The Shrinking American Middle Class, Part 3

The American middle class is shrinking in comparison to nations around the world.

Yesterday, I proffered the view that those Americans wishing to sustain or aspiring to achieve a middle class standard of living may not be obtaining the academic preparation necessary, especially as indicated by their average performance on international educational assessments. Yet, their middling academic attainment does not seem to deter American families from pursuing a college degree that many believe is the guarantor of a middle class standard of living.

In surveys collected as part of the Programme for International Assessment (PISA) test, nearly 75% of 15 year old American students who earned the lowest scores, still expect to attend college as compared to only 48% on average of other international students tested. Despite academic acumen or interest, the value of a college degree as a means of both entering or maintaining the middle class status inherited from one’s family, pervades the modern American academic meritocracy

Yet, American students endeavor to achieve “institutionalized merit”, a term first coined by the historian Joseph Kett as:

Rather than focusing on questions of character, this new form of merit concerned itself with the acquisition of specialized knowledge, the kind that is susceptible of being taught in schools, tested in written examinations, and certified by expert-staffed credentialing bodies. 

Wilfred M. McClay, The Hedgehog Review, Summer 2016

Thus, middle class parents naturally wanting their children to maintain or even earn a higher standard of economic prosperity, put forth large outlays of cash not only in order to remediate what their students may not be learning in a less than effective K-12 education delivery system, but also compliment their academic resume with trendy extracurricular activities of the day, in hopes of yielding admissions to more selective colleges.

Yet, the annual spending simply to prepare youth for college admissions comes at the cost of saving for annually rising college expenses or retirement, potentially eroding the wealth of middle class families, thus possibly being yet another reason why the American middle class is shrinking. 


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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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