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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET CHAPTER ONE All of which seems to lend credence to the premise advanced by pundits and demagogues of certain political persuasions that poverty is nothing more than a function of poor parenting, what- ever the reason or excuse. If it is true that children are deprived of language during their crucial early years and are therefore likely to remain in poverty themselves, so the argument goes, then shouldn’t parents be held responsible? Aren’t poor people in fact to blame for being in poverty? Not at all. The United States of America makes no claim that its citizens—regardless of the level of their educational attainment— are guaranteed a job that pays a living wage, even if they attended a high-quality preschool, had language-rich experiences during early childhood, and graduated from college. Both unemployment and service economy jobs that do not pay a living wage are under- stood to be necessary pieces of the economic machine. At any given time, upward of 25 percent of the US workforce will find themselves in one of these two groups—unemployed or not earning a living wage—fewer during good economic times, more during hard times. (Look up Census Bureau data for any year. See how many people are unemployed and how many are in service economy jobs. Or, better yet, see how many are not even in the workforce.) What the United States does guarantee, however, is an education. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and all their pals believed not only that every person has the right to an education but that it is the responsibility of government to ensure that everyone gets one. In a democratic society, ordinary citizens need to be informed about issues; they need to be able to make well-considered decisions, to engage in problem solving and crit- ical thinking; they need to have the tools to communicate their views and to evaluate the opinions of others. 14 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL