun Sep 23, 2012, 03:29 PM

12. You assert Head Start is the "most successful educational intervention ever" but on what factor?

 

Please cite conclusions from the "Head Start Impact Study" that support your assertion. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/hs/impact_study/

Please cite papers in scholarly journals that refute the Minnesota Twin Study results so I won't classify your statement as an unsupported assertion.

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Response to jody (Reply #12)

Sun Sep 23, 2012, 10:32 PM

15. Head start has been around for nearly 50 years and has been studied intensively over that time.

 

There are literally hundreds of studies, and overall they are positive, showing bigger gains and more long-lasting gains that any other program for children in poverty.

Fuck the minnesota twin study & any & every study designed to link poverty & genes. With a big, sharp stick. And such studies' designers and supporters too, may they rot in hell as they deserve.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #15)

Mon Sep 24, 2012, 07:10 AM

16. I understand, your mind is made up so reject facts even the "Head Start Impact Study". I want to

 

help children escape poverty and optimistically believe education is part of the answer but how do we spend money?

Our Democratic Party Platform says
An Economy that Out-Educates the World and Offers Greater Access to Higher Education and
Technical Training. Democrats believe that getting an education is the surest path to the middle class, giving all students the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and contribute to our economy and democracy. Public education is one of our critical democratic institutions. We are committed to ensuring that every child in America has access to a world-class public education so we can out-educate the world and make sure America has the world’s highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. This requires excellence at every level of our education system, from early learning through post-secondary education. It means we must close the achievement gap in America’s schools and ensure that in every neighborhood in the country, children can benefit from high-quality educational opportunities

I agree but after billions have been spent on many schools in pockets of poverty the only way teachers and administrators have found to increase test scores is by cheating.

Something is wrong and children remain mired in poverty.

How can President Obama spend dollars effectively and efficiently on education in his second term?

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Response to jody (Reply #16)

Mon Sep 24, 2012, 07:22 AM

17. Children remain mired in poverty because wealth is becoming more concentrated. The one follows

 

the other like night follows day.

The ruling class wishes to privatize education so they can concentrate wealth even more. That's the politics behind the 2011 head start report, and sad to say, that's the political calculation behind what's going on in education today.

Tests scores on the gold standard test have increased despite increases in poverty overall and in the percentage of poor students being tested (rather than dropping out at earlier ages as was the case in earlier years).

The gap between white and minority students has narrowed significantly.

Obama and more importantly his backers don't want my advice about education. Their minds are made up.

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Response to Starry Messenger (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 02:07 AM

18. Is poverty destiny? Ideology vs. evidence in school reform

A really nice and fascinating post. This is really very interesting and informative for the readers of this thread. As per my suggestion,
Poverty is such a condition where the deprivation of basic needs including food , shelter and clothing occurs when people cannot satisfy their basic needs. It can be simply be signified as a lack of money or more broadly in terms of barriers to everyday life.
This situation cannot be stated as a destiny defined thing its situation that has been create by the economy and its people.A standardized tests reveals a huge disparity between children from development countries and those from developing countries.The situation of unemployment rates remain high long after a shock, particularly financial crisis, despite and lag economic recovery.

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Response to GMR Transcription (Reply #18)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 08:22 AM

19. Members, I'm pretty sure this account is a spam bot.

I have a note into a MIRT member to take a look at it, but in the meantime I've blocked it.

If the holder of this account is a human, PM me. Otherwise, ta for now.

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