Home > Uncategorized > The Pandemic’s Hidden Cost– the Invisibility of Inequity– Reflects the Hidden Cost of Economic and Racial Segregation of Public Schools

The Pandemic’s Hidden Cost– the Invisibility of Inequity– Reflects the Hidden Cost of Economic and Racial Segregation of Public Schools

January 2, 2021

Earlier this week Elizabeth Badger wrote an article in the New York Times titled “The Year Inequality Became Less Visible and More Visible Than Ever“. The article artfully described one of the hidden costs of the pandemic: the exacerbation of the economic divide by virtue of the fact that affluent remote workers seldom came in contact with the low-wage hourly workers whose paths they would cross regularly commuting to and from work and in completing the countless face-to-face transactions that occur over the course of a work week.  These two paragraphs describe this “cost”:

“Just think about the pathways and where they took you — you went in and got coffee in a place where you saw people who were being paid by the hour, not by the month,” Professor Cohen said. Those small moments vanished. Within the middle-class neighborhoods and second-home retreats where remote workers withdrew, there were no homeless people on the sidewalk.

“It seems there were fewer and fewer of those interactions, but they really were important for just expanding the social world you live in,” she said. “Maybe that’s the scariest dimension of this. The opportunities to interact with people who are not like yourself have shrunk.

To me, that is and has been the scariest dimension of our current provision of public education. By assigning children to schools based on entry exams and lengthy and complex application processes or based on the towns or neighborhoods they reside in, the opportunities for students to interact with other children who are not like them has diminished.

I consider it fortunate that the public school system I attended was heterogeneous in terms of its socio-economics and race and doubly fortunate that because I participated in athletics, drama, church groups, and part-time jobs I was able to interact with people who were not like me. As it turns out, the same proved to be generally true of my children. I fear, however, that this is true for fewer and fewer children today as schools become more and more segregated by race and economic demographics… and this contributes mightily to the political divide we are currently witnessing.

One of the themes of Ms. Badger’s article is that events like pandemics, Depressions, and severe recessions can be opportunities for profound transformation— and MAYBE a transformation along the lines of that occurring after the pain and suffering of the 1930s will result… a transformation that will lead us to care more about each other and less about our own station in life.

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