Author Topic: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans  (Read 216239 times)

Tyson

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #250 on: May 05, 2016, 01:04:55 PM »
Assuming $20k is per student per year is enough to fund a school, then this would result in the creation of more private schools. So existing ones may raise their tuition, but others will step in to fill the gaps.

Oh, I'm sure others will step in. Any time there's an exploitable source of government cash, people are happy to step in and try to get a piece of the action. I just have my doubts that the people stepping in will be able to actually run a better school than the ones in the public system they're taking money from. I imagine a lot of it will end up like Deion Sanders' charter school, or the other for-profit corporate charter schools that are failing all over America.

The problem with private anything is that the companies are motivated by profit, so they will always try to cut costs as low as possible (such as teacher salaries and buildings and supplies) as low as possible.  First, drive out the competition, then ruthlessly lower standards and costs in order to maximize profit.  Its the American Way!

Many private schools are non-profits. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, I attended a private high school with a budget substantially less than that of the local public schools, and yet it had much better outcomes. If private schools, charters, or other options don't do a better job then parents can pull their kids and go elsewhere. Some charter schools have failed whereas others have succeeded. The charter schools in my area outperform the other public schools. YMMV. I don't understand what's so scary about giving ALL parents, regardless of wealth, choices for their kids education.

I think Denver (where we live now) has a very good approach - you have a home district that you are automatically enrolled in, but you are allowed to "Choice" into another school if you feel like that's a better fit for you and your family.  Of course there's a limit to how many kids are allowed at each school, so once that's filled you can't get in there any more.  So what Denver does is have you pick 5 schools you'd like to Choice into, and they'll just go down the list until there's one with an opening. 

See, plenty of choice without any need to privatize anything.  I say, make basic education (public education) better for everyone and leave the private schools for rich suckers. 

FINate

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #251 on: May 05, 2016, 05:28:53 PM »
Assuming $20k is per student per year is enough to fund a school, then this would result in the creation of more private schools. So existing ones may raise their tuition, but others will step in to fill the gaps.

Oh, I'm sure others will step in. Any time there's an exploitable source of government cash, people are happy to step in and try to get a piece of the action. I just have my doubts that the people stepping in will be able to actually run a better school than the ones in the public system they're taking money from. I imagine a lot of it will end up like Deion Sanders' charter school, or the other for-profit corporate charter schools that are failing all over America.

The problem with private anything is that the companies are motivated by profit, so they will always try to cut costs as low as possible (such as teacher salaries and buildings and supplies) as low as possible.  First, drive out the competition, then ruthlessly lower standards and costs in order to maximize profit.  Its the American Way!

Many private schools are non-profits. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, I attended a private high school with a budget substantially less than that of the local public schools, and yet it had much better outcomes. If private schools, charters, or other options don't do a better job then parents can pull their kids and go elsewhere. Some charter schools have failed whereas others have succeeded. The charter schools in my area outperform the other public schools. YMMV. I don't understand what's so scary about giving ALL parents, regardless of wealth, choices for their kids education.

I think Denver (where we live now) has a very good approach - you have a home district that you are automatically enrolled in, but you are allowed to "Choice" into another school if you feel like that's a better fit for you and your family.  Of course there's a limit to how many kids are allowed at each school, so once that's filled you can't get in there any more.  So what Denver does is have you pick 5 schools you'd like to Choice into, and they'll just go down the list until there's one with an opening. 

See, plenty of choice without any need to privatize anything.  I say, make basic education (public education) better for everyone and leave the private schools for rich suckers.

It's a step in the right direction, though still limited to a single district. Would still prefer to see things change to allow parents many more choices.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #252 on: May 06, 2016, 05:15:13 AM »
It is definitely possible to live in a good school district and live frugally, but the supply of those living situations is limited.  The point isn't that you CAN"T live frugally, it is that our society's incentives to get your kids in the best possible school district are very strong and hard to ignore for a variety of reasons.  Not all of these are logical reasons, but they are driving people en mass to spend a lot of money.  So to me the stereotype of the wasteful spender who is buying large screen TVs and expensive cable isn't what I see.  I see people paying 50+ percent of their income in housing so their kids can go to a highly ranked school district so they can get into a good college and have a shot at moving up the ladder.  And it isn't just the parents, it is the culture at large that is pushing this path to prosperity.  Changing culture is hard.

Wow, Massachusetts sounds awful.

golden1

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #253 on: May 06, 2016, 06:22:11 AM »
How does that actually add anything to the discussion?  I guess if thinking that a place is "awful" makes you happy in your own world view, then so be it. 

No it isn't actually.  It's a fairly nice place to live in many respects with great schools, hospitals, museums and culture.  And when I am speaking of my area, I am talking of the suburban Boston area.  Western MA is more affordable and more rural.  Our state has not only some of the best public schools in the country, it has some of the best schools in the world.  The reason why people are willing to pay the high house prices is because there are a lot of benefits to living here. 

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #254 on: May 06, 2016, 07:32:41 AM »
But there are lots of school districts out there that are quite good and affordable at around the median income. If Massachusetts can't make that happen and the middle class has to choose between bad schools and living on the edge of their means, it's doing something seriously wrong.

Cassie

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #255 on: May 06, 2016, 01:58:19 PM »
We went to Boston for the first time in Nov and just loved it. The people were nice and there was so much to see and do. I would love to go back.

mwulff

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #256 on: May 07, 2016, 12:43:59 AM »
As a foreigner there is something I just don't get. Let's for the moment assume that all the best schools are in expensive districts and all the horrible ones are in cheap districts.

What happened to the good-enough schools in the sensibly priced areas? Is going to a top school really the only way to get a decent college education?

I'll assume that now everyone gets to go to an Ivy League school and that you can get a good job without that.

Have the schools become so polarized that there are only great/expensive and crap/cheap to choose from?

FINate

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #257 on: May 07, 2016, 01:50:36 AM »
As a foreigner there is something I just don't get. Let's for the moment assume that all the best schools are in expensive districts and all the horrible ones are in cheap districts.

What happened to the good-enough schools in the sensibly priced areas? Is going to a top school really the only way to get a decent college education?

I'll assume that now everyone gets to go to an Ivy League school and that you can get a good job without that.

Have the schools become so polarized that there are only great/expensive and crap/cheap to choose from?

There are plenty of good-enough schools in the middle. In most fields your alma mater is largely irrelevant 3-5+ years into your career. What really matters is whether you learned what you needed to, and then applied that knowledge to become proficient.

But this is 'Merica and we're all special and unique snowflakes. Especially our kids, who are all gifted and above average. So we obsess about providing the absolute 'best' for our kids. This provides us with a way to signal membership in the upper crust, since the old signals (big house, luxury cars, fancy vacations, etc.) have been appropriated by the vast unwashed masses via credit. Of course, getting little Timmy an Ivy league education for this purpose is vulgar and runs contrary to the narrative that we're doing it because Timmy is gifted. So we tell ourselves that this is a "winner take all economy" and the only way to avoid abject poverty in this life is to attend the very best university, which of course also requires (we tell ourselves) attending the very best secondary-, elementary-, and pre-schools.

It's really not surprising that this perverse outlook on life is producing things such as the suicide clusters in Palo Alto. Quoting that article: "Many have also fallen prey to what Levine calls a 'mass delusion' that there is but one path to a successful life, and that it is very narrow."

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #258 on: May 07, 2016, 05:22:45 AM »
As a foreigner there is something I just don't get. Let's for the moment assume that all the best schools are in expensive districts and all the horrible ones are in cheap districts.

What happened to the good-enough schools in the sensibly priced areas? Is going to a top school really the only way to get a decent college education?

I'll assume that now everyone gets to go to an Ivy League school and that you can get a good job without that.

Have the schools become so polarized that there are only great/expensive and crap/cheap to choose from?

There are plenty of good-enough schools in the middle. In most fields your alma mater is largely irrelevant 3-5+ years into your career. What really matters is whether you learned what you needed to, and then applied that knowledge to become proficient.

But this is 'Merica and we're all special and unique snowflakes. Especially our kids, who are all gifted and above average. So we obsess about providing the absolute 'best' for our kids. This provides us with a way to signal membership in the upper crust, since the old signals (big house, luxury cars, fancy vacations, etc.) have been appropriated by the vast unwashed masses via credit. Of course, getting little Timmy an Ivy league education for this purpose is vulgar and runs contrary to the narrative that we're doing it because Timmy is gifted. So we tell ourselves that this is a "winner take all economy" and the only way to avoid abject poverty in this life is to attend the very best university, which of course also requires (we tell ourselves) attending the very best secondary-, elementary-, and pre-schools.

I think the very top-rated high schools might get a few extra kids into the Ivy League. But it's a very low chance your kid will be one of those marginal kids.

When my wife and I were looking at districts to raise our family in, we looked at (1) safety of the school, (2) number of AP classes offered, (3) the standardized test rankings. We ended up in not-the-fanciest district locally, but a very acceptable one. I volunteer to interview kids applying to the Ivy League school I attended, and I was very impressed with the kids coming out of the local high school who applied. Many of them were taking multivariable calculus in high school, which my fancy high school didn't even offer back when I went.

Classical_Liberal

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #259 on: May 07, 2016, 01:23:46 PM »

Thanks for posting.  This paragraph pretty much sums it up.

"There’s no escaping the pressure that U.S. inequality exerts on parents to make sure their kids succeed.  At its core, this relentless drive to spend any money available comes not from a desire to consume more lattes and own nicer cars, but, largely, from the pressure people feel to provide their kids with access to the best schools they can afford (purchased, in most cases, not via tuition but via real estate in a specific public-school district). Breaking the bank for your kids’ education is, to an extent, perfectly reasonable: In a deeply unequal society, the gains to be made by being among the elite are enormous, and the consequences of not being among them are dire. When understood mainly as a consequence of this rush to provide for one’s children, the drive to maximize spending is not some bizarre mystery, nor a sign of massive irresponsibility, but a predictable consequence of severe inequality."

This is interesting and may be true.  However, it also shows another side of the issue.  In our society people have the ability to manufacture upward mobility.  This is why parents are willing to sacrifice much to improve their children's odds at being in the "elite" class. We take this for granted, but in the not so distant past social mobility was near nonexistent. In general, most US citizens want the opportunity for upward mobility without letting those who "win" the game do so by by too much of a margin.  Afterall, everyone wants the opportunity to better their position with hard work (there is, no doubt other things involved). The smaller the margin of "victory", the less people who are willing to put forth the effort.   So the problem lies in finding a balance between the two, equality and social mobility opportunities.  Of course, if as a society we change what the definition of "winning" is, then the entire game changes.  IMO this should be the long term goal.  Then the problem becomes, how do we achieve this change and exactly what should the new definition be.

randymarsh

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #260 on: May 07, 2016, 04:47:22 PM »
As a foreigner there is something I just don't get. Let's for the moment assume that all the best schools are in expensive districts and all the horrible ones are in cheap districts.

What happened to the good-enough schools in the sensibly priced areas? Is going to a top school really the only way to get a decent college education?

I'll assume that now everyone gets to go to an Ivy League school and that you can get a good job without that.

Have the schools become so polarized that there are only great/expensive and crap/cheap to choose from?

There of still plenty of "regular" schools. I attended K-12 at one district in working/middle class Ohio. The district is rated Excellent AFAIK and houses in the district start at ~120K. Do many, if any, graduates attend the Ivies for undergrad? Not that I'm aware of. I'm sure some elite snobs would look down at my high school. After all, we only had about 7 AP courses instead of the 20 you might find at a "better" school. Your 18 year old is doomed if they can't take Comparative Government and Politics right?

Now we're all destitute. Wait, no, actually many of my classmates are now working as accountants, engineers, nurses, or going to medical/pharmacy school.

serpentstooth

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #261 on: May 07, 2016, 05:07:37 PM »

Thanks for posting.  This paragraph pretty much sums it up.

"There’s no escaping the pressure that U.S. inequality exerts on parents to make sure their kids succeed.  At its core, this relentless drive to spend any money available comes not from a desire to consume more lattes and own nicer cars, but, largely, from the pressure people feel to provide their kids with access to the best schools they can afford (purchased, in most cases, not via tuition but via real estate in a specific public-school district). Breaking the bank for your kids’ education is, to an extent, perfectly reasonable: In a deeply unequal society, the gains to be made by being among the elite are enormous, and the consequences of not being among them are dire. When understood mainly as a consequence of this rush to provide for one’s children, the drive to maximize spending is not some bizarre mystery, nor a sign of massive irresponsibility, but a predictable consequence of severe inequality."

This is interesting and may be true.  However, it also shows another side of the issue.  In our society people have the ability to manufacture upward mobility.  This is why parents are willing to sacrifice much to improve their children's odds at being in the "elite" class. We take this for granted, but in the not so distant past social mobility was near nonexistent.

I'm going to get controversial here, so people may want to scroll.

I wonder if this notion of social mobility isn't part of why the middle class is broke, broke, broke. Most of the middle class in the modern times...wouldn't have been middle class 400 years ago. Pre industrial revolution, you had a landed noble class, a smallish merchant/skilled artisan/warrior/religious class, and a lot of agrarian peasants. Being middle class 400 years ago meant you had your act together enough to master a complex skill and quite possibly run your own business, which means you had to have some ability to weigh tradeoffs and save for the future and use capital wisely, or you weren't going to be middle class for long.

Given that every trait has a substantial genetic component,* maybe a lot of our middle class isn't really supposed to be middle class: instead we're peasants who lucked into being born in an era when the innovations of the skilled artisan and merchant classes generated enough positive dividends to raise living standards broadly. So instead of growing corn, peasants are now driving for UPS or doing accounts receivable at a small company or being a cook or working at a nursery school or... We assume that a middle class household in a lot of credit card debt is doing something wrong, but maybe they are doing really well with the plan-for-the-future-and-delay-gratification genes (or lack thereof) they've got. The Chinese merchant class in Southeast Asia and Jews in Eastern Europe did well for themselves for centuries lending money to peasants who couldn't budget their annual cash inflow from selling the harvest to last the whole year. Maybe this writer, and a lot of middle class Americans, are really Thai rice farmers inside and are acting like them.

Gregory Clark wrote a fascinating book called The Son Also Rises that suggests that social class is about as heritable as height, and he validates this with twin studies. It's a fascinating read and I agree with his thesis that social mobility doesn't really happen.

*Yes, I know that makes people feel icky. But right now the evidence suggests it's true and sooner or later we're going to have to deal with that. http://people.virginia.edu/~ent3c/papers2/three_laws.pdf
« Last Edit: May 07, 2016, 05:26:13 PM by serpentstooth »

nobodyspecial

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #262 on: May 07, 2016, 07:50:44 PM »
America seems to have a rather simplified class definition:
upper class = have own jet
working class = never had a job
middle class = the rest



FINate

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #263 on: May 07, 2016, 09:52:42 PM »
I'm going to get controversial here, so people may want to scroll.

I wonder if this notion of social mobility isn't part of why the middle class is broke, broke, broke. Most of the middle class in the modern times...wouldn't have been middle class 400 years ago. Pre industrial revolution, you had a landed noble class, a smallish merchant/skilled artisan/warrior/religious class, and a lot of agrarian peasants. Being middle class 400 years ago meant you had your act together enough to master a complex skill and quite possibly run your own business, which means you had to have some ability to weigh tradeoffs and save for the future and use capital wisely, or you weren't going to be middle class for long.

Given that every trait has a substantial genetic component,* maybe a lot of our middle class isn't really supposed to be middle class: instead we're peasants who lucked into being born in an era when the innovations of the skilled artisan and merchant classes generated enough positive dividends to raise living standards broadly. So instead of growing corn, peasants are now driving for UPS or doing accounts receivable at a small company or being a cook or working at a nursery school or... We assume that a middle class household in a lot of credit card debt is doing something wrong, but maybe they are doing really well with the plan-for-the-future-and-delay-gratification genes (or lack thereof) they've got. The Chinese merchant class in Southeast Asia and Jews in Eastern Europe did well for themselves for centuries lending money to peasants who couldn't budget their annual cash inflow from selling the harvest to last the whole year. Maybe this writer, and a lot of middle class Americans, are really Thai rice farmers inside and are acting like them.

Gregory Clark wrote a fascinating book called The Son Also Rises that suggests that social class is about as heritable as height, and he validates this with twin studies. It's a fascinating read and I agree with his thesis that social mobility doesn't really happen.

*Yes, I know that makes people feel icky. But right now the evidence suggests it's true and sooner or later we're going to have to deal with that. http://people.virginia.edu/~ent3c/papers2/three_laws.pdf

This is why the middle class is broke. We can debate why PCE has marched steadily upward: education and healthcare costs have outpaced inflation, lifestyle inflation, whatever. The fact is we are spending more than ever, and we can't afford it. Besides, 400 years ago one inherited class based on the family there were born into, it had nothing to do with genetics or ability. Consider the number of monarchs in the past who were mentally ill or disabled, often times as the result of inbreeding in the royal lines. And the guilds of the era (artisan and merchant) were eventually done away with because they harmed the economy through their rent seeking and protectionism, which kept otherwise capable/skilled people from competing with them. I really don't think this is a genetic issue.

shelivesthedream

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #264 on: May 08, 2016, 06:29:35 AM »
America seems to have a rather simplified class definition:
upper class = have own jet
working class = never had a job
middle class = the rest

From reading this thread, this seems pretty accurate. Does America not have a sense of:

Old money upper class
New money upper class
Upper middle class (not quite new money upper class but getting there)
Middle middle class
Lower middle class (probably one generation out of upper working class)
Upper working class
Proud working class
Jobless working class

I know the 'class system' in England is pretty complicated and based on accent, cultural preferences, job, what your parents are like, where you live, what school you went to etc etc as much as or more than money - but does America not have any of that? The plays 'Abigail's Party' and 'Educating Rita' are pretty good examples of the fine delineations of class in the UK and how difficult it is to move up or down a class even if you change one external factor. The lower middle class is proverbially the worst for class in the UK because they care the most about what class they are and having to ostentatiously prove that they are better than the upper working class. New money upper class comes a close second, but I'm not sure most people are that bothered to be honest.

Paul der Krake

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #265 on: May 08, 2016, 06:40:47 AM »
America seems to have a rather simplified class definition:
upper class = have own jet
working class = never had a job
middle class = the rest

From reading this thread, this seems pretty accurate. Does America not have a sense of:

Old money upper class
New money upper class
Upper middle class (not quite new money upper class but getting there)
Middle middle class
Lower middle class (probably one generation out of upper working class)
Upper working class
Proud working class
Jobless working class

I know the 'class system' in England is pretty complicated and based on accent, cultural preferences, job, what your parents are like, where you live, what school you went to etc etc as much as or more than money - but does America not have any of that? The plays 'Abigail's Party' and 'Educating Rita' are pretty good examples of the fine delineations of class in the UK and how difficult it is to move up or down a class even if you change one external factor. The lower middle class is proverbially the worst for class in the UK because they care the most about what class they are and having to ostentatiously prove that they are better than the upper working class. New money upper class comes a close second, but I'm not sure most people are that bothered to be honest.
Everybody understands the difference between a Vanderbilt and Elon Musk (both upper class), or a successful plumber and a day laborer (both technically working class but 5-6 gap of zeros in net worth) but it's not like people go about their days wondering were they fit in and then proudly wear that label.

Then you have people who have a middle of the road income, yet by virtue of education and connections, or lack thereof, rub elbows with folks with incomes very different from theirs. The list of caveats is just too long.

tipster350

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #266 on: May 08, 2016, 07:18:38 AM »
America seems to have a rather simplified class definition:
upper class = have own jet
working class = never had a job
middle class = the rest

From reading this thread, this seems pretty accurate. Does America not have a sense of:

Old money upper class
New money upper class
Upper middle class (not quite new money upper class but getting there)
Middle middle class
Lower middle class (probably one generation out of upper working class)
Upper working class
Proud working class
Jobless working class

I know the 'class system' in England is pretty complicated and based on accent, cultural preferences, job, what your parents are like, where you live, what school you went to etc etc as much as or more than money - but does America not have any of that? The plays 'Abigail's Party' and 'Educating Rita' are pretty good examples of the fine delineations of class in the UK and how difficult it is to move up or down a class even if you change one external factor. The lower middle class is proverbially the worst for class in the UK because they care the most about what class they are and having to ostentatiously prove that they are better than the upper working class. New money upper class comes a close second, but I'm not sure most people are that bothered to be honest.

Americans don't talk about or acknowledge class the same way Brits do. We have the same general classes and people know who their people are, but it's not discussed in the same way, if at all. I think this probably is because America was founded on the idea of limitless possibilities. Even though that is not the case anymore for most citizens, and in fact class mobility is actually similar to that in Britain, no one likes to admit it. We like to think hard work alone can pull anyone from any class or circumstance upward. There are always outliers, and many of the outliers are on this site, but presently, the class one was born into is the class one will stay in. Just like everywhere else, if not more so.

The fact is that most Americans are members of the working class to lower middle class, in terms of what their incomes will buy.

http://www.epi.org/publication/usa-lags-peer-countries-mobility/
« Last Edit: May 08, 2016, 07:26:57 AM by tipster350 »

shelivesthedream

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #267 on: May 08, 2016, 12:34:08 PM »
America seems to have a rather simplified class definition:
upper class = have own jet
working class = never had a job
middle class = the rest

From reading this thread, this seems pretty accurate. Does America not have a sense of:

Old money upper class
New money upper class
Upper middle class (not quite new money upper class but getting there)
Middle middle class
Lower middle class (probably one generation out of upper working class)
Upper working class
Proud working class
Jobless working class

I know the 'class system' in England is pretty complicated and based on accent, cultural preferences, job, what your parents are like, where you live, what school you went to etc etc as much as or more than money - but does America not have any of that? The plays 'Abigail's Party' and 'Educating Rita' are pretty good examples of the fine delineations of class in the UK and how difficult it is to move up or down a class even if you change one external factor. The lower middle class is proverbially the worst for class in the UK because they care the most about what class they are and having to ostentatiously prove that they are better than the upper working class. New money upper class comes a close second, but I'm not sure most people are that bothered to be honest.
Everybody understands the difference between a Vanderbilt and Elon Musk (both upper class), or a successful plumber and a day laborer (both technically working class but 5-6 gap of zeros in net worth) but it's not like people go about their days wondering were they fit in and then proudly wear that label.

Then you have people who have a middle of the road income, yet by virtue of education and connections, or lack thereof, rub elbows with folks with incomes very different from theirs. The list of caveats is just too long.

That's what I mean, that people are failing to make the distinction between lower middle class (middle class but certainly not able to afford private schools, big cars and flashy holidays) and upper middle class (probably able to afford the above, although might get tricked into trying to ape new money upper class). It's the middle middle class trying to be upper middle class because it's just "middle class" that's the problem - "middle class" means hugely different things yet they're all lumped in together.

ender

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #268 on: May 08, 2016, 02:44:29 PM »
America effectively has "poor" and "middle class" and "ultra rich."

What people define as the "middle class" will change depending on their incomes. Which makes it pointless to try to "generalize" -- most people will not accept any such arbitrary boxing like "middle class is poverty line to 100k" and "upper middle class is 100k+" type of generalization, unless they are included in "middle class."

People who make $150k as a family consider themselves middle class. Just as people who make 1/2 that. Or perhaps even 2x that amount.

Politics is rife with manipulation of the "middle class" socioeconomic demographic label.

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #269 on: May 08, 2016, 10:59:50 PM »
America effectively has "poor" and "middle class" and "ultra rich."

What people define as the "middle class" will change depending on their incomes. Which makes it pointless to try to "generalize" -- most people will not accept any such arbitrary boxing like "middle class is poverty line to 100k" and "upper middle class is 100k+" type of generalization, unless they are included in "middle class."

People who make $150k as a family consider themselves middle class. Just as people who make 1/2 that. Or perhaps even 2x that amount.

Politics is rife with manipulation of the "middle class" socioeconomic demographic label.

Part of the problem is that, as Americans, we're obsessed with stratifying ourselves based on income (or perceived income) except for some regions that do make adjustments for more traditional forms of social authority that don't depend on money. There was a great deal of that kind of social authority in Alberta where I grew up, and there's a lot of it here in New Mexico too. It comes down to whether or not "land-as-the-means-of-production" is still part of the social dialogue in the area.

Ellabean

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #270 on: May 09, 2016, 01:52:18 PM »
Jews lent money in Europe because they WERE NOT ALLOWED to own land and because Christians were prohibited from lending money. This worked great for the ruling class, who could incite a pogrom against Jews as a scapegoat for peasant anger and preserve the status quo. This is very clearly the product of social structure and not "greater intelligence."

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #271 on: May 09, 2016, 01:54:01 PM »
As a foreigner there is something I just don't get. Let's for the moment assume that all the best schools are in expensive districts and all the horrible ones are in cheap districts.

What happened to the good-enough schools in the sensibly priced areas? Is going to a top school really the only way to get a decent college education?

I'll assume that now everyone gets to go to an Ivy League school and that you can get a good job without that.

Have the schools become so polarized that there are only great/expensive and crap/cheap to choose from?
You understand better than most.   The schools are not so polarized. 
"For the children" is a great big cop out.  It's akin to dog whistle politics and you can be sure you are being sold a bill of goods.  Gabler used it in his own defense, and steered the conversation to a rationally sounding excuse for middle class struggling but it's simply not the reason he's in trouble.  He structured his life so as to be a burden to his daughters.  That doesn't give them an edge in life, but the opposite.  He got to preside over the 401k-draining wedding.  Far from being "in the best interests of the children" that stuff sets unsustainable expectations. 

Relative to our American peers, my husband and I were poor and working class as children. His family relied on food stamps to supplement his mother's minimum wage job; I have 9 siblings, wore only hand-me-downs and had every meal stretched with potatoes.  By our 40s, we could finally afford a plane ticket to the countries our ancestors came from over a hundred years ago.  Meeting the distant cousins, whose parents and grandparents didn't get to leave, was enlightenment.  It's something we simply cannot unlearn.  It turns out, we weren't poor, ever.  We were quite prosperous in comparison to the relatives who weren't Americans.  Height, girth, square footage of homes, number of cars, volume of possessions, availability and diversity of foods.  It's insane just how wealthy we Americans actually are.  I have now seen too much to buy into the American myth of the struggling middle-class.  Heck, even poor Americans are richer than most of the middle class in the rest of the world.  The humble brag worked for Gabler.  He got a magazine article sold in America.   But on a global scale, his (and many Americans') complaint about their personal situation is embarrassingly obtuse.  We're the fattest, richest people in the world and we act like petulant children entitled to even more.  It's the very definition of the Ugly American. 

Rest assured, there will be a line around the American  block for the next iGadget.  The mini-storages dotting the American  landscape will soon contain stuff bought this year.  Stuff nobody needed.  And people will clutch filthy pagers to wait for a table at Olive Garden.  The middle hurts because they're  on a hedonistic treadmill.  They use "for the children" to explain so that you'll nod in deference to their unreasonable behavior without digging.  But we should dig, asking questions like yours. 

It doesn't make sense to a foreigner, because it doesn't make sense.  There are thousands of excellent school districts.  Plenty have affordable places to live.  There is the perfectly valid option of letting your children pay their own way through college or pursue a trade in lieu of college. 

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #272 on: May 10, 2016, 12:24:01 PM »
kite, that is perhaps the best reply in this whole thread - bravo.

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #273 on: May 10, 2016, 12:50:12 PM »
kite, that is perhaps the best reply in this whole thread - bravo.

Agreed!

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #274 on: May 10, 2016, 05:23:43 PM »
It doesn't make sense to a foreigner, because it doesn't make sense.  There are thousands of excellent school districts.  Plenty have affordable places to live.  There is the perfectly valid option of letting your children pay their own way through college or pursue a trade in lieu of college.

An interesting response would be to calculate the cost that a two-income family pays to do the "great school district" thing and daycare for two working parents than one working parent and homeschooling.

Between daycare and additional home price/taxes, I would expect that the second working parent would have to make a lot of money before they broke even.

BlueHouse

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #275 on: May 19, 2016, 01:04:06 PM »
America seems to have a rather simplified class definition:
upper class = have own jet
working class = never had a job
middle class = the rest

From reading this thread, this seems pretty accurate. Does America not have a sense of:

Old money upper class
New money upper class
Upper middle class (not quite new money upper class but getting there)
Middle middle class
Lower middle class (probably one generation out of upper working class)
Upper working class
Proud working class
Jobless working class

I know the 'class system' in England is pretty complicated and based on accent, cultural preferences, job, what your parents are like, where you live, what school you went to etc etc as much as or more than money - but does America not have any of that? The plays 'Abigail's Party' and 'Educating Rita' are pretty good examples of the fine delineations of class in the UK and how difficult it is to move up or down a class even if you change one external factor. The lower middle class is proverbially the worst for class in the UK because they care the most about what class they are and having to ostentatiously prove that they are better than the upper working class. New money upper class comes a close second, but I'm not sure most people are that bothered to be honest.
I think the class system used to exist much more 3 decades ago than it does today, and even then, only in the Northeast (Boston, NY, Philadelphia corridor).  I certainly grew up understanding the difference between old money and new money, but at some point in the 80s and 90s, it became clear that vast amounts of money created real power and the exclusionary tactics of the "old money" set could no longer hold the nouveau riche out of the established clubs, schools, industries, etc.  Later, technological leaps created a sort of meritocracy so that old money no longer mattered and paled in comparison to the excesses of the 90s that came about because of technology.



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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #276 on: May 19, 2016, 01:09:27 PM »
America seems to have a rather simplified class definition:
upper class = have own jet
working class = never had a job
middle class = the rest

From reading this thread, this seems pretty accurate. Does America not have a sense of:

Old money upper class
New money upper class
Upper middle class (not quite new money upper class but getting there)
Middle middle class
Lower middle class (probably one generation out of upper working class)
Upper working class
Proud working class
Jobless working class

I know the 'class system' in England is pretty complicated and based on accent, cultural preferences, job, what your parents are like, where you live, what school you went to etc etc as much as or more than money - but does America not have any of that? The plays 'Abigail's Party' and 'Educating Rita' are pretty good examples of the fine delineations of class in the UK and how difficult it is to move up or down a class even if you change one external factor. The lower middle class is proverbially the worst for class in the UK because they care the most about what class they are and having to ostentatiously prove that they are better than the upper working class. New money upper class comes a close second, but I'm not sure most people are that bothered to be honest.
I think the class system used to exist much more 3 decades ago than it does today, and even then, only in the Northeast (Boston, NY, Philadelphia corridor).  I certainly grew up understanding the difference between old money and new money, but at some point in the 80s and 90s, it became clear that vast amounts of money created real power and the exclusionary tactics of the "old money" set could no longer hold the nouveau riche out of the established clubs, schools, industries, etc.  Later, technological leaps created a sort of meritocracy so that old money no longer mattered and paled in comparison to the excesses of the 90s that came about because of technology.
I don't think that the classes are wealth-stratified so much as balkanized laterally based on taste and on respective spheres of influence.

Making Cookies

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #277 on: May 23, 2016, 03:21:49 PM »
Is this fair?  Hell no.  More importantly, is this dumb policy?  Hell yes.  We are just starting to see the negative ramifications of unaffordable higher education costs and gigantic student loan debt: delayed home buying, delayed marriage, less children, less wealth building, less opportunity, less social advancement, more insecurity, more inequality, and more anger.   When you combine these macro problems with our nation's DIY retirement system, it is truly a recipe for the erosion of the middle class and eventual financial disaster.

When will politics and economics collide on this topic at the ground level?

People are against any gov't sponsored help or regulation of the student loan situation and at the same time they complain that their business selling widgets to people is fading away b/c more recent generations can't afford (won't afford?) to buy squat.

In short for some of the people whom I know well to reconcile their ideas about politics and economics...

Classical_Liberal

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #278 on: May 23, 2016, 04:42:06 PM »
People are against any gov't sponsored help or regulation of the student loan situation and at the same time they complain that their business selling widgets to people is fading away b/c more recent generations can't afford (won't afford?) to buy squat.

The problem isn't always getting people to agree on the problem.  Almost everyone agrees that cost of higher education and the associated debt is a problem, just like most agree the exponential growth of health care cost is a problem.  However, agreeing on a solution... no we've got trouble.  For instance, I believe the reason higher education cost are out of control is because there is TOO MUCH gov't sponsorship and regulation of student loans. The free market will always be more efficient in delivering a product or service than the gov't... Always!  That being said, certain things need to be provided by gov't, despite inefficiencies, because they help create a more even playing field.  Now that post secondary education has become the standard for middle class jobs, gov't should ensure equal access. I'm all for a hillary-type plan of free community college for all, but not with a blank check.  Participating CC's will be expected to keep costs in line, the same way medicare expects hospitals to keep costs in line.  Perhaps there are more efficient means to provide this education?  Add, optional, trade specific, grades 13 and 14 to high schools?  The possibilities are endless, but writing a blank, gov't subsidised,  deferred payment loan check to 18 year old students will only continue to increase the costs of higher education.  If the same thing was offered for ford F150's, half the 18 years olds in the country would have one and the price of base F150's would equal the amount of loan provided by the gov't.

galliver

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #279 on: May 23, 2016, 08:00:05 PM »
Many private schools are non-profits. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, I attended a private high school with a budget substantially less than that of the local public schools, and yet it had much better outcomes. If private schools, charters, or other options don't do a better job then parents can pull their kids and go elsewhere. Some charter schools have failed whereas others have succeeded. The charter schools in my area outperform the other public schools. YMMV. I don't understand what's so scary about giving ALL parents, regardless of wealth, choices for their kids education.

Well, here's two perspectives and they both mention some of the same things, though one is more positive about the concept than the other: http://www.alternet.org/education/how-do-charter-schools-succeed-cutting-loose-students-who-arent-good-enough http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/upshot/a-suburban-urban-divide-in-charter-school-success-rates.html

With charter schools, there is concern that special education students, students whose parents can't or don't support their academics (by going to the right meetings, participating in the charter school, etc), even students who just lose the lottery for admission will be overlooked. The more charter schools are set up, the fewer resources remain for the neighborhood public school, which HAS to accommodate all of the above students. There is also concern that the charters look good compared to the average in large part because they select the top, above average students (probably with above-average family support as well). Or because, as the first article criticizes at length, they drop any students who are not successful.

I think I agree with the author of the NYT article. These schools make sense in an urban environment, where between high population density and public transit (for older students), families can have access to a lot of schools. But in a suburban or rural area, it becomes impractical to provide that degree of choice; people just aren't willing to drive that far to take their kids to school; you already have to gather all the children from a large area to organize a (high) school with good offerings (AP courses, electives) and make it cost-effective. I wonder if online options can be harnessed for these communities to provide additional advanced and elective choices. 1 computer lab and 1 supervising teacher to cover 30-40 students learning different subjects, each of 6-8 class periods?

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #280 on: May 23, 2016, 09:57:06 PM »
Many private schools are non-profits. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, I attended a private high school with a budget substantially less than that of the local public schools, and yet it had much better outcomes. If private schools, charters, or other options don't do a better job then parents can pull their kids and go elsewhere. Some charter schools have failed whereas others have succeeded. The charter schools in my area outperform the other public schools. YMMV. I don't understand what's so scary about giving ALL parents, regardless of wealth, choices for their kids education.

Well, here's two perspectives and they both mention some of the same things, though one is more positive about the concept than the other: http://www.alternet.org/education/how-do-charter-schools-succeed-cutting-loose-students-who-arent-good-enough http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/upshot/a-suburban-urban-divide-in-charter-school-success-rates.html

With charter schools, there is concern that special education students, students whose parents can't or don't support their academics (by going to the right meetings, participating in the charter school, etc), even students who just lose the lottery for admission will be overlooked. The more charter schools are set up, the fewer resources remain for the neighborhood public school, which HAS to accommodate all of the above students. There is also concern that the charters look good compared to the average in large part because they select the top, above average students (probably with above-average family support as well). Or because, as the first article criticizes at length, they drop any students who are not successful.

I think I agree with the author of the NYT article. These schools make sense in an urban environment, where between high population density and public transit (for older students), families can have access to a lot of schools. But in a suburban or rural area, it becomes impractical to provide that degree of choice; people just aren't willing to drive that far to take their kids to school; you already have to gather all the children from a large area to organize a (high) school with good offerings (AP courses, electives) and make it cost-effective. I wonder if online options can be harnessed for these communities to provide additional advanced and elective choices. 1 computer lab and 1 supervising teacher to cover 30-40 students learning different subjects, each of 6-8 class periods?

In a dense urban environment that has an effective public transit infrastructure, it becomes practical to send kids to a school that isn't necessarily the closest. But there's already a long enough line of idling vehicles to pick up and drop off even high school students.

FINate

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #281 on: May 23, 2016, 11:34:42 PM »
Many private schools are non-profits. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, I attended a private high school with a budget substantially less than that of the local public schools, and yet it had much better outcomes. If private schools, charters, or other options don't do a better job then parents can pull their kids and go elsewhere. Some charter schools have failed whereas others have succeeded. The charter schools in my area outperform the other public schools. YMMV. I don't understand what's so scary about giving ALL parents, regardless of wealth, choices for their kids education.

Well, here's two perspectives and they both mention some of the same things, though one is more positive about the concept than the other: http://www.alternet.org/education/how-do-charter-schools-succeed-cutting-loose-students-who-arent-good-enough http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/upshot/a-suburban-urban-divide-in-charter-school-success-rates.html

With charter schools, there is concern that special education students, students whose parents can't or don't support their academics (by going to the right meetings, participating in the charter school, etc), even students who just lose the lottery for admission will be overlooked. The more charter schools are set up, the fewer resources remain for the neighborhood public school, which HAS to accommodate all of the above students. There is also concern that the charters look good compared to the average in large part because they select the top, above average students (probably with above-average family support as well). Or because, as the first article criticizes at length, they drop any students who are not successful.

I think I agree with the author of the NYT article. These schools make sense in an urban environment, where between high population density and public transit (for older students), families can have access to a lot of schools. But in a suburban or rural area, it becomes impractical to provide that degree of choice; people just aren't willing to drive that far to take their kids to school; you already have to gather all the children from a large area to organize a (high) school with good offerings (AP courses, electives) and make it cost-effective. I wonder if online options can be harnessed for these communities to provide additional advanced and elective choices. 1 computer lab and 1 supervising teacher to cover 30-40 students learning different subjects, each of 6-8 class periods?

Forcing a kid to stay in a school for the benefit of the whole is a terrible approach. How would you feel if you were told you had to sacrifice your child's education for the sake of the community? The wealthy just pay for private or move to a different area. The urban locations are now some of the wealthiest, whereas many rural and suburban areas are the new poor. If the issue is with too much demand and too little supply (hence a lottery) then the solution is to increase supply until demand can be matched.

As for dropping unsuccessful students, I think the public schools should do this more often. This may sound harsh, but some kids simply don't want to be there and will do everything possible to avoid learning. The state is essentially providing expensive day care in these cases, and these students negatively impact the performance of others. I have no issue with having some schools designated for students who want to be there, who want to learn (even if their grades are not great), and then having other schools for kids who just need to be watched while the parents are at work.

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #282 on: May 24, 2016, 07:20:25 AM »
Many private schools are non-profits. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, I attended a private high school with a budget substantially less than that of the local public schools, and yet it had much better outcomes. If private schools, charters, or other options don't do a better job then parents can pull their kids and go elsewhere. Some charter schools have failed whereas others have succeeded. The charter schools in my area outperform the other public schools. YMMV. I don't understand what's so scary about giving ALL parents, regardless of wealth, choices for their kids education.

Well, here's two perspectives and they both mention some of the same things, though one is more positive about the concept than the other: http://www.alternet.org/education/how-do-charter-schools-succeed-cutting-loose-students-who-arent-good-enough http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/upshot/a-suburban-urban-divide-in-charter-school-success-rates.html

With charter schools, there is concern that special education students, students whose parents can't or don't support their academics (by going to the right meetings, participating in the charter school, etc), even students who just lose the lottery for admission will be overlooked. The more charter schools are set up, the fewer resources remain for the neighborhood public school, which HAS to accommodate all of the above students. There is also concern that the charters look good compared to the average in large part because they select the top, above average students (probably with above-average family support as well). Or because, as the first article criticizes at length, they drop any students who are not successful.

I think I agree with the author of the NYT article. These schools make sense in an urban environment, where between high population density and public transit (for older students), families can have access to a lot of schools. But in a suburban or rural area, it becomes impractical to provide that degree of choice; people just aren't willing to drive that far to take their kids to school; you already have to gather all the children from a large area to organize a (high) school with good offerings (AP courses, electives) and make it cost-effective. I wonder if online options can be harnessed for these communities to provide additional advanced and elective choices. 1 computer lab and 1 supervising teacher to cover 30-40 students learning different subjects, each of 6-8 class periods?

Forcing a kid to stay in a school for the benefit of the whole is a terrible approach. How would you feel if you were told you had to sacrifice your child's education for the sake of the community? The wealthy just pay for private or move to a different area. The urban locations are now some of the wealthiest, whereas many rural and suburban areas are the new poor. If the issue is with too much demand and too little supply (hence a lottery) then the solution is to increase supply until demand can be matched.

As for dropping unsuccessful students, I think the public schools should do this more often. This may sound harsh, but some kids simply don't want to be there and will do everything possible to avoid learning. The state is essentially providing expensive day care in these cases, and these students negatively impact the performance of others. I have no issue with having some schools designated for students who want to be there, who want to learn (even if their grades are not great), and then having other schools for kids who just need to be watched while the parents are at work.

+1. I grew up outside the US. If a kid didn't want to stay in school, the school simply told the parents that either the kid shapes up or ships out. In either case, the parent is responsible. It isn't the teachers', principal's, or the school board's problem, as they have to focus on the kids who want to learn. And corporal punishment was the norm, and not the exception, both in school and home (grandpa, mum, and dad).

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #283 on: May 24, 2016, 09:33:01 AM »
Many private schools are non-profits. As I mentioned earlier in the thread, I attended a private high school with a budget substantially less than that of the local public schools, and yet it had much better outcomes. If private schools, charters, or other options don't do a better job then parents can pull their kids and go elsewhere. Some charter schools have failed whereas others have succeeded. The charter schools in my area outperform the other public schools. YMMV. I don't understand what's so scary about giving ALL parents, regardless of wealth, choices for their kids education.

Well, here's two perspectives and they both mention some of the same things, though one is more positive about the concept than the other: http://www.alternet.org/education/how-do-charter-schools-succeed-cutting-loose-students-who-arent-good-enough http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/upshot/a-suburban-urban-divide-in-charter-school-success-rates.html

With charter schools, there is concern that special education students, students whose parents can't or don't support their academics (by going to the right meetings, participating in the charter school, etc), even students who just lose the lottery for admission will be overlooked. The more charter schools are set up, the fewer resources remain for the neighborhood public school, which HAS to accommodate all of the above students. There is also concern that the charters look good compared to the average in large part because they select the top, above average students (probably with above-average family support as well). Or because, as the first article criticizes at length, they drop any students who are not successful.

I think I agree with the author of the NYT article. These schools make sense in an urban environment, where between high population density and public transit (for older students), families can have access to a lot of schools. But in a suburban or rural area, it becomes impractical to provide that degree of choice; people just aren't willing to drive that far to take their kids to school; you already have to gather all the children from a large area to organize a (high) school with good offerings (AP courses, electives) and make it cost-effective. I wonder if online options can be harnessed for these communities to provide additional advanced and elective choices. 1 computer lab and 1 supervising teacher to cover 30-40 students learning different subjects, each of 6-8 class periods?

Forcing a kid to stay in a school for the benefit of the whole is a terrible approach. How would you feel if you were told you had to sacrifice your child's education for the sake of the community? The wealthy just pay for private or move to a different area. The urban locations are now some of the wealthiest, whereas many rural and suburban areas are the new poor. If the issue is with too much demand and too little supply (hence a lottery) then the solution is to increase supply until demand can be matched.

As for dropping unsuccessful students, I think the public schools should do this more often. This may sound harsh, but some kids simply don't want to be there and will do everything possible to avoid learning. The state is essentially providing expensive day care in these cases, and these students negatively impact the performance of others. I have no issue with having some schools designated for students who want to be there, who want to learn (even if their grades are not great), and then having other schools for kids who just need to be watched while the parents are at work.
Hmm.  This is a tough one though.

Our public school system struggles with a wide income disparity, and English language disparity, and ability disparity.  There's a lot of "white flight".  (And open transfers, but only if there is space.)

For example, there are some schools that are "magnet" for different groups.  The school my son attends (we transferred in), is a magnet program for the developmentally disabled/ special ed kids.  Other schools also have special ed kids, but we have more of them, and parents can opt to send their kids here - where we have more resources.

There is also a GATE (gifted and talented) magnet program at the wealthiest school.  Most GATE testing is done in 2nd grade, district wide.  There are 25 spots and a lottery for them.  (You can opt to join the lottery or stay in your home school).  The # of students increases to 30 from 3rd to 6th.

So.  What does this do, really?  Well, the magnet program really decimates some of the local schools, particularly ours, which is 1/2 mile away.  Many (most?) GATE identified students in our school transfer.  One of the parents (her boys and my son are both GATE and have not transferred) is making it her goal to disband the program.  It makes it *very* difficult for the students who don't transfer - as there is little incentive for the home schools to develop and maintain a program.  (They are too busy working on the EL's).

A site-based cluster program or site-based pullouts will do just as well.  Why do so many people transfer?  This perception that the school isn't great.  Because: test scores. But as I've said before, the test scores of our English speaking kids are AS HIGH as the test scores of the wealthier school.  But the overall school scores aren't great.  Why?  Well for one thing, they test the special kids, some of whom can't even hold a mouse.  And all of these scores are averaged into the school score.  The school with the GATE magnet program?  Scores are averaged in.  So 1/3 of all of the 3rd graders are GATE kids taken from ALL the schools in the district.  That artificially inflates their scores.

There's a difference between "holding your kids back" by having them in a dismally failing school, and keeping your kid at a neighborhood school that is JUST FINE.  I don't know what the heck these rich white kids are going to do when they get to middle school and they are the minority.

I was having a conversation with one of the 5th grade teachers (that I hope my son gets) next year, and she said it's sad how many students are "done" in 5th grade.  They've check out.  Completely.  At age 10.  Why?  I wish I knew the answer to that.

galliver

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #284 on: May 24, 2016, 12:35:13 PM »
As for dropping unsuccessful students, I think the public schools should do this more often. This may sound harsh, but some kids simply don't want to be there and will do everything possible to avoid learning. The state is essentially providing expensive day care in these cases, and these students negatively impact the performance of others. I have no issue with having some schools designated for students who want to be there, who want to learn (even if their grades are not great), and then having other schools for kids who just need to be watched while the parents are at work.

You say "some kids simply don't want to be there." Isn't that actually quite a lot of kids, probably? Except some show up on time and actually try because they know mom and dad want them to, they'll be celebrated/praised/rewarded for doing well, they may even realize the long-term consequences; and if they don't do well/try they'll disappoint mom and dad, and might get grounded, etc. And the parents provide all kinds of support for their kid's school day: they feed, clothe, and wash the kid and get them to school on time. If they have trouble, they might hover over homework time, set up a parent-teacher conference, attend all the meetings and fill out paperwork to get their kid into the charter, magnet, or otherwise "better" school if the opportunity arises.

But not everyone gets lucky with parents/caretakers like that, or even mostly like that. Some are barely keeping it together. And some aren't. Maybe the parents are fighting. Or unemployed. Evicted and homeless. Maybe a family member was shot or went to prison. Maybe the kid has an undiagnosed disability, a psychological trauma, or heck, just needs glasses, and no one has bothered to check. Maybe they've been told their whole life that they were useless and stupid and bad instead of being given help, and now they believe it. This shit happens to people. To kids. And worse stuff happens, too, I don't think I need to go into that. And you're saying, if they can't, at the age of what, 8? 10? 12 even? put these issues, fears, discomforts, difficulties aside and sit unnaturally still for hours, we should just...give up on educating them? And what happens when they get to 18 and can't read, write, count, or  follow instructions?

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #285 on: May 24, 2016, 01:39:15 PM »
I grew up very comfortable and found school boring, miserable, and enervating - and my teachers liked me, and I never had any problems with the material! I can't imagine how unpleasant school must be for kids with challenging home lives or who have to work harder to learn the curriculum.

Warlord1986

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #286 on: May 24, 2016, 01:43:38 PM »
As for dropping unsuccessful students, I think the public schools should do this more often. This may sound harsh, but some kids simply don't want to be there and will do everything possible to avoid learning. The state is essentially providing expensive day care in these cases, and these students negatively impact the performance of others. I have no issue with having some schools designated for students who want to be there, who want to learn (even if their grades are not great), and then having other schools for kids who just need to be watched while the parents are at work.

You say "some kids simply don't want to be there." Isn't that actually quite a lot of kids, probably? Except some show up on time and actually try because they know mom and dad want them to, they'll be celebrated/praised/rewarded for doing well, they may even realize the long-term consequences; and if they don't do well/try they'll disappoint mom and dad, and might get grounded, etc. And the parents provide all kinds of support for their kid's school day: they feed, clothe, and wash the kid and get them to school on time. If they have trouble, they might hover over homework time, set up a parent-teacher conference, attend all the meetings and fill out paperwork to get their kid into the charter, magnet, or otherwise "better" school if the opportunity arises.

But not everyone gets lucky with parents/caretakers like that, or even mostly like that. Some are barely keeping it together. And some aren't. Maybe the parents are fighting. Or unemployed. Evicted and homeless. Maybe a family member was shot or went to prison. Maybe the kid has an undiagnosed disability, a psychological trauma, or heck, just needs glasses, and no one has bothered to check. Maybe they've been told their whole life that they were useless and stupid and bad instead of being given help, and now they believe it. This shit happens to people. To kids. And worse stuff happens, too, I don't think I need to go into that. And you're saying, if they can't, at the age of what, 8? 10? 12 even? put these issues, fears, discomforts, difficulties aside and sit unnaturally still for hours, we should just...give up on educating them? And what happens when they get to 18 and can't read, write, count, or  follow instructions?

My mother was a teacher for twenty odd years and she always said it wasn't the kids who bothered her, it was the parents. The truth is: teachers aren't social workers. They are trained to teach, not solve problems caused by generations of dysfunction and/or lack of parental attention. They cannot and should not be expected to do so. It isn't their job.

I went to a high school reunion a few years ago, and it was largely planned on facebook. Looking at the questions asked repeatedly, the nonexistent grammar and punctuation, and the lack of spell check, it is pretty obvious that people are already graduating without knowing how to read, write, count, or follow instructions.

My mother's job would have been a lot less stressful if the public schools had been able to remove students who didn't want to be there. My education would have a lot less violent if the schools had removed the dysfunctional students who didn't want to be there.

I have sympathy for children who are going through hell, but there's no way the schools can be expected to fix that. If the problems you listed are causing the students to act out and behave so inappropriately that they can't function in a normal school environment, then social services needs to get involved.

Making Cookies

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #287 on: May 26, 2016, 09:16:02 AM »
My mother's job would have been a lot less stressful if the public schools had been able to remove students who didn't want to be there. My education would have a lot less violent if the schools had removed the dysfunctional students who didn't want to be there.

I have sympathy for children who are going through hell, but there's no way the schools can be expected to fix that. If the problems you listed are causing the students to act out and behave so inappropriately that they can't function in a normal school environment, then social services needs to get involved.

That's why college was more interesting to me. Most of the folks there wanted to be there. I can see how the kids who don't want to be in school are impacting my oldest. They seem to be eroding his interest in classroom learning b/c of the interruptions. Unfortunately his grades aren't good enough to get into the Honors/AP track where more of the kids might be interested in being in school.

TomTX

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #288 on: May 31, 2016, 03:55:30 PM »

I was discussing this with my grandparents a few months ago.  They know young people struggling to get by, but buying TV's and entertainment systems instead of saving money when they get gifts or tax returns.  They have 2 cars instead of 1 (but I live in a rural area and I'll be damned if a SAHP is going to be home with kids without a means of transport, so I'm a big supporter of 2 car families....anyway, tangent) and a few gadgets.  And I point out that yes, a TV is $500 once and that car is $125 month.  But they could save alllll that money and not come close to paying for health insurance if (one of) the parent(s) doesn't have a good deal with it at work.  Let alone if one of them also has student loan payments and didn't take the time to switch to a low payment plan or if the loans are private because they went to a technical training school.

Exactly! $500 didn't even cover my insurance premiums for the month, let alone deductible or out of pocket max (and that's not even counting out of network max - a separate, insane amount). I think a lot of people that pooh pooh young families' expenditures must get a great deal on insurance through their jobs. I know my in-laws and parents were both like that.

I'm in the ACA family trap. My employer covers my insurance, and nominally half the "Family" insurance - but whether it's one kid or a dozen, you pay the same. I've got one.  Plus significant copays, etc when actually using the insurance.

It would actually be cheaper to drop the family side of the plan and get a subsidized ACA Silver plan for them. But I can't - because my employer pays for MY insurance, somehow the family insurance is magically defined as affordable, no matter how overpriced it is.

If we were really mercenary,  I suppose we should just get legally divorced and put my wife and son on subsidized ACA while continuing to live together, and just not tell anyone.  That would save thousands of dollars every year, easily.

TomTX

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #289 on: May 31, 2016, 04:05:09 PM »
I would like to know how much their family makes and what they spend it on. How much on the wedding they tapped the 401(k) for.

I don't have any children or nieces/nephews. But is it really necessary to send your kids to private schools?

Well... the article author made sure to live in an area with schools bad enough to "Require" private school until his kids were ready for college, so at that point he moved to a very expensive area with great schools, so he would pay more taxes and get no benefit from them.

This guy was an established writer by that time with all sorts of cred. He could have moved literally anywhere in the world. Instead of choosing somewhere reasonably priced, he chose ever more expensive and impractical places to live. Then sent a daughter off to a $65k/year school to get a $25k/year social worker degree.

TomTX

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #290 on: May 31, 2016, 06:00:54 PM »
The author was on public radio's Marketplace to discuss the article.  Sadly, he had nothing to say about what steps he was taking to try and improve his situation. The host commended him for his honesty in disclosing, but I think was a little surprised that the author remained pessimistic about his financial situation. 

That was very disheartening to hear.  I very much hoped that the author would reveal that having faced his financial situation, he was taking some, any, steps to improve or that he would have suggestions for others in a similar situation.   

Oh, he was all 'woe is me' on that Marketplace interview - I caught most of it while driving one day. He also shucked and jived around the truth - when a caller said he was too focused on the "trappings of wealth" , he was back to his crap about not being wealthy "oh, my car is 40 years old - that's not wealthy, oh I can't afford to fix my roof - that's not wealthy. I haven't taken a vacation in 50 years, that's not wealthy" while totally avoiding the actual accusation of the TRAPPINGS of wealth:  private school for kids, expensive colleges for kids, expensive weddings, living in the Hamptons in a big house, etc.

StarBright

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #291 on: May 31, 2016, 07:51:08 PM »
We are incredibly frugal and savers and we had three years in a row with medical emergencies [...] then our cat got sick [...]

In the rural area where I grew up it was very common to have various animals around the house. If a pet got sick, it was put out of its misery - quickly and painlessly because the owners cared. Buying medical care for a pet (as opposed to expensive livestock) would have been considered insanely extravagant unless you were a millionaire.

Most people here are better off than my family was when I was a child, so spending more than we did on pets is probably a luxury that's not unreasonable for many. But to consider pet-related expenses an 'emergency' strikes me as odd. As MMM himself has pointed out, pets are optional. Pets (not service animals or livestock) are a luxury just like an expensive hobby. If it jeopardizes your savings then you aren't incredibly frugal.

Just reading more of the thread and saw this comment. Not gonna lie- the comment irked me. Sure pets are a luxury, but in my early 20s I had a friend who couldn't find a no-kill shelter who would take her kittens (she had unknowingly adopted a pregnant cat). So I took one. I loved that cat a lot; over many years he added to my family's happiness in a big way and was my four year old's best friend. FWIW - it turned out the cat had cancer and since he had had a long, happy life we opted to euthanize him rather than put him through expensive treatments that might not work. IF you asked me to adopt a pet today I probably would not, but no way would I get rid of a beloved family pet just because I was getting serious about saving more money.

But, perhaps more importantly you basically ignored the list of very real expenses that drained our emergency fund over a period of years (emergency surgeries, high medical premiums and deductibles, storm damage, appliances dying, 13 year old (paid for) vehicles dying etc.) and then dismissed my comment because I took a cat to a vet. I feel like this touches on the victim blaming that happens when people discuss issues of income inequality. I can list ten events that jeopardized our financial health but if one is seen as not legit, the other nine don't seem to matter.

In any case, I have really enjoyed reading everyone's thoughts on the initial article. Lots of discussion to be had :)
 

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #292 on: June 01, 2016, 04:55:41 PM »
I too find it ridiculous when some people tell  others to get rid of their pets, etc. They bring a lot of joy, companionship to people's lives. If people are single or elderly it can really be important. Also petting an animal lowers BP.

Metta

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Re: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
« Reply #293 on: June 01, 2016, 05:40:22 PM »
I too find it ridiculous when some people tell  others to get rid of their pets, etc. They bring a lot of joy, companionship to people's lives. If people are single or elderly it can really be important. Also petting an animal lowers BP.

When people take on obligations to other beings, their welfare becomes a responsibility. It makes no more sense to me to advise someone to get rid of their pets for financial reasons than it does to get rid of children who are also financial burdens. In most cases (at least in the developed world) both children and pets are voluntary financial burdens but once you take on this responsibility you have to behave as a moral actor, not merely as an economic maximizer.