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Hullabaloo


Sunday, October 26, 2014

 

So long, American Dream, it's been good to know yuh

by Tom Sullivan

Hmmm, maybe killing off the American Dream will keep out them foreigners?

Nicholas Kristof recalls how in 1951 his French-speaking father from Eastern Europe felt France was too stratified for a penniless refugee to get ahead. So he bypassed France for a opportunity in the United States. Better to learn English. He did. And earned a Ph.D. and became a university professor.

Now the escalator to opportunity is broken, writes Kristof.

A new Pew survey finds that Americans consider the greatest threat to our country to be the growing gap between the rich and poor. Yet we have constructed an education system, dependent on local property taxes, that provides great schools for the rich kids in the suburbs who need the least help, and broken, dangerous schools for inner-city children who desperately need a helping hand. Too often, America’s education system amplifies not opportunity but inequality.

Once the United States led the world — even Great Britain — in educating its people:

Then the United States was the first major country, in the 1930s, in which a majority of children attended high school. By contrast, as late as 1957, only 9 percent of 17-year-olds in Britain were in school.

Until the 1970s, we were pre-eminent in mass education, and Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz of Harvard University argue powerfully that this was the secret to America’s economic rise. Then we blew it, and the latest O.E.C.D. report underscores how the rest of the world is eclipsing us.

In effect, the United States has become 19th-century Britain: We provide superb education for elites, but we falter at mass education.

But it's not just the educational system that's broken. Or the financing. It's the social contract that undergirds the whole culture. People wave around pocket copies of the U.S. Constitution as though it is holy writ, yet break faith with it after the first three words of the preamble. We the People? Sounds like socialism. In spite of the fact that support for public education predates ratification of the constitution, is written into statehood enabling acts including the 50th (Hawaii, 1959), and is reflected in state constitutions from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Yet, conservatives such as Rick Santorum preach that “... the idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly much less that the state government should be running schools, is anachronistic.”

Because it's "Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost," you takers. Conservatives for conservatives. Undermining the public schools by cutting budgets and diverting public funds to private-school vouchers and charters isn't an accident. It's a strategy. Eliminate the American Dream and maybe "they" won't want to come here and ruin it for Real Americans™.