This socio-political reality is dangerous for our polity, as it can lead to what the nation just witnessed around the 2020 elections: negative partisanship, the death of real debate, and further institutional polarization. Trust in government and institutions is remarkably low, which weakens government effectiveness and America’s global standing. My Gen Z students, along with many older Americans, recognize that this system is unstable and makes social progress untenable.
To begin addressing these issues, government should create a truly inclusive post-grad style program — including college graduates along trade and high school diploma holders — and send members of Gen Z across the country for extended periods of time to work, live, play, and educate in various environments. Program members would engage in genuine diversity training to learn how to engage, empathize, and work with the patchwork of diversity in the nation.
Living in varied communities may be hard for participants. But except for those perhaps 10-20 percent of Americans who are on the ideological extremes and really believe that they are battling for the soul of America, most Americans are far more open than it may first appear. In fact, recently collected data from the Survey Center on American Life shows 79 percent of Americans believe it is possible to compromise with people who disagree with you. This new program could help people find common ground and begin dialogues about shared outlooks, values, and the nation’s collective future.