Reflection On "Our Kids"

Updated: Sep 30

In 2018, I read Robert D. Putnam's Our Kids: The American Dream In Crisis. I wrote this reflection to myself. Enjoy


Edited: Aug 26, 2021


Wealth is more socioeconomic than economic.

He compares 1950s American kids with modern kids. According to the book, the opportunity gap has widened. Today, richer kids grow up in more stable families, safer neighborhoods, go to better schools, engage civically especially through local churches while poor kids engage with the other extreme of everything: worst teachers, broken families, and crime-ridden neighbors. As a result, rich kids start ahead and multiply their success many folds via the engagements I just mentioned while poor kids' engagements impede their growth.

The difference between the median income of college graduates and high-school graduates is often used to encourage youth to go to college. Normalizing institutionalized education itself may have caused the income gap between high school graduates and college graduates.


Learning is natural to human beings. People learn from mistakes, mentors, parents, animals, community members, and from life in general. When education started, some kinds of learning became certified. Certification added a sense of security to employers. College degree made job applicants look apart. It became like a license. Those who had it were priced severely above those who did not. Over time, college degree became a point of parity. Along the way, people totally forgot that what we learn in college is only one kind of learning. College education legitimized one kind of education and illegitimized every other kind. It artificially divided society between the educated and the uneducated. There may be no such thing as learnt and not learnt or knowledgeable and not knowledgeable. I assume everyone knows about something. The mode of learning may be different. Is a woman who left her job for two years to raise a baby behind one who continued. Not necessarily. Raising a child might have been more demanding than work. She may have learned much more than the one who continued.

Anyhow, is economic growth the ultimate goal? If it is, America has gotten closer. People are richer but at the same time mentally ill. They live isolated together. It saddens me to see so many with hardly any friends at all. America has managed to create money but failed to create wealth.

Money did not even exist at some point. Once we understand wealth as a socioeconomic concept rather than as an economic concept, a new perspective must emerge. Everyone I meet seems to have skills and traits that I don't. This means everyone I know can exchange those skills with someone else, which would lead to wealth creation. There only needs to be meeting of needs, which is enabled by relationships among community members. This way, relationships create wealth. But I am afraid liberal policies are destroying relationships.

Public schooling delays adolescence. College furthers that delay. There was a time when men went to war at 16. Now, they are barely out of their mothers' cribs by 16. Do we expect them to be great fathers though they are biologically capable? In a sense, maturation now is lagging behind biological growth.

In the story of Lola and Sofia, both seem to be much more mature and experienced than college graduates. Both navigated their entire lives themselves. Both struggled with the school system, understood why teachers are not motivated to work, understood kids lost to the streets. Both tried hard to complete their education against all odds. They do not have flashy degrees. Nevertheless, I would argue that they would outperform every college graduate from MSU when it comes to dealing with people. These jobs would include positions in public relations, management, and marketing,

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