Smart? Better Rich!

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A lot of times you hear that the wealth divide is growing. In other words, the gap between the people with money and the people without…is getting bigger than the Grand Canyon. It’s huge.

We like to think that this is the country of dreams. If you can dream it, you can do it. All you have to do is pull yourself up by your bootstraps. All you have to be is smart, or at least clever.

Well, unfortunately, a new study shows that’s just not true.

Let me tell you what the study reveals.

The study is by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

And what it shows is that fortune favors the kids …well, with fortunes.

Specifically, the rich kindergarteners with test scores in the bottom half, has a 7 in 10 chance of reaching high socio-economic status among peers as a young adult. A poor kindergartener with scores in the top half, because he or she is smart? That kid has only a 3 in 10 chance.

So the kid who starts out poor…even the bright kids who start out poor…are more likely to stay poor.

And the disparities continue. The kids with little money do worse in high school. And the report shows that disadvantaged kids with low math scores don’t immediately enroll in college. The rich kids with low math scores? They are more likely to enroll in a four-year college despite those scores, and they’re more likely to complete college degrees than even the high scoring poor kids.

You might wonder why.

The report says that the kids with money often have safety nets to catch them when they fall. The disadvantaged kids are less likely to have that kind of support.

I think it’s a lot more than whether mom and dad have milk and cookies for you at home.

Multiple studies have been done on bias, explicit and implicit. Even if someone thinks they are not biased, it is only natural to feel more comfortable, more relaxed and more able to identify with a job candidate who is similar to you. Since the well-off have all the well-paying jobs, it is no surprise that someone with a different background is going to start off disadvantaged in a job interview, and that falling back that started in school, just keeps going on.

The report recommends some policy changes that it says will help. But like all policy recommendations, I find these vague and hard to implement. There are four.

The report recommends:

  • interventions in early childhood education
  • continued interventions from kindergarten through 12th grade
  • Improved and expanded counseling in high school so that more students have the information and social supports they need to transition from high school to post-secondary education and training
  • And ensure that talented low-socioeconomic students get the most for their education by integrating career exploration and providing access to high-quality work experience at the high school and college levels.

I’m not convinced that these policy changes will fix what’s broken. Everyone says they want the best and the brightest, but at least on paper, what they’re often getting is the richest.

And I don’t have answers, but I’m going to keep on trying to be smart whether or not I get rich.

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Guilt-Shaming for Charity

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Let’s talk social media. Not the Russian infiltration or the zombie screen-starers it has made of all of us. I want to talk torture by my friends, wonderful people who ought to know better.

First, I have a confession to make: I didn’t get you anything for your birthday. You and I don’t have that kind of relationship.

I do celebrate the day you were born – you wouldn’t be my friend if I didn’t feel that way. But we don’t have the kind of friendship where we get each other birthday gifts.

So, why, I have to ask you, did you think I would send money to your favorite charity in lieu of the gift I was never going to get you?

If you’re like me, your social media feeds are filling up with virtue. This friend and that friend are saying that, for their birthday, they are raising money for their favorite charity. Well, bully for them.

I have my own charities. They’re meaningful to me because of the things I’m passionate about. Animals. Children. The environment. And when I am feeling charitable, I give to them. But I’m not expecting my passions to be yours. You do you.

And, while I’m at it?

No, I won’t post photos of book covers or album covers. I know these people mean well too, but honestly, life’s too short for me to play these reindeer games of tag-you’re-it online.

And that goes double for prayer chains, angel chains, cut-and-paste-this-content posts and the WORST – the self-pitying “I’ll bet you won’t read to the end because you’re not a real friend.” No. Just stop.

You may believe in prayer. Cool. I believe in energy and sending good, loving energy and that’s probably pretty close to prayer. And I will send positive energy out for loved ones or even friends’ loved ones who are in trouble. But don’t blackmail me into it. Don’t guilt me into prayers, because that kind of thing? It’s bad energy, and it’s the opposite of prayers.

And, as long as I’m being cranky, here’s my final plea. No more photos of abused animals. I think people who abuse animals should be sent straight to hell, stopping only long enough for some in-kind torture along the way. But I can’t bear the photos. They don’t help the animals, and any monster who tortured an animal in the first place? They’re beyond the ability to be shamed on social media.

My birthday is in March. But you can give me my gift now. Do something nice for yourself. If that means giving money to charity because you enjoy the endorphin rush of helping others? Go for it. Just don’t tell me about it.

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Opinions vs Experts

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There is an arrogance that has seized us. It insists that we “know” better than anyone else, based on the lies we tell ourselves.

I don’t know when it started. Maybe it was when, in certain parts of the country, education was mocked because it didn’t lead to as much money as selling drugs, or playing sports, or being famous for simply being.

It continued on a wave of holding our hands over our ears and humming when someone with a medical degree mentioned vaccines, or when a scientist mentioned global warming.

It has led us here.

Here is where Donald Trump appoints party planners and big donors to head agencies, awards patronage jobs at the Department of Energy to people who didn’t know that nuclear energy was part of their portfolio, and laymen to job of chief scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency. Patronage jobs are nothing new, especially in government, but this administration has raised to an art the act of placing people in jobs they are not only unsuitable for, but in agencies they have an active opposition to.

Here is where Congress has let itself get so caught up in election cycles that it has forgotten how to legislate – an act that requires compromise and doing things that weaken poll numbers in order to move us toward good, even if the steps are incremental.

And here is where the media finds itself without the armor of credibility after years of chasing ad revenue and ratings and offering the entertaining rather than the enlightening. The media has promoted the pretty rather than the competent, and offered cheap, unscripted entertainment, because it fills the public belly like cheap, un-nutritious popcorn. And, while it has debased its entertainment, it has hamstrung its news side.

No one trusts the experts.

I understand this trend.

I come from a family that trusted instinct over education, always.

And there is some merit to the suspicion.

Besides the media and politicians, scientists have been influenced by chasing the next funding grant and polls have been purchased that cynically reflect the best interests of the person paying for the poll. And, as for the medical field, Big Pharma has cast a large shadow over the purity of medical advice.

But, there is a reason I don’t want my friends doing my brain surgery or flying my plane – unless, of course, they happen to be award-winning brain surgeons or stellar pilots.

In my family, doctors’ instructions were to be followed unless they were not. My dad, who had low blood pressure his whole life, was on blood pressure medication for a suspicious fluctuation in his pressure. According to his wife, he stopped taking it when his pressure leveled off, despite his doctor’s instructions.

My dad’s no longer with us.

Did his refusal to believe the experts kill him?

The medical experts who examined my dad weren’t sure. So, I have my opinion, but it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Because sometimes, what you “feel” is true doesn’t trump education.

Opinions vs facts