I adored this recent post from The Urbanophile, about the particular challenges – and pitfalls – of so-called ‘boomerang migration’, wherein a promising young mind moves away from their hometown to explore the wider world, and then returns in order to Make A Difference. It was particularly affecting as someone who struggled, for several years after college, with living in posh San Francisco while my hometown of Cleveland continued its downward trajectory, an existential battle which found its final resolution in my move to Oakland – a city that shares the pleasures and problems of both San Francisco AND Cleveland, but which I can approach without all the baggage surrounding Going Home.
In education headlines, n+1 gets on my old bandwagon, exploring the skewed economic incentives of colleges and lenders in handing out billions of dollars in debt to fund a product that has grown ever-more devalued: the college degree. Once again, I reiterate that, while learning is an inherently beneficial pursuit, conflating learning and education is dangerous; education is a massive system, built on institutions, and it responds to institutional incentives and goals which only occasionally coincide with the aims of real learning. On the opposite end of the educational spectrum, Wisconsin’s lovely governor is attempting to abolish state testing – but only for students in private or charter schools. The reason? Students in those schools, drawn from the same socioeconomic strata as their public-school counterparts, tend not to do any better on standardized tests, and frequently perform even worse. Makes it tough for conservatives and so-called ‘reformers’ to argue that adopting strategies of privatization is the cure for what ails American education – and we already know how eager Scott Walker is to demolish those mad, bad, dangerous-to-know creatures called teacher’s unions.
Kevin Drum also shared this fascinating chart, about people’s perceptions of their own wealth as compared to their actual relative wealth – it is rather shocking how closely everyone’s perceptions clusters around the mean, regardless of whether they are actually rich or actually poor. Like the abolishment of standardized testing when inconvenient to one’s ideology, it goes a long way towards demonstrating the manner in which our pesky human habit of clinging to delusional beliefs gets in the way of achieving actual progress. Sometimes those beliefs are ideological; sometimes they comforting lies about our own material standard of living; and sometimes, as Ta-Nehisi Coates so beautifully and succinctly describes, they are willful acts of historical mythmaking, privileging one kind of violence and suffering over another.
Reality may be a starker place than we’d like, but it is also, ultimately, the only thing worth grappling with.
(Perhaps an obtuse statement from someone who posts so regularly here about television, but storytelling and any creative pursuit is only as good as it is honest; its value lies less in fictional creation and more in artful confrontation with truth.)