Monday, December 27, 2010

The “Ignorance Hypothesis”

U.S. Income Disparity: Actual, Perceived Actual, Perceived Ideal

From "Theoretical Egalitarians" by Timothy Noah for Slate, September 27, 2010:

…Why aren't the bottom 99 percent marching in the streets?

One possible answer is sheer ignorance. People know we're living in a time of growing income inequality, [Paul] Krugman told me, but "the ordinary person is not really aware of how big it is." The ignorance hypothesis gets a strong assist from a new paper for the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science: "Building a Better America—One Wealth Quintile at a Time." The authors are Michael I. Norton, a psychologist who teaches at Harvard Business School, and Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist (and blogger) at Duke…

The richest 1 percent account for 35 percent of the nation's net worth; subtract housing, and their share rises to 43 percent. The richest 20 percent (or "top quintile") account for 85 percent; subtract housing and their share rises to 93 percent. But when Norton and Ariely surveyed a group whose incomes, voting patterns, and geographic distribution approximated that of the U.S. population, the respondents guessed that the top quintile accounted for only 59 percent of the nation's wealth…

Americans' ignorance about wealth (and, probably, income) distribution is encouraging in the sense that it offers hope that most voters might opt for government policies more conducive to equality if only they knew how unequal things were…

The dramatic rise in income inequality started about 30 years ago. This timing coincides with the rise of this current free-market style of public education reform which started after the 1983 A Nation at Risk.

Whether they are billionaire and millionaire "philanthropists", hedge fund managers, or Ivy League-trained others (the zealot TFA-crowd), the people who drive and support the "reform" are typically from the small group which is accumulating more and more of this nation’s wealth. They shun public schools for their own children, but that doesn't stop them from being obsessed with dramatically transforming and weakening the public school system used by everyone else.

What's going on is a power grab. This "reform" group supports the elimination of local control via elected school boards, the reduction of expenditures on public education and social services, the dismantling of teachers unions, an increase in the number of publicly-funded private schools (vouchers and charter schools), the increased spending on testing and associated services and products, the implementation of an agenda that forces 18-year olds into lifelong debt (see “Top Ramen For Life: The Student Loan Crisis”), etc. This group spreads propaganda (and HERE) and actively suppresses opposition

The evidence is everywhere that our nation is shifting to a plutocracy. As for education, South Bronx Teacher is correct when he says, "Apathy and ignorance of what is going on with education today will ultimately be our undoing."

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