NPR’s “Unfit for Work;” Report unfit to present

One of my readers suggested I check out and comment on a recent NPR story on disability called “Unfit for Work.” (While I was looking for the story, I also found an overwhelming backlash , which I tried not to read so it wouldn’t “taint” my view on the story).

After reading the story and mulling over the details presented, I think that this story is one-sided and incomplete.  Not really on any particular point (because I didn’t go fact-checking that closely, though I can easily imagine incorrect points) but because of the method used to arrive to it’s conclusions. The report examines a few statistics and draws simple correlations; not in itself a bad thing.  Yet then assumptions of causality were drawn upon these correlations, a pedestrian mistake and something that detracted from the story’s credibility.

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Education and inequality

On my way back from the Happiest Place on Earth, I bought a book from the airport (Why do those little shops always have such good selections?) called The Price of Inequality, by economist Joseph Stiglitz. This book is rich in economically sound explanations for inequality and why it sucks for everyone (and isn’t merely a moral failing of the poor themselves.)

At one point, he says a few things about the impact of education on poverty that underscore the idea that education isn’t the end-all be-all to ending poverty.

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Too much thought for the happiest place on earth.

AladdinDisney

Later this week, my significant other (let’s call him Cohiba) and I are taking a vacation in Disney, and we’ve been watching Disney movies to get in the spirit for this weekend’s trip.  Sunday, I saw Lilo and Stitch for the first time and had several different reactions. It broke my heart as it was supposed to, and I was pleased to see that they drew an adult woman (Lilo’s sister) that looked different than the women they usually draw (she had larger thighs and a belly).

<sidebar time> (I also noticed there was a social worker in this movie; I think the first one I’ve seen in a Disney movie. He was a threatening and taciturn “Men in Black” figure, and I kind of hate that they portrayed their only one like that.  A social worker is a hero/heroine!) <sidebar over>

Cohiba and I both LOVE to travel, and before we were together, we had radically different ways of doing this.  So far, in the decision of which way should we do it, we go his way.  This is fine, though I do go through a conscience wringer when I travel with him.

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Is Education the Answer to Economic Inequality?

I thought this was interesting, as education may be seen as a panacea for the impoverished. Education is surely important, but I appreciate how this post underscores how “education simply won’t address the root causes of today’s economic inequality.” The post suggests solutions like “public policies that will create more jobs, increase wages…and protect people from the financial ravages that often accompany illness, natural disasters, and other devastating and expensive events.”
What do you think about these suggestions or this post?

Working-Class Perspectives

One of the most common solutions offered to reverse America’ growing economic inequality is increased access to education.  President Obama may have started the trend with his call for universal, high-quality preschool, but others have joined the fray.  In March, Ronald Brownstein argued in National Journalthat “Education remains critical to reversing the erosion in upward mobility that has made it harder for kids born near the bottom to reach the top in the United States than in many European nations.” On The Century Foundation’s website just last week, Benjamin Landy posted a blog entitled “To Battle Income Inequality, Focus on Educational Mobility.”   

According to Brownstein, colleges and  universities are failing to make those opportunities available, because higher education has become too expensive and doesn’t do enough to help lower-income students succeed. In their 2009 study of college completion rates, William G. Bowen, Matthew M. Chingos, and Michael…

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Lessons needed to rebuild a life – Example 1

Yesterday, I helped a client fill out his tax forms for a job in our program’s kitchen. I say “helped;” I didn’t do it for him, though, and if he was gonna report being ‘exempt,’ I wasn’t going to tell him he needed to-that’s his call. I tried to explain exemptions to him. He said, “I don’t know, Miss Sarah, I was a criminal all my life. I never did nothing like taxes.” It was so humble and tired and sweet.

This is the simple kind of challenge that every one of my clients needs to learn how to overcome in order to rebuild their life, and then does, hopefully. It requires, not only their willingness to learn, but also patient teachers.

Hooray for bicycling!!

Because it’s warming up into spring and summer, I’ve started cycling again. Some of my favorite memories from childhood, and something I still love doing, it riding my bike.  I remember one summer… there was a small building in a parking lot near my house, and my goal that summer was to cycle around the whole building without having to grab the handlebars. I got so good that I could do several laps around the building “without hands.”

Working with the homeless, this is a time that our clients list shrinks.  It’s dark humor, but my colleagues and I joke about setting an annual calendar to the whether the clients are consistent with their requirements. Right now, it’s warm and there isn’t so strong an incentive for people (who may not want to make changes) to try to change.  Watch when it gets super hot and humid in a few months – they’ll be back.

We have a few clients who own bikes, and actually, now that I think about it, they are among those who are still coming right now. The one who do have bikes are, like, rich. It’s a status symbol. It means the same thing to them that it meant to me as a kid – independence.  For me, I didn’t need my mom to drive me to the library.  For them, there are more job possibilities or services they can access because they’re not just walking or depending on the bus, which costs $3.00. There is also a possibility for them to build their own business with it (as one of my clients did with a pedi-cab service for the downtown area).

As both a therapeutic and wealth-building tool, bikes are quite useful.

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When taxes aren’t a windfall

As a child, I remember driving past billboards advertising to get your taxes done somewhere and “Get the cash you deserve now!”  I remember trying to make sense of it the rest of the way home. “How do those places get refunds faster than just doing it yourself? Are they directly connected with the government or something? Do they have forms with special powers? How are they faster?”

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