Enshrined in the very preamble to the United States constitution, in the words Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is a powerful idea that has come to define the United States. That anyone who lives here, regardless of the station into which they were born, has the right to and can pursue and attain their version of a full free and happy life. That ability to move from the station into which one was born to another is otherwise known as social mobility. And in America a college education has long been deemed the chief vehicle through which that mobility is attained. But does college work? Does it truly provide real opportunity for young people, who want to improve themselves and their prospects? Or is it simply a rigged game designed to protect the elites who have power and exclude everyone else.
On this episode, we explore these questions with Paul Tough. Paul is a father of two sons and a New York Times bestselling author. In his new book, The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us, he examines the American system of colleges and universities, how it helps and hinders our young people. Paul has been writing and speaking about education, parenting, inequality, and success for a long time. He is the author of three previous books including the best selling, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. He has worked as an editor at the New York Times Magazine and Harper's Magazine. He's a contributing writer to This American Life. And his writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times among others.