Class Privilege 101

College forces middle-class culture onto students. Former poor-kid-in-college Rita Rathbone says that’s a problem.

By Rita Rathbone
I was really intrigued by the recent discussion about college and disadvantaged students. Research is showing us that those who come from poverty still earn less in their lifetime, even with a college degree, than those from more affluent backgrounds. And those are the students who actually finish.  Far too many low-income students rack up large amounts of debt, but fail to graduate. In the long run, they are worse off. These are profoundly important facts to inform our discussions around education policy. This matters to me because I am a public school teacher and education scholar. It matters even more to me because I once was a poor kid in college.

I was born and raised in Southern Appalachia in one of the many lingering pockets of extreme rural poverty in America. Not only was my family and most of my community impoverished, we were culturally and physically isolated. Violence and alcoholism were common fixtures. My mother was a product of the foster care system, my father struggled with an undiagnosed learning disability, and I had a special needs sibling. I graduated in the top 5% of my class with a 4.65 GPA despite working 35-40 hours per week, starting the week of my 16th birthday. I was a first generation college student. I am sure I would have been a dream come true for an Ivy League admissions officer in search of a scholarship recipient. I didn’t apply to any Ivy League schools, though. I attended the closest public university to me, 30 miles away. And I only did that instead of going to the local community college because I was offered a scholarship to become a teacher, something that I was passionate about. Continue reading →

Major: Debt

Students are told from a young age that the only way to get ahead is to go to college. And that’s bad advice, says writer Neil Swidey.

college_bannerEduShyster: You recently wrote an eye-popping report in which you challenge one of our most deeply held beliefs: that, as you put it, *the best route out of poverty runs through the college quad.* Explain.

Neil Swidey: What we have now is a decades-long consensus of advice that we give students, particularly low-income students, and it’s so widespread and accepted that it’s in the ether. Students, from a young age, are told that the only way to get ahead is to go to college, and not just to college but to a four-year college. But when you dive into the data, as I did for this project, what you find is that the low-income students who graduate, and graduate without a lot of debt, are outliers. And the ones who don’t finish are worse off than if they’d never gone to college at all. So we have to ask ourselves what it means when that good outcome we’re encouraging is statistically very unlikely to happen, and the negative outcomes are much more likely. Of course all students should be able to get ahead. But we can’t be giving students aspirational advice that ends up deepening their hole rather than helping them move ahead. Continue reading →

PARCC Place

A cozy, clubby place where everyone is, well, connected and conflicts of interest don’t apply…

monopolymanWelcome to PARCC Place, reader! It’s a cozy, clubby place where everyone is, well, connected, united in a shared urgency over the fiercely urgent cause of our time: college and career readiness. In fact, so urgent is the cause of our time that the old rules about, say conflicts of interest, no longer apply. So relax, pour yourself a scotch (three fingers since no one’s watching) and prepare to stick around. For it turns out that PARCC Place is a whole lot easier to get into than it is to exit. Continue reading →

College and Career Ready or Not

How to talk to your little ones about art history

It is never too early to begin preparing your little ones for the jobs that will cease to exist in the future—even if you don’t actually have little ones. So imagine the frustration of successfully filling said little ones full of college and career readiness only to watch them choose the wrong choice: say art history, or poetry. Is there anything you can do to forestall this terrible fate?  Continue reading →