Education Opinion

More painful than the pump

By Jessica Shyu — July 29, 2008 1 min read
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Education is indeed the great equalizer. Unfortunately, the quality of education given to children in America is not equal.

David Brooks, The New York Times’ Op-Ed columnist makes the point that most of us eduholics have been fretting over for a long while: Our lack of educational progress-- in particular, the achievement gap between the rich and the poor-- is dragging down our economic and sociological growth. And it should be these issues of education that should be dominating headlines and water cooler gripes-- not the rising price of gas.

... the skills slowdown is the biggest issue facing the country. Rising gas prices are bound to dominate the election because voters are slapped in the face with them every time they visit the pump. But this slow-moving problem, more than any other, will shape the destiny of the nation.

Second, there is a big debate under way over the sources of middle-class economic anxiety. Some populists emphasize the destructive forces of globalization, outsourcing and predatory capitalism. These people say we need radical labor market reforms to give the working class a chance. But the populists are going to have to grapple with the Goldin, Katz and Heckman research, which powerfully buttresses the arguments of those who emphasize human capital policies. It’s not globalization or immigration or computers per se that widen inequality. It’s the skills gap. Boosting educational attainment at the bottom is more promising than trying to reorganize the global economy.

While the price at the pump hurts, it’s our nation’s human asset gap that is going to keep the price of gas higher, our reliance on foreign innovations deeper, and the divide between the rich and poor wider. Just as we are driving less, trying to live “greener” and driving a few extra blocks to save 5-cents on gas, all of us should be equally obsessed about the educational deficits in this country. We-- teachers, mechanics, i-bankers and journalists-- need to live “gap narrowing” lives.

The opinions expressed in New Terrain are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.