Conversely, I found no references to wealth or the upper class. Such omissions insinuate that affluence does not have influence over the quality of education of truly advantaged students.
While the Chamber of Commerce may slight the ill affects of poverty on student achievement and try to shift more blame to teachers and families, some observers refuse to ignore destitution and pauperism as real threats to student achievement. Strong assumptions about and faith in the American meritocracy hinder real reform based on guaranteed equity of opportunity:
The first step to education reform, then, in the U.S. is to acknowledge some sobering realities about our society as we move further into the second decade of the twenty-first century:
- Childhood poverty in the U.S. (about 22%) is both relatively high when compared to other countries similar to the U.S. and inexcusable in the wealthiest society of all human history.
- Upward mobility in the U.S. has not materialized, and remains something to which we should aspire—but is not something we have achieved.
- The economic and equity gap between the top 1% and remaining 99% is growing, and thus threatening our goal of meritocracy. That 1% maintains disproportionate control over wealth in the U.S. and by extension disproportionate control over politics, commerce, and (most significantly) public discourse. The 1% must perpetuate a faith among the 99% in meritocracy as a reality to preserve their status.
- Childhood poverty is a subset of adult poverty, employment, and wages. Even if we decide to address childhood poverty and the conditions of those children's lives, to ignore adult and family conditions is to ignore childhood poverty still.
Ignoring the reality of the underdevelopment in the communities of many public school students and denying widespread paucity and the shrinking middle class, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce is not engaging in authentic education reform, but merely morphing a new separate-but-equal system oblivious to increasing income disparity. Rich kids will keep getting smarter; poor kids will be held back.