A Summer Action Plan For America’s Elites

“We are living in a social divide so deep that serious people of good will and a certain class have never met anyone who will vote for Donald Trump.” George Friedman

As exclusive conferences in Aspen and other mountain resorts get under way this summer, attendees might start by looking at how far removed they are from the vast majority of their fellow citizens, starting in my hometown of Denver. I graduated from a suburban Denver public high school in 1971. A number of my classmates did not graduate from college but they could still make successful livings. Globalization changed that — and America’s response changed their politics. Most were liberal (after all, it was the 60’s) but social media posts indicate that now a number support Trump. On top of flat wages for two decades, many feel resentment towards an America in which some of their fellow citizens benefit from special tax treatment, free health care or cronyism and — perhaps most unfairly — are able to provide superior educational opportunities to their children and grandchildren. At the very moment when world-class educations are more critical than ever to getting ahead, the masses are limited to public school systems in which their children aren’t always the top priority while elites fret over which private school best fits their children’s needs and talents. The net result is anger.

“A democratic society cannot survive this divide,” says Friedman, adding that a similar divide “occurred in the Great Depression but was smashed by World War II when the young soldiers of all classes discovered that their lives depended on each other and social class meant nothing when the artillery opened up.” Now the threatening war is of the civil kind. America’s divide will not disappear until all Americans believe their children are getting a fair shake when it comes to education. The only way to do that is through state politics.

States spend $600 billion a year — 10x federal spending and 100x charitable spending — and write the education codes that govern public schools. In my state of California, the governor and 120 members of the state legislature run an $80-billion-a-year education system hosting more than six million K-12 students. But despite spending much more per student than Texas, California’s poor and minority children perform worse. Ominously, California just doubled spending on pensions, draining funds from today’s students to pay yesterday’s teachers.

America’s divide will not disappear until all Americans believe their children are getting a fair shake in education.

Globalization isn’t going away. America’s children will always need to compete with children from around the world. To do so — and to close the gap with fellow Americans attending private schools — they must be provided with world-class educations. Only state officials can make that happen. If you’re in Aspen and not talking about the role played by states in America’s educational divide, you should be, and then you should be backing state officials who — with their actions, not just their words — put children first.

Medium, 7/7/16