It seems as if, everywhere you turn these days, there are studies claiming to show that America has lost its upward mobility for people born in the lower socioeconomic levels. But there is a sharp difference between upward “mobility,” defined as an opportunity to rise, and mobility defined as actually having risen.
That distinction is seldom even mentioned in most of the studies. It is as if everybody is chomping at the bit to get ahead, and the ones that don’t rise have been stopped by “barriers” created by “society.”
When statistics show that sons of high school dropouts don’t become doctors or scientists nearly as often as the sons of Ph.D.s, that is taken as a sign that American society is not “fair.”
If equal probabilities of achieving some goal is your definition of fairness, then we should all get together — people of every race, color, creed, national origin, political ideology and sexual preference — and stipulate that life has never been fair, anywhere or any time in all the millennia of recorded history.
Then we can begin at last to talk sense. …
… All groups, families and cultures are not even trying to do the same things, so the fact that they do not all end up equally represented everywhere can hardly be automatically attributed to “barriers” created by “society.”
Barriers are external obstacles, as distinguished from internal values and aspirations — unless you are going to play the kind of word games that redefine achievements as “privileges” and treat an absence of evidence of discrimination as only proof of how diabolically clever and covert the discrimination is.