In order to do well in the world, young children—no matter how bright, no matter how capable—must learn essential skills. There are three places to learn them: at home, in school, and on the job.

Yet amazingly, public policies are interfering with all three of these opportunities. Even more amazing, the people who write the most and talk the most about inequality are in the vanguard in killing all hope for disadvantaged children.

Take the job market. In years past, summer jobs were often the first jobs for millions of teenagers. They were the place where young men and women learned essential skills that let them climb up the ladder of economic opportunity. After all, if you don’t get to the first rung, you are unlikely to achieve rung two or three. Yet last year, less than half of teenagers seeking a job were able to find one. Many aren’t even looking. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the July 2014 participation rate for 16- to 24-year-olds was 17.0 percentage points below the peak rate for that month 15 years ago (77.5%).