"They never had a formal education, and they don't understand the value of education," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently said of the poor. "The old Norman Rockwell family is gone."
Bloomberg got properly chastised for these words, but they get at the heart of the matter. We have a heritage of disrespect for the poor. Either they don't know what they're doing or they deserve what they get. (While we insist on bragging about our rags-to-riches family histories to prove the latter.)
Meanwhile, over the past 100 years we have raised the bar from a few years of schooling to a high school degree and now a bachelor's degree. If you can't do it, well, you had your chance. Its value? It's measurable to dollars and cents in your pocket...
At the same time, the gap between the poor and rich has grown exponentially, and the amount that's inheritable has grown apace. And, the odds of running into each other in the grocery store, the post office, or at a local meeting—ala Rockwell—has grown ever more remote.
[T]he nation's founders valued education from the start. Thus the founding in 1636 of Harvard, then Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown, and Columbia—all before the American Revolution. But education for "the masses"? (Or women, or people of color? Almost zilch.)
The idea of educating everyone—universally and freely—is not as ancient as I am. When I was born in 1931 a majority of Americans had not dropped into high school.
It wasn't and isn't the poor who, ala Bloomberg, failed to "value" education. It was those with far more power and resources who made the rules that kept them out. It took an enormous battle, led by labor unions and do-gooders, on behalf of our natural thirst for knowledge and self-respect. How dare the elite question the value others placed on getting a good education for their children? But it is part of our shared history to do so...
Saturday, May 28, 2011
A Heritage of Disrespect?
This from Deborah Meier at Bridging Diffrerences: