For centuries, explorers searched for the legendary golden city of El Dorado, seeking instant wealth in the jungles of South America. But today’s treasure trove may be found much closer to home; cities like El Dorado, Arkansas, for example, that have successfully linked their economic development strategy to improving the educational attainment of their residents.
El Dorado, a city of about 20,000 people that was at the heart of Arkansas’s oil boom in the 1920s has been hard pressed to reprise that economic growth experience in this century. Instead of chasing after the fool’s gold of becoming cool, it has found a way to attract new residents and increase its economic vitality by promising its public school students a free college education if they graduate from high school with good grades. That promise has the potential to provide the critical glue in holding together a broad based economic recovery not just for cities such as El Dorado but for entire states or even the country.
The El Dorado Promise is a scholarship program established and funded by Murphy Oil Corporation, the town’s largest employer. Modeled after a similar program in Kalamazoo, MI, It provides graduates of the city’s high school a scholarship covering tuition and mandatory fees that can be used at any accredited two- or four-year, public or private, educational institution in the US up to an amount equal to the highest annual resident tuition at an Arkansas public university.
Since its inception in 2007, 1239 students have taken advantage of the offer. Over 90% of them have completed at least one year of college. The first high school class to enjoy this benefit has graduated after five years from college at a rate almost 40% greater than the state’s higher education student population. These gains in acquiring the skills necessary to be competitive in today’s global economy have been achieved by virtually all of the city’s high school students, over 90% of whom graduated from high school last year.
Furthermore the culture of a college-bound student population is now permeating throughout the school district, with a recent study finding that students in grades three through eight in the city scored significantly higher than their matched peers in nearby school districts in both math and literacy. The greatest gains have come from those who were the youngest when the Promise was announced.
The goal of the El Dorado Promise was not just greater educational attainment, however. The visionaries who established the program also wanted to use this program to improve the community’s economic vitality and quality of life. They have clearly done that. Enrollment in the city’s schools was up 5% in just the first four years of the program’s existence. As the Promise website says, “the prospect of an increasingly educated workforce gives economic development leaders new tools to attract businesses to the region.”
The first such Promise was made in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2005 by still anonymous benefactors seeking to restore the reputation of a city made famous in 1942 by the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s hit tune about a “gal” who lived there. Rather than raise taxes to balance the city’s budget, those who established the Kalamazoo Promise offered a fully paid four-year scholarship to any public institution of higher education in Michigan to any student who went to the city’s high schools for all four years. Under the terms of the Kalamazoo Promise, students have no obligation to repay the money or even to reside in Kalamazoo after they graduate from college.
The results are very similar to those of El Dorado. Kalamazoo’s student population is up 17.6% and dropout rates have been cut in half. Ninety percent of the city’s female African-American high school graduates have gone on to college. On the economic front, the proportion of residential construction in the city rose sharply from around 30% to nearly 50% of all permits issued in the greater Kalamazoo area. The community’s careful tracking of the results has identified 1600 families who say they are living in the city because of the Promise.
The economic challenges that caused El Dorado and Kalamazoo to up their game in getting local residents to graduate from high school and go on to college are no different than the challenge facing the country as a whole in trying to create a competitive workforce in today’s increasingly global and technology driven economy. For example, the Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that 62% of the jobs in the United States by the year 2018 will require at least some college education – for example a certificate for a specific skill – and that more than half of those jobs will require a bachelor’s degree. Unless the nation wants to fill those jobs with immigrants from other countries, it will have to do a much better job of giving each American who graduates from high school a chance to pursue a two year skill certificate or a baccalaureate degree.
A promise that rewards good academic performance in high school with a scholarship that pays for four years of college tuition has demonstrated it can make a major difference in achieving our educational and economic goals. Now it’s time for the rest of the country to find the gold that Kalamazoo and El Dorado have already discovered. Just as the country, as part of its overall economic development strategy, once expanded access to a universal free education first for primary schools and later for high schools, it must now find ways to make these two pioneering cities’ promise to their young people America’s Promise to all of its youth.
Also Published at
Millennials: Economics of Higher Education
Video from Mike & Morley
Millennials’ student debt is depressing US economy. College
will become part of universal, free educational system
in America when Millennials run things.
at Christian Science Monitor
Many protective mothers and fathers of Millennials aren't allowing their kids to play tackle football because of health risks. These attitudes could close the NFL’s pipeline to many talented players. But these concerns also have the potential to change the violent NFL culture for the better.
The emergence of the Millennial generation poses an existential threat to the future of the National Football League.
Professional football has been America’s favorite spectator sport since 1972 when baby boomers became the most important TV audience demographic. Steve Sabol, the genius behind NFL Films that helped to popularize the NFL in the 1960s, captured the drama and danger of pro football with his slow motion films of big violent hits backed by stirring music.
Pro football, depicted by Mr. Sabol as a confrontation between good and evil in which there can be only one winner, matched the values of baby boomers a half century ago. But this focus is not as appealing to the Millennial generation with its focus on win-win solutions and an instinct for avoiding confrontation.
Furthermore, out of concern for the future health of their children, many protective mothers and fathers of Millennials are deciding their kids should not play tackle football at all. These attitudes could close the NFL’s pipeline to many talented players within the coming decade. But these concerns also have the potential to change NFL culture for the better.
Millennials (young people 9-30 years old) were reared by their parents in a highly sheltered and protected manner. The generation’s arrival was signaled by “baby on board” bumper stickers and AMBER Alerts, major child protection legislation and “helicopter parents.”
Because of the way they were reared, Millennials are the most risk averse in recent American history. Concerned about the safety of their “special” children, the parents of many Millennials have demonstrated a strikingly fearful reaction to a series of reports about the devastating impact playing in the NFL has had on many former players.
According to GamesOver.org, a group “dedicated to serving and meeting the transitional needs of players when they leave the game,” 65 percent of NFL players retire with permanent injuries, while the suicide rate of former NFL players is six times the national average, possibly due in part to a brain disorder that researchers say impacts those who have suffered multiple concussions.
So far, more than 3,000 former NFL players have filed more than 100 lawsuits against the league for concussion-related conditions. If they are combined in a single class action, these suits could cost the NFL millions of dollars and possibly threaten it with bankruptcy. Moreover, in each of the past two seasons about 15 percent of those on NFL rosters (270 in 2010 and 266 in 2011) received concussions. And already in the first month of this season, at least two starting quarterbacks have been sidelined by concussions.
The NFL has taken note of the threat and is working to reduce the impact of concussion-related injuries through improved equipment, especially helmets that provide enhanced protection. It is also working toward better coaching that teaches safer tackling and blocking techniques. And the league is developing new rules or stronger enforcement of existing ones that prohibit or reduce blows to the head.
But there are some who doubt the effectiveness of those efforts, or even feel that they are incompatible with the brand of a sport that is based on vigorous contact. Still, the NFL Players’ Association has strongly endorsed them.These changes to improve player safety need to be made quickly if the NFL is to avoid another potentially more serious challenge to its future – the unwillingness of the parents of Millennials to allow their sons to play football.
Most shocking, a number of current and former NFL players – among them quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw, Kurt Warner, Drew Brees, and Troy Aikman and linebacker Bart Scott, famed for his hard-hitting style – say that, due to its dangers, they would bar their sons from playing the game in which they earned fame and fortune.
Perspectives like this have the potential to hamper or even halt participation in the programs that develop future NFL players. Because, other than a Canadian variation, American-style football is only played in the United States, there are no replacement athletes in the pipeline for football from foreign countries as there are for other professional sports.
Millennials were reared by their parents to be an egalitarian, group-oriented cohort, one that believes the welfare and success of individuals is best assured by maximizing the welfare and success of the entire group. It’s no coincidence, then, that high schools and colleges prohibited the taunting of opponents and exaggerated celebration of individual achievements on the gridiron just as Millennials were beginning to play football at those levels.
Perhaps Millennials will bring their group-oriented values to the NFL, producing a kinder, gentler version of pro football just in time to save the league from its boomer-dominated approach.
If so, the version of football that Steve Sabol’s films made so popular a half century ago will become a thing of the past. But, if the NFL doesn’t take the steps necessary to convince Millennials and their parents that their game is safe to play, it will take much more than brillian
In the mid-1950s, the McGuire Sisters’ version of Johnny Mercer’s song about what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object made it to number five on the record charts. Their prediction, that “Something’s Gotta Give,” provides an apt description of the outcome of today’s battle between the parents of Millennials who want more say in their children’s education and the teacher unions and school district administrators who refuse to give up a smidgeon of control over the public schools they run.
One of the hottest battle fronts in the war between these two forces has been debates over whether to adopt “Parent Trigger” laws, similar to those passed in California in 2010. Such legislation empowers the majority of parents in any school district deemed to be “failing,” according to the federal No Child Left Behind standards, to essentially reconstitute the school according to parents’ desires either by turning it into a charter school or removing and replacing all current teachers and administrators.
Since 2010, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana have passed similar legislation and it is up for debate in major industrial states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York. In Florida, the idea came within one vote of passage in the State Senate thanks to the enthusiastic support of former Florida Republican Governor, Jeb Bush. At the same time, such Democratic stalwarts as Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and liberal Congressman George Miller (D-CA) have expressed their strong support for the concept.
Most recently, the bi-partisan U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously passed a resolution in support of Parent Trigger laws. Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, chairman of both the Mayor’s Conference and the upcoming Democratic National Convention, led the charge for the resolution’s passage, aided by strong support from Democratic Mayors such as Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and Kevin Johnson of Sacramento.
None of this has softened the resistance from teacher unions, historically a bulkwark of Democratic support. Often led by unreconstructed Boomer liberals from the 1960s, they see the law’s emphasis on parental prerogatives as the ultimate threat to their control of the classroom and educational budgets. In the most recent battle, unions were able to pressure Change.org, a for profit, grass roots website “staffed by some of the most talented progressive organizers in the country,” to bar StudentsFirst, an advocacy group run by Democrat Michelle Rhee, the former Washington D.C. School Superintendent, that supports giving parents more control over the schools their children attend, from using its website.
And when the chief press person for Parent Revolution, the non-profit that is the primary driver behind the adoption of Parent Trigger laws, was announced as the new education media spokesperson by Obama’s re-election campaign, teachers' unions threatened to withhold their support of the president.
In the long run, the implacable objections of the unions to parents having more say over the type of education their own children will fail. They will prove no match for the irresistible force of generational change that is already sweeping away existing institutional power structures in schools across the country.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Millennials, born 1982-2003, is the intense interest their parents take in every aspect of their children’s lives. This desire to constantly hover over their offspring earned parents of older Millennials (those now in their twenties) the sobriquet, “helicopter parents.” The younger half of the Millennial Generation, which accounts for most elementary and all secondary school students today is primarily parented by members of the more entrepreneurial Generation X (born 1965-1981). These parents replaced their Boomer predecessors’ tendency to hover and talk with a desire to take action and change bottom-line results.
Millennials are the largest, most diverse generation in American history, and many of them are now starting to have children of their own. When those children begin arriving in the nation’s schools, Millennial Generation parents will bring the same dedication that their own parents exhibited to making sure each school serves their child’s interests first. As a result, it won’t be long before the same rights California, Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana parents now have are given to every parent in the country. As Ben Austin, the founder of the Parent Revolution points out, “the old coalitions don’t apply here; it’s a cause that unites parents from upper-middle-class and working-class backgrounds—white, black, and Latino alike.”
The type of generational change America will experience over the next few decades will drive the transformation of America’s educational institutions and overwhelm those who attempt to keep parents from deciding what kind of school their kids go to. When push comes to shove, something’s gotta give. And, in the end, that means that those who stand for the status quo in our nation’s schools will have to give up their traditional prerogatives and let parents choose the educational experience they think is best for their own children.
This month America’s destiny as a pluralistic democracy took a new and unprecedented turn. First, early in May, USA Today asked Americans what name they thought would be appropriate for the country’s newest generation now moving into grade school classrooms with its unique behavior and perspectives. Plurals is the name suggested by communications research and consulting firm, Frank N. Magid Associates, with only the Apple product related notion of an iGeneration getting more votes.
Plurals will be different from Millennials. For one thing they will be the first generation in America that will be majority “minority”, as evidenced by the recent U.S. Census Bureau announcement that more babies born in America in the 12 months between July 2010 and July 2011, were non-white than white. The event occurred about eight years earlier than demographers had predicted it would just a few years ago. The 21st Century pluralistic American society that had often been talked about has arrived. But the question remains whether or not the country’s institutions, and its leadership, will be up to the challenge such a polyglot democracy presents.
The Census Bureau predicts that by 2042 the entire population will be less than 50% Caucasian and America will literally be a pluralistic society.
This prediction is based upon the current trends for births among different minority groups compared to whites. Racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 91.75% of the nation’s population growth in this century, with Hispanics comprising a majority of this increase. Rather than immigration flows, which are dropping, this growth will be driven largely by higher rates of fertility among non-whites. Based upon the American Community Survey results in 2010, Hispanics have a fertility rate of 2.4 live births per woman compared to only 1.8 among whites. The only other ethnic group to be having babies at a rate greater than what is needed to replace its current numbers is African-Americans with a 2.1 fertility rate.
This difference is likely to persist and the gap could easily become wider because of the differences in the age of each population. Twenty-five percent of Hispanic women are in the prime child bearing ages of 20-34, compared to only 19% of non-Hispanic whites. (For both African-Americans and Asians, the percentage is twenty-two). The increasing diversity of both of America’s youngest generations is also reflected in the average age of each population. The average age of America’s white population is 42.3, a full five years older than the overall age of the country’s population. The average age of Hispanics is almost fifteen years younger, 27.6, with the other two population groups closer to the average age of the entire population—blacks at 32.9 and Asians at 35.9.
Magid’s research indicated that a majority of Americans were “hopeful and proud” of the country’s increasing diversity, but it was the younger generations, most markedly Plurals, who were more likely to say they were “pleased and energized” by this development. Many older Americans, particularly Baby Boomers and senior citizens, are resisting the changes this dramatic shift is bringing to American society. Already states, such as Arizona, with populations that have the widest disparity between the racial and ethnic makeup of their oldest and youngest generations have experienced bitter political battles over issues such as immigration and education that reflect these divides. The good news is that both Plurals and members of the Millennial generation, born 1982-2003, are positive about this inevitable trend toward a pluralistic society, reflecting their comfort with the diversity in the social circles in which they have grown up.
But that doesn’t mean that Plurals look forward to the nation’s future with equanimity. Most Plurals have been raised by parents from the often cynical and consistently skeptical Generation X. This may explain why Magid found a much greater degree of pessimism about living out the American Dream among them than among their older Millennial Generation siblings, a generation that, despite their current challenges, was brought up in the prosperous Reagan-Clinton era and remains characteristically optimistic. The attitudes of Plurals may also reflect the polarized, bitter politics that have characterized the period of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) that has dominated the news during their young life.
Whatever the reason, the pessimism of the Plurals must be answered by the nation’s leaders in ways which improve prospects for the nation’s future. One way for this to happen quickly would be for those currently holding power to begin to turn the reins of leadership over to those generations more in tune with the nation’s demographic future. If Plurals’ Xer parents and their Millennial siblings are given the opportunity to shape America’s destiny sooner rather than later, the country just might deliver on the promise of the American Dream for its newest generation.
The latest from the men who wrote the book (literally!) on the developing impact of the next generation and the ones to come …
Even though both Generation Xers and Millennials are often portrayed as “digital natives” because of their access to the earliest versions of digital technology when they were growing up, the real digital natives are actually members of America’s youngest generation: PLURALS.
So named by the communications research and consulting firm, Frank N. Magid Associates, because of the great diversity of its racial and ethnic profile, the members of this generation have been immersed in digital technology since they were born. Members of this generation, who today are middle schoolers or younger, are demonstrating a comfort level with conducting their lives online that puts their older siblings (Millennials) and parents (Generation X) to shame.
According to Magid’s research, 59 percent of Plurals are already using Facebook at least weekly. Twenty-eight percent of them tweet just as frequently. Sixteen percent of Plurals also maintain a weekly blog.
Their commitment to social media is evident in their use of check-in sites or location-based apps, such as Foursquare, which are used by 16% of the generation. About a quarter of all Plurals report shopping in a brick-and-mortar store using their cell phone to check product information or compare prices, mostly through the use of QR codes. And about a third of plurals send pictures to their friends from their cell phone of what they are doing while they are shopping.
In comparison to teenage and twenty-something Millennials, Plurals are also much more likely to live all of their virtual lives on mobile devices, with 69 percent of America’s youngest generation reporting that they use a cell phone regularly. Even more (79%) own a personal digital media player, and 60 percent now own or regularly use an mp3 player, higher percentages of usage than are found among Millennials. Forty-one percent of Plurals play games on their mobile phones at least weekly, compared to 39% of adult Millennials. Meanwhile, the percentage of Plurals using a tablet has risen to 43% from 13% in just one year.
Plurals are also likely to accelerate the trend of video content moving to mobile and online platforms. Forty-two percent of them report watching a full length TV show online, and about half that number use their cell phone to watch live TV during a typical week. The percentage of Plurals who watched full-length movies using that device almost doubled in the last year to 40 percent, while about a third of them use their phone to watch other forms of video at least weekly.
Generation X rightfully prides itself on its technological savvy and celebrates its ability to use personal computers and the Net. Millennials are the most facile users of social media. But both of these older generations will have to make way for Plurals and their desire to absorb the most sophisticated forms of content in a mobile environment whenever and wherever they want to.
Entertainment and media firms will have to alter their time-honored business models to accommodate the needs and wants of America’s true digital natives, the Pluralist Generation, when it takes its place in the prime, young adult, target demographic in the next few years.
In the middle of the 1950s, a seemingly spontaneous revolt against the prevailing conformist values of the country erupted among its youngest generation. The actor, James Dean, and his aptly named movie, “Rebel without a Cause,” perfectly captured the nature of this youthful uprising.
His untimely death, in a 1955 high-speed auto accident at the age of 24, made him an everlasting iconic symbol of youthful angst in his own and every other era since.
That same year, the movie “Blackboard Jungle,” about rebellious high school students quaintly called “juvenile delinquents” in the vernacular of the time, featured a song recorded earlier without much success, “Rock Around the Clock,” which brought sudden, and many would say permanent, popularity to a new musical genre, Rock ‘N’ Roll.
One year later, Allan Ginsburg published his revolutionary poem, “Howl,” and one year after that Jack Kerouac’s personal novel, “On the Road,” cemented the Beat Generation’s zeitgeist as the height of hipness in America.
All of the leaders of this cultural revolt were members of the somewhat inappropriately titled, “Silent Generation,” which was mostly known before these events for its willingness to go along to get along.
Within a decade, other members of this generation, most notably the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., completely upset the country’s norms on race relations and ignited the Civil Rights Revolution that ultimately led to the election of the nation’s first African-American president when most Silents had become senior citizens. (Ironically, the Silents were the only generation to cast a majority of its votes against Barack Obama in 2008.)
This repeated historical pattern of early accommodation to prevailing norms followed by significant, if initially unfocused, rejection of key aspects of the nation’s culture has given this type of generation the name “Adaptive.”
Now, evidence of the arrival of America’s newest Adaptive generation has surfaced, which is beginning to define how and why this latest Adaptive generation differs from the older Millennial Generation.
As suggested by the market research firm, Frank N. Magid Associates, this emerging, adaptive generation will be known as the “Pluralist Generation.” Its members, known as “Plurals,” reflect the overwhelmingly distinguishing demographic of America’s newest generation: its ethnic, racial, and religious diversity. (Disclosure: Michael D. Hais worked for Magid for more than 22 years, retiring as its vice president of Entertainment Research in 2007.)
Magid’s research findings, released the first week of May 2012, show the following:
- Plurals are more likely than older generations to have friends and acquaintances from different ethnic groups, races, and religions than their own.
- More importantly, a majority of the members of this generation say they want their social circle to be even more diverse than it is now. Even as this year’s presidential campaign reveals heightened tensions over America’s increasingly diverse demography, this new generation is making clear its preference for even greater diversity.
- At the same time, according to Magid, the fact that the parents of most Plural children are members of Generation X, rather than the Boomers who bore and raised the majority of Millennials, is producing a shift in the focus of Plurals from the group to individual success.
- “Honest, respectful, and trustworthy,” remain traits that all parents hope to see in their children. However, in reflecting their own entrepreneurial values, Gen Xers are more likely than Boomer parents to list individually oriented traits, such as “hard working, confident, and independent,” as ones they would especially like to develop in their children.
- A separate survey by the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts found that the cohort it considers to be the youngest within the Millennial Generation are on the cusp of change to a new generation, which is “less patriotic, and less interested in politics, sustainability, saving, and making mistakes in life.” Click here to read more about that study.
- While generational theorists may disagree on when to mark the end of one generation and the beginning of another, both studies found the same shift toward individual concerns and away from collective action among children of similar ages.
It will take at least another decade, and probably more, before members of the Pluralist Generation are old enough to begin making their own mark on the society that the Millennial Generation is, itself, just beginning to remake.
If the Plurals follow the precedent of their Silent Generation forebears, their childhood and adolescent years will be spent accepting society pretty much as they find it. But, as young adults, they are likely to lead a revolt against too much conformity, first in pop culture, and later in how the country respects the rights of each individual, regardless of their background.
Somewhere, among the nation’s current crop of grade-schoolers, is a charismatic charmer who will become this century’s rebel. It remains to be seen if he or she will enlist fellow Plurals in a cause that will remake the country, or simply signal the beginning of yet another generational shift in the nation’s attitudes and beliefs.