"Human Capital"?: Education, Economic Opportunity, and the Roots of the Twenty-first Century Political Divide in America
Jon Shelton

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

Primary Discipline

Human Capital: Education, Economic Opportunity, and the Roots of the Twenty-First Century Political Divide in America, seeks to show how the relationship between education and economic opportunity has become increasingly fundamental in understanding the basic political divisions emergent in the United States since the 1970s. My research for this project traces two interrelated stories: first, the growth of the notion over the twentieth century that the education system (from kindergarten through the university) should primarily serve to enhance the ââ?¬Å?human capitalââ?¬Â of American workers, and second, national and state Democratic leadersââ?¬â?¢ increasing embrace of education as the most important avenue for economic security in a globalizing economy. Centering on the history of the Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio, Human Capital explains how this trajectory has alienated many working Americans who have been left out of the so-called ââ?¬Å?knowledge economy.ââ?¬Â
About Jon Shelton
Jon Shelton is associate professor of democracy and justice studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he teaches courses on American education, labor, and politics. His first book, Teacher Strike! Public Education and the Making of a New American Political Order (University of Illinois Press, 2017), explains how contentious urban teacher strikes in the late 1960s, 70s, and 80s highlighted fundamental contradictions in the New Deal order, an important part of the explanation for the realignment of American politics over the past forty years. Based on an award-winning dissertation, Teacher Strike! won the International Standing Conference for the History of Education?s first book award in 2018. Shelton?s work has also been featured in the Washington Post, Dissent, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Journal of Social History, Journal of Policy History, LABOR: Studies in Working Class History, and other publications. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Maryland-College Park.

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