Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Heritage of Disrespect?

This from Deborah Meier at Bridging Diffrerences:
"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...

1 comment:

Aliena Howard said...

This is an interesting insight that has been made by Deborah Meijer. The fact that those poor of this country have not been able to get a good education and therefore a decent job and lift themselves out of their situation is because the elite who control educational resources have made the rules so that certain people (including the poor) cannot get in. I would like to learn more about this issue and what exactly have the elite done to make it so some people cannot get into a proper educational system. Who, specifically, are the elite? Also, I really like the bit thrown in the article about our country founding fathers who truly valued education. However, they were not set on education for the masses such as women and colored folk. Perhaps some of this mentality has continued through the ages in the years of our country. Maybe it has stuck in the minds of certain "elite folk" who are now targeting instead of just women and colored folk as the "not allowed in this club" people the people of this country who are poor and considered lazy or some other miscreant quality because they had their chance to make something better of themselves and utterly failed at it.