Include working-class whites in ed reform
By framing education as the “civil rights issue of our time” and focusing on the racial achievement gap, reformers “tacitly made education reform a race-based endeavor,” Robert Pondiscio wrote last year. There’s been much praise for inner-city charters for black and Hispanic students, little attention to small-town schools that educate (or fail to educate) white working-class kids.
Pondiscio didn’t think Trump would win. But he saw the people who might be drawn to Trump.
There are about twice as many non-Hispanic whites as blacks living below 150 percent of the poverty line in the U.S. . . . Keen observers like Charles Murray in his book Coming Apart warned us that we are becoming a nation divided less by race than class. Births out of wedlock, crime and joblessness are not uniquely inner city problems. They are almost as prevalent in Murray’s “Fishtown.” As work disappears, physical disability claims have skyrocketed by millions, creating a new economic underclass helpfully absent from sunny unemployment figures.
“If education reform truly is the civil rights struggle of our time, it’s time once again to widen the definition of rights-at-risk to include working class white people too,” wrote Pondiscio.
I’d like to see a serious push for high-quality career-tech education linking high schools to community colleges to employers. Two-thirds of young Americans do not earn bachelor’s degrees; a majority won’t earn any college credential. They need more than college-failure prep.