What's Missing From the 'Inclusive Capitalism' Conversation

In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, Thomas Edsall made the case for what is now being referred to as "inclusive capitalism." Essentially, he and many others are arguing that in order to reduce inequality and prevent the chaos and instability that is accompanying it, governments must adopt a set of policies to insure that the poor have a chance at a descent life. The arguments are based not simply on moral grounds but on the recognition that without some economic uplift, the poor cannot participate in the economy as reliable consumers.

On the issue of what type of education policy would be necessary to support inclusive capitalism, Edsall and other proponents of this view have so far been silent. Their silence is a huge problem.

Right now, 50% of public school children qualify for free and reduced lunch, and current education policies have not produced significant improvements in the performance of students or schools. The time has never been better to make it clear that if we're serious about reducing inequality in the economy we will need an education strategy that moves us in that direction as well.

Unfortunately, the debate in the US and several other countries is over whether to treat education as a commodity and encourage competition through markets, or to push for education to be regarded as a fundamental right and insure that access to education is accompanied by other supports such as healthcare, pre-school, etc.

Democrats are split over the direction of education, with many, including the President Obama and Governor Cuomo of NY, clearly more aligned with the market orientation toward ed policy.

Given that ESEA is up for re-authorization the time is right to clearly articulate how our economic policies and education policies should be aligned. If Edsall and others are seriously concerned about reducing inequality and pursuing "inclusive capitalism" then they must also recognize that market-based reforms in education are reinforcing inequality rather than ameliorating it.