Photo by chadinbrWell…not really. I think I’ve been getting a little bit better at catchy titles though.
Paul Krugman makes an argument that I’ve been struggling with not just as a scholar interested in this period, but as a parent of five children. When I was young, I assumed I would go to college, graduate, then get a job that allowed me to do more (both for myself and for my children) than my father was able to do for me. This is what most people in my generation thought. And it’s what we continue to tell our children, and in the face of tremendous cuts in financial aid, it’s what we continue to go into debt for.
But what if it isn’t true?
Whenever I talk about the state of urban public education in places like Detroit and Baltimore, I talk about how these places train people for jobs that no longer exist. Black boys’ academic performance is so low largely because they don’t really see a connection between the schooling they receive and the world they are supposed to live in. This goes far beyond concerns of a pay off, but includes these concerns. The jobs they would’ve been able to get forty years ago, jobs that would allow them to buy a home, care for a family, care for and raise grandkids if need be…those jobs are gone.
What Krugman suggests though, is that what happened to Detroit will soon happen to other municipalities. As our ability to outsource and automate tasks grows a range of employment opportunities drops. Leaving cities like San Francisco, a lot like Detroit. Detroit 3.0 perhaps.
However, note what else Krugman suggests. He suggests that the way out is not necessarily more education, though he does suggest that we work hard at increasing the educational opportunity of the poor. He suggests that the way out is political action.
As Obama sits on the sidelines in the wake of Wisconsin, it’s clear where this political action will NOT come from.