Accumulating mental capital: 401(k) for the brain?

: “”

A resilient community is one that shares stories

Thinking of the Common Core as a starting point

: “”

Two American Families, one broken dream

This week, PBS delivered on a journalistic promise that began with "Mother" Mary Jones: "Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." The network aired Two American Families, a documentary that chronicles the decline of industry through two extended families in Milwaukee. You can watch it here.

What is most unsettling about the film—aside from its portraits of desperation and fear—is that the Neumanns, who are white, and the Stanleys, who are black, work hard, extremely hard, to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. And still they can't get ahead. They give their heart, soul and muscle to whatever job they find, whether it's emptying garbage cans, mowing lawns, selling cosmetics to skeptical neighbors, caring for a disabled child or, in the case of African-American realtor Jackie Stanley, selling houses in a hostile white neighborhood.

Jackie's son Klaudale decides that his best chance for upward mobility is to become a private military contractor in Afghanistan. His brother Claude stays home—in what was once a land of promise—only to find menial jobs at poverty-level wages.

PBS reporter Bill Moyers asks Terry Neumann, after observing 20 years of struggle and a divorce borne of dashed hopes, if she thinks she will ever be financially secure. "I don't think anybody's gonna be financially secure, truthfully," she says.

That thought crosses many minds these days as the complexities and demands of a working life intensify. When a designer tells me that he and his team will "build wireframes" for a proposed website, I nod, wondering how long I can hold on when I barely know the difference between a wireframe and a wire hanger.

Technological advances may lead us to an era of infinite possibilities. For now, seismic shifts in our culture have made once secure jobs insecure and wreaked havoc on the lives of the Neumanns, Stanleys and countless others like them.

We are left to ask: What will it take to help the Neumann and Stanley grandchildren realize some shred of the American Dream? Will education reform and the promise of a level playing field be enough? If not, broken dreams like the ones we see in Milwaukee will haunt us for years to come.

Ed Week's first superintendents poll

: “”

Video: Sir Ken Robinson on the importance of finding one's passion

#MondayLinks: An exercise in creative thinking

: “”

#MondayLinks: Can taking a ‘first guess’ help you learn?

: “”

#MondayLinks: Reading can slow cognitive decline

: “”

Quote: Childhood and favorite books

I recently heard Margery Mayer give a speech while accepting the Corporate Award from the Education Commission of the States on behalf of Scholastic and she shared with us one of her favorite quotes from Marcel Proust.  It is a beautiful quote and I couldn't agree with it more!

Margery, Scholastic Education President, also reminded us that while we each read every day, it has become so normal that we forget what a complex task it is.  We ask our youngest children to achieve a skill that took millennia to become the norm, and when it happens it is a form of miracle.  Further, she pointed out that for many of our children that miracle takes an extra push - "a mighty push from caring adults" - an important thought to keep in mind, especially during the summer.


Subscribe to edu@scholastic RSS