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Higher Ed Is Part of the Problem - NationalJournal.com


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"Drill to bedrock in our collective convictions and you will find the belief that America is a land of opportunity, in which everyone can rise as far as their talents will take them. In the latest College Board/National Journal Next America Poll, conducted in October, two-thirds of adults said children of all backgrounds have an adequate chance to succeed in the United States. Majorities not only of whites but also of Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and African-Americans agreed. Their faith is a source of the energy and tenacity that routinely drives Americans to climb far beyond their modest beginnings.

And yet overall, the cross-generational trends in educational achievement mock our collective self-image. In the American imagination, education operates as our great social escalator, lifting anyone with enough determination to within reach of the American Dream. But the trends Carnevale and Strohl describe show that today's educational system does more to stratify than to dissolve economic advantage.

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This is crucial. Those elite schools spend at least twice as much per student as the less-selective institutions and produce far better outcomes in graduation rates, postgraduate degrees, and lifetime earnings. They mint the adults most likely to raise children who will someday attend these schools themselves.

As Carnevale notes, the divergent outcomes for children from comfortable and poor families are rooted in a "very complex set of mutually reinforcing factors" that start with their parents' education and income levels. Reversing those powerful dynamics isn't easy—especially when public budgets are tight. But the Next America will be a tense and turbulent place if it accepts a collapsing ladder of mobility that apportions opportunity mainly to young people with the great foresight to be born into it."

Short read, worth it.

We must never let schools get in the way of our education.

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