The time was when I used to lament over quite imaginary pictures of lads of fourteen dragged protesting from their lessons and set to work at dismal jobs. It seemed to me dreadful that the doom of a ‘job’ should descend upon anyone at fourteen. Of course I know now that there is not one working-class boy in a thousand who does not pine for the day when he will leave school. He wants to be doing real work, not wasting his time on ridiculous rubbish like history and geography. To the working class, the notion of staying at school till you are nearly grown-up seems merely contemptible and unmanly.
In another post, McArdle takes on the idea that more and better jobs would create “education parents” in low-income communities.
Poverty isn’t just about not having “the same stuff” as the middle class (education, a marriage license, a home), McArdle writes. It’s about the choices people make. And those choices are affected by generational poverty and by bad decisions made at a young age, such as unprotected sex with an unreliable male or dropping out of school. But they’re choices.
A middle class parent after a long and crappy day at work struggles to deal with the kid’s school because other parents expect it, because they were raised to treasure education, and because people will work harder to avoid loss (a kid who drops out of the middle class) than to achieve gains (a kid who makes it into the middle class). Also, that middle class job probably isn’t as miserable as changing diapers on Alzheimer’s patients, or cleaning houses, so you have more psychic energy to spare.
Or you can blame a “sick culture” or personal laziness, as some conservatives do–at some level, it doesn’t matter. Poor people are actually choosing not to hassle with their kid’s school. It’s a real choice that they have made. There is no reason to assume that you will be able to override it if you just get the policy levers in the right position.
Higher-wage jobs enable people to earn more money, which solves some problems, she writes. But it’s not so easy to change people. And it would be “pretty creepy” if we could tweak a policy here and there to “remake people into something more to the liking of bourgeois taxpayers.”