Of Note: Divided and Impoverished


The Birth of the New American Aristocracy by Matthew Stewart
The Atlantic, June 1, 2018

"The defining challenge of our time is to renew the promise of American democracy by reversing the calcifying effects of accelerating inequality," Matthew Stewart writes in this ten-section essay, exploring the economic supremacy of the "9.9 percent," the group he deems the new American aristocracy. About halfway in, he gets to "the mother lode of all affirmative action programs for the wealthy," "the private school." Independent school educators (and all members of our communities) should take note. Stewart makes a compelling and provocative argument that independent schools are among the key players in the country’s decreasing mobility and increasing inequality. "Education," he explains, "has been reduced to a private good, justifiable only by the increments in graduates’ paychecks. Instead of uniting and enriching us, it divides and impoverishes." Stewart enjoins readers (likely among the 9.9 percent) to ask ourselves in education what we are doing to "open minds" and "make good citizens," as a "genuine education" should. For those less swayed by the call to restore American democracy, Stewart offers another incentive: "This insecurity of privilege only grows as the chasm beneath the privileged class expands." So as the financial landscape in independent schools (and otherwise) shifts, Stewart offers our imaginations some galvanizing questions: How can we hold to the American idea as a guide star? How can we unite and enrich our citizenry? How can we restore hope of opportunity for all?

Submitted By: Meghan Tally, Windward School, Los Angeles, CA

1 comment

Leave a comment
  1. peter Herzberg | Oct 09, 2018
    Great article to read, though very tough and very cynical. For purposes of Klingbrief readers, though, how do independent schools, which seem to accelerate this inequality by replicating a new aristocracy, and about which Stewart dedicates only a fraction of his article, actually put into effect what Stewart argues? Diversity initiatives, community service, etc etc have not really done the trick, it should be obvious by now. What's the new vision? 

    Leave a comment

    KlingensteinCenter Teachers College Columbia University

    Contact Us

    525 West 120th Street
    New York, NY 10027

    Have a question or want more information about our programs?

    Fill out our contact form and a member of our team will respond promptly.