Recent Posts

Globalization: Not a New Sensation Sweeping Our Nation

The frustrations that accompany economic inequality can often lead people to blame the obvious but less important causes of the issue. One of the most prominent examples is the overestimation of globalization as a major source of economic inequality. While brainstorming potential principal causes of […]

Get Milked for All You’re Worth

Our class discussion on Wednesday made me feel a bit like a cow in an auction. In my mind, it appears as if every American is tagged at birth with an approximate value that fluctuates as we grow older and have a bit more leeway […]

Searching for a Solution

I’ve been thinking a lot about my research question today. Actually, I’ve been thinking a lot about research questions in general. There were so many results for my searches in the library. So many people have found areas of interest regarding economic inequality or the enticing but elusive American Dream. From my first short paper, I argued that economic inequality is a definite problem in the U.S. that affects everyone. The hundreds of thousands (and sometimes millions) of results that showed up after my searches supported this. Why have so much information available on economic inequality if it isn’t a problem, right? Why have a first-year seminar centered around economic inequality if there isn’t some idea in your head that it’s a problem?

Before narrowing down my results to the past five years to make the information I received more relevant, I saw that there were many articles, journals, books, and dissertations dated many decades back. These older, more outdated sources dealt with the same issues as what we are dealing with today (specifically in regard to rising costs of higher education), but the issues seem to have only been amplified as time moves forward. I feel as though the only thing that is progressing is time.

I aim to investigate how the rising cost of tuition and fees impacts postsecondary enrollment of students in the U.S. as well as the economic implications of my findings. First, I had to establish that there has been a rise in the cost of tuition and fees over a period of time. I found statistics over a twenty year time period that established that there have indeed been a significant rise in the costs involved with attending both community colleges and four-year public and private institutions. I wasn’t surprised by this because I, with a somewhat biased mindset, fully expected to see growing percentages in tuition and fees over the years. What did surprise me was when I found an article published in 1976 about how the rise in higher education costs impacted student enrollment. I did a double-take when I saw the date listed as 1976, over four decades ago from today. People so often complain about the enormous amount of debt they’re in or will be in after graduating from college because of how much tuition and fees cost today, especially in comparison to a decade (or several decades) ago. Because it’s seemingly so much worse now, the past seems like a dream in comparison. It’s easy to glorify the past when the present and predicted trends are overwhelmingly bleak in comparison. If there are journals from several decades ago explaining an issue and why that issue is a problem, why has the problem gotten worse? Why does it seem like no one is doing anything about the problems that plague our nation’s economy? Wouldn’t the people who already suffered from high college costs in the 1970s want to make a change for future generations? Surely, they wouldn’t want their children to have even more financial stress…right?

I like research projects in the sense that they allow students to read and evaluate sources from experts in a field. It’s a very in-depth and personal way to gain knowledge, especially in comparison to multiple choice tests. However, finding all of this information – knowing that there’s a vast array of scholarly knowledge that’s published and many experts in economics who believe that economic inequality is a problem in the U.S. that needs to be addressed and solved – makes me wonder why we seem to be digressing further and further away from a U.S. that allows everyone equality of opportunity.

Goldstein and Pinker’s Ted Talk does a good job discussing the importance of reason and empathy, but it fails (in my opinion) to provide anything substantial or conclusive that we can use going forward. After the talk, I have a solid understanding of the definitions of reason and empathy, but I’m not as certain as to how I can apply them in my daily life since Goldstein and Pinker left the discussion rather up in the air. They remarked on how we have abandoned some barbaric human practices, such as slavery and disembowelment. However, they also discussed how we continue to practice inhumane treatment of animals in factory farms, possess nuclear weapons, and tolerate rape in our nation’s prisons. Goldstein wonders if “when our great grandchildren look back at us, will they be as appalled by some of our practices as we are by our slave-owning, heretic-burning, wife-beating, gay-bashing ancestors?” This statement is a subtle acknowledgement that, although on different levels and in different ways, we continue to do wrong even though we know what we should be doing to do right.

This incorporation of the Ted Talk might seem out of context, but I associated it with my findings from my research question because of the absence of a clear answer to a clear problem. I’m full of questions and have a very minimal amount of knowledge in the field of economics and economic inequality. From the lack of progression (or the actual digression in some cases) on the issue of economic inequality, I can tell that it’s a very complicated matter. Seeing journals from the 1970s on problems then that have only worsened in the current times gives me a very bleak outlook. I’ve noticed that all of my blog posts have carried a tone of frustration and pessimism (although I prefer being coined a skeptic than a pessimist). I wish that I could have an optimistic attitude and a firm belief that things are going to be more fair for everyone in the U.S. and that soon no Americans will be living below the poverty line. I also wish that I could end this blog post with a solution – or at least on a sunny note.

The truth is that the only thing I have in common (that I know of) with the experts whose articles I read today is that I haven’t done anything to really change the U.S. economy for the better. The experts likely have made attempts to find a solution or have theories on how to better our economy while I’m still spinning in curiosity. Perhaps it’s easier for me to get fired up about economic inequality because I’m young and haven’t experienced as much disappointment from rejection of any proposed solutions. I’m not anywhere near accepting that this is how our economy will last – skewed far to the right by a small portion of individuals who hold forty percent of the nation’s wealth. However, today my morale has taken a hit because everything I’ve read indicates that accepting defeat is an ever popular choice.

 

Mind the Gap: We’re all Skewed Up

The video that our class watched on Monday was a shocking wake-up call to the enormous wealth disparity in the U.S. There is a large gap between perception and reality of who holds certain amounts of the nation’s capital, but the gap between the ideal […]

Ragged Dick to Rich Richard: Could it Happen to Me?

According to the Oxford Dictionary (ironic I know), the American Dream is the “ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved.” There have been several interpretations of what the American Dream really constitutes, […]

Fearing Failure in the Education System

Our class on Friday made me think about what constitutes understanding. I liked what our guest said about the meaning of understanding being one of standing “within” something rather than “under” it. I think that bringing in an outside perspective, in the sense that our guest was brought up in an educational setting contrasting our own, was refreshing and prompted us to think in ways different from what we are used to. I was surprised that she was unfamiliar with the educational system in the US, but my surprise soon turned into recognition of just how narrow and closed-off our educational system really is. I realized that the education system does not challenge us to think in various ways using a multitude of methods.

The most interesting part of class on Friday was in that it forced me to acknowledge how restrictive my schooling has previously been. I’ve been taught to think of learning as a solely academic experience rather than something that encompasses all areas of developmental growth. For example, when she asked us to think back on a time where we learned something that made a lasting impression on us, I immediately resorted to an academic experience I had in school. It wasn’t until I heard other people apologizing for sharing their experiences that hadn’t taken place in school and weren’t academic in nature that it registered in my mind that we have all been conditioned by our limiting educational system to perceive some types of learning as inferior to others. For example, I have been socialized to believe that learning how to take care of my mental health is less important than learning how to correctly format a relative frequency histogram.

Schools test us in high-pressure circumstances on concepts that aren’t especially relevant to us, and we put so much emphasis on grades and place heavy amounts of pressure on ourselves because we are afraid of being humiliated. The school system has made me afraid to try new things for fear of failing and being perceived as “stupid” or less than someone else. I continue to wonder whether or not I should take certain classes that I am interested in but have no experience with (like computer science or art) because I am afraid of how it will affect my GPA. The schools define success as having high grades, so I fear taking classes that are out of my comfort zone because they could hinder my potential to achieve this so-called success. The education system puts me in a box that I’ll never be able to break out of because I’m too frightened to move away from something I know to something unfamiliar for fear of failure.

My experience in school associated failure with laziness and idiocy. Low grades were frowned upon, and students who received tests and papers branded with Cs, Ds, and Fs quickly and discreetly shoved them into the bottoms of their backpacks. This makes it so that we will never be able to master subjects that we are uneasy with at first. This makes it so that some students are classified as the “smart kids” and others are categorized as the “dumb kids” which is disheartening and then lessens motivation to continue learning. Some students label themselves as “stupid” because they never performed as well on academic tests and projects as their peers. Instead of these students being the failures, the school system has failed them for not expanding the concept of learning and intelligence to other important areas in life.

These experiences have instilled a desire in me to reform the education system. During my college application process, I found an institution called Hampshire College that immediately drew me in. I found their no-grading system, replaced with detailed feedback from professors, appealing to say the least. This component was attractive to me because I felt I would benefit much more from an education detached from a GPA and all of the stresses that go along with it. I felt that a no-grading system would allow me to put my mind at ease while exploring a range of subjects I had no background knowledge or experience with. This system would eliminate the fear of failure that has been ingrained in me since I first stepped foot in a classroom thirteen years ago. It is my aspiration that all education systems transition away from the prohibitive grading scale and the focus on GPA toward detailed feedback and non-grading. It’s classes like the one we had on Friday that inspire me and provide me with hope that we are on our way to changing the education system to become one that fosters free-thinking and creativity.