In her column “A link to the city’s future” (Metro, Sept. 12), Yvonne Abraham made a good point that is made far too infrequently in US media and politics — that improving education can’t solve everything.
From joblessness to poverty to crime, politicians are always saying that we can solve any problem if we just get parents, kids, teachers, and school administrators to buckle down and work harder. While there are certainly pockets of very bad schools among the schools of Massachusetts — located unfailingly, it seems, within high-poverty zip codes — the general focus on education reform as a cure-all is harmful, distracting rhetoric.
Generally, people work as hard as they did a generation ago, if not harder, and they have at least as much education, if not more. But, on average, they face worse life prospects in terms of income and benefits because of our winner-take-all economy.
The US economy did not always function in this way. From 1933 to 1973, strong unions and government action through the New Deal, World War II, the GI Bill, and the Great Society transformed the wreckage of the Great Depression into the world’s largest middle class. But now the country is regressing, with a small rich elite and a massive group of working poor. The middle class is shrinking fast.
Reforming public education may be helpful and necessary in some circumstances, but it’s a far cry from a comprehensive solution to the massive challenges we face.