In one of the more provocative articles recently published in the Wall Street Journal, Charles Murray (The Bell Curve, 1994; Coming Apart, 2012), argues that Donald Trump is harnessing a group that has been building for fifty years—the angry white working-class males. This group has lost jobs to China and immigrants to the point where as, “the new upper class was seceding from the mainstream, a new lower class was emerging from within the white working class, and it has played a key role in creating the environment in which Trumpism has flourished” (Trump’s America).
What binds Americans together, for most of our formation under the United States, was a feeling that our creed was in place.
What does this ideology—Huntington called it the “American creed”—consist of? Its three core values may be summarized as egalitarianism, liberty and individualism. From these flow other familiar aspects of the national creed that observers have long identified: equality before the law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and association, self-reliance, limited government, free-market economics, decentralized and devolved political authority. (Trump’s America).
Bernie Sanders and the Rigged America
So what Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump share is the ability to rally a group of disenfranchised citizens who have lost ground to America’s elite.
The new upper class consists of the people who shape the country’s economy, politics and culture. The new lower class consists of people who have dropped out of some of the most basic institutions of American civic culture, especially work and marriage. Both of these new classes have repudiated the American creed in practice, whatever lip service they may still pay to it. Trumpism is the voice of a beleaguered working class telling us that it too is falling away. (Trump’s America).
Since the role of education is to propel everyone into a brighter future, or at the least to make them ready to play and compete in the current reality, why has education also failed this group? The answer to that seems to be wrapped up in the very creed of our nation, the ability to move your family anywhere. People often move to get their children into the best public school they can afford and this would seem to be one of the factors contributing to inequality of education outcomes. The upper class has fine public and private schools, the middle class has a mix and the lower class does not have fine schools.
What Trumpism and Sandersism have identified is a great unhappiness with the progress they have made over the last fifty years and where only the upper class can claim success. Whoever wins—Trump or Bernie or Hilary or…—they had better have a set of solutions for this unhappiness and schools would do well to be part of that solution.