Inspired by Matthew Desmond's 'Evicted'

March 8, 2019

The book "Evicted" by Matthew Desmond was an inspiration to John Wiley, spurring some deep thinking about poverty and the cycles that keep families locked in a state of hopelessness that can span generations. Wiley began purchasing hundreds of copies of the book and handing them out to business and community leaders across the Fox Cities in east-central Wisconsin. The experience led him to writing his "Bottom Half Teens" book. He writes, "One of the frequent problems mentioned was that about half of our high school-aged teens were reasonably well behaved but not engaged in their education. As such, these young men and women had only a loosely defined purpose in life and few real goals for their own future. The consequences point to young adult lives that are poorly prepared for the challenges of work, family life, and successful citizenry after high school graduation." So what can we do to give those kids who don't aspire to go to college a more reasonable chance to come into the workforce after high school prepared to succeed? Wiley's book has some ideas worth exploring, including a massive expansion of apprenticeship opportunities for high school students. But that would take an ongoing commitment from business leaders, schools and the community. Can we do that? As parents, employers, citizens, educators and students, we need to talk about it.

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