Public education for all and all for public education: The social compact
The penultimate three paragraphs of this story speak to why public education that works for all students, and all students in public eduction, is important for our society as a whole. As one mom who placed her son in a private middle school put it to me recently “I hate feeling like a consumer and not a citizen.”
Growing inequality of income could become the last nail in public education’s coffin. It contributes to the residential segregation that cordons off rich school districts from the poor and reduces support for public education among the wealthy Americans who can opt out.
Mr. Schleicher told me that, while places like Japan, Singapore and Canada have learned how to educate socially disadvantaged children, in the United States social background plays an outsize role in the educational outcomes.
“It’s harder and harder for education systems to counterbalance those tendencies,” Mr. Schleicher told me. “But a lot depends on policy. There is a lot we can do.”
Imagine if the United States government taxed the nation’s one-percenters o that their post-tax share of the nation’s income remained at 10 percent, roughly where it was in 1979. If the excess money were distributed equally among the rest of the population, in 2012 every family below that very top tier would have gotten a $7,105 check.
This is hardly trivial money. But it pales compared to the gap between the wages of a family of two college graduates and a family of high school graduates. Between 1979 and 2012, that gap grew by some $30,000, after inflation.
This clever calculation by Lawrence Katz, a labor economist from Harvard, amounts to a powerful counterargument to anybody who doubts the importance of education in the battle against the nation’s entrenched inequality.
But in the American education system, inequality is winning, gumming up the mobility that broad-based prosperity requires. On Tuesday, theOrganization for Economic Cooperation and Development released its annual collection of education statistics from around the industrialized world showing that the United States trails nearly all other industrialized nations when it comes to educational equality.
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