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Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis

Speaker: Professor Robert D. Putnam
When: 13:30, September 17, 2018 ~ 15:30, September 17, 2018
Where: Room 319, Xinjian Building, 1954 Huashan Road, Xuhui Campus of Shanghai Jiao Tong University

The United States was founded on the principle that “all men are created equal,” and that success in life should depend on one’s native talents and hard work, not on what one’s parents did or did not do. The last 40 years, however, have witnessed a growing disparity between that egalitarian ideal and the actual life prospects of rich and poor children. Many measures show a growing gap between rich kids and poor kids, beginning very early in life and accelerating as the children move through school. Rich and poor kids live increasingly segregated lives in their neighborhoods and schools. Rich parents provide expanding social and financial support to their children, whereas poor kids are more and more raised in dysfunctional homes, where parents are unable to provide similar support to their children. Practical reforms could narrow this growing “opportunity gap,” as Americans have done in earlier eras, but politically such reforms would require solidarity across class lines, solidarity that is badly lacking in US politics today.

Speaker biography:

Robert D. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard. Professor Putnam is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, and past president of the American Political Science Association. In 2006, Putnam received the Skytte Prize, the world's highest accolade for a political scientist, and in 2012, he received from President Obama the National Humanities Medal, the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities. The London Sunday Times has called him “the most influential academic in the world today.” Professor Putnam has written fifteen books, translated into twenty languages, including the best-selling books Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community and more recent book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (a groundbreaking examination of the growing opportunity gap in America). Putnam's 2010 book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites us, co-authored with David Campbell of Notre Dame, won the American Political Science Association's 2011 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for the best book on government, politics, or international affairs. His earlier book, Making Democracy Work, was praised by the Economist as "a great work of social science, worthy to rank alongside de Tocqueville, Pareto and Weber." Both Making Democracy Work and Bowling Alone are among the most cited publications in the social sciences worldwide in the last half century. Putnam consults widely with national leaders, including the last three American presidents and two past British prime ministers. He co-founded the Saguaro Seminar, bringing together leading thinkers and practitioners to develop actionable ideas for civic renewal.