The Times treats us this morning to the observation that the rich do better than the poor in school, and the gap is widening:
One reason for the growing gap in achievement, researchers say, could be that wealthy parents invest more time and money than ever before in their children (in weekend sports, ballet, music lessons, math tutors, and in overall involvement in their children’s schools), while lower-income families, which are now more likely than ever to be headed by a single parent, are increasingly stretched for time and resources. This has been particularly true as more parents try to position their children for college, which has become ever more essential for success in today’s economy.
A study by Sabino Kornrich, a researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid, and Frank F. Furstenberg, scheduled to appear in the journal Demography this year, found that in 1972, Americans at the upper end of the income spectrum were spending five times as much per child as low-income families. By 2007 that gap had grown to nine to one; spending by upper-income families more than doubled, while spending by low-income families grew by 20 percent.
“The pattern of privileged families today is intensive cultivation,” said Dr. Furstenberg, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.
No foolin'. Not mentioned is the ubiquity of tutoring specifically oriented towards the SAT exam.
Charles Murray, er, tarred himself with 'The Bell Curve', which purported to show that genetics and race trumped attempts to overcome their burdens. His recent book 'Coming Apart' examines the worsening state of poor white Americans, and comes to the conclusion that it's about values: welfare-encouraged parasitism, single-parent households, crime, misguided government attempts to solve the problem, sex, drugs, rock and roll, like that. Meanwhile, blue collar jobs with decent wages and benefits have vanished or been exported by the millions, leaving rural areas full of closed factories and cities full of burger flippers. Unions, which have a little to do with worker safety and security, are now demonized as one of the causes of economic decline at a time when they are at a low in membership and political power. And study after study shows a widening gap between the rich and everybody else with respect to, well, money; the notion that the gap in education spending might parallel the gap in economic fortune might occur to someone.
Murray, and others on the right and amongst libertarians, call for more personal responsibility, almost always from others rather than themselves. That itself, of course, is oxymoronic. They cast social ills not as problems to be solved, but as moral failings, and therefore the responsibility of someone else but not of themselves. And, too, note that, in a polity where economic analysis has triumphed over all other ways to examine the human condition and deal with it, the role of economics is denied in every situation in which it could be marshalled in favor of granting a common humanity to the poor, and to people of color, while exalted--and, at that, using potted, easily discredited models--when the rich would benefit.
This isn't just Moynihan's 'benign neglect'. This is willful blindness and a flight from personal responsibility. It must be called what it is, and fought.