Reposted from Forbes:
Building cultural capital among society’s most disadvantaged is a long-term project – and my life calling – that has not been made easier by America’s obsession with low-brow bread and circuses. Instead of talking in the “just folks” vernacular of the everyman, we need political leaders who, in their very mien, signal that higher learning is hip, essential and part of the fabric of one’s being. Moreover, we need courageous educators who vociferously defend rigorous after-school programs – such as speech, debate and robotics – even when their young charges prefer more softball pursuits.
When Stephen Hawking enjoys the same level of public acclaim as Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian, I will know we are making progress on this front. To begin that work, we must adopt a carrot-and-stick approach that ties empirically verified academic success to the perks of living in the most advanced democracy on the planet (including welfare benefits, driver’s licenses, and college loans).
As for skills, the solutions are more short-term and readily attainable. While we work to grow cultural capital among all Americans, we can at least train them – regardless of environment or upbringing – in salient workforce skills that will garner our citizens meaningful paid employment in a highly competitive global economy.