Frightening accurate and insightful debate piece between Jeffrey Arnett, Clark University research professor and author, and Jennifer Silva, author and postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Silva- “I think that a big problem for working-class young people is lack of know-how and social ties. Most young people from disadvantaged or even middle-class backgrounds now want to go to college. But far less actually enroll or graduate because the steps they need to take – taking the right high school classes, taking SATs, participating in sports or activities, getting financial aid – are very confusing. The growing competitiveness, cost, and complexity of the higher education system has made it increasingly difficult for young people to navigate the system, earn a degree, and get a white collar job. Even knowing how to fill out the financial aid forms if your parents can’t help you can be a barrier for working-class youth. So even if the opportunity is there, the know-how is lacking. That can make it feel like it is impossible to finish school and “grow up. And once they get there, they are even less prepared for this new world of college, and often have no idea how to choose a major and then use that major for a job. More privileged kids can draw on their family connections, their private college coach, or their college fund. But we have a whole group of working-class emerging adults who need guidance. And who also need jobs.”
"Working-class young adults learn not to expect loyalty from their jobs or permanence from their relationships. They take risks, often without guidance from others and with imperfect knowledge, to try to create lives that feel stable and worthy. And when they fail, they must pick up the pieces on their own and start again. When jobs are short-term, families are fragile, institutions are bewildering, and trust is in short supply, taking sole responsibility for one’s own fate‒what we could call optimism‒lends a sense of control and meaning to one’s coming of age journey. Such belief in oneself proves a vital mechanism for coping with the chaos, hopelessness, and insecurity that threatens daily to strip their lives of dignity and order. In my interpretation, these young adults numb the ache of betrayal and the hunger for connection by reaching for images of themselves as masters of own fates. But in doing so, they obscure the larger social forces‒the decline of good blue-collar jobs, the increasing costs of education, the privatization of risks, the growing gap between the haves and have-nots‒that works against them. Perhaps without this optimism, they might build communities of solidarity that demand better wages and bigger safety nets."