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 →

Podcast: Why College Won’t Fix Poverty

Have You Heard heads to campus to talk to three current and former students. They *get* what researchers are just beginning to understand: that going to college isn’t the silver bullet to solving poverty. By saddling students with debt and degrees that aren’t worth that muchif they finish at allcollege may even be making the problem worse.

Love Letter to My Dead Student

A Chicago teacher mourns a slain student, knowing that he won’t be the last…

By Ann Mastrofsky
I was in my classroom when someone opened the door, stuck in his head and mooed. I opened the door and looked around the corner. As I expected, it was J., one of my favorite, most charismatic, and most intractable students, who typically greeted me in this manner. He very rarely attended class and when he did, he spent most of his time socializing. But he beamed with pride when you complimented his efforts. He appreciated your kindness and respected you in return. He did the best he could, and sometimes his best was outstanding; he earned the highest grade on my semester final.

I greeted him and he smiled warmly, an impish flash in his eyes. He and I had bonded early; he liked his middle aged, white female teachers, teachers like me, the best.  A huge youth, he towered over me and my neck hurt looking up at his broad face and dyed dreads.

I asked him what was up and he shrugged, smiling shyly. I told him to pull up his pants and take off his hat, both of which he did. I asked him if I’d see him in class later and he told me that I would.  A few of his friends approached and I ducked back into my room, allowing him the privacy that adolescents and teachers both require. I knew only a very little about J’s life outside of the classroom, but I knew enough to know that my ignorance was for the best.

As I expected, he never showed up in class that afternoon.

And now, he is dead at 17, shot to death by unknown assailants.

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Separate but Innovative: MLK 2.0

If Martin Luther King Jr. returned today, would he be an achievement gaptivist? And which billionaires would fund his important work?

No one could lead a civil rights movement like Martin Luther King Jr. But let’s face it: the movement he led was old school. The civil rights issue of our time is the achievement gap, and closing it often requires doing the opposite of what Dr. King stood for. Which raises some important questions: if Dr. King returned today would he be an achievement gaptivist? Which billionaires would fund his important work? And with poverty and racism now officially regarded as excuses, what would he talk about? Meet Martin Luther King 2.0, now with more excellence.

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