Collection • August 19, 2021

The Edgerton Essays

Perspectives from the Working Class

Introducing the Edgerton Essays

The goal of these essays is to help inform policymakers and pundits about what matters most and why to the vast majority of Americans who have no day-to-day connection to our political debates.

Foreword to the Edgerton Essays

People want to be heard, especially people who are rarely heard. And most Americans are rarely heard.

A Quiet Destruction

The problem is not that government is doing too much or too little, but rather that it is utterly failing in those key tasks that must rightfully be its focus.

The Relationships That Don’t Fit on a Spreadsheet

There is no price tag that could be placed on those cherished times. Do our nation’s think tanks consider those moments when devising policy?

On Family Policy, Proceed with Great Caution

The new American Compass “Home Building” blueprint on policies for buttressing the American family was thrilling to read, and it reminded me of the earnestness and passion of me and my friends 35 years ago.

Making It Easier to Make Ends Meet

6 a.m. is much too early for this tired mama. But nonetheless, I hear that little pitter-patter of onesie-covered feet coming down the hall into our room. With a soft “Mom, can I have a banana?” my day begins, whether I’m ready for it or not.

“Family Policy” Should Include Caring for Maternal Health

Lots of people have been talking about “family policy.” Let’s not forget that family policy starts with mothers.

Enabling Families to Support Each Other

We need politicians to put families first and focus on taking care of us when hardship strikes, rather than taking care of those who are already doing just fine. Government should be about strengthening families to support each other.

Do They Even Know Who They Represent?

It would be nice if politicians did their job and represented us. Half the time I don’t even know if they know the first thing about the places they claim to represent, much less the people who live here. What is the point of having a democracy if nobody will listen to you?

Don’t Talk to Us Like We’re Idiots

There’s an easy way to tell when politicians think we’re idiots. They have this way of dancing around the answer when they are asked a question, when even a simple “yes” or “no” would do the trick.

What I Wish Our Politicians Knew

When politicians inflame the passions that divide us, it might lead to a boost in the polls, but it leaves us feeling more and more frustrated with our friends, our neighbors, and even our own family members.

Social Security Was Supposed to Be Secure

I thought Social Security was supposed to be secure. But we often are warned that the dollars allocated for this purpose are running out. Why are politicians so eager to spend money on everything but maintaining this contract?

Does Anyone in Power Notice When Government Services Fail?

Take a deep breath and hold it for ten seconds. Imagine doing that over and over again, 31,536,000 times, not knowing where your children were. That’s ten years—or as long as my daughter was separated from her two disabled sons after their non-custodial father abducted them.

COVID’s Toll on the American Dream

The American Dream—people have hung on to those three little words for decades, passed them down for generations. But it’s hard to see how we can believe in the dream right now.

How Essential Are the ‘Email Job’ Caste?

Those HR and other middle management types make “busy work” for themselves, though it is darkly ironic that the “busyness” in which they are engaged often results in making my work more difficult and time-consuming.

Our Policies Are Failing Working Mothers

I love being a mother more than anything—I just wish there were better options to make it more achievable for working women who dream of having their own babies someday.

A Dream Achieved—Through Mere Luck

My American Dream feels stolen, like I purchased it with the blood of brothers and enemies.

When Work Doesn’t Seem to Pay

If you talk to anyone in poverty, you’ll probably hear a story like mine. We aren’t afraid to work hard, we just want to know there’s a reward at the end of the journey.

When Student Loans Pay for Nothing but Palm Trees

What we gave our children (and paid dearly for) was a mountain of debt and no job opportunities to be had. So much for the American Dream.

The American Dream Isn’t Dead, It’s Just Misunderstood

In order to fulfill your dreams, you must aspire to be what you desire. That is the American Dream, to me. And I think some people don’t understand what fulfilling that American Dream can take.

Where Do Parents Go When Public Schools Go ‘Woke’?

Parents who live their lives according to religious principles should be able to find a school in which they are welcomed, not attacked or undermined.

Moving Beyond Surviving to Thriving

I fear we live in a world where we assume people don’t want better for themselves or are simply taking advantage of resources due to lack of motivation. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Conservation, Farming, and the Wisdom of Our Elders

Without careful management, large-scale farming might ignore our responsibility to pass on this earth better than we found it.

Not Every Family Wants a Big Yard

Striving for “self-sufficiency” through a typical single-family house can mean ignoring the blessings that life in a community can bring and can lead to feeling alone or isolated.

Conclusion to the Edgerton Essays

These essays captured the unfiltered thoughts of working-class Americans in all their complicated diversity.

Overview

Today’s public square is too often closed to those without a narrow set of credentials. Politicians and pundits in Washington are consumed with ideological battles far removed from the day-to-day concerns of American workers and their families, and often seem incapable of even understanding them. Our policy debates are poorer for it, our policymakers less informed, and our fellow citizens excluded.

The Edgerton Essays are a joint project of American Compass and the Ethics and Public Policy Center, featuring working-class Americans sharing their perspectives on what they wish policymakers knew about the challenges facing their families and communities. The goal of the essays goal is to help inform policymakers and pundits about what matters most and why to the vast majority of Americans who have no day-to-day connection to our political debates, focusing especially on those who have not earned a college degree.

The Edgerton Essays are named for Norman Rockwell’s famous 1943 painting, “Freedom of Speech.” Rockwell depicted Jim Edgerton, a farmer in their small town, rising to speak and being respectfully listened to by his neighbors. That respectful, democratic spirit is too often missing today, and what we’re hoping to cultivate with this series.

Download the Full Collection (PDF)
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