Over the course of our dialogue, we've written a lot about children living in poverty and about inequality. But you've been practically daring me to engage on the question of the other end of the spectrum: the children of the rich. OK, fine, I see that resistance is futile!

Despite 30 years of relentless attack most still trust school teachers more than businesspeople, public schools more than corporations, and see their own neighborhood school as pretty good! It amazes me.

I totally understand the frustration of educators who complain that policymakers put all the problems of the world on their shoulders and want to see "broader and bolder" efforts to fight poverty, too. But there's a simple reason that education has been in the spotlight for so long: It's one of the few things upon which the politicians--and the Americans they represent--can agree.

I'd find your willingness to back away from "a pure boot strap" approach comforting, but remind you that many children born to parents (or great grandparents) in the top fifth never have to lift themselves up at all to remain in the top fifth.

A good many of our policies and programs should be designed to help people with the drive, work ethic, tenacity, and motivation to rise. We should clear any obstacles in their path. We should empower them with opportunities. And, at all costs, we should avoid undercutting their efforts. In short, we should bring an ethos of meritocracy back to our anti-poverty efforts--the same ethos that still works relatively well at the top of our social structures and could work equally well at the bottom.

The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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