A Community Conversation with National Humanities Medal Recipient Robert D. Putnam
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
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Center for the Future of Arizona recently partnered with the Arizona Community Foundation and Girl Scouts – Arizona Pine Council to host renowned author and Harvard professor, Robert D. Putnam to Phoenix.
Putnam engaged in a thoughtful and insightful discussion with more than 200 community leaders at the Parsons Leadership Center at Camp South Mountain. His presentation, “The American Dream in Crisis – A Conversation with Bob Putnam” covered a variety of topics, including the growing class gap among American young people. Putnam stressed the impact of class and income equality and its impact on our current society.
He provided individual stories as well as research and data on why fewer Americans today have the opportunity for upward mobility. He pointed out that during the last twenty-five years, we have seen a disturbing “opportunity gap” emerge. Americans have always believed in equality of opportunity, the idea that all kids, regardless of their family background, should have a decent chance to improve their lot in life. Now, this central tenet of the American dream seems no longer true or at the least, much less true than it was.
He spoke about the creation of high schools in the heartland of American and how they were created to address the income gap. He went on to say that it was “one of the best public policy decisions ever made on this issue and that it raised the overall productivity of America more than any other time in history.”
Groundbreaking ideas like this are the foundation for the work of the CFA. We focus on systemic change that will close the achievement gap, increase educational attainment, and prepare a highly-skilled workforce. To attain our vision of an education system where every Arizona student is prepared for success in life and becomes a full participant and contributing member to society, we must accelerate the rate of innovation and fundamentally rethink everything we believe we know about schooling today. We must challenge current assumptions about how we design and deliver education, and be open and flexible in our thinking.
We strive to:
- Incubate innovative education solutions.
- Empower student success through personalized college and career pathways.
- Equip school leaders to help all students succeed.
Putnam argues that our civic leaders will need to reach across boundaries of party and ideology if we are to offer more opportunity to all American children. He highlighted several ideas that he called “purple policy options.” He believes these ideas are concepts that both sides of the political spectrum should embrace.
Public Policy Options:
- Encourage stable caring families by boosting wages and job growth for low-income workers.
- Criminal Justice Reform
- High quality early childhood education
- Support parents with early intervention, family leave and coaching
- Invest in public education by paying teachers more to teach in low-income schools
- Intensive mentoring of young adults
- Support on-ramps to higher education like apprenticeships and community college
The event concluded with question and answer time, moderated by CFA’s Dr. Lattie Coor.