With the recent confirmation hearings of Betsy DeVos there is much concern, and rightly so, about her qualifications to lead the nation in the one area that all can improve their status in America – education. It is a given that the United States has a status system. This is not necessarily a bad thing, provided each person has the opportunity to achieve the status they desire.
In 1951, Louis Edward Raths and Stephen Abrahamson (as cited in Abrahamson, 1952) identified five keys which allowed individuals opportunities for improving in status: marriage, personality, special talent, sheer perseverance and education. Of these five keys, they identified education as being critical to the average person of the lower class in his/her ability to move up the social class ladder because it is believed that education is the key available to almost everyone.
President Lyndon Johnson recognized this when he began his “War on Poverty”. In 1965, one of the most influential pieces of legislation affecting education was implemented, The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The first section, known as “Title I”, had a goal of making education equitable to all youth, particularly children in poverty. It provided direct federal monies to states and local communities to address the education needs of youth living in poverty. Barbara Michelman provides an excellent overview of how Title I has evolved over the past 50 years, how it operates, public perception, and its changing mission in her article in Policy Priorities published by ASCD .
If I were a member of the confirmation committee, my questions to Ms. DeVos would be: Do you understand how education impacts the youth of our country who live in poverty? How do you view these youth? Are they someone else’s problem, or are they yours? Are they ours – the nation’s problem? How will you uphold President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” by providing equitable education to our youth who live in poverty? How will you ensure there is equitable support of schools who primarily serve our youth living in poverty so we can “Make America Great Again”?
Giving ALL youth in America not only access to education, but also equitable support, is what will “Make America Great Again”.
Abrahamson, S. (1952). Our status system and scholastic awards. The Journal of Educational Sociology, 8 441-450.
Michelman, B. (Winter 2016). Title I: The Engine of Equity and Accountability. Policy Priorities, 22 (4) Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/policy-priorities/vol22/num04/Title-I@-The-Engine-of-Equity-and-Accountability.aspx