Educational Attainment Not “Great Equalizer,” But Deforming Myth

TV tells a million lies
The paper’s terrified to report
Anything that isn’t handed on a presidential spoon

“Ignoreland,” R.E.M.

The educational attainment propaganda starts early in formal education with students being shown the simplistic chart of how directly more education seems to insure higher pay:

Source: United States Department of Labor/ Bureau of Labor Statistics

The message, however, that educational attainment is the “great equalizer” proves to be a deforming myth; for example, consider just one level of teasing out the information above by race:

Source: Bruenig, 24 October 2014

In fact, data are overwhelming that being born wealthy is far more powerful in determining most people’s lot in life than any degree of educational attainment or other types of effort. White, male privilege trumps almost everything in the U.S., leading to Why Education Does Not Fix Poverty.

Idealized quests for a meritocracy, a society in which effort and such do in fact lead to rewards despite any person’s initial station in life, are just that: a fantasy.

The educational attainment lie has always been a veneer for privilege, and we are well past time to admit this fact.

Greater education should matter, however, and not be reduced to narrow metrics such as earning power.

But the U.S. at the end of 2015 with 2016 just around the corner is not where that is a reality. We are a culture of privilege and Social Darwinism, without compassion for fellow human beings.

And no time each calendar year is more illustrative of those ugly facts than now in the wake of Thanksgiving and the tidal wave of Christmas—when children and young people all over the country are released from the halls of schools to learn how to be good little consumers.

Merry Christmas.



6 thoughts on “Educational Attainment Not “Great Equalizer,” But Deforming Myth”

  1. It would be nice to see the income by race and qualification data broken down further by socioeconomic level of student’s family. Your point about wealth would probably come over much more strongly.

  2. I’m interested if you have any data on these two things:

    (1) Unemployment levels by race and gender for people with Master’s/professional/Doctoral degrees;
    (2) Income rates by race and gender for Assistant professors

    I’m asking because some folks claim that the higher education sector cannot diversify its professorial class by race and gender because the supply of women and people of color who are qualified for those positions is too small. Therefore, the qualified women and people of color are too expensive for smaller higher educational institutions. My experience differs from this claim; most of the women and people of color with doctorates that I know are teaching part-time as adjuncts, or are unemployed. What do the data show? I’ve been trying to find this information for some time but am having difficulty.

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