Esquire: The War Against Young Americans

Oh, this one is good.

“Let’s say you just graduated from high school.

College, right? You have to go to college. That’s not just what your career counselor told you. That’s in the numbers. If you go to college, you’re significantly less likely to lose your job. The pay of college graduates has risen over the past twenty-five years and everybody else’s pay has declined. Which curve do you want to be on?

And yet, at the exact moment when an education has never been more necessary, education is increasingly out of reach. From 1980 on, the price of attending a four-year college has risen by 128 percent. While the price has spiked, the quality has tanked. Students at college in 2003 did two-thirds the homework that students in 1961 did.”

“Youth should be the only issue of the 2012 election, because all the subsidiary issues — inequality, the rising class system in America, the specter of decline, mass unemployment, the growing debt — are all fundamentally about the war against Read more

The Awl: Women Writing About Real Shit (take note, The Atlantic)

I love this

“My parents had the same struggles, maybe worse, as twenty-somethings starting a family and a business in the ’80s, facing a recession and a bleaker economy in the mining towns of northern Minnesota. What is new is the myth of the educated middle class as automatic recipients of middle class incomes. What’s new is the assumption that college is some great equalizer (was it ever?), that  family-of-origin, economic backgrounds, and old-fashioned connections are just extras. These seem to be the same general assumptions that sweep all young, urban, PBR-sipping kids like me into sitcom caricatures of “poor people,” or, with the right zip code and cocktail preferences, aspiring Carrie Bradshaws or Hannah Horvaths.”

and this

“Wool cheerleader skirt from Opening Ceremony, more than $100.  Because a wool cheerleader skirt is a totally appropriate thing for an adult to own.  ”Simple Basics for Winter: A Wool Cheerleader Skirt,” Lucky magazine does not ever say. I blame this one on going shopping with rich enablers, lovely but irresponsible people who also encouraged me, during the same shopping trip, to purchase a 3.1 Philip Lim cashmere sweater-blouse that was adorable and genuinely luxurious and which I left hanging in an inadequately defended closet, the result being that it was consumed almost 100% by moths.  The moths refused to eat this skirt. We can only assume that they held it in contempt.”

and this

“As the children age (and multiply), the moms are burdened by the responsibility—to work, hold onto their homes, watch over their kids’ social and academic lives. The boredom turns to terror. You can almost clock the moment it begins, past preschool but before kindergarten. The childbearing is over, the breastfeeding in the past, the sling donated to Housing Works. It’s the moment when a mom dresses as a Harajuku girl for Halloween, or there’s a full bar at a four-year-old’s birthday party, or two ladies step out of book group to smoke on the stoop. It’s blowjob gestures at cocktail parties followed by a-little-too hysterical laughter. It’s the mother who says, “Mommy needs an Advil because she stayed up too late last night.” It’s fortieth birthday parties at karaoke bars.”

Sullivan Is Reinstated At My Alma Mater

Just in my inbox:

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors today acted to reinstate Teresa A. Sullivan as president of the University.

“The past two weeks have been trying for all of us in the University community,” Sullivan said. “While this period of uncertainty has been difficult, I believe that those with opposing viewpoints have been well-intentioned, acting only with the best interests of the University in mind.” Read more

Detroit Diary: Initial Thoughts

I’ve been in Detroit since Thursday night. Overwhelmed by so many things to do. The people: friendly, candid, intelligent, and interested in everything. The landscape: like dwelling in an architectural depiction of everything America has been–skyscrapers and factories–and is–empty homes and racialized inequality–and seeing what it’s becoming–gardens and collaborations, tensions between old ways and new ways. Young people are making Detroit vibrate with their creativity. Projects are unfurling everywhere; writers and artists and critics are generally unrestricted by boundaries that exist in most cities, but not in Detroit.

Things that matter much more in other cities–image, seniority, and money–

Excuse the “ruin porn.”

don’t factor in here, where there is a smaller and more connected creative class (I sense that a review of Richard Florida’s argument will be necessary in one of my future blog posts). And people are taking advantage of Detroit’s unique offerings: the extra space, added leisure time, intimate network, and opportunity to make their marks. Twenty-somethings are leaders in scenarios where normally they would be in the background. But the new way of doing things–social enterprise and foodie pop-ups–is clashing with the established nonprofit approach to ameliorating inequality. People talk about an old guard who don’t quite get what the deal is with things like crowdfunding. Read more

And the topic we all love to debate/sob over: student debt.

As student debt reaches one trillion dollars this month, less than two years after education debt surpassed all over forms of debt for the first time in U.S. history, I ask, in a two-part series for Guernica magazine, how did we get here, and is there anything to be done?

  • Part I discusses my personal experience with student debt and emphasizes the magnitude of the problem, particularly since Sallie Mae has become a powerful institution that has helped take away bankruptcy protection on student lending.
  • Part II looks at the economic philosophy surrounding student lending, mainly the Reaganite idea that education is an individual, not social good, and asks what solutions we might look toward–and what shifts society would do well to make, ideologically–as the problem reaches new heights.

Thanks for reading. As always, your comments are welcome on the Guernica website!

Occupy Springs Forward: An Update On The Last Few Months, And What’s In Store

Will Occupy make a comeback this spring?

To readers of mainstream media, it would seem that Occupy Wall Street had been hibernating for the winter—because they weren’t getting much press. In fact, Occupiers spent the winter working hard on movement-building, strategizing, planning, and dealing with internal problems. Here’s an update on how the New York branch of the Occupy movement has been preparing for the Occupy Spring, which is likely to put OWS back in the public spotlight with direct actions, marches, a national strike on May Day, and other tactics means to show government and Wall Street that citizens won’t stand for their undemocratic profiteering.

Back in winter…things were tough:

After the eviction—which was emotionally-draining and, in terms of movement-building, logistically challenging–Occupiers rallied on N17 (November 17th, in “Action Culture,” is nick-named N17), with a massive march in New York City and parallel actions across the country. But in December, it became more difficult to access Zuccotti Park (renamed Liberty Square by the movement), as Brookfield Properties’ security forces became stricter and enforced a curfew at night. But meetings went on, at the public atrium at 60 Wall Street and in other locations, as well as over the InterOccupy communication system—where people anywhere join a weekly conference call to discuss what their local Occupy chapters are up to–and plans took shape for an Occupy Spring, slated to be the public resurgence of the movement.

As winter deepened, Occupy faced some internal difficulties. Many people were lodged in churches throughout Manhattan, but others were sleeping in fast-food restaurants because the churches had curfews and restrictions; the lack of a physicaloccupation was demoralizing to many. On D17, there was an attempt to occupy a park owned by Trinity Church, who has generally been an ally of OWS; it ended in arrests amidst much debate about whether Occupy was pushing it too far this time. Read more

Design Impact Reflects on its First Year Launching a Social Enterprise in India

Design Impact's fellows apply a grassroots design approach within community organizations in India

At Dowser, we were excited to recently reconnect with the leadership team of Design Impact at the end of their pilot year launching an innovative social enterprise across India. Per the name, Design Impact addresses social problems using the toolkits of design in a grassroots way. Ramsey Ford and Kate Hanisian, the co-directors of Design Impact, have been working with small businesses in India to develop sustainability-produced, fair trade products for international markets.

In November, Hanisian and Ford were joined in India by six international fellows with design backgrounds, who received funding from Design Impact to work with community-based organizations, fusing design and social enterprise. When Dowser spoke to Ford, he and Hanisian were in Thiruchuli, Tamil Nadu, where they were working to develop a fair trade soap that is now being sold in stores in the U.S., including Whole Foods. Ford shared some takeaways from their pilot year, as well as thoughts about their vision moving forward.

Dowser: What’s the update on the products you are developing?

Ford: We have launched one project—we’re selling fair trade glycerin soaps—the glycerin is made locally with biodiesel energy, made from a local nut, and we’re hoping to scale through a connection through Whole Foods. We worked with ODAM to put together a shipment of about 1600 soaps that arrived in the States in December last year. We’re starting in some Ohio stores, and then got into our first Whole Foods just a few weeks ago—and as a small producer, we start out in a store or two, and if we do well we’ll move up to regional or national. Sustainable production level would be about 1000 soaps a month—so that would work if we were in about thirty Whole Foods.

How are you determining whether the soaps qualify as ‘Fair Trade’?

One of the reasons the village wanted to do this was to support the biodiesel program, but another was to create good jobs. The product is not certified fair trade-you have to be in products for about 1.5 years before you apply. But we put into practice fair trade—the primary one is that wages are about four times what people might make as agricultural labors–$5 a day, roughly, as opposed to $1.50 per day. And the women who work there have rights, they have a say in how things go, and they have benefits. The women who are working there are happy to have the jobs, and ODAM is excited to have the project—it’s a profitable intervention and for them, it’s been a big learning experience, and they’re trying to look at other places where they can do similar work, and find  ways to use social enterprises to deal with local problems. Read more