“In our nation’s struggle to promote social mobility ….education has always been a key driver,” notes the Century Foundation’s president in the foreword to Bridging the Higher Education Divide. (Can be downloaded free.) Like so many of their reports, the book is useful call for some rethinking about the underfunding of community colleges as well as their impact on racial and class segregation.
Alas, it also rests on a common myth that distorts our understanding of our history. Colin Greer’s study The Great School Legend (Basic Books, 1972) is old, but not outdated. Educational mobility largely followed after economic mobility, not before, and blossomed for many American immigrant populations only after the working class became America’s middle class.
Unfortunately soon after Colin’s book appeared the American economy began to reverse itself and the new middle class moved backwards. And, alas, people of color were just entering the middle class as this new trend picked up speed. The 2008 financial debacle has above all injured the African American and Latino middle class.
Myths are powerful. They can mislead, and this one has done us much damage.
p.s. Read this new Century Foundation Report alongside rereading Richard Rothstein’s The Way We Were, also a Century Foundation report from 1998, as well as Colin Greer.
Filed under: 2013 posts