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Has the 'American Dream' Changed in Bernards?

As everyone continues to cope with the struggling economy, Patch will examine its impact in town.

We're excited to inaugurate a new series for our Patch Readers: "Dispatches: The Changing American Dream."

Every day, the national media is full of stories about how American families, businesses and neighbors are adjusting to these trying times. There are so many changes happening so fast that it's dizzying: national debates about unemployment, foreclosures, debt, religion, government and private enterprise all touch on fundamental ways in which we see ourselves and our communities. At Patch, we want to explore that conversation on a daily basis so we can better understand how our neighbors are adjusting to the challenges and opportunities that surround us.

We don't think there's one American Dream, but a multitude of American Dreams, which a multitude of people are working toward. Looking out across nearly almost 900 Patch sites, we see businesses holding their breath deciding whether to expand; college graduates returning home because they can't find jobs and senior citizens bringing boarders into their homes to help pay their bills. We also see bold new volunteer efforts, inspiring stories of local businesses that succeed because they innovated and locals who've taken these trying times as a signal to engage more, not less, in their government.

At the purely local level, we want to know where we, as Bernards neighbors, fit along these fault lines.

Nationally, there's a debate about what government-building efforts are "shovel-ready."

Nationally, there's a debate about the education system, which is at the center of our dreams of a better life for our children.

Locally, Bernards Township, and the nearby Somerset Hills, have always been known for the high quality of their school districts, and particularly for their high-achieving high schools.

In fact, many people cite the schools as a primary reason for moving to the area. Are those high standards now threatened by cuts in state funding, and have the contributions from groups like PTOs and parent organizations, specifically in Bernards, substantially filled in the gap?

Will increased aid from the state this year help the matter, even if funding still is about half of what it was two years ago? And does that funding really help if the governor pressures districts to use it to "give back to the taxpayers?"

"Dispatches" will be built upon the compelling vignettes and snapshots we unearth across all of our Patch sites.

And, of course, we want your help: Tell us what issues and what stories in Bernards go to the heart of your American Dream.

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