Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Closing Gaps

I send you greetings from many wonderful deities! The weather has suddenly warmed, and they are having a lively chat by the Shrine of the Mists. I can hear them back there teasing the neighborhood tom cat.

The Great State of New Jersey wants to close the achievement gap between the highest scoring students and the lowest scoring students. It makes no sense to Governor Christie and his chums that poor kids don't perform well on tests, that they don't learn as much, and their futures are therefore grim.

Well, there are gaps, and there are gaps.

If you close the educational gap, you might well close the expectation gap. Don't know what the expectation gap is? Read on.

My students struggle to achieve a high school diploma. Armed with that diploma, they go get jobs at Whole Foods, Wegman's, Home Depot, and Target. My students are thrilled to find work at such places. They get decent wages and work hours, and some of these businesses offer health care (at least minimally).

College graduates who enter the work force consider themselves failures if they have to work at Home Depot. Is this what they went to college for? To shelve paint samples? Whole Foods. Is this what they went to college for, to chop up eggplant all day?

I had a student come visit me last week. She was all dressed up and supremely happy. She had found a good job cutting up vegetables at Whole Foods. She was in hog heaven.

Along with the educational gap goes the expectation gap. There's the expectation of a "better" job -- better than Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

My question to the Powers That Be, then, is this: If everyone gets an equal education, and everyone goes to college, who will be happy working at Dick's Sporting Goods? Shouldn't America have different calibrations of happiness?

I'll muddy the water even further. Is it possible that, armed with her high school diploma and some ambition, my former student will stride happily into Whole Foods and work her way up the chain of command? Isn't that how America is supposed to work, especially for the immigrant generation?

Call me old fashioned, but I believe in the self-made person. Maybe I'm too 20th century for this new world. But one of my grandfathers had a college degree, and the other one an 8th grade education, and they both had white collar jobs that they loved. Is that not possible anymore?

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Anonymous said...

Ever read "A Brave New World?" A society of Alphas fails. Someone has to do the "dirty work" of keeping society functioning and we have somehow turned the idea of earning your living via labor or direct services (anything and everything from teaching, nursing, emergency medical care, janitorial services, landscaping, the list is nigh endless) into shameful endeavors. Why? Because my hands might get dirty in the process? Please.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, that may be no longer possible in today's world. the gap is widening between the upper class and the lower class and the middle has all but disappeared. The days of having a job with a living wage are going too -- and there are fewer jobs than people. Jobs have not only disappeared to China, but they have been automated out of existence, and "efficiency-ed" out of existence. One of the big efficiencies of Big Corporations is the ending of jobs -- jobs that are redundant in a big company, but were needed in a bunch of small businesses.
To improve our future, we need to start "job ecology" -- the idea that the purpose of business is to create long term full time jobs rather than profit. Sure, to create long term jobs, the company must make a profit, but it does NOT need to be supremely profitable, or as efficient as possible. Lots of small businesses works better than a few big businesses for this purpose. If, as the Supreme Court says, corporations are persons, then corporations should not be allowed to buy and sell each other, as that is slavery.