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Sunday, March 6, 2016

“Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis”

Our Kids - Book Review - Truthdig

Ultimately, “Our Kids” is about consequences — consequences of
choices that were anything but inevitable and that, in a mere half
century, have changed America from a place “that offered decent
opportunity for all the kids in town” into a place that is increasingly
divided between those who have almost everything, and those who have
almost nothing — and who see no way of changing that. It is about
consequences that have slashed the social fabric of the working class so
violently that in many, if not most, places, community, in any
meaningful sense of the word, no longer exists. 
“Our Kids” exposes these consequences, now found in towns all over
America. Putnam began this work in a deeply personal fashion. He begins
his study by returning to his hometown of Port Clinton, Ohio, which he
left upon high school graduation in 1959, and interviews both his
surviving classmates and the children of contemporary Port Clinton. What
he finds is deeply troubling. It is also the logical outcome of
neoliberal policies that have dominated American politics for decades. 
“Comparing Port Clinton kids in the 1950’s with Port Clinton kids
today,” Putnam writes, “the opportunity gap has widened dramatically,
partly because affluent kids now enjoy more advantages than affluent
kids then, but mostly because poor kids now are in much worse shape than
their counterparts then.” He finds the pattern in Port Clinton
replicated all over America: Atlanta; Orange County, California; Lower
Merion Township, Pennsylvania; Bend, Oregon. Wherever he looks, Putnam
confronts the same dire divisions and their consequent social

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