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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With three days until the first debate, the polls are coming fast and furious. The latest round:
- An Associated Press/Gfk poll of registered voters found very few voters committed, with Clinton leading Trump, 37% to 29%, and Gary Johnson at 7%.
- A McClatchy-Marist poll gave Clinton a six-point edge, 45% to 39%, in a four-way ballot test. Johnson pulls 10% support, with Jill Stein at 4%.
- Rasmussen, which has drawn criticism for continually showing Donald Trump doing much better than he does in other polls, is at it again. A new survey gives Trump a five-point lead, 44%-39%.
In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shunning traditional debate preparations, but has been watching video of…Clinton’s best and worst debate moments, looking for her vulnerabilities.” Trump “has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers. He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers.”
Donald Trump "is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition."
Bill and Hillary Clinton have purchased the home next door to their primary residence in tony Chappaqua, New York, for $1.16 million. "By purchasing the new home, the Clinton's now own the entire cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the leafy New York suburb. The purchase makes it easier for the United States Secret Service to protect the former president and possible future commander in chief."