Wednesday, October 31, 2012

will UTSA be just for rich kids?

Hannah Carney's recent article in The Texas Observer addresses the provocative question: are Texas' public universities just for rich kids? Although data pertinent to this issue are limited, she cites evidence which suggests that this may be the case for at least some public universities in the state. For example, median parent income of UT Austin students is almost twice that for households statewide. According to Carney, "The numbers expose a higher education system that’s suffering from profound economic inequality. The more “elite” the university, the less representative it tends to be of the state’s economic diversity." In addition to difficulties with financing an education, she goes on to connect the issue to enrollment policies, implying that affirmative action for racial and ethnic minority students may be a bit misdirected. A fairer approach, she contends, would have admission at least partially hinged on students' class backgrounds. In all, Carney's analysis is consistent with social reproduction explanations of inequality which hold that schooling in capitalist societies primarily serves to maintain privilege among the haves, while neglecting the interests of those toward the bottom of the class structure.

What about UTSA? It may not be your impression that our students largely come from affluent homes, but what of social class composition down the line? Will continued growth lessen diversity by tightening admission requirements and, particularly what of Tier 1? If realized, will it mean a student body that replicates UT Austin's?

Note: no analysis for UTSA appears in Carney's article, but at its end she does link data for entering students. Although obviously dated (collected in 2004), what does it suggest about economic diversity among our students?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

educating black boys

See video at 
The following post is a direct quote from that site.

Baltimore, Maryland has come to be known as 'Charm City' because of its harbour, which attracts a vibrant nightlife and thriving tourism business. But just beyond the harbour's calm waters is one of the toughest and most violent inner cities in the US. Baltimore is also home to Al Jazeera presenter Tony Harris and in this episode of Al Jazeera Correspondent he takes us on an up close and personal journey to his old neighbourhood to witness the challenges facing black youth today as they struggle to get out of the dead end of life on inner city streets. Most of the crime in Baltimore is committed by black males with other blacks as victims, making black males an easy target for the police. And many believe that the stereotyping of black kids starts at an early age in the US--as as early as grade school. In this film, Harris examines how the education system has failed black boys and reflects upon why he managed to make it out successfully while so many of his friends did not. A visit to his former high school reveals the desperation felt by both the pupils and the teachers. "School and criminal justice systems biased against black boys; all echoes of my childhood. But I managed to avoid the trap of Baltimore's cycle of poverty and violence," he explains. "But now I was going back to my hometown to get to the bottom of what I considered the new civil rights fight in America--educating black boys."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

what happened to The American Dream?

This post was contributed by Tara McQuay, UTSA student in Miller's SOC 3013 class.

Although The American Dream says that hard work will lead to wealth and success, it doesn't seem to apply to most of us. Indeed, the smallest economic returns go to those generally laboring the hardest of all: the working poor. In the previous post, billionaire Thomas Peterffy argues in his anti-Obama ad that America's rich will lose motivation to work if they are required to pay more taxes. But while preaching the value of hard work, he fails to note that the rich have virtually monopolized income gains over recent years. Reflecting on the unequal opportunity for financial security that the class structure presents, the late Beth Shulman, in her 2005 book, The Betrayal of Work, was one of the first to examine the diminishing well-being of the working poor. In an interview on PBS's NOW in 2007 (view here, starting at about the 12:20 mark), she observed that worker productivity has grown significantly, but this has not trickled down to those in the bottom reaches of the American class structure. Indeed, "The top 1% is garnering 80% of income gains." (Today, it's over 90% going to the top 1%, according to Saenz). With this being said, how is it possible for most American workers, and particularly the poor, to sustain their dream of a better life when their incomes remain so low and stagnant that they continue to struggle just to get by?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

ad suggestion: Obama = socialist (or worse?)

A new nationally distributed television ad implies Obama and the Democrats are leading us down a "slippery slope" towards socialism. Thomas Peterffy, the Hungarian-immigrant founder of a discount brokerage chain, both independently sponsored and appears in a sixty-second message that takes him from a boy in his impoverished, communist homeland to a self-made billionaire, a transformation only possible because of the freedoms and opportunities available in America. He warns specifically that "America's wealth comes from the efforts of people striving for success. Take away their incentive with badmouthing success and you take away the wealth that helps us take care of the needy. Yes, in socialism the rich will be poorer--but the poor will also be poorer. People will lose interest in really working hard and creating jobs." 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

super-rich feel dissed by Obama

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - It's Not Easy Having Green
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive
This Colbert Report video touches on the growing antipathy of the super-rich towards President Obama, despite the fact they have enjoyed incredible prosperity over the span of his term. Colbert particularly takes off on a recent article that appeared in The New Yorker about hedge-fund investor anger about Obama's insufficient rhetorical respect for such "wealth creators." 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

what to do with your wealth? get help at "Mansion"

In this age of growing income disparities and economic hardship, Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal has chosen to further glamorize the rich and their wealth by starting a section called Mansion. According to the launch press release, the new section will appear weekly in the paper copy and daily at “The mantra for real estate has always been location, location, location – the location for the most intelligent, original, trustworthy and insightful journalism on prestige property is now The Wall Street Journal,” said Robert Thomson, editor-in-chief of Dow Jones & Company and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. “We all like to think of our home as a mansion, even if it is a humble abode, and we all have the license to aspire, so we have created Mansion to be the home of both aspiration and real estate realization.” For more information on the addition, see introductory video

Unfortunately, it does not appear that Mansion will likely offer the kind of coverage about the lifestyles of the rich that readers came to appreciate in Robert Frank's recently discontinued WSJ blog, The Wealth Report. However, Frank's work is now available at CNBC's Inside Wealth.