The Neoliberal Superego of Education Policy

Christopher Newfield in the Boston Review:

In his new book, The Walls around Opportunity, Gary Orfield—a leading scholar of civil rights in education—shows that what did work was straightforward legal and budgetary coercion. School districts would no longer be able to file desegregation plans and go home with an A for effort. Civil rights lawyers no longer had to sue each segregated school district one at a time; legislation authorized class-action lawsuits and the withholding of federal funds from any entity that failed to produce measurable progress toward desegregation. Perhaps in part because the United States was a nation created, expanded, and maintained through the use of force, it was force, legal and fiscal, that finally got results—at least for a brief historical moment.

As education economists Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson demonstrate in Can College Level the Playing Field?, that moment has passed. The authors usefully document yawning gaps in opportunity among economic and racial groups at every stage of life in the United States today, and they make two startling points about any possible remedies.

More here.