Peter Segall is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. He graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2011 with a double major in History and Literature. He spent nearly three years teaching English as a Second Language in Hanoi, Vietnam. His work has appeared in Pasadena Magazine, KNOCK-LA, and “The Urban Edge,” the blog for Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. He began working with Media Policy Center in 2018 where he is co-authoring the companion book to Do No Harm: The Opioid Epidemic, with Harry Wiland.
Is Our System Really Producing the Best Outcomes?
To narrow the opportunity gap, we have to ask questions of the system that produced it. There are many reasons social and political inequality exist, but in this country, one of the most significant drivers of the gap between the poor and wealthy is our education system.
Since the 1970s, the economic philosophy that has dominated the United States and much of the world has been relatively unchallenged. Both Democrats and Republicans swore oaths to protect the “Free Market” and agreed that government promotion of private interest would create the best public good. We were told that high taxes would kill jobs and stifle innovation.
Yet following the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent bail-out, the hands-off approach to business was re-examined. Phrases like “income inequality” and “wealth gap” became common in political discussion. It seems that the era of taxes being “taboo” may be coming to an end.
An article in the New York Times recently profiled a small nonprofit in Queens, NY, which trains low-income workers in coding and other skills important for the tech industry. “I believe tech can be a road to the middle class for large numbers of Americans,” Jukay Hsu, co-founder and CEO of Pursuit, told the Times. “But there’s real skepticism about that among people who see the winners in technology as a small network of the privileged.”
Last Friday, March 15, students protesters around the world walked out of their schools and into the streets to protest the lack of action on climate change. Here in Los Angeles, hundreds of students gathered outside City Hall to demand that politcians do more and to make their voices heard.
We went down to talk to students about why they were there.
With the Our Kids series, we here at MPC have highlighted the efforts of local communities as they’ve taken it upon themselves to try and address America’s growing opportunity gap. These efforts are mostly small, grassroots programs on a local level and focus mostly on schools and education. Not without good reason, schools and education are incredibly important for a child’s development and youth typically revolves around one’s school, but parents and community leaders aren’t the only ones taking action. Students themselves have started to take matters into their own hands.
On February 22nd of last year, teachers across West Virginia walked out of their classrooms and onto the picket-line. Nine days later they were back in school, victorious, with a 5% pay raise. Their success prompted teachers in other states to do the same. Teachers’ strikes followed in Oklahoma, Arizona, North Carolina, and Colorado. In January, teachers in Los Angeles ended a strike after a week. If no deal is reached by Thursday (Feb. 21), teachers in Oakland will walk out of their schools.
Do we live in a meritocracy? The “American Dream,” as most commonly understood, is the idea that anyone from any background can be successful if they work hard enough. “Successful” is not defined necessarily as “wealthy,” but “able to earn enough for a decent life.” Perhaps the most motivating incentive behind the American Dream is the belief that your children will go on to be more ‘successful’ than you are. Yet, emerging evidence suggests that success in America is not quite based solely on one’s own ability, but on one’s access to resources.
The links between poverty and educational achievement are undeniable. The question, then, is what to do about it? Schools across the country often offer strategies that try to cope with the myriad of programs caused by children living in poverty.
But, is school the right place to do that? Programs that provide school meals, particularly breakfast, have shown to increase educational performance while decreasing discipline rates.
Last week, roughly 30,000 Los Angeles teachers returned to the classroom after a six-day strike, the district’s first in 30 years. Disputes between the United Teachers Los Angeles union and the LA school district had arisen over pay, class size, and school services such as nurses and counselors.
But union leaders were also demanding a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools in Los Angeles, the growth of which they say puts extra stress on the resources available to schools, and even threatens the very notion of public education itself.
Welcome to the Our Kids series blog.
Here we want to share with you some of the novel ideas that have helped communities around the country. These ideas arrive in all shapes and sizes, are developed by individuals, community groups, non-profits, and local governments, all working together to make their communities a better place. The goal is to help close the opportunity gap that has left so many of our kids behind.
In this blog we hope you'll find ideas that can be used in your own community. We hope that you'll share your ideas with us.