MCAT CARS Asks: Are Inequality and Education Related?

CARS 65: MCAT CARS Asks: Are Inequality and Education Related?

Session 65

What is the greatest driver of student achievement, and is education everything when it comes to social mobility? Let’s see what the passage has to say.

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Link to article:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/07/education-isnt-enough/590611/

Long ago, I was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, one many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America.

This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world. No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built. But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way. We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall. School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy. As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class. And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself.

Taken with this storyline, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

But after decades of organizing and giving, I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

What I’ve realized, decades late, is that educationism is tragically misguided. American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me. Americans are more highly educated than ever before, but despite that, and despite nearly record-low unemployment, most American workers—at all levels of educational attainment—have seen little if any wage growth since 2000.

To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income.

[01:50] Strategies for MCAT CARS Prep

Doing one passage a day is great when you’re starting off, and multiple passages other days, or doing three every other day.

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It is a reading test. It’s grueling to be sitting 6-7 hours reading on a computer screen. So you have to really get good at sitting there for long periods of time. Reading a lot is very helpful.

[03:25] Paragraph 1, Sentence 1

Long ago, I was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, one many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system.

Jack says:

The author here has wealthy friends and says that poverty is due to our failing educational system.

[04:03] Paragraph 1, Sentence 2

Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America.

Jack says:

The author thinks that fixing our education system could fix our country in terms of fixing the rising inequality.

[04:28] Paragraph 2, Sentence 1

This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world.

Jack says:

The cause-and-effect isn’t clear here yet. We do know America had a great educational system.

[05:18] Paragraph 2, Sentence 2

No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built.

Jack says:

This is probably the cause and effect. The cause is we had a great public education system. The effect was we had the great American middle class.

[05:40] Paragraph 2, Sentence 3

But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way.

Jack says:

The author points to a change and a time period.

[05:50] Paragraph 2, Sentence 4

We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall.

Jack says:

Note that this is not a fact but just how the author perceives the American education system.  This is an argument or an idea.

[06:35] Paragraph 2, Sentence 5

School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy.

Jack says:

The author is talking about a shift in what was needed.

[06:58] Paragraph 2, Sentence 6

As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class.

Jack says:

Founder could mean sinking or failing. That said, you still know the education system is suffering and so does the earning power or compensation.

[08:10] Paragraph 2, Sentence 7

And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself.

Jack says:

Inequality is another way of saying lack of money. This wasn’t actually made clear by the author until this paragraph. The author is making a connection and association between inequality and limited earning potential.

[09:10] Paragraph 3, Sentence 1

Taken with this storyline, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission.

Jack says:

The author is trying to change things with philanthropy.

[09:27] Paragraph 3, Sentence 2

I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education.

Jack says:

It’s a project the author started.

[09:37] Paragraph 3, Sentence 3

I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools.

Jack says:

They’re trying to solve the cause and effect. They’re trying to solve it with more money. Hopefully, the money will help with the education and things get better.

[19:26] Paragraph 3, Sentence 4

All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again.

Jack says:

The hypothesis was to create better schools and it’s going to help students learn better.

[11:00] Paragraph 3, Sentence 5

Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

Jack says:

So far, this is a straightforward article talking about education causing issues everywhere else. Fixing education will solve inequality.

[11:34] Paragraph 4, Sentences 1-2

But after decades of organizing and giving, I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

Jack says:

The author is setting up this whole hypothesis of giving more money to decrease inequality. Apparently, this didn’t work and hopefully, we will find out why.

[12:02] Paragraph 5, Sentence 1

What I’ve realized, decades late, is that educationism is tragically misguided.

Jack says:

The author just wants to remind that educationism is grounded in the familiar cause and effect. And that the education system was what led to this middle class. The author is trying to say that maybe the education system and the middle class weren’t as tied together as they thought it was.

[12:45] Paragraph 5, Sentence 2

American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me.

Jack says:

The author is giving another reason things are not working.

[13:17] Paragraph 5, Sentence 3

Americans are more highly educated than ever before, but despite that, and despite nearly record-low unemployment, most American workers—at all levels of educational attainment—have seen little if any wage growth since 2000.

Jack says:

The author is pointing out that the trickle-down policy of giving money to the rich and they will give it to everyone else isn’t working. As long as you know that the author has now decided that education and inequality are not directly connected, then you’re going to be fine.

Note: You can’t just read the first paragraph or the last paragraph. You have to read the whole thing. The whole thing will explain everything you need to know.

For the science questions, you could get away with reading the questions and not really reading the passage. But for the CARS, this doesn’t work.

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[14:35] Paragraph 6, Sentence 1

To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools.

Jack says:

We want to improve our public school system.

[14:45] Paragraph 6, Sentence 2

But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans.

Jack says:

It’s a pretty straightforward sentence that it’s the economic system that’s failing, and not the education system itself.

[14:58] Paragraph 6, Sentence 3

Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income.

Jack says:

There’s the tie-in here. It says that the greatest driver of student achievement is household income. So if a student is coming from a household income that is poverty level, they’re not going to do well. It’s not the school itself, but income.

[15:38] The Main Idea

The main idea is that education is not to blame for these inequalities. They only mentioned inequality was in one paragraph. But it can come from the fact that they’re not being paid more, or they’re not paid what they deserve. Hence, education is not the root of the problem here.

[16:59] Key Takeaways

You really need to make sure you’re reading the entire passage to hit all of the thoughts and ideas because there was a curveball in the middle that we potentially would have missed. Maybe the author changes their mind. Or maybe they just said it so they can establish a picture for what the author doesn’t agree with. So be cautious and tread slowly.

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[18:25] Jack Westin

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Link to article:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/07/education-isnt-enough/590611/

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