Monday, November 21, 2011

Education as the Engine of Social Mobility: A Myth?

Here's recommended reading for historians of law and education and scholars of law and inequality: an insightful review in the L.A. Review of Books. The review, "The Educational Lottery," by Steve Brint (11/15/11), covers four texts that challenge the commonly-held view that education is or should be an engine of  social mobility in the United States. Here's an excerpt from the review.

Education is as close to a secular religion as we have in the United States. In a time when Americans have lost faith in their government and economic institutions, millions of us still believe in its saving grace. ...
[I]t is not that the educational gospel is wrong (a truly democratic, meritocratic school system would, if it existed, be a good thing); it is that the benefits of education have not yet spread evenly to every corner of American society, and that the trend toward educational equality may be heading in the wrong direction.
Other heresies are more radical, and thus more disturbing to settled beliefs about the power of education. One currently growing in popularity we might call “the new restrictionism.” According to the new restrictionists, ... access to higher education may have gone too far.

The reviewed books are: John Marsh, Class Dismissed: Why We Cannot Teach or Learn Our Way Out of Inequality (Monthly Review Press, July 2011); Professor X, In the Basement of the Ivory Tower: Confessions of an Accidental Academic (Viking, March 2011); Felicity Allen, ed., Education (Whitechapel/MIT Press, Aug. 2011); and Philip W. Jackson, What Is Education? (Univ. of Chicago, Dec. 2011.).