Wow, this piece by Nick Hanauer in The Atlantic is one-third correct and two-thirds completely and totally wrong. I’d be happy to see more education funders like Hanauer realize that education alone won’t fix America’s social problems, but, gosh, there’s still a lot more that schools could do to improve our society.
There’s a lot to unpack, but these sentences in particular made me want to scream:
In short, great public schools are the product of a thriving middle class, not the other way around. Pay people enough to afford dignified middle-class lives, and high-quality public schools will follow.
No, no, no! First, I don’t know of any study on the sequence that Hanauer is talking about here, while we do have research on how education leads to improvements in individual lives and in broader societies. The education route may not be as fast as Hanauer might prefer, but it’s certainly not zero.
Second, it seems like Hanauer may be defining “great schools” in terms of achievement levels, but that’s the wrong way to look at things. We should define “great schools” as schools that significantly improve the trajectories of the students in their care. Judged that way, education may not be the sole solution to all of America’s social problems, but funders shouldn’t discard it as one lever to improve the outcomes for our most disadvantaged children.
–Guest post by Chad Aldeman