Education Can’t Fix Poverty (So why do we keep insisting that it can?)

Have You Heard talks to historian Harvey Kantor, the author of this excellent history, about how education came to be seen as THE fix for poverty. Hint: it all starts in the 1960’s with the advent of the Great Society programs. Fast forward to the present and our belief that education can reduce poverty and narrow the nation’s yawning inequality chasm is stronger than ever. And yet education, argues Kantor, is actually exacerbating income inequality. In episode #24, Have You Heard welcomes back co-host Jack Schneider—well, sort of! 

Education Can’t Fix Poverty. So Why Keep Insisting that It Can?

Education is not the best anti-poverty program, argues historian Harvey Kantor, and it’s long past time we acknowledged that…

Jennifer Berkshire: I read in the New York Times recently that education is the most powerful force for *reducing poverty and lifting middle-class living standards.* It’s a classic example of what you describe in this excellent history as *educationalizing the welfare state.* 

Harvey Kantor: Education hasn’t always been seen as the solution to social and economic problems in the US. During the New Deal, you had aggressive interventions in providing for economic security and redistribution; education was seen as peripheral. But by the time you get to the Great Society programs of the 1960’s, education and human capital development had moved to the very center. My colleague Robert Lowe and I started trying to think about how that happened and what the consequences were for the way social policy developed in the US from the 1960’s through No Child Left Behind. How is it that there is so much policy making and ideological talk around education and so little around other kinds of anti-poverty and equalizing policies?  We also wanted to try to understand how it was that education came to shoulder so much of the burden for responding to poverty within the context of cutbacks in the welfare state.  Continue reading →