Sep 14, 2022
"Education... is a great equalizer of conditions of
men—the balance wheel of the social machinery," stated school
reformer Horace Mann in 1848. "Math is the great equalizer,"
preached Jaime Escalante, Edward James Olmos’ character, in the
1988 film Stand and
Deliver. "The best
anti-poverty program around is a world-class education," announced
Barack Obama during his 2010 State of the Union
message is everywhere, pervading political speeches, Oscar-bait
films, think-tank papers, and everything in between. The key to
economic upward mobility—we’re endlessly told, is education—a
societal building block that is, or at least should be, accessible
to every child, no matter their race, gender, or income level. It's
a seductive, seemingly unassailable conceit, suggesting that we
live in a meritocracy where second chances and generational
wealth-building are possible, even probable, with a few simple
is there any truth to this idea? There’s a growing body of evidence
showing that education level does not, in fact, necessarily
translate to higher wages. Which raises the questions: Why has the
idea that education is the ultimate anti-poverty tool persisted?
Whose interests are served in its continuation? And who, in turn,
pays the price?
this episode, the Season Six premiere of Citations Needed, we
detail and debunk the widespread conventional wisdom that education
is the rising tide that lifts all boats, looking at the ways it
reinforces themes of individualism and personal responsibility;
obscures systemic issues like racism and worker exploitation in the
labor market; and ultimately keeps people entrenched in, rather
than liberating them from, poverty and low-wage work.
guest is Lake Forest professor Cristina Viviana