One of the core ideological issues that determines a person’s political philosophy is the degree to which one believes that unfavorable external circumstances can be overcome via persistence and hard work. If an individual believes that America is a place so racist, so intractably bigoted that few, if any, minorities will escape from its systemically corrupt clutches, it naturally follows that one would advocate for governmental redistribution of wealth from the benefactors of Rawlsian chance to those with an almost Calvinist predestination for serfdom.
Conversely, those who recognize, to varying degrees, the agency of people in adverse socioeconomic conditions to overcome such obstacles will be more likely to advocate for less government involvement in wealth redistribution. In other words, it is a point of gigantic political contention.
The Left has been active in trying to all but criminalize belief in meritocracy and to score the issue settled, profoundly illustrated in universities across the country deeming a belief that jobs ought to go to the most qualified candidate to be a “microaggression,” supposedly gaslighting minorities into believing it’s possible to get a fair shake in America. Melinda Anderson of The Atlantic took it a step further Thursday when they claimed that teaching children the typical formulation of the meritocratic American Dream caused minority children and teenagers to engage in maladaptive behavior.
The study itself asserts that “system justifying beliefs” are detrimental to the academic performance and behavioral patterns of minority children. More directly, if a minority child believes that “[i]n general, American society is fair,” they are more likely to have engaged in bad behavior and hold lower self esteem.
Though this is only one study of one sample of minority children, it is certainly possible that this is indeed representative of larger societal trends in America. The question is, what is the remedy?
To hear The Atlantic tell it, the solution is Howard Zinn on steroids (emphasis mine):
“Recognizing the vast economic and racial inequalities his students faced, he chose what some might consider a radical approach for his writing and social-studies classes, weaving in concepts such as racism, classism, oppression, and prejudice. Barrett said it was vital to reject the oft-perpetuated narrative that society is fair and equal to address students’ questions and concerns about their current conditions. And Brighton Elementary’s seventh- and eighth-graders quickly put the lessons to work—confronting the school board over inequitable funding, fighting to install a playground, and creating a classroom library focused on black and Latino authors.”
American society, to be sure, isn’t fair, in the pure and abstract sense, and individual injustices occur every day that ought to be fought. But is the solution to this issue to strip students of their agency and embed a sense of helplessness, and teach them that the country that has afforded them opportunities children the world over would die for is irredeemably racist?
There is a reason people the world over desperately try to enter America. As is often repeated by Ben Shapiro of The Daily Wire, there are concrete ways to escape poverty in the United States, as confirmed by a 2013 Brookings Institute study. For American adults who finish high school, get a full-time job and wait until the age of 21 to get married and have children, the study found that “only about 2 percent are in poverty and nearly 75 percent have joined the middle class (defined as earning around $55,000 or more per year).” Poverty, obviously, is a problem that goes beyond cut-and-dried personal responsibility and is, in some sense, systemically oriented, but in a free market country like America, there are steps one can take to better oneself and one’s progeny. To pretend otherwise does worse than hurt self esteem- it steals people’s sense of agency and responsibility.
Conscripting a child in grade school to an almost gravitationally certain future of misery shaped more by melanin level than grade point average is to directly indoctrinate students in an inevitably redistributionist school of thought and all but assure their future as progressive voters. Is it the facility of the American public school to settle for America’s youth the fundamental political question of government redistribution, one’s personal beliefs on the matter aside?