Educating for Employment

An Op-Ed column in the New York Times this week repeats once again the old refrain that America’s educational attainment is slipping badly, attempting to tie that to the loss of our economic superiority. Bob Herbert in Brains on Hold tries to connect the lack of a college degree to a lack of economic success (it IS the College Board he’s quoting, by the way). We’ve been fed a steady diet of self-serving rhetoric by the academics whose financial well-being is directly connected to more and more college students and more and more tax dollars. However, recent news articles belie that argument: from today’s Business Insider:

“By education level, the less educated appear to be the big gainers, with a 1.8 percentage-point increase in EPOPs for those without a high school degree. Those with some college had a 0.8 percentage points decline in their EPOPs, and those with college degrees had a 1.1 percentage points drop to 72.7 percent, the lowest level of the downturn.”

This is the second article I’ve seen in the last month relating that the jobs gains are coming in the less-than-high school demographic. Unfortunately for those who wish to ‘plan’ our economy, develop a ‘new’ economy and create the myth that every American can be the CEO and the workers can all be in the low-wage third world, the economic melt-down proves this cant happen. Wealth creation in a society comes from production of a value-added product, not strictly process: although developing processes can make the rare few wealthy, it does nothing for the majority of society. A rising tide may lift all boats-but only those who own a boat will benefit. The rest will drown-we’re facing that now.

A great many of these production jobs don’t require a college degree. What they require is a solid background in reading, basic math and problem-solving (logic). Those who insist one needs higher education to operate computerized equipment in a factory setting show a total lack of understanding of production: machine operators do NOT program systems . . they push the button-usually the STOP button – when something goes wrong!  The worker with the street smarts and the ability to reason may be able to fix minor problems-but he still doesn’t need any degree. What he needs is a basic understanding of the equipment and common logic. The guy with the higher education writes the programs, corrects errors and diagnoses the problem-and there is ONE of him, compared to many simple operators.

Those companies that advertise the need for a degree to work a line assembly job are simply reflecting the terrible state of our K-12 educational system and pandering to the current government line. If they can use an illiterate or marginally literate worker, they can easily hire one of the millions of illegal aliens working factory jobs in this country-and they do. Therefore, our basically illiterate high school graduates are often cut out of the job by someone who shouldn’t be here to begin with, will likely tolerate lower wages and wont complain no matter how badly he’s treated. Local school systems that are devouring our tax dollars need a complete change of philosophy. They don’t require new textbooks every year, or computers in K-8 or new educational theories. They need to teach the basics effectively and thoroughly. Forbidding calculators up to the seventh grade and dumping new math teaching schemes would do more for future college entry than anything else . . .except perhaps a stronger emphasis on reading and English grammar. When you look at high-achieving Asian school systems, you wont see social engineering . . you’ll see actual rote learning of the basics. Throwing money at the schools simply assures that teachers and administrators have great health insurance, good pensions and plenty of daily perks. What they DONT have is a clear understanding of their role as educators NOT social workers and socialist ‘change-agents’.

Whether this is intentional is matter of conjecture. Certainly books like “The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America”-available to read online at http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/ and “The Cloning of The American Mind” (B.K.Eakman-out of print but available used) show that this is an on-going, long-term process and we are harvesting its fruits now. It can be turned around however: “Crazy Like A Fox”, the story of Ben Chavez’ turn-around of a poorly performing minority school in Oakland and the success of Jaime Escalante-featured in the  film. “Stand and Deliver”-who taught calculus expertise to a large group of poorly performing, primarily minority students-prove it can be done and give a blueprint for doing so. Their tough-love approach is similar to the traditional education system most of the over-40, non-urban population were educated under and which produced the most practically educated population in the world and a driving force in the world economy.

Improving our young workforce doesn’t require more degrees-it requires literate, problem-solving young people with a good work ethic and far less attention to social media, video games and ‘diversity’. It requires giving kids a reason to feel proud of themselves and their country-not force-fed Marxist-oriented ‘history’ a la Howard Zinn (whose FBI files were released last week under FOIA and yes-who was a big-C Communist).* It doesn’t require tons of green junk science which is technically a matter of faith and therefore a religion-it requires a better understanding of basic sciences and physics. It requires an ability to research the truth, the development of an internal, self-actualizing reward system and the fostering of curiosity and joy of learning to create the desire to learn more.

Perhaps the most useful thing our colleges and universities could do at this point is to stop pandering to the poorly-prepared new entrants and demand the standards of 50 years ago in basic proficiency. They can also root out the social engineering aspects so endemic in our teacher’s colleges-to the point that those with a more conservative viewpoint are forced to sue to attain their credentials.  If we are going to require a teaching certificate to teach, then lets make that certificate valid in education, not social engineering. Instead of diversity, we need full inclusion-and not special privileges. Administrators could start by reading ANY of the works of Sol Stern, education reform writer, and editor of New York’s City Journal/ Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow. And we need a full return on tax dollars spent on university research: no selling the patent to some large firm who off-shores the  production aspects but keeping the technology here to create jobs and thus wealth. We also need to devote more funds to vocational training . . not everyone is college material and shouldn’t be considered as such. We need tool-and-die makers, mechanics  and skilled tradesmen. But most of all, we need to undo the damage to today’s parents who’ve been fed this line of educational bull-puckey, like universal pre-school, diversity immersion, kindergarten sex-ed and that only a credentialed ‘teacher’ can teach their child. The claim that there is so much more to learn in today’s world fall short: without the basics, the additional subject matter is essentially useless. They need also disabuse themselves of the notion that there is any shame in getting one’s hand dirty or that any work is better than any other work in the grand scheme of society.

It is really frightening to see so many people devoid of logic and critical thinking that they cant see the overt fallacy in such things as wind, solar and light-rail, green jobs, the ‘knowledge economy’, all of which benefit the few for an ideology that is faulty to begin with. These all cause the further impoverishment and greatly added expense to the many, causing the accelerated degradation of our already struggling economy. Yet this is the legacy of our ideology-driven education system: few can perform the critical thinking functions necessary to project any of these new buzz-word theories to their logical economic dead ends. The really scary thing is, as these big movers and shakers enrich themselves at our expense, they have most of the under-40 crowd so brain-scrambled that they cant see they’re being screwed. Perhaps that’s the real intent of this educational fiasco to begin with. After all Keynes said, “In the end, we’re all dead.” It looks like we followed his theories to their inevitable conclusion, both in economics and in education.

* For the ideologues who will seize on this sentence as proof of my ignorance; your own education is sadly lacking. There is very little difference in final practice between Marxist and Communist systems – one devolves into the other. They both usually start with Socialism-which is NOT strictly an economic system but entire societal system directed from the top down.  Those that dream of Che-style revolutions would do well to remember that they all end up with a ruling class-and that your chances of being part of it are remote. As for the Marxist and Communist rhetoric: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”. I rest my case.