Thursday, July 20, 2017

Family support vs. public policy

JD Vance ponders at the close of his book, "Hillbilly Elegy," whether there is a public policy that can correct/assist/compensate for his disastrous, difficult childhood. Why did he make it from the socioeconomic "hillybilly" bottom rung of the culture to the top--high school, university, Yale, law career, good marriage, high income--when so many don't?

He attributes a great deal of his success to his grandparents (he took their surname as an adult) who were a stable presence, and even his mother with her drug problems, many husbands and revolving door of boyfriends instilled in him the importance of education and learning. His older sister always protected and advised him, several aunts and uncles opened their homes and loved him through the tough spots. Even when he didn't follow them, he had good role models. "I was often surrounded by caring and kind men. . . Remove any of these people from the equation, and I'm probably screwed."

But he also acknowleges the tough, hillbilly, working class culture as giving him and others he knew the strength to work out solutions when the main stream culture and elites were totally foreign to them. For instance, if he hadn't lied for his mother when he was 12, he could have gone into foster care, removing him from all the people who loved him and helped him succeed.

After a successful career in California, Vance has returned to Columbus (he's an OSU graduate) to start a non-profit to address some of the problems like job training, the opioid crisis in Ohio and the crumbling social structures. It is reported his next book is on the decline of community churches.

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