« Algebra in 8th grade: What’s changed? | Main | 21st Century Educating »

AVID: A Social and Economic Imperative?

By Christopher Scott, Director II, Capital Region III AVID/CalSOAP, Sacramento County Office of Education

As the effects of the Great Recession continue to ripple across our nation, there is much chatter in the media regarding the widening gulf between society’s “haves” and “have-nots.” Television talk shows, online publications, and hard-copy print are rife with stories detailing the dismal economic prospects for our youth as everything from robotics to global outsourcing daily diminishes not just their broader career opportunities, but their chances for any employment that will support them beyond mere subsistence. The resulting negative impact on social mobility and the “hollowing out” of the middle class hardly bode well for the future of our democracy.

In the September 2011 issue of The Atlantic, the deputy managing editor and Princeton-educated author, Don Peck, addresses this situation head-on in the cover article “Can The Middle Class Be Saved,” excerpted from his recently released book, Pinched. In the Atlantic piece, Mr. Peck goes to great lengths to point out the trends and factors threatening the attainability of the American Dream. And while there is indeed some dire data, there is also hope, a hope which AVID explicitly fosters and, in literally thousands of individual cases, continues to bring to fruition.

Initially, Mr. Peck’s observations can certainly be disheartening. In one example, he cites professors Bradford Wilcox and Bruce Weinberg's research into the fundamental changes in the structure of the American family, and in particular the demographic shift toward a female majority in an increasing number of career fields and professions, symptomatic of the perceived difficulty that many males have in adapting to the 21st-Century workplace culture of collaboration and shared inquiry. Peck likewise references authors Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing’s The Big Sort, which details inequities precipitated by the clustering of skill-based communities and the increasingly specialized (and constantly evolving) expertise necessary for employment security and advancement. Weighing these and the many other factors involved, Peck observes that without either the ability to adapt to the changing modes and mindset of the global workplace or the possession of high-level, transferable skills, American youth, both male and female, will find it virtually impossible to gain entry to the middle class. Where does Peck see the doorway to such access? Through education.

Although in popular discourse the value of a college degree has recently come into question, Peck adamantly maintains that in spite of the initial costs, postsecondary education – the more the better -- remains the most viable (and valuable) key to social and economic independence. In addition to citing data that pegs the national unemployment rate (March 2011) of those with only a high school diploma at nearly three times that of four-year college graduates (12% vs. 4.5%), Peck maintains “on a relative basis, the return on a four-year degree is near its historic high.” Most succinctly, he states, “Without doubt, it is vastly better to have a college degree than to lack one.” This, of course, has been the AVID mantra for more than three decades. Huge policy issues abound, yes, but the AVID College Readiness System, with its WICOR-based academic skillset, its can-do, collaborative culture of resilience and self-determination, as well as its commitment to 21st-Century success for all students, can contribute considerably toward addressing the challenges laid out in Peck’s article.

So, just how can the middle class be saved? – One AVID student at a time is an excellent place to start.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (3)

Thanks for the link to The Atlantic article. Living in the oil boom area of Alberta Canada I can tell you simple wealth does not translate into an enlightened society. Our department just created a small training course for a local oil company and the oil field employeed subject experts we used each easily earn 10 times the combined wages of all of us on the course development crew. There's money in this area for just about any public service yet all we hear all day every day is news of cuts to education, cuts to services, etc. Our instructors and staff receive some of the worst pay in Canada--regardless of educational qualifications.

My point is, regardless of the statistics on higher educational accomplishments paying off in increased income, in an area where income isn't directly tied to education the "wealth of society" is simply measured in material goods. The values we are supposed to train into college students to make them better citizens are too fragile to withstand the lure of material junk. In education we like to tie the image of the well educated appreciator of life's finer values to financial success. We lure students with this simple math, "if you are smarter you'll be richer" but is that really the truth? Or maybe only part of the truth that needs more explanation?

Maybe we should change this to "if you were smarter you wouldn't put with the inequality and wealth concentration of a Medieval village and then all of us would be richer."

Thanks again for the link. I'll keep an eye on AVID, looks useful to our students.

Scott Johnson

February 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterScott Johnson


Thanks for your response. You are looking critically at what it means to be "educated," and you have redefined "wealth." In AVID, we are trying to teach students holistically, so they develop as people and as learners.

Please stay in touch. Your insights are profound.

Rob Gira
Executive Vice President
AVID Center

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob Gira

Thanks for the reply Rob. The booming economy where I live is the exception and the proof of there being something missing in the "well paying job as only goal" formula came to me from a group of students committed to becoming Power Engineers. "Once we're certified we can live someplace nice and just come here for the well paying shifts." That sounds like a holistic approach to me.

These students see a direct link between education and self-determination (to put a fancy term to it). Their hard work earns them options that others may not have. Having control over their lives and knowing how it came to be through their own hard work is one of those "soft" benefits of college that are hard to promote but I think the students "get it".

All my life I've worked with people that weren't working in the fields they were educated in. And maybe they weren't earning the bucks they imagined their college or university degrees should have guaranteed. Alternately, they were working where others without "higher education" were knocked flat.

thanks again,


February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterScott Johnson

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>