Mike Kueber's Blog

March 14, 2012

Diminished equal opportunity

Other than freedom, equal opportunity is probably the most cherished attribute of the American way.  A major difference between these two attributes is that assaults on freedom are more direct, and Americans can decide whether they are willing to sacrifice a bit of freedom to attain some other benefit, usually security.  But that is not the case with equal opportunity.  Assaults on equal opportunity move in a stealthy way and the effect is so incremental that it is hardly noticed.  Then suddenly one day – today – there is a recognition that opportunity in America has significantly diminished for the lower socio-economic class, and we don’t know what to do to fix it. 

The latest example of class stratification was reported in an op-ed piece in the NY Times titled, “The Reproduction of Privilege” by Thomas Edsall.   According to Edsall:

  • Seventy-four percent of those now attending colleges that are classified as ‘most competitive,’ a group that includes schools like Harvard, Emory, Stanford and Notre Dame, come from families with earnings in the top income quartile, while only three percent come from families in the bottom quartile.”

Edsall approving quotes Anthony Carnevale, “The education system is an increasingly powerful mechanism for the intergenerational reproduction of privilege.”

Isn’t it ironic that the reputed bastions of equal opportunity, with their proud, loud efforts toward diversity, are actually redoubts of class stratification?  Reminds me of the old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I continue to believe that education is the key to equal opportunity, but taking affirmative action in favor of the daughter of two African-American lawyers does not make a campus as diverse as admitting a son of white single-mother maid.  Too bad there is no special interest group lobbying in favor of the bottom quartile.

 

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2 Comments »

  1. Great post, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about diversity and equal opportunity for education. I would agree that education is important and a key component in equal opportunity. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford an education, and are left struggling for survival. I had a few thoughts to go along with your post, I am doing this for a class assignment and your post was the one I enjoyed the most.
    I go to a Christian university in Arkansas where around 25% of students are internationals. At first I thought it to be unfair. Internationals come to the U.S and receive a practically free education while I am stuck working three jobs just to make it by. I soon realized however that we need diversity to keep our country going since America is after all a melting pot.
    Equal education scares me because the U.S would be flooded with educated people and job searching would be harder than it already is. It’s hard enough as it is to find a decent paying job with our declining economy.

    Comment by David Bolos — March 15, 2012 @ 6:21 am | Reply

    • Thanks, David. I’m struggling with the issue of equal opportunity, too. If you come up with any ideas other than education, please share them with me. You didn’t ask, but — I have a close friend who recently retired, yet he still bitterly complains about his affluent classmates who got their college paid for while he had multiple jobs. Things like that are obviously not fair, but his bitterness did not help Of course, I’m still bitter about the reverse discrimination that I experienced throughout my work life while the government pursued affirmative action.

      The world is flat, and America needs the best and the brightest, which is usually a melting pot of diversity. With the best and the brightest, our economy will not decline and there will be pleny of decent paying jobs.

      That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Good luck with your paper.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — March 15, 2012 @ 9:50 am | Reply


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