chapter  9
14 Pages

The engagement gap

Social mobility and extracurricular participation among American youth 1
ByKaisa Snellman, Jennifer M. Silva, Carl B. Frederick, Robert D. Putnam

Public education was originally designed to be a great equalizer in American society, redistributing opportunities to children from less advantageous backgrounds and thus increasing social mobility. Extracurricular activities have long been seen as a way to enrich the public sphere by helping raise young children to be leaders and citizens who participate in democratic governance, exhibit teamwork and grit, and bridge both social and economic divides. The growing gap observed in extracurricular opportunities is a hallmark of the trend toward privatizing childhood: it is evident that concern for the well-being of children generally has shriveled to the point where such concern applies only to one's own offspring. This chapter considers how the growth in the "engagement gap" might be reversed. If people are concerned with enhancing social mobility, the increasing socioeconomic gap in extracurricular participation calls for urgent action from schools, parents, and policy-makers.