Ours is a nation of outsiders, invigorated by waves of people who begin with nothing and scrape their way to success. This has always been the grandest source of national strength and — since the days of the Know Nothing Party — of political ire. The problem now, as always, is one of assimilation: How can we bring disadvantaged young Americans into the economic mainstream?
In this edition of The Next America, a special supplement to National Journal, cosponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers, we explore the difficulties of preparing for an economic future in which racial and ethnic minorities will make up a majority of the workforce a scant quarter-century hence.
In reporting the cover story, Janell Ross traveled to San Antonio, a vanguard of the nation’s demographic future. The Latino-dominated city is trying its damndest to help its young’uns succeed as adults, starting before they’re born and continuing through to high school. The life cycle of young Americans who are disadvantaged by poverty, race, or ethnicity offers multiple opportunities for someone to step in and change their lives.
The problem is this: In the real world, with the available resources so constrained, choices must be made. When is it most cost-effective to intervene? There’s an answer: Early is better.
One path that no longer assures a middle-class life is relying on a high school diploma, and the educational system is responding. Sophie Quinton looks at a high school in Georgia where vocational education has been redefined. Wood shop has given way to rigorous courses — the lines between traditional academics and vocational training have blurred — that are meant to help any student find a place in a frighteningly sophisticated workforce.
Life is hard: No news there. But Peter Bell and Stephanie Stamm show (in the centerspread graphic) how much harder it is if things go badly from birth. This propels an inequality that our system of higher education is making worse, as Ronald Brownstein finds. For generations the driver of upward mobility, college has become a force for stultification. The children of the prosperous receive an elite education and an easier life, while most others — uh, too bad.
So, is higher education the problem or the cure? Click on the links at the box above right.
A Preschool Where Kids Get a Leg Up
Successful Curiosity Corner preschool curriculum drives results and confidence — so much that ESL kids use “deciduous” in a sentence.
Best Time(s) to Help a Kid Succeed
A timely intervention can help a disadvantaged youngster find economic success as an adult. Stepping in early, scholars say, is cheaper and more effective.
Here’s a GED You Can Ride Into NYU
LaGuardia Community College is a GED machine, savvy to reaching out to high-school dropouts who are thirsty for practical and professional grant-funded classes.
In the Womb, Assuring a Future
Even before there’s a child to educate, nurses in a Texas program visit low-income, first-time mothers during their pregnancy, helping them become “super-great moms” and giving their kids a very early edge in school.
College Used to Be a Path to Success. Now It Divides Us.
Today’s educational system does more to stratify than to dissolve economic advantage.
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The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House this morning by a 375-34 vote. The bill, which heads to the Senate next week for final consideration, would fund the military to the tune of $618.7 billion, "about $3.2 billion more than the president requested for fiscal 2017. ... The White House has issued a veto threat on both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill, but has not yet said if it will sign the compromise bill released by the conference committee this week."
"Republicans have elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) the next chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the former committee chairman, in the race for the gavel" to succeed Michgan's Fred Upton.
"Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on legislation that would limit deportations" under President-elect Donald Trump. Leading the effort are Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is also expected to sign on.
Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis as his secretary of defense, according to The Washington Post. Mattis retired from active duty just four years ago, so Congress will have "to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law that states secretaries of defense must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years." The official announcement is likely to come next week.