There are only so many inequities a public school teacher can witness before he is compelled to act. This unit is an action to that end. I see parents so disenfranchised that they don’t necessarily want better for their kids than they have. I see a world that rejects opportunity for minorities of race and class, and prefers instead to continually increase the opportunity for their own (race and class). I see not much being done to combat that.
Given, this is only what I see in my classroom, in my school. I work at a mid-sized urban arts high school that educates students of many of the diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds there are in America, and my observations and conclusions up to this point have been anecdotal. Therefore, this unit will dig into the real economics of inequality, solid information to act upon, and recommendations for students to do the same. Through it, in the exploration and understanding of economic principles, data, and a hard, candid look at the realities of inequality (the roots, reasons, current conditions and possible solutions), perhaps my students and I may, even if only within our own classroom walls, continue the journey toward futures with more opportunity, more equity, and better outcomes for
Therefore, in this curricular unit, I will be focusing on the writings of modern economists - Anthony B. Atkinson, Raj Chetty and others, and their articles, data, and current efforts to increase the availability of materials, opportunity, and indeed outcomes to
our nation's children, starting with education. A part of every conversation about inequality and righting the ship in America, education is a key factor. This unit will unpack how changes in educational opportunity may do this. From understanding the reasons that inequality exists, to different ways of thinking about what political and personal deficits to which humanity has largely committed itself, and finally thinking about not only ways that this can be changed or improved, but whether or not it’s likely to happen in our lifetime.
This unit is intended for a large group of high school juniors and seniors in a co-taught social studies and literature class, focusing on the experience of the African-American (the class focus), although it is appropriate for any classroom where rifts in socio-economic conditions are under scrutiny. While I will be focusing this curricular unit on the experience of all Americans, a main focus will be upon those populations which are most impacted by American inequality of opportunity and outcome, a conversation that will involve the African-American community.
Knowing that the ultimate destination of our study will be a focus on marginalized communities, we will start at the beginning: inequality in America has become so drastic and seemingly irreconcilable over the course of the past century, that ultimately that has affected educational opportunity and our children's prospects of success in this country. So far in our history, humanity has not had a great track record of righting inequality – only horrendous, population-altering plagues and world wars have leveled the playing field. In the past, governments like America’s only showed willingness or ability to “level” out income distribution when it was necessary to sustain a war.
Seeing this, it may be tough based on our history to be optimistic about modern states becoming less unequal. According to Thomas Piketty, modern U.S. inequality rivals that of much older European inequality. The discrepancy between the upper crust of income and the rest of us is widening so drastically that by 2030, the “upper decile” as he describes it will control 60% of the income in this country.
A scary number at best, and a contributor to the feeling of helplessness for some on the wrong side of the scale. Awareness is not always comforting.