9-12 Kentucky

Super Rich

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of the intensification of economic inequality. By exploring the compelling question “Can we afford the super-rich?” students evaluate the historical trends and consider the epidemiological, political, and socio-environmental consequences of escalating economic inequality. The formative performance tasks build on knowledge and skills through the course of the inquiry to help students understand the influence of the super-rich on the lives of others through a progressively expanded lens of economic inequality, mental and physical health, democratic processes, and climate change mitigation efforts. Students create an evidence-based argument about why we cannot afford the super-rich or why the super-rich do not pose a risk to society and the environment in which humanity is embedded.  Though students can complete the inquiry with the provided sources, teachers are encouraged to have students research the supporting questions to supplement them.


Compelling Question:

Can We Afford the Super-Rich?

Staging the Question:

View a series of images related to the economic inequality. Conduct a classroom discussion concerning its causes and consequences

Supporting Question What does economic inequality look like?

Formative Task Write a list that describes the historical trends, causes, and extent of intensifying economic inequality.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from Gordon, Growing Apart (2013)
Source B: Gilson, “Only Little People Pay Taxes” (2011)
Source C: Gilson, “It’s the Inequality, Stupid” (2011)


Supporting Question How does economic inequality affect mental and physical health?”

Formative Task Write a summary that describes the relationship between economic inequality and mental and physical health.

Sources Sources A & B: Data on economic inequality and health outcomes, The Equality Trust (2011, 2012)
Source C: Hinds, “Inequality can be a good thing”(2013)
Source D: Data from Center for Disease Control, (2013)


Supporting Question Does economic inequality undermine democracy?

Formative Task Write a claim or series of claims using evidence as to whether or not (and to what extent) democracy is undermined by economic inequality.

Sources Source A: Boren, “The U.S. is an oligarchy, study concludes” (2014)
Source B: Gilson, “Who Owns Congress? A Campaign Cash Seating Chart” and “Capitol Hill’s Top 75 Corporate Sponsors” (2010)
Source C: Freedom House report on political rights and civil liberties (2016)


Supporting Question Does economic inequality impact climate change mitigation?

Formative Task Develop a claim supported by evidence about whether or not (and to what extent) economic inequality impacts climate change mitigation.

Sources Source A: Kenner, “Reducing inequality and carbon footprints within countries,” Global Sustainability Institute (2016)
Source B: Upton, “Let’s fight the 1 percent—of power plants” (2013)
Source C: Mankiw, “Yes, the Wealthy Can Be Deserving” (2014)

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Can we afford the super-rich? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, essay) that discusses the compelling question using specific claims and relevant evidence from current sources while acknowledging competing views.
Extension: Convert your argumentative essay or poster into an op-ed and submit it to the school or city newspaper.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Accomplished through the formative performance tasks.
Assess: Determine the range of arguments, identifying the variance of perspectives within the class
Act: Invite members of the community, within and outside the school, to attend a town-hall event to share the class perspectives.