So Rich, So Poor by Peter Edelman Essay

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While it has proven to be difficult to end poverty in America, Peter Edelman is optimistic. In his book So Rich, So Poor Edelman makes a call to action. There are four prominent ideas that underpin Edelman’s reasoning throughout the book: (1) More people must understand why poverty is still so prevalent in America; (2) extreme poverty must be taken into consideration as a shocking 6 million Americans’ sole income was food stamps in 2011. This fact alone creates a sense of urgency that drives Edelman; (3) increasing income inequality should be treated as a moral issue; and (4) bold political action will be required if substantive progress will be made in alleviating poverty.
Unfortunately, despite President Roosevelt’s New Deal and
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While it is not until his final chapter “Young People: Improving the Odds” that we read Edelman’s thoughts on American education at length, I argue that the theme of education is one that motivates Edelman’s writing.
In order to best understand how the failure of American public education factors into Edelman’s discussion on poverty, we must first pull the curtain away from the his principle focus on the economy. Edelman suggests that the decline of union power, a weak minimum wage, and an increase in the number of people entering the labor market have had a comprehensive deleterious effect on those who are most economically disadvantaged (50-54). To add to Edelman’s understanding, we must consider the underlying negative effects of the structural failure of public schools and how it compounds issues that influence poverty. We can see, for example, how the public education system fails to match student skills with employer needs, which leads to unemployment and limited job mobility. In his argument, Edelman recognizes that a number of employers “cannot find qualified workers” (57). Rather than focusing on the economy as the principle point of failure, if we dig deeper into Edelman’s argument, we find that our current system of education fails to provide students with skills sets that match those employers are
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