What Money Can’t Buy

Summer is a time when I try to rejuvenate, but it is also a time to think and to plan and to read for the year ahead.  Today is August 1st, which is my second most panicky date of the summer.  The most panicky was yesterday, July 31st, when summer signals an end but my list of things to do has NO end.

One of the books I scouted for AP Lang this year was What Money Can’t Buy by Michael Sandel.  The books kids pick need to be argument based, and this one would qualify.  There are a few quotes, though, that really hit an edge with me.

The book has a quote early on that made me stop and think: “Where all good things are bought and sold, having money makes all the difference in the world.  This explains why the last few decades have been especially hard on poor and middle-class families.  Not only has the gap between rich and poor widened, but the commodification of everything has sharpened the sting of inequality by making money matter more.”

One example is amusement parks.  It used to be that everyone stood in line at the amusement park, a great equalizer.  Now an expedited pass is purchasable, allowing those with more to skip to the front of the line.

Education used to have a role in equalizing our society, and at its very best it still had a long way to go.  Most schools are based on property taxes, which creates huge inequities.  But lately things are even worse.  While there are struggling schools and schools  I would not want to place my child, it is clear that charter schools diminish public education and create larger gaps between haves and have-nots, with some of those have-nots being special needs schools.

And we just watch it as a society, buying into the language of markets and money, despite mounting evidence, like on merit pay.  Sad.