05.09.11

A future of bedpan technicians

Posted in Permanent Fail at 3:09 pm by George Smith

One of Businessweek’s columnists notices that the Republican budget plan calls for killing education.

The thesis seems to be that even a business publication is getting alarmed when the eating of the seed corn and tearing of everything down becomes so noticeable.

Where the man gets it all wrong is near the finish. He seems to think that certain types of schooling, like trivial vocational training, made this country great.

It doesn’t. The biotech revolution, which he mentioned, happened because lots of people like me got Ph.D’s in the hard sciences. Period.

It reads:

The education pipeline is worsening, too. The U.S. was once the world’s leader in mass education, with succeeding generations of children better educated then their parents. The trend toward ever-greater educational achievement has slowed since the 1970s, according to Harvard University economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz. They note that the U.S. has slipped from the top of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s ranking for high school graduates to near the bottom. The U.S. college graduation rate has remained steady over the last decade, but the country has the highest college dropout rate among OECD nations.

Help Wanted: Well-Educated Workers

Yet demand for well-educated workers is rising. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the U.S.—jobs such as biomedical engineers and financial examiners—require at least a bachelor’s degree. Entry into an additional seven growth occupations, including dental hygienists and occupational therapy assistants, requires either an associate’s degree or a postsecondary vocational certificate.

Here’s the thing: The quality of retirement for the Baby Boom generation—from Social Security to private pensions—will depend on cash flow created by the current generation of young people. From the Morrill Land Grant College Act of 1862 to the G.I. Bill of 1948 and on to the National Defense Education Act of 1958, the lesson of history is clear: Education pays.

For example, the NDEA funded the education of a generation of young people that became the driving force behind the infotech and biotech revolutions.

You can be well-meaning and concerned and still be an utter fool. Like this man.

Financial examiner jobs require a college degree. Big deal. The present job market may desire financial examiners but the idea that an army of them will lead to future progress is deluded.

And filling the territory with platoons of dental hygeinists and occupational therapy assistants isn’t an answer for anything except maintaining clean teeth in people with health plans and, as for the second, c’mon. We’re going to innovate our way back into the lead with people trained to rehabilitate those who’ve had strokes and fractured hips?

As mentioned last week, this country doesn’t lack for human capital. It lacks vision and the desire to do something with it because it’s far simpler to run an entrenched vulture economy. We do have well-educated workers. My experience at the census proved it.

But even a good education no longer guarantees a middle class job. The GOP is not the only enemy here. The Democratic Party owns a big share of the responsibility for the way things have turned out. So does corporate America.

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