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Class Dismissed: Why We Cannot Teach or Learn Our Way Out of Inequality Paperback – July 1, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Marsh is associate professor of English at Penn State University.  He is the author of two previous books: Class Dismissed: Why We Cannot Teach or Learn Our Way out of Inequality and Hog Butchers, Beggars, and Busboys: Poverty, Labor, and the Making of Modern American Poetry. Marsh is also the editor of You Work Tomorrow: An Anthology of American Labor Poetry, 1929-1941. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania, with his wife and daughter.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press (July 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583672435
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583672433
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #577,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Hellman on January 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is a valuable examination on the assumptions and rhetoric on education as a solution to economic ills. The treatment is thorough and placed within a historical context on education and labor in the United States. The point is clearly made that the political climate in American politics has resulted in education as the only available means for combating severe injustices that result from gross economic disparity. While education can provide individuals with credentials to enter certain professions (e.g. teaching, law, medicine), this is an quite ineffectual and indirect as a social policy solution to poverty and inequality. This book is a outstanding and well documented source for those concerned with examining education history and social justice and should be widely read by those concerned with schools, education funding, education history social justice, economics or politics. The notes provide a good introduction to the many topics that it raises as well as adequately documenting the contents. The book will likely be dismissed by some readers for adopting a Marxist perspective and challenging some deeply held assumptions; however, it demonstrates very well the injustices that resulted from unfettered capitalism and why expanding access to education is not a panacea for social and economic ills.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Seth Sandronsky on October 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
Education Not Enough Without Respect for Labor
This much is true. Americans with bachelor's degrees and up earn higher pay than high school grads. Yet a third of the future jobs stateside created in the next 10 years, will require, at most, no more than a 12th-grade education. Meanwhile, US income inequality and poverty has been rising over the past three decades. Why has and does education bear the burden that it does for what ails the nation's populace?

In Class Dismissed: Why We Cannot Teach or Learn Our Way Out of Inequality, author John Marsh tackles the education premium and related issues of schools and social structure.

His thesis is simple. Marsh argues against the conventional wisdom, from the handmaidens of Wall Street on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to the statehouses and city halls across the US, of education ruling policy discussions about addressing inequality and poverty.

In short, Marsh's narrative is that elected lawmakers can and should do more than repeat the tired and tiring line that education is the only path to prosperity. The rub is that common people must organize to open up new paths.

Well, what's happening abroad? Marsh looks at policies of other industrialized countries. He shows how such societies do progressive social policy. They pay to improve low- and mid-income people's lives. Why the unwillingness to do so in the US?

The power of the working class, notably organized labor, to set the policy agenda is weak. Case in point, as Marsh writes, is the failure of the House of Labor to advance the Employee Free Choice Act boosting workers' opportunities to form unions and bargain first contracts with employers, when Democrats controlled the White House and Congress!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By GlobalChangeSupercenter5 on January 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the enduring oddities about our times is that two of the most read, respected, widely known social critics, Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal, were dilettantes in their political work - the first an MIT linguist, the second a novelist. Similarly, John Marsh, author of this utterly profound work of social criticism, makes a living teaching literature to undergrads - a waste of his remarkable gift.
In Class Dismissed, Marsh ranges with clear, precise, non-jargonistic prose over the central political dilemma of our time - the failures of our inherited supersystem to provide a decent society. The one sacrosanct answer to the myriad problems of our times has come to be viewed as "education," leaving the field clear for complete avoidance of jobs, taxation, legal restriction of corporate plunder, political corruption, anything of actual relevance to social reality.
Marsh is fearless, or almost fearless, in questioning this sacred cow of higher education, providing evocative history in palatable doses, of Carnegie and Nixon, Jencks and Reagan. Higher education has become a trillion-dollar credential mill, a joke for comedians (Kyle Kinane: College has become like high school - just parties and stupidity. Grad school starts where college should have started), and books like Hacker and Dreifus's Higher Ed? do an adequate job exposing the truth, but Marsh is the best at chosing his research topics and writing well about the on-going fraud. Of course, Marsh's choice of target for his skepticism means professional ignominy, but this book will endure.
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I didn't get this book the first time I read, going back and looking at it again, this is a very powerful and challenging book which calls out and examines our blind faith in "The Gospel of Education." I admire and respect this author for articulating these points, education has consumed a large chunk of my life and I've never heard anyone within academia talk shed light on these issues. In essence, March concludes that education is basically a smoke screen, that it's a diversion from the true causes of income equality and poverty, but that it feels good and seems plausible to most of us. More and more I see the parallels between the institution of education and religion, odd to say this, but the longer I'm in it, I am convinced that what Marsh writes of is absolutely true. Reading this book has helped validate thoughts I've had and helped me formulate my own theory or economic justice and equality and understanding why we keep beating a dead horse. Incredibly useful book to me.
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