Leaving the American Dream Behind With the Children•
OpportunityNation is part of a movement to make sure every child in America can reach his or her potential and have a shot at the American Dream. That is why it is so distressing to see a recent UNICEF report, “The Children Left Behind” about child well-being in 24 of the world’s richest countries. America is allowing too many of our children across urban, suburban and rural America to fall far behind in educational, health and material well-being – a fact that is made frighteningly clear when we realize our children are ranked at the bottom in most categories.
OpportunityNation recognizes that many of our children do not have access to the opportunities or resources they need to reach their full potential, and wants to help highlight these issues in our national dialogue – something that often requires adjusting the way we see things. For example, though discussion of the tax cuts and Wall Street has lead to thinking about the widening income and wealth inequality in America, it is the inequality of opportunity to achieve one’s potential and economic security that has the most lasting consequences. Vast and persistent achievement gaps in schools, or access to quality education and school materials are the building blocks of a less equal future and a weaker America. When income inequality calcifies into educational and health outcomes, it is harder to turn around. Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson talked about this in his column this week:
Economic inequality can be justified as the reward for greater effort – so long as there is also social mobility. In the absence of mobility, capitalism becomes a caste system… Addressing the actual causes of inequality should be common ground for the center-left and center-right – and politically appealing to American voters, who are generally more concerned about opportunity than income equality.
If we think about life in America as a road race, the fact is, kids are starting at increasingly unequal starting positions, and without the “sneakers” needed to compete well: solid education and good health. The fact that we scored 23rd among 24 countries in child material well-being, 19th in educational equality and 22nd in health is not only a nightmare for the children who are missing out on the chance to reach their potential, it is a real loss the American Dream.
Members of the OpportunityNation coalition are working to improve the well-being and chances for success of all children by supporting families and communities, and our campaign will work to engage citizens, business and government to help turn these trends around.