Friday, March 13, 2009

Higher Math

During President Obama's Feb 24th speech, he said, "Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education."

Does anyone see a problem with this math? It's totally comparing apples and oranges. It's like saying, as Tony put it, 99% of Americans don't want to be garbage people, BUT WE NEED 100,000 GARBAGE PEOPLE! (But I bet there are 100,000 people out there who are perfectly happy being paid good money to be garbage people and we need not panic about having enough). Out of 300,000,000 Americans, how many want or can qualify for these fastest-growing jobs? What if there are only 4 "fastest-growing jobs?" What happens when we start to push all Americans to get a level of education for only 3 positions in the whole U.S.? Do you see what I mean? Obama's fractions have different denominators.

Now, I think the point our president was trying to make here was that Americans are not competitive because kids aren't being qualified for jobs available. I just wish he would use a common denominator so that he didn't look like an ass to those of us who are smart enough to know that his comparison is not valid.

Also, I have to say that I really hope that any educational "plan" put in place by this administration and others focuses not only on college/university as higher education, but also trade schools, technical schools, certification programs, and apprenticeships. I think we are doing a huge disservice to kids today by implying that the only worthwhile, post-secondary path is college/university. I think this is especially apparent when you note that, at least in Skagit County, the jobs available right now include police officer, welder, auto mechanic, marine mechanic, bus driver, and a host of other, more technical positions. Ones for which a person does not need a bachelor's degree.

So what if Charles' dream is to become a painter, like his great-grandfather Charles, and he someday runs his own painting business? Is this less valuable and praise-worthy than becoming an under-employable history major (which is what I was, after graduating cum laude and with honors from college)? Will he not still cultivate skills that include math, communications, accounting, management, marketing, operations, etc? Could he learn these things being an apprentice? Or, could he learn them by getting an associates degree with an emphasis in business at the local community college? The answer is yes, and I would love him for it if he is doing what he wants to do. If he wants to be a marine welder, then by all means, he should go to a technical training program to do that. And guess what? He'll probably always be employed, and make a boat-load of money, too.

I'm just trying to say that I think we are limiting kids today. And college is not for everyone. And President Obama should be smart enough to know when he is not making sense of his facts and figures. And, if there is money in these so-called "fastest growing jobs" and 3/4 of them require higher education, then I bet that is a good enough incentive for Americans to fill those jobs. If only we tell them about those jobs and how to get there. Which goes back to the college thing, because I honestly believe that lots of kids are not told that there are different paths. Or told about the jobs available and how to get them.


chasecarole said...

By the time our kids are college-age, four years of private education is projected to cost $298,000.

Something needs to be done with the higher education system in America.

Perhaps our kids can be professional athletes instead? Michael a teeny point guard and Charles a linebacker?

Since there will probably be no social security left by the time we retire and with our IRA's all in the tank, these kids will have to do something to support us.

Monica said...

I think that emphasizing "trade schools, technical schools, certification programs, and apprenticeships" is a great point - I forget where, but I recall reading something that said all the PhDs in the world will not help you when you need a plumber!

K Schimmy said...

Those in the secondary teaching profession are certainly starting to see the light... CTE (Career and Technical Education) programs are getting more and more funding because the public schools realize that not all of our kids will attending a university. CTE is 6/10 of my job... it's why I'm employed! So if they hired me to train our nation's next batch of designers/photographers/artists, they must be doing something right, because I'm an awesome teacher.

Sometimes, the last people to understand this are the parents. Kids get it from home that a university education is the only way you can be considered a success, when in actuality it is the least specialized education one can get. I hear you... luckily, the teacher unions share that view. I hope Ruary becomes a mechanic... that way he can fix my car.

K Schimmy said...

Oh yeah... and we're signing Ruary up for the GET program this month before the unit rate goes up. Y'all might want to look into it. We can only afford one credit a month right now, but at least that one credit is locked in at $76 for the rest of the time until he graduates (they approximate it will take 500 "units" to pay for a year at UW... but it works at most schools in the US).