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Class Dismissed

Class Dismissed: Why We Cannot Teach or Learn Our Way Out of Inequality

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Class Dismissed
    Book Description:

    In Class Dismissed, John Marsh debunks a myth cherished by journalists, politicians, and economists: that growing poverty and inequality in the United States can be solved through education. Using sophisticated analysis combined with personal experience in the classroom, Marsh not only shows that education has little impact on poverty and inequality, but that our mistaken beliefs actively shape the way we structure our schools and what we teach in them.Rather than focus attention on the hierarchy of jobs and power - where most jobs require relatively little education, and the poor enjoy very little political power - money is funneled into educational endeavors that ultimately do nothing to challenge established social structures, and in fact reinforce them. And when educational programs prove ineffective at reducing inequality, the ones whom these programs were intended to help end up blaming themselves. Marsh's struggle to grasp the connection between education, poverty, and inequality is both powerful and poignant.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-270-9
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. Introduction: Unintended Consequences
    (pp. 9-24)

    Each May, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign holds its commencement ceremonies. So many students graduate from this flagship state university, and so many families wish to attend, that not even the campus’s basketball arena, Assembly Hall, which seats over 16,000, can accommodate everyone. To handle these crowds, the university has two separate ceremonies, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. At both, students gamely don caps and gowns; proud parents drive down from the suburbs of Chicago and snap digital picture after digital picture; a B-list intellectual, political, or cultural icon offers graduating seniors some warmed-over wisdom;...

  5. 1. The Paths of Inequality Lead But to the Grave
    (pp. 25-64)

    Wander around a Glasgow graveyard long enough and you may notice something unusual. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries some Scottish families built obelisks to commemorate their dead (the obelisks look like smaller Washington monuments). Meanwhile, other families had to settle for common headstones. As indicated by the birth and death dates etched onto the memorials, the dead commemorated by obelisks had considerably longer life spans than those commemorated by common headstones. On average, those with commemorative obelisks died at age sixty-five for men and sixty-three for women. By contrast, the average Glasgow man during this period died at...

  6. 2. Which Supply Side Are You On?
    (pp. 65-92)

    As every child in the United States knows, each McDonald’s Happy Meal comes with a toy. As I write now, you can get either a Marvel Heroes action figure (Spiderman, Iron Man, The Hulk) or a tiny pet (a dog, a giraffe, a bird) from a line of toys called the Littlest Pet Shop. (If I had to choose, the superheroes look pretty tough—one bursts into simulated flames—but the giraffe with the big eyes and metronomic head is also weirdly compelling.) Residents of Dyersburg, Tennessee, however, recently received an additional prize in their Happy Meals: a bookmark. Provided...

  7. 3. A Nation of Carnegies: The Puritans to the Great Depression
    (pp. 93-128)

    By 1903, the industrialist-turned-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie had built hundreds of public libraries across the United States, and the civic elite of Wheeling, West Virginia, hoped their city would be next. As he did in most cases, Carnegie agreed to their application, requiring only that Wheeling provide land, books, and staff for the library. To meet their end of the bargain, the city asked its citizens to pass a $50,000 levy. Most of the people who mattered in Wheeling—the mayor, the leading businessmen, the city council—supported the Carnegie library, including the levy. However, the Ohio Valley Trades and Labor...

  8. 4. A Nation of Carnegies: The Second World War to the Present
    (pp. 129-172)

    In 1946, a young man, call him Howard, returned to the United States after serving as a bombardier in the Second World War. Born in 1922, Howard had grown up poor in the tenements of Brooklyn. His father, an immigrant from Austria, made his living, when a living could be made at it, as a waiter, and at other jobs when forced to it. As he grew older, the boy had a taste for science fiction, Charles Dickens, and later, in the worst years of the Great Depression, radical politics. Hot to fight fascism, Howard enlisted in the Army Air...

  9. 5. Belling the Cat
    (pp. 173-212)

    On January 11, 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, sick with the flu, did not, as custom usually dictated, stand before Congress to deliver his State of the Union address. Rather, he took to the nation’s airwaves, and the State of the Union became a fireside chat.

    With victory in the Second World War in sight, Roosevelt urged Americans to consider “the future peace.”¹ “Sacrifices that we and our allies are making,” he told the nation, “impose upon us all a sacred obligation to see to it that out of this war we and our children will gain something better than mere...

  10. Appendix: The Gini Coefficient
    (pp. 213-218)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 219-246)
  12. Index
    (pp. 247-255)