In yesterday’s LA Times, Doyle McManus wrote of the “upward mobility gap”that divides college-educated America from Americans who never went to college or finished high school, and says that schools are the key to bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots in the U.S.:
That leaves education, which is the most promising ground for government action, in part because most Americans agree that fixing public education is the government’s responsibility. Haskins and Sawhill say there’s still plenty that can be done to increase access to higher education for low-income kids, including relatively easy things such as simplifying the application for college financial aid, which is an intimidating 127 questions long.
But perhaps the most important thing the federal government can do to promote opportunity, they say, is to expand its current efforts to improve public schools. The focus, Haskins said, should be on giving low-income students “more order, more work and more recognition for achievement.”
Yet at the same time, a backlash is coming in many high-income, high-achieving school districts, where parents believe now that their children are overscheduled, burdened with too much homework, and subjected to too much pressure to succeed. I’ve been sensing a growing revolt in the same socioeconomic group of parents who twenty years ago were leading the charge for standards, accountability, and more homework. For example, we have this from the Denver Post yesterday:
The Boulder Valley School District has made an effort to address overstressed students.
District officials have eliminated class rank, valedictorians and salutatorians in favor of collective student honors. Principals honor high-achieving students — about 20 percent of a school’s senior class — by placing them in cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude groups.
Teachers in Boulder Valley secondary schools also are encouraged to collaborate to reduce the number of big homework assignments due at the same time, while teachers districtwide have been urged to evaluate homework assignments to reduce busywork in favor of assignments that deepen learning.
Ellen Miller Brown, the district’s chief academic officer, said there’s a fine line between challenging students and stressing them out.
So, it looks like the next twenty years will be dominated by school status-symbols like yoga classes and meditation in-between academic classes, and students will get into Williams and Amherst by writing admissions essays about achieving “balance.” Taking AP or IB classes, or being a valedictorian or salutatorian will be seen as the mark of a rank striver from a struggling public school. (Bonus: this is surely a way to solve the gender gap in college–rewarding students for not working so hard and not achieving so much will surely favor the men over the women in college admissions these days!)
Does anyone ever think about the story of the Sneetches when they read stories like these? I sure do!
The ruling class can always decide which is more prestigious–stars or no-stars, achievement or no-achievement.
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