Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Two Thoughts about Inequality from a Busy Sociologist

A sociologist's letter to the New Yorker editor about an article by Paul Tough on a San Francisco clinic run by Nadine Burke:

"Tough quotes Nadine Burke as saying that "in many cases, what looks like a social situation is actually a neurochemical situation." But, at its origins, the case is the opposite: Burke's patients presenting neurochemical problems, such as anxiety and depression, initially suffered from social problems, such as impoverished, violent, or otherwise toxic family and community situations. These neurochemical responses are the symptom, and what we need to attack is the disease -- social disparity. Disparities are characteristic of a society, not an individual. If these disparities are "treated" through social policies that reduce inequalities or, at least, their negative consequences (lack of access to a secure environment, nourishing food, health care, quality housing and neighborhoods, decent jobs, and time for family and leisure), then whole populations benefit, rather than just the few lucky individuals who land in Burke's clinic. The United States ranks highest in social inequality compared with other advanced countries, and highest in health disparities as well." Deena White, Professor, Dept of Sociology, U. Montreal.

Post Q: Did it take a lot of extra money to help the red zone (areas in Montgomery County worse off economically and academically)?

Jerry Dean Weast, superintendent of Montgomery County schools: Just a couple thousand dollars a student. It's a 10 to 15 percent difference. If I've got to pay 10 to 15 percent extra and get a similar or close-to-similar outcome, I'd keep investing...We set the highest scores in the history of the district. The highest SAT scores. The highest graduation rates. The highest college attendance and college graduation rates -- and we have the evidence to prove that.

Students pay $34,465 to attend St. Albans, while the DC Government will pay $8,770 in 2012 to educate each student. What if a couple thousand dollars per public school student could reduce the achievement gap? Does St. Albans have an achievement gap?

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