The New York Times has published a commentary about the increasing inequality in the American education system, starting from pre-school and running through university. The piece doesn’t quite strike me as lining everything up as much as I would like. That is, the commentary consists of a series of statistics and tableaus that, more than anything, sketch out various dimensions of inequality, but I could not, by the end, quite pull it altogether. I think the consensus is in that public funding of education has faced a perfectly awful set of convergences: first, the de-funding of education both through strategic moves by conservatives as well as through economic downturns; second, the imposition of a vast array of unfunded mandates which go hand-in-hand with, third, the rise of a management class in education that is more invested in “assessments” and “outcomes” than in anything called “teaching.” Thus, what money still flows into education is increasingly siphoned off into a bureaucracy that spends little actual time with students but is more focused on “keeping teachers in line” which seems to suit the mood of at least some part of the public. (Yup, like education’s ills are all due to mostly average to under-paid people whose ambition in life is to help kids the way their teachers helped them. Terrible thing, cycles of virtue.)
What [Strauss’ commentary][nyt] does well, however, is to capture the complexity of the situation. The fact is, these kinds of situations, products of a large, complex democracy, have a lot of moving parts. (American agriculture and the farm bill also spring to mind as having *wayyy* more moving parts than you might think.) I don’t pretend even to begin to have anything more than a limited understanding, as revealed above.