Reading & Reacting: When Class Became More Important to a Child’s Education Than Race

Image: we don't need buses for our class field trips by woodleywonderworks

Photo by woodleywonderworks/flickr – courtesy of The Atlantic

By Sarah Garland @ When Class Became More Important to a Child’s Education Than Race

This article from The Atlantic is a bit too New York-centric, it highlights a number of factors about education and enrichment for their children that many parents have known for some time, perhaps even started taking them for granted. Simply, the cost of raising children has continued to rise with income failing to keep pace (see their inset related article on that topic).

Consequently, achievements and access to opportunities between the children of those that have and those that have not is widening. In fact, it has become a common notion that college admissions officers can determine the socio-economic status of a student from a quick scan of the extra-curricular activities listed on the application. Garland cites a specific study as her main source on the statistics in explaining this growing phenomenon.

These days, middle-class children are also falling further behind their affluent peers. The test-score gap between middle-income (the 50th percentile of income) and poor children has remained stagnant; it’s the gap between the top earners and the rest that is growing rapidly. And though more poor and middle-income children are completing college these days, they can’t keep up with the growth in college graduates among the wealthiest families. A 2012 study by Reardon also found that “more and more seats in highly selective schools have been occupied by students from high-income families.”

“Income has become a much stronger predictor of how well kids do in school,” Reardon says. “Race is about as good a predictor as it was 30 years ago. It’s more that income has gotten more important, not that race has gotten less important.”

In truth, this is another symptom of broader cultural disease of the last 30 or so years that has seen a greater wealth, privilege, opportunity, and benefit concentrated in the hands of a few. As education budgets in the most underserved areas have seen funding shrink, there has been less spending on programs that promote equity and wellness for all children. As a result, the neediest begin a slide that accelerates and steepens, making it near impossible to catch up with the privileged, recipients of routinely greater opportunities and enrichments.

With a greater focus on younger children, with college and university status being used more as an indicator, this piece doesn’t even address the crippling college debt more and more middle class students and families must finance, exacerbating gaps even beyond a higher education. It is a system that is tilted in favor of the affluent, seemingly with an ever steepening angle. Unfortunately, with increasing frequency, the kinds of scant solutions mentioned in the article that attempt to address social equity problems and these kinds of education gaps are framed as dangerous and even socialist, not simply politically unpopular.


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