I’ve had a couple of articles open in my browser for a while now and I thought I should share them.
In all the policy debate about education, there are some persistent underlying political assumptions. Being aware of these can help you engage with them directly, and address how those assumptions are driving some of the changes and pressures you are facing.
Assumption #1: Education will end poverty
This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education is inspiring in both the project it describes and the author’s disillusionment with the possibilities of that project.
That common wisdom consists not just of the fact that income inequality is real and rising—Bush is right, it is—but that income inequality results primarily from differences in education. Whereas someone with only a high-school diploma could once earn a middle-class living by, say, working in a factory, those days, or so the thinking goes, are over. In the new, postindustrial knowledge economy, the job market rewards those with an education and punishes those without one.
…Crucially, the conventional wisdom explains not just why some people get ahead, but also justifies why some people are left behind. And though they may agree on little else, liberals, conservatives, and cameramen can nevertheless agree on this.
In terms of educational and economic policy, we may have even put the cart in front of the horse. As it stands, we seek to decrease inequality and poverty by improving educational enrollment, performance, and attainment. A good deal of evidence, however, suggests that we should do just the opposite. Only by first decreasing inequality and poverty might we then improve educational outcomes.
Assumption #2: Education will address inequality at the national level
That assumption has now crept into discussions about national competitiveness in global markets. I frequently ask myself why governments are arguing that we need more people educated to the doctoral level when the employment situation for doctorally trained folks is so poor.
The answer seems to be in the evidence trotted out in these public pronouncements: inevitably statistics comparing different countries in terms of the proportion of the population educated to a particular level.
And article by Peter Wilby in The Guardian, boldly titled The awful truth: education won’t stop the west getting poorer, addresses this assumption.
Just as education failed to deliver social democratic promises of social equality and mobility, so it will fail to deliver neoliberal promises of universal opportunity for betterment.
I recommend both of these articles to you.