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The Big Answer


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Rethinking America

a book by Hedrick Smith

(our site's book review)

Smith looks at the need for the government to help underwrite model school-to-work and apprenticeship programs. Robert Reich, while Secretary of Labor, relentlessly pressed the nation’s economic and social need to provide more modern and sophisticated education and training—work and school combined—in the final two years of high school and two years of technical or community college, for masses of American young people (the School-to-Work Opportunities Act). “For America to compete in the 21st century, Reich asserts, this is the level of training most jobs will require; otherwise the living standards of America’s middle class are doomed to stagnate.” However, Smith tells us: “. . . the message has not really sunk in with most people or even with most educators and business leaders.” And in 1995 the Republicans, who were supposed to be the party of business interests but showed that they just didn’t “get it,” engineered sharp cuts in youth job training and the educational Goals 2000 programs.

(In Previews and Premises: A Penetrating Conversation About Jobs, Identity, Sex Roles, the New Politics of the Information Age and the Hidden Forces Driving the Economy, Toffler says he "wants not a 'welfare state' but a training explosion, and he expects training to evolve into a big industry, and to happen soon because our country has little choice. Too many jobs go begging or are not being done well.")

A kid at a computer: will she learn anything she can apply when she gets a job in a few years?
A kid at a computer: will she learn anything she can apply when she gets a job in a few years?

The young are told that they need college degrees, yet 70 percent of the jobs in America in the year 2000 will not require such a degree. Corporate America is saddled with spending 30 billion dollars a year on remedial education to make up for the failure of the public school systems, and is losing another 30 billion dollars annually because of worker illiteracy. We cannot squander 60 billion a year and remain competitive in the global marketplace. We need to have American business and industry form a partnership with educators—a win-win arrangement in which they invest in the education of American teenagers while they’re still in high school so that these companies don’t have to spend a fortune on remediation later. The idea has been tested here and it works. The question, Smith says, is whether America as a whole will act on these ideas and move America to higher performance and a higher quality of life or whether it will stick with the old ways and watch education, competitiveness, life quality, and material wellbeing deteriorate rapidly in the 21st century. The Tofflers concur.

College Degree
College Degree

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 27 percent of jobs in the U.S. require at least an associate degree, so 73 percent do not.

There are a lot of burger flipper, Walmart, grocery clerk and similar types of jobs out there, and, lacking other opportunities, college graduates are snapping them up
There are a lot of burger flipper, Walmart, grocery clerk and similar types of jobs out there, and, lacking other opportunities, college graduates are snapping them up

Carl Sagan, in 1997 in The Demon-Haunted World, said that “A major electronics company reports that 80% of its job applicants can’t pass a fifth-grade mathematics test. The United States already is losing some $40 billion a year (mainly in lost productivity and the cost of remedial education) because workers, to too great a degree, can’t read, write, count, or think.” It is 2014. Things have only gotten worse since then.