What Works: Education

By Greg Moses

Can there be a clearer sign of policy failure than a prison for children whose parents have been made unwelcome in America?

We stand with Dallas attorney John Wheat Gibson who says look not to the criminality of the people who fill these detention centers, but look at the cold-hearted stupidity of the people who think this is some kind of righteous solution. Shame on America. Shame on you and me.
Fortunately an answer to our idiocy is at hand. It is not a difficult answer to comprehend, but for some reason it has been systematically neglected by the baby boom generation. The answer is education.

So, yes, there are simple solutions. As Angela Davis said recently in Houston, the clear alternative to prison is education.

In a just-released report from the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation we find that most of the students of Texas struggle at or near low-income levels, yet most of them still manage to prepare themselves for college.

Yet, when compared to college-prepared students from high-income families, prepared students from low-income families have half the chance of eventually completing a college degree. And the reason has a lot to do with stingy public priorities.

To those who would answer that family priorities, not family incomes, are the truly decisive reasons for college completion, the report replies that family expectations for college are shaped by family income.

In a society that does not clearly support college students, the burden must fall back on the families, that is true. But if a society knows very well that half the families (or more) cannot pay for college, and if that society continues to wag its fingers at the families, then, once again, as in the case of prisons for immigrants, it’s the finger-wagger who needs the dose of reality.

The report is clearly hopeful about the trend of Texas education. Thanks to steady improvements at the High School level, more Texas students are better prepared for college.

But the report leaves us with the question of how hopeful we dare to be about the wisdom of education policy, when the legislature comes to Austin in a few weeks.

As the report shows clearly, Texas college students are showing up to do the work. But behind them, what do they have? Finger-waggers who blame them for their families’ poverty, and who might as well be anchors tied to their ankles? Or enablers who say, here you go, do well, we seriously need you to be educated for the future of us all? “Ready, willing, and unable: How financial barriers obstruct bachelor-degree attainment in Texas.” A report to the 80th regular session of the Texas Legislature. Prepared by Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation Research and Analytical Services (December 2006.) Get the pdf here

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