In “Class Struggle: Helping Kids Who Hate High School,” Washington Post staff writer Jay Matthews recounts his debate with California educator Chris Peters about a total overhaul of education that would allow students, after their sophomore year, to – after thoroughly mastering important basic skills – choose one of four tracks. One of the tracks is college, another is community college with vocational education, another is more intensive high school tutoring, the fourth is dropping out.Â The debate between the two centered initially on the value of vocational education.
The article is well worth reading, but the debate is may be moot if you check out the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. Download the “Standard Power Point” offered on the left side of the page, then go to slide 8 of 34: Profile of Successful US Firms of the Future. It seems to indicate that unless people plan to enter the fields of research, development, design, marketing and sales, or global supply chain management – so-called “creative work” – prospects are low.Â Consider those implications while considering Matthews conclusions:
The steady erosion of the social safety net provided by the workplace in the form of reliable, long-term employment, paid sick-leave and vacation, health and retirement benefits necessitates that young people be much better informed about and prepared for the job marketplace.
Don’t we have some obligation to prepare kids for the lives they will actually lead rather than the ones we wish they would lead?
With regard to college, we educators have become exactly like the kind of overbearing parents who insist that all our children play competitive sports just because they did and who can’t imagine a richly fulfilling life without them.
People who have great skills through vocational programs need to be able to find meaningful work near their homes right here in the United States, not only for their well being, but for our national well being. Opportunities need to be here. That is why energy policy and education policy and our collective futures are tightly linked, in my view.
Micro economies need to be developed within the United States, just as they are being used in developing countries so that people with talent for making things as well as designing things have outlets for their natural talents.Â What holds us back from local self-sufficiency is that we are all so interdependent on expensive forms of energy. In order to have small economies with local manufacturing, we need locally sustainable and containable sources of energy. The talented, skilled workers coming out of Peters and Matthews plans would have places to ply their trades.
Hopefully, that is what those research folks at the top of the talent pyramid are looking into.