The low-investment/high-return myth of education

While it’s extremely easy to immediately trip over examples all over the right, there is not a shortage of this myth being propagated by people who have kids and also lefty tendencies.  It’s the myth that if you just live in an 80%+ white, already-high scoring suburb or exurb, then you don’t have to do anything and you will immediately be provided with a pleasant environment for your kids to attend school in from K-12. The high levels of volunteering and the extensive fundraising habits of such districts are airily dismissed as women being too control-freakish when they “really don’t need to bother, it’s not a ‘diverse’ district!”  I have heard this from both self-proclaimed liberals/progressives and righties alike.

But fundamentally, there is no plug and play school world anymore because there’s no culture of acceptable educational “losses”– that is, a belief that it’s ok for some people’s kids to not finish high school or college because they can earn money instead of a more uncertain payoff from additional education.

However, that’s not what people who are getting ready to have kids continue to hear.  They hear that this world totally exists given the double elements of 1970 level white numbers (because certain immigrant groups “don’t relax much and are really SO SERIOUS about academics, gotta let the kids play man”) and 2019 level extremely high test scores.  When they find that it’s not true and their kids are under a very high level of academic pressure and parents are under similar pressure as well to “contribute”, by then they’ve already had a kid or two or three or even four and they just settle in to having “school stuff” be a second job for one of the parents (usually mom).

 

T.W.O.’s Dark Wizard rule of right wing rhetoric

“Everything was great in the past until the DARK WIZARD came along and ruined it all!”

It’s not an exact quote, but close enough.  One sees it over and over again on the right, the idea that there were no real problems in the past (any of them) and that things would have kept on keeping on if not for DARK WIZARDS running around casting spells on people to make them feel bad about the obvious great conditions they had.

This is a bit of an expansion of the Grain of Truth idea.  The right has a story about a dark wizard and they tell each other this story rather than admit that, say, feminism was a symptom of and response to specific bad conditions, not a cancerplaguedisease spread by, well, you get the drift.

Even the right wing people who kind of “get it” about technology and managerialism causing more expansion and complexity than people can manage without essentially going mad give in to this and start telling the story anyway rather than deal with the idea that things can sometimes get rolling beyond human control or scheming.

The left has, like, a zillion problems and issues and and and.  But they are talking about true things when they rehash past problems and poor conditions and unjust treatment that people received.  Even though all their solutions are ridiculous and most of them don’t work even in the short term, they are talking about real (bad) things that happened.  Where they stop doing that, they are in the same place as the right, telling a story about a DARK WIZARD instead of wrestling with grubby and sometimes multi-sided reality.

It’s just the right really loves that wizard story.

“A deer won’t fix it”: A few words against struggle love and romanticizing low income life.

Ripped from someone’s childhood:

It was getting towards the end of class time in Algebra I and Susanna, who’d read Little House on the Prairie to pieces, was talking to another student about how much she loved country music and how cool it was to hunt for your food even if you were poor and such.

The teacher, unusually for the free time at the end of class, cut in.  “You haven’t been poor, it’s not ‘cool’.”

“But couldn’t pa just, like, hunt deer for you all?”

“You have no idea what it’s like to really be poor. A deer won’t fix it!” The teacher didn’t have to go on.  Susanna never mentioned country music or deer hunting ever again.

The teacher was a wise woman.  A deer won’t fix the leaky roof, or serve as a winter coat.  A deer won’t fix the blisters when your shoes are worn bare and there aren’t going to be any more because your older brother ran away and you almost feel bad that your first thought was hoping he’d left his Sunday pair behind, because they weren’t too worn and only a little big on you.  A deer won’t fix it.

In one of those interesting confluences that transcends race, both the wider black community and the wider right-wing community have a tendency to romanticize poverty and “struggle love”.  That the kids coming out of many of those unions aren’t so enamored about the idea of being married and incredibly poor is waved away as them being too spoiled, somehow.

The discussion here is a good example of right-wing folks romanticizing the struggle and presenting extended periods of poverty as unalloyed good.

They were discussing, dismissively (but somewhat justifiably), this person’s wicker basket of issues around “emotional labor” that strictly speaking she doesn’t have to do and mostly isn’t labor.

Yet the problem with the emotional labor complainer lady isn’t gender, or even money.  A lot of the time, the obstacles to normal life aren’t financial, but from the vantage of those with no financial resources anyway, it can seem like “proof” that money doesn’t fix anything, so why worry about whether you have any?

A deer won’t fix the toothache.  Or the gap between your kid’s college scholarship and your empty pockets.

Poverty isn’t inherently unworthy, but there’s a difference between preparing a child for the possibility and spinning up a tale that it always works out and will in fact basically be “broke-college-student” level temporary.   It’s an ideal of struggle-life where you’re not actually lacking the roof, or the full belly, or the warm coat, or the well-fitting decent shoes.  You just have low income but all basic needs completely met.  This is pretty bitter aloes for anyone who jumps into low-income marriage on purpose without any prep and finds out it’s not very romantic or easy and that married poverty without a strong local community or regionally suitable skills to “make do” can be devastating and corrode a marriage bond to a brittle snapping point.

A deer won’t fix it.  Only frankness and realistic discussion about the tools needed to “survive and thrive” as a low income household with children could.   Not romanticism and rosy glosses on what some couple did decades or generations ago.  That leads to people seeing marriages blow up over the poverty or how bad it is for the family and mistakenly thinking that the solution is more dakka money.  But we could all make less money as married households if the sheer value of close relationships and getting along with other people were taken seriously society-wide.

 

“We have to destroy the married family to save the married family”

That is my take on this post from Audacious Epigone.  The post is a discussion of a “comment of the week” from one of his commenters.  It mostly talks about the au courant notion of a coming asset crash, almost with a sort of glee.  The same commenter makes the following remark in the comment thread for the post:

The plutocrats and the upper middle class and the government workers will be wiped out when the currency collapse wipes out the debt.

Problem for the commenter and perhaps even Mr. Epigone is that the three groups mentioned constitute the bulk of married parents of children under 18, married couples in general and a substantial minority of cohabiting/single parents of children under 18.  That is to say, such a crash will wipe out the very people having the children right now.  One can argue about whether they’re doing a good job with the kids or having a sufficiency of them (after all, I certainly spend plenty of time on such topics, lol), but at some point, the right (whether its more dissident side or its more mainstream sides who frankly share similar views about asset bubbles and crashes) needs to grasp that the “rich” or “affluent” or “upper income households” or “the government types” make up the mothers and fathers of most of our children.

The right has to stop hoping for the dissolution of 10-15 million married parent families, of a million solo/cohabiting families and of 20-30 million married couple families with no under-18s at home.  That is what would happen if these dreams of a big asset crash or currency collapse come true in the next few years.  It won’t punish your political enemies, unless now everyone who got married before having kids or at least made 75k+/yr first (cohabiting high earners and increasingly some of the high earning solo parents) is your “political enemy”.

Even many lower-earning family households are reliant on profit shares, bonuses based on company performance, and market returns on endowed funds for the nonprofits or educational institutions they are employed with.

I’m not saying no crash or collapse will happen.  It could, for all we know.  But I am saying that the right should be promoting how to cramdown debt for such households, and how to claw back bigger shares of equity and company profits for the class of people producing our future taxpayers and future at all, and who have been converted by the actual elites into a dependent wage-earning class.

In other words, the right should be acting like it understands the changes in the demographic makeup of married families, that they are mostly college educated, mostly 1 to 1.5-earner households and that the “top of the bottom” for married parents is essentially the median household income.  That is, making the median household income (63k in 2019) for married parents is around the 25-26th percentile (as of 2018) for their 22-23 million strong pool of households.

Also, as I already alluded to, many of these households do NOT have mom working full-time outside the home, and in fact much of the increase in double-income parent households has happened in the 25th-50th percentiles, while higher income households in the top half of married parents are continuing to see women exit full-time and frequently any paid employment during elementary and secondary school years.  So maybe it’s time for some new narratives.