Our educational system is inadequate and counter-productive

Surely I'll be able find a job armed with new shiny new degree. And I'm only $60,000 in debt!

From Bill Gross, Managing Director of Pimco, in another of his wondrous monthly rants.

American citizens and its universities have experienced an ivy-laden ivory tower for the past half century. Students, however, can no longer assume that a four year degree will be the golden ticket to a good job in a global economy that cares little for their social networking skills and more about what their labor is worth on the global marketplace.

College was great as long as the jobs were there.

He advocates skill-based education, forget liberal arts. Further, both parties are wrong in believing that balancing the budget will somehow magically lead to job creation. Nope, the government needs to get involved, and in a big way. The private sector can’t do on its own. The government should be the employer of last resort, “I’d have a shovel in the hands of the long-term unemployed from 8am to noon, and from 1pm to 5pm I’d have them studying algebra, physics, and geometry.”

Those who advocate that job creation rests on corporate tax reform (lower taxes) or a return to deregulation of the private economy always fail to address dominant structural headwinds which cannot be dismissed: 1) Labor is much more attractively priced over there than here, and 2) U.S. employment based on asset price appreciation/finance as opposed to manufacturing can no longer be sustained. The “golden” days are over, and it’s time our school and jobs “daze” comes to an end to be replaced by programs that do more than mimic failed establishment policies favoring Wall as opposed to Main Street.

The entire student loan program is just another Wall Street scam and growing bubble that will pop. It needs to be reworked too.

Gross focuses on making education useful. I agree. Years ago, after bouncing around in a series of dead end jobs, I went back to college and got a two year degree in computer programming from Pierce College in Los Angeles. One of the professors said, we don’t teach much theory here, we’re like a trade school, we teach you enough so you can get your first job as a programmer. I graduated, got that first job as a programmer, and never looked back, and will always be grateful to Pierce College for their pragmatic approach. But much of our educational system isn’t pragmatic. Students graduate heavily in debt with no job opportunities. This needs to change.

One comment

  1. “The engineering major asks, ‘How does that work?’ The science major asks, ‘Why does that work?’ The business major asks, ‘How much does that cost?’ The liberal arts major asks, ‘Would you like fries with that?'”

    As a Theology major, I can’t fault the value iof a liberal arts education in terms of opening minds and self-development. But for getting a job – not so much.

    On the other hand, the whole premise of the current educational system is to teach kids to grow up and punch a clock. From the first days at kindergarten, we are indoctrinated to become wage slaves: get a job, buy a house, consume lots of stuff, and do it all on credit so you can’t afford to leave your employer.

    As Bob points out, the global economy makes labor a commodity in which jobs go to the lowest cost workers. The globalized economy pressures the more affluent workers (us) to become less affluent like our competitors. And while I have often argued that we take too big a piece of the pie, the market’s solution is rather destructive.

    There is an alternative to global corporate slavery: self-employment. When we leave our corporate masters and take responsibility for our own well-being, we gain freedom and dignity, two things the corporate world would deny us. I left my 10-year corporate career in 1990 and have been self employed ever since. It’s not always easy, but it’s always more rewarding than punching a clock – always. And I get to serve my neighbors with respect, pump money back into my local economy, and operate my business with a conscience – all things a multi-national corporation won’t do. (A local radio ad for a bank advertizes that the company is not just your bank, it’s your friend. Yeah, right.)

    Unfortunately, the political powers that influence education do not favor self-employment. They want us punching a clock, paying our exorbitant bills, and passively accepting whatever policies they choose to give us. If we want to teach our children self-employment, we’re going to have to do it ourselves.

    It has been said that all politics is local, and that is true to a great extent with economies as well. Do I want my money earned and spent here in my own community? Or do I want it to flow through, say, Bentonville, Arkansas?

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