Can Educationism Solve Anything?

Big Grove Township School #1

Blaming the woes of society on our K-12 education system is a habit I need to break.

In the post below the target was a failure to teach children about their responsibilities when signing student loan papers. A high school graduate is an adult at age 18 in our culture, so when taking on debt that has the potential to cripple them for decades, they should be equipped to know what they are doing.

Parents also play a key role in educating youth, however my grievance with the way the Iowa legislature funds public schools is they are not spending enough money where it is most needed, and the results show in the form of an ill-educated electorate that makes what I believe are bad decisions.

It is unfair for me to pin this on public schools as State Senator Claire Celsi immediately pointed out:

In the July issue of The Atlantic, author Nick Hanauer addresses the tendency to blame public schools in an article titled, “Better Public Schools Won’t Fix America:”

Long ago, I was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, one many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America.

This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world. No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built. But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way. We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall. School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy. As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class. And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself.

Hanauer assigns blame to our economic system: income inequality and the fact workers are underpaid.

“Allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it,” he wrote. “By distracting us from these truths, educationism is part of the problem.”

While sad that my participation on Twitter is sometimes a distraction, eventually I can get around to a more reasonable position thanks to the commentariat. One commentator accused me of adopting the policies of U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. That’s not the case, but at least we didn’t have to invoke Godwin’s Law to resolve the issue. Despite any issues with an ill-educated electorate, hope for a better world remains.

Read Hanauer’s entire article here.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

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