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TV REVIEWS : Taking a Look at a 'Lost Generation'

July 28, 1993|DAVID SCHEIDERER

What's the biggest problem facing President Clinton and other leaders of this country? The budget? Health care reform? Saddam?

Maybe it's just decent jobs. On "The Brokaw Report" tonight (at 9 on Channels 4 and 6), NBC's Tom Brokaw makes a very persuasive case for the dilemma facing "The Lost Generation," the millions of young people who have not gone to college and cannot find meaningful, good-paying jobs.

There are perhaps 30 million of them in their late teens and early 20s for whom the American dream, which so motivated their parents, is a pipe dream. Brokaw interviews several such young people from around the country; their stories sound a grim warning of even more financial and social dislocations ahead.

Dave in Norwood, Ohio, figured he would work, as his father had, at the big General Motors plant in town. But, in 1987, the plant was closed. Dave has had three years of college but the only worthwhile "work" he can find is as a volunteer campus policeman. He is 22 years old, and still lives with his parents.

Brokaw's cameras visit the grunge music scene in Seattle, which he says is "a look, a sound and an attitude that says it all" for huge numbers of unemployed and disaffected young people.

And, of course, there are people like Justin in Phoenix who tried to exorcise his frustrations by going on a spending spree with a stolen credit card. He was caught and made restitution. A friend of his got four years in prison.

One of the central problems in the creation of "the lost generation" is that today's schools fail to teach real job skills--and those that try usually do so with dated equipment. ("The standard diploma has outlived its usefulness," says one educator.)

Brokaw does show some promising apprenticeship programs that give young people the experiences and encouragement to pursue careers--and a little spending money as well. But massive educational reform and job creation are the real answers.

Warns Secretary of Labor Robert Reich: "We are headed for a two-tier economy. It will fragment this nation."

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