There’s been a long-in-coming and pretty widespread panic about our nation’s demographics that looks something like this:
Our country’s is increasingly filling up with non-white, non-Christian, non-European, non-English-speaking, uneducated, differently-socialized, undereducated people. Soon, we won’t be able to keep our economy afloat, fund Social Security, maintain even a reasonable approximation of democratic institutions.
The effect is especially acute in places like Texas, New York and, of course, California, where I happen to live, but if you live anywhere with radio, TV, newspapers, online access, a barber shop or grocery store, I’m certain you’ve heard this point of view articulated too.
And, I guess, if you’re a part of the Christian, European, English-speaking part of America, it might not be a difficult thing to believe or, more correctly, be made to believe.
Now, I’ve read the studies and seen the data too, but I’ve recently seen evidence that leads me to a very different conclusion about our future.
Not long ago, I attended a dedication event for a new solar installation at Hartnell College, a community college in Salinas, the hub of a verdant agricultural valley in California. And I met the very kids who represent the bogeymen of the supposed demographic Armageddon posited, above.
They were nonwhite, mostly Latino. Families from Mexico and Central America. From households in which English is not the primary language. Parents are agricultural laborers or other non-skilled or semi-skilled workers without much formal education. The students I met were the first in their families to attend college.
And these kids talked with me about their experiences at Hartnell. They participate in hands-on research. One young lady is working with a team to find more efficient ways to water crops. A young man I met is working on developing robotic arms to clean and cool solar panels because, as he explained, they’re less efficient when they’re dirty or too hot. Several of the students were finishing their time at Hartnell and were transferring to schools in the high-powered University of California (UC) system, world-renowned Berkeley among them. I met a Hartnell alumnus who finished his B.S. in physics at UC and will start a Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the fall.
They were well-spoken and whip-smart, eager, informed. And they talked about their conscious work to grow and move into realms their parents couldn’t even have dreamed of for them, just a generation before.
If those students, and people like them, represent the future of California and, by extension, our country, then I can’t wait. Our future is bright. We’re in tremendous hands.
A link to an article in the Salinas Californian (including a nice video featuring some students) about Hartnell College is here.