DMI Blog

Maureen Lane

Disparities and Democracy

A new report from the Educational Testing Service - ETS called America's Perfect Storm: Three Forces Changing Our Nation's Future, looks at the convergence of three powerful sociological and economic forces that are changing our nation's future: substantial disparities in skill levels (reading and math); seismic economic changes (widening wage gap); sweeping demographic shifts (less education, lower skills).

A Christian Science Monitor article about the study noted, "researchers emphasize they're not saying the US is in any danger of collapse... What they hope to call attention to urgent issues that affect... the sort of democracy based on an informed middle class that the country was founded on." In other words, what affects the economically disadvantaged, will affect all of us, re: the middle class.

Today at Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI), we had a policy meeting. Students are working this semester to make policy simple and straightforwardly helpful by organizing community involvement in policy-making. They agreed that all of us have more power than we know and education is key to an informed and engaged public.

In fact, education from public school through adult continuing education and training needs to be a priority for the U.S., just like the ETS report concludes. Amen, brother!

The U.S.'s future economic well being is impacted by present educational policies we have and by current immigration policy. "Many immigrants enter [the US] without being able to read or speak English," says Kurt Landgraf, president of ETS. "Instead of forcing people to hide from the government infrastructure, we should be finding ways to include them in our society and help them bridge the language gap."

I would add U.S. welfare policy to this mix. People choosing to provide for their family's future by pursuing education and training are choices to be fostered by American public policy, not thwarted. All of the policies intersect.

As WRI students said today, policy should promote equality of opportunity and condition. Let's start by focusing on access to education...pre-K through college for all, without exception.

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Feb 09, 2007 in Economic Opportunity | Education
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