If we spent one tenth the energy working on high school graduation rates, we'd have both a more powerful impact on the truly disadvantaged and a more significant impact on college attendance. The problem is, the middle class and the upper class aren't worried about their kids graduating from high school, and so talk of those problems doesn't resonate with large swaths of the electorate. And that all points to the underlying dynamic here and elsewhere in Democratic rhetoric: Progressives now try to address poverty in the context of the middle class -- they seek out economic issues which could aid the poor but have plenty of relevance up the income ladder. In doing, they ignore the most destructive and entrenched pathologies and problems, as those tend to be rather rare among higher income earners, and for that reason much more damaging to those caught in their grip. The ultimate problem here is that the poor rarely votes, while the middle class does, and it's damn hard for politicians to figure out how to focus the electorate on things that aren't their problem.But it is their problem. Residential self-segregation and housing premiums for good school districts and restrictive zoning codes to limit the enrollment in the high schools and the positional arms races to get into the fifty or so colleges claiming to be in the U.S. News top ten are all reactions to those "destructive and entrenched pathologies," no?
THOSE NONCOGNITIVE SKILLS AGAIN. Tapped's Ezra Klein: