Inequality for dummies


Corey Robin considers the irony of how white children learn about Martin Luther King while attending schools that have essentially re-seregated since the Nixon years. He casts a jaundiced eye on the effort for Salon:

In the United States, we often try to solve political and economic questions through our schools rather than in society. Instead of confronting social inequality with mass political action and state redistribution, we prefer to educate poor children to wealth. Education can involve some redistribution: making sure, for example, that black, Latino and working-class students have comparable resources, facilities and teachers as white or wealthy students. But one need only compare the facilities at the Park Slope school my daughter attends with those of an elementary school in East New York—or take a walk around James Hall at Brooklyn College, where I teach political science, and then take a walk around the halls at Yale, where I studied political science—to see we’re a long way from even that minimal redistribution.

Sometimes, our self-deception can be downright funny. Two weekends ago, the New York Times profiled a group of fancy private schools in New York City where wealthy, white and privileged students learn that they are … wealthy, white and privileged. There’s even an annual “White Privilege Conference,” which is being held this year at Dalton School (tuition: $41,350). More and more private schools, according to the Times, “select students to attend” that conference. These students are so select (and these schools so selective) that they have to be selected to attend a conference on their selectedness.

No amount of talking about class advantage this way will change it, Robin believes. He’s right. It’s not the kind of learning that comes from classroom exercises or a book.

But still, as children of advantage, doesn’t talking about structural inequality feel right in a truthiness kind of way? To talk about inequality and believe you’re actually doing something about inequality, the way clicktivism feels like activism. Season the lessons with terms like “micro-aggressions,” have students create and discuss “identity cards,” and such conversations become buzzword bingo. Corey Robin calls this kind of education “the quintessential American hustle.”

“Bingo, sir.”

(Cross-posted from Hullabloo.)

Categories : Poverty, Race

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