A clear theme is emerging: Americans bought into the Dream (home ownerships and college educations) without realizing how the reality of those dreams has changed. In combination with a competitive, machine-aided, global workforce, Americans have lost ground and found themselves unable to catch a break—much less a bootstrap. And I think we are only seeing the beginning of the stories.
Carmen Wong Ulrich Social mobility is tied to access to education—affordable, non-crippling-debt college education. Granted, we need even better high-school graduation rates and grades from black/Latino kids, too, but once these kids get into college, the dropout rates are higher for poor minorities, and rates of “bad” student loan debt (read: private loans) are too high. I’d love more education for minority students on how to manage the college system/process, personally and culturally, as well as how to pay for it in a smarter way. While mentoring and working with Latino and black students going into college for the past 15-plus years, the lack of clear, informed strategies to get that degree is frightening. I get the question, “Is this degree worth it?” Hell yes. [But the process] needs to be directed, treated like what it is: an investment, and a business/economic/life strategy.
To Vivek’s point about entrepreneurism, keep in mind that many of us have/had no financial safety net or support, should a business fail, and education is key to economic growth in a less risky way. When there’s no net, you’re more likely to not swing so high.
Farai Chideya How are we supposed to describe class stratification in a country that claims not to have class?
I loved the recent piece by [Salon staff writer] Mary Beth Williams, “On not being middle class in New York City” [which appeared on her personal Tumblr]: “a classically tunnel-visioned New York Times feature about what it means to be middle class in Manhattan. The Times would have you believe that to live in the Apple, you’re going to need about $235K a year. . . . [W]hen the Times runs a feature like that, it treats the millions of New Yorkers who are somehow getting by and raising families and living with basic human dignity like they’re invisible. That pisses me off.”
Carmen Wong Ulrich Silly of us not to realize that “class” exists, but its definition depends greatly on who’s doing the talking, and what about. How someone speaks could have you deem them of a lower “class” even if he/she is a self-made millionaire. Professionally, some deem those with no college degree (or even no grad degree) as of a lesser “class.” However, there is a real discussion about the ability of Americans to maintain a solid middle class and what middle means. Does that mean home ownership? Two cars and cellphones? How much money you make, or what you do with it?
Monica Guzman I’ll echo Mary Beth Williams and say that tone deafness with regard to class—writing about people in a certain place in a certain situation in a way that seems out of touch to those people—is a problem. But it’s a tricky problem. Who else, after all, is talking about class? It’s one of those burdens media must carry, figuring out how to talk about something there’s really no language for, no agreed-upon codes, and little consensus across regions. They’re bound to get hammered when they try. But at least we try. Class is a force in American culture. The denial of class, too, is a particular feature of American self-perception, where it exists.
Maybe it’s one of the many areas in journalism where we have to take risks—where, for the sake of informing the public, we have to pick words and phrases and concepts, do our darnedest to make sure they reflect reality, and put them to the ultimate test—publication. If we’re off, we’re off, and rather than shy away from it, we should own the conversation about why, and how to make future coverage better.
Coverage of race and immigration in America
Farai Chideya If we were to write the mea culpa of race coverage for 2050, what would it be? What are we missing now? And how do we deal with what we missed before?