How We Are Ruining America

David Brooks, New York Times, Jul 14, 2017
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I don't think I belong to the 'we' in this column, but it is nonetheless telling, not only for the message, but also the source: "Status rules are partly about collusion, about attracting educated people to your circle, tightening the bonds between you and erecting shields against everybody else. We in the educated class have created barriers to mobility that are more devastating for being invisible. The rest of America can’t name them, can’t understand them. They just know they’re there." Robert Pondiscio interprets this as an argument for explicitly teaching these to everyone (instead of, say, "a child’s home language, culture, and dialect."). "There is a language of power. It is the language of privileged parents, affluent communities, and elite universities. It’s the language of David Brooks. But he’d do well to recognize that you don’t learn that language in those places. They don’t let you in until or unless you demonstrate command of it." The problem is, if we teach 'the right language' to everyone, the elite simply moves on to something new. You can't standardize on the language of power; you have to make the language of power irrelevant.

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