Running Through the High School Finish Line

Type: Article
Topics: Equity, School Administrator Magazine

May 01, 2024

My View

One of the many skills my wife teaches her high school track athletes is the concept of running through the finish line. She explains that picking a target beyond the final mark helps the runner avoid losing momentum as they approach the final stretch of the race.

While this approach is essential for every sprinter to adopt, a similar perspective also must be conveyed to our nation’s high school students. Setting one’s sights on a target beyond the diploma no longer can be an aspirational goal for some. It must become an essential reality for all.

Many consider the American Dream fully realized when adult children fare better financially than their parents. For decades, this had been a reality for most families across our great nation. In fact, almost 90 percent of children born in the 1940s grew up to earn more than their parents when adjusted for inflation, according to the Brookings Institution.

However, as Harvard researcher Raj Chetty points out, over the past 50 years this measure of the American Dream has been in precipitous decline. Remarkably, using the same metrics, only 50 percent of adults today will grow up to earn more than their parents, and future changes to the workforce will likely see this trend continue to fall unless we act.

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Wade Smith


Walla Walla, Wash.