Two Types of Poor
Yesterday I read Odd Man Out by Matt McCarthy, a former minor league baseball player turned doctor. It was a nice break from the education themed books; one I would recommend if you are interested in the culture of baseball. But this morning, I've determined the next book I will read, Work Hard. Be Nice. by Washington Post education beat journalist, Jay Mathews.
Richard D. Kahlenberg reviews the book in tommorrow's print edition. Over time, I certainly would have picked up the book, but a statement from Kahlenberg's review forced me to ask the question, Are there two types of poor?
Moreover, KIPP's experience does little to rebut the longstanding social-science consensus that poverty and segregation reduce achievement because in many respects KIPP schools more closely resemble middle-class than high-poverty public schools. KIPP does not educate the typical low-income student but rather a subset fortunate enough to have striving parents who take the initiative to apply to a KIPP school and sign a contract agreeing to read to their children at night.
Before reading this review, I did not realize that there existed typical and atypical low-income students. I had no idea that a subset, to use his term, of poor families did not want their child to do well in school and therefore would take no initiative to fill out an application.
From my experiences at a low-income school, and again, I can only speak honestly about my experiences, the vast majority of parents, if not all, want their children to do well in life. The difference does not lie in initiative, it lies in social capital and the understanding of how to navigate a burdensome system.
To cast a wide blanket over low-income families who do not apply to schools like KIPP as lacking initiative is to unfairly judge those families.