Hump Day Open Thread

May 8, 2013

What’s up?

I haven’t spoken much lately of the “education divide” between socioeconomic classes — an issue near and dear to my heart. Here’s an excellent piece by Stanford Professor Sean F. Reardon in the New York Times.

As it turns out the divide in test scores, high school graduation rates and college enrollment now have more to do with how much money parents’ have — more so than race or other differences. There’s even a gap between middle class and wealthy families. I was particularly struck by the return in investment on early childhood education programs and extracurricular activities.

If not the usual suspects, what’s going on? It boils down to this: The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students. This difference in preparation persists through elementary and high school.

My research suggests that one part of the explanation for this is rising income inequality. As you may have heard, the incomes of the rich have grown faster over the last 30 years than the incomes of the middle class and the poor. Money helps families provide cognitively stimulating experiences for their young children because it provides more stable home environments, more time for parents to read to their children, access to higher-quality child care and preschool and — in places like New York City, where 4-year-old children take tests to determine entry into gifted and talented programs — access to preschool test preparation tutors or the time to serve as tutors themselves.

There are policy changes and other solutions — public investment in early childhood education, anyone? — that Reardon suggests. This article is definitely worth a read!

Here’s another article that caught my eye in Yahoo Shine!: a “Where are they now?” series on children who were abducted then found years later. I was moved by their ability to overcome such an atrocious and traumatic experience and even talk about it publicly.

One such high-profile case, that of Elizabeth Smart, was mentioned in the story. I applaud her for coming out against abstinence-only education in a John Hopkins University speech this week as she sees it as tying women’s worth to their virginities.

She recalled been taught that not being a virgin on your wedding night was like being a chewed piece of gum. During her captivity, she explained, “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.” On Tuesday, she sent out a positive message to Berry, DeJesus and Knight during an appearance on “Good Morning America,” saying, ““They should never feel like their worth has been lessened from anything that happened, and I hope that they realize there’s so much ahead of them they don’t need to hold on to the past.”

Good on you, Elizabeth.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?