Discuss Economic Inequality, the Wage Gap and the Evaporating Middle Class
This provides teachers and students the materials and guidance for students to learn different perspectives on the issue of economic inequality and the middle class, discuss them and listen to each other in a respectful and civil manner, and appreciate differences while finding common ground.
With news and materials from left, center and right sources plus a structured process for discussion, teachers, administrators and parents can be assured that multiple points of view are discussed and respected in a civil, beneficial manner.
☛ Teachers! Have you done the Relationships First component in your classroom yet? Consider starting with it to establish a solid foundation. ☚
Primary Learning Goals:
Also see how this program complies with Common Core standards.
Collaboration: Students will discuss wage gaps and inequality while working in small groups (if a large class) or as an entire class.
Civil conversation and conflict resolution: Students will learn how to listen, understand and respect one another’s views, especially when there are differences of opinion and background.
Research and analysis: Students will have a deeper understanding of the different perspectives on economic inequality, including their own, their classmates, and the country at large, through researching the topic across biases and discussing.
References for Understanding:
Current news and opinions
Think tanks and more
Think Tank Search
Participate in an Online Dialog:
Want to start a more specific question for students to discuss online? Email us to start a new Classroom Dialog
Particulars of Class Activities for 1 Day Program:
★ This can be done as a single class or over several class periods. Extending the lesson will allow for more in depth understanding.★
Homework prior to class:
Students will spend 10-20 min looking at the most recent news about Inequality from different perspectives.
Teacher should assign articles from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality (see Resources above). Either assign half the class to each or have entire class read both (3 pages each).
For a discussion on Minimum Wage, have students read the article on pros and cons of raising it to $15 in California.
Optional - Students will ask their parent(s)/caregiver(s) to fill out Pew Research's Income Calculator to see where their family falls in terms of other households in the area. Results are for student knowledge only, not to be reported in class. OR students should take a few minutes to look at Pew Research's Who is Middle Income infographic.
Optional based on class size: Teacher divides students into small groups, preferably a mix of biases. (Have students complete a simple bias quiz for homework 2 days prior so the Teacher has a chance to evaluate if similar has never been conducted previously.)
Inequality: How do you think your gender, race, and socioeconomic position have affected your path through life so far? If our actions and behaviors mostly reproduce the condition in which we live, how can we change inequality? Is some form of inequality necessary for society to function? By what processes are inequalities produced? Does our economic system perpetually sustain the essence of inequality? Would the world really be better with complete equality?
Jobs: Should we raise the minimum wage? If we do raise the minimum wage, what else can we do?
Unemployment/underemployment: Why don't the unemployed/underemployed simply find better jobs? Why can’t the unemployed get off their couches and get back to work? Can former factory workers retrain into new jobs? Should we cut public assistance and force people into the job market?
Deeper Meaning questions: Have you personally seen that there is an opportunity gap? Do you believe that there is a public need to create equal opportunities for all our young community members? Do you have ideas for how we might diminish the obstacles to success that some communities face? What opportunities were and were not available to you?
Final Questions to pose to students, either as homework or just as a wrap up: What is one important thing you thought was accomplished here? Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?