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Thursday, January 23, 2014

David Brooks, "It Takes a Generation": Hillary Has Yet to Sing

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "It Takes a Generation" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/24/opinion/brooks-it-takes-a-generation.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), David Brooks identifies "the next frontier of human capital development: Building lifelong social and emotional development strategies from age 0 to 25." He also identifies the challenges facing any such advancement, among them:

"[R]ight now roughly half-a-million children are born each year as a result of unintended pregnancies, often to unmarried women who are not on contraception or are trying to use contraceptives like condoms or the pill.

. . . .

Once they get to elementary school, children need to learn how to read and write. But that can’t happen in schools where 15 percent of the students are disruptive, where large numbers of students live with so much stress that it has stunted the development of the prefrontal cortexes, sent their cortisol levels surging, heightened their anxiety responses and generally made it hard for them to control themselves.

. . . .

According to work done by Sawhill and others, a significant number of kids stay on track through the early years, but then fall off the rails as teenagers. Sawhill set a pretty low bar for having a successful adolescence: graduate from high school with a 2.5 G.P.A., don’t get convicted of a crime, don’t get pregnant. Yet only 57 percent of American 19-year-olds get over that bar. Only one-third of children in the bottom fifth of family income do so."

Brooks hopes President Obama will discuss these issues during his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

To his credit, Obama has regularly addressed some of them (see: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/05/19/obama-morehouse-college-commencement/2324241/ and http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/16/us/politics/16obama.html?pagewanted=all), but can such speeches have any effect on an embedded trend that threatens the socio-economic fabric of the United States?

Within a generation, will federal debt reach an unsustainable 200 percent of GDP (see: http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/economy/140606-us-debt-headed-toward-200-percent-of-gdp-even-after-fiscal-cliff)?

It's not over until the fat lady sings? Well, Hillary might not still be president when it all crumbles, but no matter what Obama has to say during his upcoming SOTU, I wouldn't place my money on any turnaround.


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