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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Watching a graduation awards program at a parochial high school last week, I smiled with the soon-to-be grads, most of whom seemed giddy with anticipation at the next phase of their lives. It’s the season for those rituals — the ceremonies, the parties, the congratulatory toasts.

The program that I attended involved sons and daughters of the middle class, young men and women who have benefited from homes where, at the very least, parents have the means and the motivation to pay tuition. That suggests a level of family support that bodes well for the grads as they go on to college and careers.

They’ve grown up in homes where education was valued, where a high school diploma was expected, where post-secondary study was anticipated. They have been given an enormous advantage over students from poorer homes, where parents lack financial resources and finishing high school may seem a challenge. The economic landscape is friendlier territory for those who not only obtain a high school diploma but also a degree beyond that.

But even that post-secondary education is no guarantee of a steady job or career. Today’s job market is not easy to navigate, no matter how many degrees you’ve got under your belt. The economy has changed dramatically in the last 20 years — it’s not just the aftermath of the Great Recession, but also structural change — and we’re still struggling to get used to it. The American Dream is not what it once was.

Throughout the nation’s history, Americans have expected that each generation will be more prosperous than the last, that children will be more financially secure than their parents, that the economy will continue to grow to accommodate any man or woman willing to work hard. To be sure, that’s never been strictly true. But it’s been true enough to allow the mythology to thrive.

Not anymore. Globalization has pushed industry to countries, such as Bangladesh and Vietnam, that lacked an industrial base as recently as the 1980s. That means that factory jobs that were once plentiful in the United States have fled, and they’re unlikely ever to return.

  • Dominick Vila

    The global economy, and our way of life, have been changing more dramatically and faster than ever. We either adjust and prepare for the demands of the 21st century, or the best jobs our economy has to offer will go to foreign professionals, our science industry will have no choice but to move its facilities to foreign countries, and the job opportunities for our young will be limited to menial, low paying, work.
    Education should be one of our top priorities as a nation. Incredibly, there are some who continue to propose cuts in the education budget, and changing our institutions of learning to religious schools. Maybe they know something we don’t, such as the need to depend on miracles if we stay the course.

    • Canistercook

      Too many educated lawyers and social study graduates will not solve our problems. Getting back to work and producing something is what we need to do.

      • Dominick Vila

        We need fewer lawyers and more physicists, chemists, engineers, mathematicians and other professionals in the hard science field. Above all, we need inventors, innovators and investors capable and willing to re-invent our industry, and create opportunities for all.
        A greater focus on education would help, but that must include parental guidance and encouragement. Many of our young are most interested in texting and playing video games than preparing for the future.

      • TZToronto

        You’re looking at education the wrong way. A liberal arts degree is not supposed to be training for a job. It’s training to think critically. Social studies, literature, art, psychology, economics, etc., etc., etc., will get few graduates jobs in those fields, but the enhanced analytical skills learned in those areas of study will–as long as people stop thinking in a linear manner. Many senior executives see value in liberal arts education and are willing to hire these graduates, looking at the “upside,” not the here and now. If all school is supposed to do is train people for jobs, then eliminate colleges and universities and put money into technical schools and trade schools. Oh, and while we’re at it, pour money into pre-school and kindergarten. Children are like sponges and a capable of absorbing many skills they’ll need in the future, even when they’re 2 years old (believe it or not). Of course, the right looks only at the cost of such programs, not the benefits.

  • BobInBpt

    Did you spot the very dangerous statement in this article?

    “In general, the United States needs to pay more attention to its younger citizens and less to its seniors, who are consuming too much in the way of resources. As Marian Wright Edelman, head of the Children’s Defense Fund, has put it, we’re “eating our seed corn.”

    So what exactly is the writer saying here? That we should euthanize the elderly or not treat their diseases, just giving them palliative care in the hope that they will die ? They’re talking about us, you know. Not our parents, but US !!!

    The answer to education isn’t always just throwing more money at it, as some people seem to think. I would bet that the education systems in India spend far less money on education than we do here in USA and yet turn out better qualified students. Why is that ? Likewise the government of the Philippines spends far less on education than we do and again, turns out better qualified graduates, many of whom are now teaching in our school systems.

    This country desperately needs plumbers, electricians, masons, carpenters, auto mechanics, nurses and nurses aids, x-ray technicians and many other skills similar. Those skills can all be taught in grades 8-12 in technical schools instead of forcing kids to study Latin and Ancient History in High School until they quit school out of total boredom. Send young people to technical schools and watch the drop out rate go down immediately. Young people want to make money right away. They don’t want to spend 4 years in High School, 4-6 years in college and still have no guarantee of a job, while getting stuck with enormous college loans that they have no way of paying back.

    Let those who have the aptitude and money go to College and let those who do not have college aptitude nor money at least get a good paying trade and graduate from grade 12 ready and able to go right into the job market. Regular high school without following it up with college is just a waste of time and money. It causes many young people to quit school early and even if they do manage to graduate from high school, they graduate ill equipped for anything other than working at Wal-Mart or joining the army.

    • Dominick Vila

      I noticed the same thing, and that mindset troubled me. Some people should visit progressive countries, such as those in Northern Europe, to learn more about the balance that must be established to meet the challenges that lie ahead, without forgetting the needs of our most vulnerable citizens. Maybe Sarah knew more than we think when she let the cat out of the bag with her reference to death panels…
      The financial needs of our education system will never be as low as those in countries like India and the Philippines, where the standard of living is much lower than ours, and their GDP is a fraction of ours. However, I agree with your assessment. Money is only a part of the solution. The most important element, in my opinion, involves parental guidance and motivational programs to help our young understand the benefits of a good and marketable education. Most of the young people I talk to, including members of my own family, have no idea what they want to do or which major to pursue.
      This may sound cruel, but the future of a nation depends on how prepared its children are. We did our part, it is now up to the young to do theirs.

      • TZToronto

        In order to let the young people do their job, we have to get out and vote in November. While you’re right that “throwing” money at early childhood education will have little value, “investing” it in ECE definitely will. We need more teachers, not fewer teachers, but conservative governments, stuck in the fallacy that pre-school, kindergarten, and the early years of primary education are just baby-sitting, are more than willing to abandon the future to save money today. These are the years when children learn everything they’ll need to live constructive lives. These are the “bootstrapping” years when what they learn will be used as the foundation for what comes later.
        As much as Republicans like to scream “death panels,” it’s not Democrats who will establish them. It’s the cranky old Republicans who will vote for them by demanding tax cuts for health care–even though they’re the ones who would be subject to the death panels.

  • joe schmo

    This is a good article until the end. Again the mantra is blamed on those ridiculous Conservatives with their over used values and dense knowledge of what getting an education incurs. That blue collar bubba who chews on his cudded tobacco and who is just ignorant enough to go back to the dark ages.

    LOL, yes education is a LIBERAL institution. The money that is spent on learning institutions comes from the LIBERAL mindset. Programs like common core are implemented by LIBERAL educators. So why have we not progressed into the 20th century? Why are the billions of taxpayer money thrown at education not working…..

    In reading out of 33 countries we are stone LAST.
    In math out of 33 countries we are 27th
    In science out of 33 countries we are 22nd.

    Wow! Pretty bad for all that money thrown at education. Substandard in my opinion. That is because of all the stupid experiments and dumming down of our students. My spouse and I were prime examples of the problems in our education system. That was in the 70’s, I can just imagine how bad it has gotten. After graduating from high school, I did not know the difference between a noun and a verb. I had to learn that in college. My spouse had what in California they referred to as ‘new math.’ Like Common Core will be, it was a complete and utter failure.

    America’s Education System Is Obsolete:

    “American schools educate to fill children with knowledge —
    instead they should be focusing on developing students’ innovation
    skills and motivation to succeed, he says:

    “Today knowledge is ubiquitous, constantly changing, growing
    exponentially… Today knowledge is free. It’s like air, it’s like water.
    It’s become a commodity… There’s no competitive advantage today in
    knowing more than the person next to you. The world doesn’t care what
    you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you

    Knowledge that children are encouraged to soak up in
    American schools — the memorization of planets, state capitals, the
    Periodic Table of Elements — can only take students so far. But “skill
    and will” determine a child’s ability to think outside of the box, he

    Over two year of research involving interviews with executives, college teachers, community leaders, and recent graduates, Wagner defined the skills needed for Americans to stay competitive in an increasingly globalized workforce. As lined out in his book, “The Global Achievement Gap,” that set of core competencies that every student must master before the end of high school is:

    – Critical thinking and problem solving (the ability to ask the right questions)
    – Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
    – Agility and adaptability
    – Initiative and entrepreneurialism
    – Accessing and analyzing information
    – Effective written and oral communication
    – Curiosity and imagination

    Educators could take a note from design firm IDEO with its mantra of
    “Fail early, fail often,” says Wagner. And at Stanford’s Institute of
    Design, he says they are considering ideas like, “We’re thinking F is
    the new A.” Without failure, there is no innovation. (NOT EVERYONE CAN BE A WINNER)

    For 12 to 16 years, we learn to consume information while in school,
    says Wagner. He suspects that our schooling culture has actually turned
    us into the “good little consumers” that we are. Innovative learning
    cultures teach about creating, not consuming, he says.

    “”We have to transition to an innovation-driven culture, an
    innovation-driven society,” says Wagner. “A consumer society is bankrupt
    — it’s not coming back. To do that, we’re going to have to work with
    young people — as parents, as teachers, as mentors, and as employers —
    in very different ways. They want to, you want to become innovators. And
    we as a country need the capacity to solve more different kinds of
    problems in more ways. It requires us to have a very different vision of
    education, of teaching and learning for the 21st century. It requires
    us to have a sense of urgency about the problem that needs to be

    In my opinion, this is Capitalistic ideology. In my career I was trained to be innovative, do research and work in teams. Additionally, I believe there needs to be a competitive edge because, face it, globally we need to be competitive to keep up with progress. Again, I reinforce ‘out of the box thinking,’ however; that includes solid research with a somewhat positive end result. Something

    Educated people are a threat to the hierarchy.

    …..and what about those right to work states:) Most of them Conservative with lower taxes. They are keeping America working. With regards to jobs….my state, California, is on the bottom of the list and… is, of course, Michigan because of Detroit. The report just came out….I guess new graduates need to head to states like Texas and North Dakota. Just a little….told you so…….