Over the past few months, the issues of social mobility and class inequity have become increasingly apparent and frequently discussed. Here are a few previous posts from this blog (The Fiction Of Social Mobility, Ignoring Inequality, Missing Opportunity, Will Reformers Ever Broaden Their Agenda?, Whatever Happened To Antipoverty Programs?) though you can find news and commentary on the topic in the mainstream press pretty much anywhere.
What do reformers think about these data? How do their ideas address issues of social mobility and the opportunity gap? What if any adjustments or wholesale changes need to be made in the current array of interventions and approaches? We don't really know. Social mobility gets to the core of the education enterprise. Either schools can provide it or additional measures are required.
By and large, reform types in and out of the Obama administration have been silent on the news that American society is increasingly bifurcated. It's all education wonkery, all the time. The silence has continued even as it's become an increasingly common topic of debate on oped pages and in the Presidential campaign. (Here's a recent D. Brooks column, for example: Opportunity gap among children further divides America. Fordham's Mike Petrilli discussed some of the same questions here. -- to which Andy Rotherham blithely replied "Good question!"
I'm not saying that reformers need to toss out all their current ideas at once, or to talk about social mobility all the time, just that they need to better address the issues and realities that are on the minds of the general public and -- perhaps -- consider putting their cold, hard data-geek hats on and make a couple of hard decisions. Otherwise, they run the risk of being left out -- or as in the case of the parent trigger, left behind -- while the mainstream public debate surges past them.
The funders of school reform (and the funders of the Obama re-election campaign) aren't paying for nuance, and they're really not paying for examination of social inequality. Period. End of story.
They are paying for a distraction from the discussion of inequality.
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