"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Coming Apart

I'm reading a book by Charles Murray called "Coming Apart: The State of White America". It's rather disturbing that the author makes points about the coming apart of what he calls "The America Project". It looks at how America is different from other countries, often comparing it to European countries. In the first part of the book, he offers statistics that show how so many things are happening in our society that are detrimental to our social well being. Things that we think about, but he has the numbers to back them up. In the next part, he compares two fictional towns, one lower class and one new upper class. It's a little like Freakenomics, a book that looks at things we see in a new way. He talks about the four foundations that created what is great about America and how we're losing them. I haven't finished the book yet, but he does have a theory of how our problems can be solved and we can become the America of before. So far, he's hoping that when we see what has happened to the welfare states (countries) of Europe, that we will see that it is not a societal model that can survive in America. I don't know that we can rescue ourselves at this point, but the book gives hope if the right/enough people read it and take it seriously. There is a section on education and how it affects the different societies. What he says makes sense, but if you say some of these things without the numbers to back it up, you would sound like an ultraconservative. He has the numbers. He talks about college students and how they end up living the lives they do, and how their children have an advantage from being the children of these adults. He says bluntly that the children with the most successful lives are those raised by two biological married parents. He shows that children of single mothers who have not graduated from high school do not have a very good chance of success in life, and that those that do succeed are the exception rather than the rule. This was one of the books Dr. Muth showed us in class, and it's very interesting. If anyone else is interested in reading it, I'd enjoy a discussion of its contents afterward.


  1. I have seen this book, too. Haven't read it yet. It is on my list. I would also recommend "Savage Inequalities" by Jonathon Kozol. I think these two authors have very different analyses of education and how we have arrived at where we are. One of the things being a researcher has taught me is that we can make numbers say nearly anything we want them to by simply omitting those numbers that contradict what we believe. I ran head into that by arguing with one of my statistics professors a few years back. He enlightened me :o) Since then, I try to remind myself there is usually far more to any given situation than I have knowledge of and I need to work at avoiding "researcher bias" This is often easier said than done!

  2. Joyce, To be clear, Charles Murray is an ultraconservative. He co-authored the book "The Bell Curve" which had lots of "hard data" to back up his claim that race and IQ are related. But this eugenics-based argument has been debunked by numerous groups, including non-liberals. I am glad you enjoyed the book; just be wise as to the ideological roots of the author: The American Enterprise Institute. B.

  3. I am aware of his leanings - he makes a point of it about halfway through the book - interesting that it's done halfway. But I suppose a lot of how we read his work depends on how objective we can be about the data. And I agree with Susan that it's a little easier to make data says things if we leave out other data.


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