Posted by: bkivey | 22 March 2014

Education Reform?

One of my problems with American public K-12 education is the high emphasis placed on putting students into college. A lot of education professionals judge their ‘success’ by how many people go to college post high-school. No matter that students may not be competent or knowledgeable about the course of study: if they aren’t going to college, the system has failed. I noted that college isn’t necessarily a good idea for some folks, and there is talk about fast-tracking students out of high school into college. I think that judging the effectiveness of an educational system by how the percentage of people going on to college is a poor metric, and judging by US rankings in student achievement, that emphasis isn’t working.

The overwhelming majority of education professionals are to varying degrees left of the political center, and US public education policy shows it. Progressives consider themselves the intellectual elite, and by golly they know better than you do what you should do with your life. But Progressives are really about control. Can’t have people making their own educational and vocational decisions. They probably won’t make the right ones, so college for everyone! They’ll make more money, and after four years of Progressive indoctrination, they’ll think like us.

One of the problems with this thinking is that not all jobs require a college education. Sure, most jobs paying a decent wage will require education beyond high school, but not all. And employment prospects aren’t necessarily enhanced by a college degree.

The local fish wrap of record published an article on employment prospects in the state over the next ten years. The expected five fastest growing job fields and minimum education to enter:

  • Physical Therapist Aide High school diploma and OJT.
  • Painters High school diploma and OJT.
  • Marketing Specialist Bachelors degree.
  • Physician Assistant Masters degree in a specialized program.
  • Roofer High school diploma and OJT.

Huh. Three of the five fastest growing jobs require no college at all. Maybe we should look at job fields that are expected to have the most openings in the next ten year:

  • Registered Nurse Bachelors degree.
  • Cashier None.
  • Server None.
  • Food Prep Worker None.
  • Retail Sales None.

Well, that doesn’t fit the education establishment’s narrative at all. While it’s true that if someone starts in a service field after they turn 18, they’re probably going to need a diploma, there are a lot of high school students working in service. I suppose the paper better hope that disaffected high schoolers can’t read. Not that that’s such a farfetched proposition.

A sign that the narrative may be cracking comes from an editorial published in the local paper’s 21 March edition (not yet available online). Author Jim Nesbitt posits that there may in fact be value in students learning trade skills. Drawing heavily on Matthew Crawford’s 2009 book Shop Class as Soulcraft, the editorial’s thesis is that some folks may find greater fulfillment in making and fixing things than shuffling paperwork. He notes that there are many ways to economic and personal satisfaction, and that as a society we’ve marginalized tradecraft, and by extension, those who choose to engage in it. That this should come as some sort of revelation is a sad commentary on our society.

I’ve had careers as a maker and a fixer and white collar professional. While I enjoyed the more cerebral vocation most, I’ve found measures of fulfillment in all those endeavors. Most of the things I’ve done for a living would make a rewarding career. A healthy society needs to provide as many socially valued paths to personal economic independence as it can. American society has for too long heeded the siren song of the Big Education mantra. Perhaps we can restore some balance in our valuation of career and education choices.

Rent Comparison

I recently saw a table listing the top 5 American cities with the most expensive average rent in 2013. There were some surprises.

  1. New York Well, duh.
  2. San Francisco I’ve lived there. Not surprised.
  3. San Jose Silicon Valley, I imagine.
  4. Oakland – East Bay Quality-of-life must have improved a LOT.
  5. Palm Beach Say what?! Palm Beach ranks below Oakland?

I was most surprised that Honolulu (another place I’ve lived) didn’t crack the top five.

Soccer Terms

The Portland Timbers played the Colorado Rapids today, and lost 2 – 0 in a snowstorm. I listened to the game on the radio, and wondered about a bit of terminology. The announcers refered to players ‘handling’ the ball. In a game where using hands is verboten, is this really the best term?


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