Longform on the Issues: Jobs for Tomorrow, Jobs for Today

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WNYC asked Longform to pick great stories as background reading for our 30 Issues in 30 Days series. These are stories that help illuminate and humanize the important issues this election year. Part One of 30 Issues looks at unemployment, manufacturing, the future of education, and the victims of the great recession.

For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s app to read the latest picks.


Ryan D'Agostino | Esquire | March 2012

The stories of four men who’ve lost their jobs and desperately want new ones.

Nothing gives a man more of a sense of purpose, and there remains nothing more dignified, than hauling yourself out of bed and going to work. But some of those jobs that went away in the recession — some whole professions — are never coming back. That's what the men in this story are facing.

Making It In America

Adam Davidson | The Atlantic | January 2012

The story of Standard Motor Products, a 92-year-old family-run auto parts manufacturer, and the transformation of U.S. industry.

Across America, many factory floors look radically different than they did 20 years ago: far fewer people, far more high-tech machines, and entirely different demands on the workers who remain. The still-unfolding story of manufacturing’s transformation is, in many respects, that of our economic age. It’s a story with much good news for the nation as a whole. But it’s also one that is decidedly less inclusive than the story of the 20th century.

The Educational Lottery

Steven Brint | Los Angeles Review of Books | November 2011

How American higher education became a summer camp doubling as a debt factory.

The advance of the education gospel has been shadowed from the beginning by critics who claim that education, despite our best efforts, remains a bastion of privilege. For these critics, it is not that the educational gospel is wrong (a truly democratic, meritocratic school system would, if it existed, be a good thing); it is that the benefits of education have not yet spread evenly to every corner of American society, and that the trend toward educational equality may be heading in the wrong direction.

Bad Education

Malcolm Harris | N+1 | April 2011

How the student loan industry mirrors the pre-bubble housing industry.

If the comparative model is valid, then the lessons of the housing crash nag: What happens when the kids can't pay? The federal government only uses data on students who default within the first two years of repayment, but its numbers have the default rate increasing every year since 2005.

Everything You've Heard About Failing Schools Is Wrong

Kristina Rizga | Mother Jones | August 2012

A year inside a "low-performing" school.

Judging from what I'd read about "troubled" schools, I'd expected noisy classrooms, hallway fights, and disgruntled staff. Instead I found a welcoming place that many students and staff called "family." After a few weeks of talking to students, I failed to find a single one who didn't like the school, and most of the parents I met were happy too. Mission's student and parent satisfaction surveys rank among the highest in San Francisco.

The Harlem Project

Paul Tough | New York Times Magazine | June 2004

Paul Tough's classic profile of Geoffrey Canada's charter-school experiment in Harlem.

At a moment when each new attempt to solve the problem of poverty seems to fall apart, one after the next, what is going on in central Harlem is one of the biggest social experiments of our time. Social scientists and poverty advocates are watching carefully to see if Canada can pull it off. Many are skeptical; they have seen too many ambitious anti-poverty programs collapse because of budget overruns or administrative hubris, and Canada acknowledges that his work has just begun. But the sheer scale of Canada's project has created a palpable excitement among foundation officials, poverty scholars and business leaders.

Brian Lehrer Show producer Jody Avirgan is also a contributing editor to Longform.org. Is there a story that we missed? Comment below or .

And be sure to check out lots more great stories in the Longform archives.