David Lee Beowülf
(Robert) Reich and Roll!
A recurring theme in the media regards the failure of the “educational system” to provide graduating students with the required skills necessary to secure 21st Century Jobs. The prime concern, it seems, is that the new generation(s) of workers will not be prepared for the new work to be done which will be generated by new technologies. And as we all know, technology is increasing in magnitude at an unstoppable pace. In short, the United States will lack the needed workforce necessary to compete in the global economy of the next millennium. In fact, there’s pending legislation in Congress concerned with importing foreign nationals with high-tech engineering degrees just to fill the ever-widening high-tech worker gap. Some companies are panicking and might have to send their work overseas, where the foreign engineers live, thus weakening our already perilous position in the worldwide economic power structure.
According to some oft-quoted statistics, wages for Americans with just a high school “degree” have plummeted in the last thirty years, while those for college-educated and beyond have increased to record heights. This, we are told, is a problem of national concern, and something needs to be done, otherwise those Americans who lack the minimum skills every American needs to get a 21st Century Job will be left to the welfare rolls, and thus be a crippling economic burden, felt by all Americans.
Are you shaking yet?
Shake It Up!
I’m very angry about these statistics. I’m particularly angry that wages for people with only a high school “degree” have plummeted in recent years (a big point with Secretary of Labor under the first Clinton Administration, Dr. Robert “I am the Elfman” Reich). I’m really angry that the government pundits aren’t pointing the finger and saying “I told you so” rather than “this is a tragedy.” When I was “growing up” in the 1970s, it was clear to everyone in my peer group that having a college degree was essential for gainful employment. That was twenty-five years ago. And it’s not like it was kept a secret, quite the contrary; college was on everyone’s minds. And somehow, we all knew that the best jobs one could hope for without a college degree included managing a fast food restaurant , convenience store or gas station after years of sweat in a stinking environment.
Two years ago, the New York Post reported on a man stabbed to death by his wife. The unfortunate husband in question died at the ripe old age of twenty-three. He married his high school sweetheart at seventeen, didn’t go to college, and began working at the neighborhood delicatessen. One day, after a hard day’s work slicing meat, his wife went crazy and killed him. All his hard work, building a life for his family (they had a one-year old, I think), and his wife turns out to be insane. I read the story in horror that this guy’s life revolved around making sandwiches at minimum wage. How, in 1996, could this happen? Why didn’t they (that is, he and his wife) put off everything and get their college degrees? Community colleges are dirt cheap and provide good educations; even a two-year degree in anything would make for a better life than spreading cream cheese on bagels for a living. At the very least, it would’ve made for a better obituary: “young businessman stabbed by administrator wife” sounds better than “uneducated sandwichmaker given shiv in back by scullery maid spouse.”
Unless there are some very unusual circumstances, every single high school graduate since the 1960s should have had entertained serious ambitions to attend and graduate from college. Who out there can tell me honestly that, in 1998 (or even back in 1978), high school should be enough to launch a decent career? Of course wages are dropping for people whose educations stop at high school!
The More You Sweat in Training, the Less You Bleed in Battle
Since people who talk sense, like myself, are dangerous in the eyes of the Ministry of Information, no one’s going to see an “Education Czar” mount the podium and tell people what they need to hear. Instead, the attention is focused on those of appropriate position who make their case to the American people for more “training.” In their 1992 campaign book, Putting People First, Bill Clinton and Al Gore proposed the idea for some sort of national vocational training system to better prepare those citizens who weren’t going to college for the high-tech jobs of the future. On the face of it, it might sound like a “good idea.” (Hitler had plenty of “good ideas,” too…) However, since I’m a jaded, deluded conservative I was insulted by the very idea of the government providing jobs for people who had willfully chosen to take the easy way out and avoid at least two years of education beyond high school. Why didn’t Bill and Al outline a program giving more jobs to student loan debt-ridden college graduates rather than make securing a good career easier for the n’er-do-wells?
The emphasis on “training” for the “jobs of the future” being provided to people who opted out of college offers a strange paradox: won’t the jobs of the future, assuming they’ll be concerned with some sort of “high-tech” activity, require the workers to be highly educated in the first place? If someone’s not “smart” enough to make it through college, or if they simply don’t feel like going to college, why would they be interested in learning a “high-tech” trade? I mean, all the private technical school advertising is targeted at shamefaced couch potatoes into what? Right, getting a better education so they can do something with their lives and earn a decent living. Since before World War II, post-high school vocational training centers have provided excellent groundwork for technical careers, so have paralegal study programs and even cosmetology certificate programs. There is nothing wrong with someone picking themselves up by their bootstraps and completing any of these programs in hopes of bettering themselves. I just have a problem with the government picking up your bootstraps for you.
What, ultimately, are these “jobs of the future”? Obviously, they’re not talking about medicine, science, engineering, accounting, finance, or law; those career paths generally require, at the minimum, four years of college. They can’t be talking about computer programming, because the big companies are now hiring programmers before they graduate from high school! I don’t think they’re talking about garbage collection, street sweeping, plumbing, carpentry, agronomy, animal husbandry, painting, or anything else that training has existed for since before the Roman Empire. I think they’re talking about setting up a national education and training system modeled after the European systems, where the government usurps the roles usually assumed by industrial trade unions in America. Which is fine for a place like Hungary, where you can be put in jail for not having a job, but is probably dangerous for us freedom-loving Americans.
Regardless, the real “jobs of the future” are perceived, I believe, to center around computers. That is, everything in the “future” will be run by computer, just like things are now. And of course, since computers are complicated, much more so than a circa 1980 video game, they’re hard to use without the right amount of training. Then again…
What makes 21st-Century Jobs different from 20th-Century Jobs? You’ll still need to show up on time and do your work! If anything, technology is making things easier, rather than more complicated! Instead of spending a few grueling years as a machinist’s apprentice, all you need to do is press the right buttons! Anyone who scores decently at “Minesweeper” can figure out how to work the “high tech” intricacies of such Herculean tasks as word processing. Those who can’t, well, I hear they’re hiring at the shit works — provided you can figure out how a shovel works.
All I Ever Needed to Know…
I learned three practical skills in my suburban Washington, D.C. public high school which proved to be invaluable to my career. In tenth grade I learned how to type , how to drive and I had three years of woodshop. That was a million years ago (between 1978 and 1979) and the only computer was reserved as a toy for honors math students (a club to which late-bloomers like me did not belong). In this case, the teachers (who didn’t give a rat’s ass about my, or anyone else’s, self esteem) knew damn well that the mastery of mathematics — on paper — was more important than being able to program a calculating machine to do it for you.
My first exposure to a computer was in 1983, when my college miraculously opened up the word processing “laboratory” chock full of Apple III computers. Now, I went to college in a working-class Pennsylvania town, populated with working-class hearts and minds. Out of a student body of perhaps 5,000, I was one of the few science majors. Yet, most every student, regardless of major or how “smart” they were, seemed to be a master of word processing with Apple Writer, operating on ProDOS. Even though a couple of English professors ran weekly half-hour seminars on usage, no one seemed to need anything more than the two-page dittoed copy of the instructions. Back then we didn’t have a mouse; dude, you had to (gasp!) insert a 5-1/2 inch floppy disk and type in commands! Nowadays, thanks to Bill Gates, computers are easier to use than ever before! Right?! Sure… Well, if they are, why is everyone screaming about the inadequacies of training? They even put the “on” buttons on the front of the PCs now! What could be easier?! Some of the management majors I went to school with were barely able to pass College Algebra with a “D,” but they could figure out how to write reports using a “primitive” Apple III. What kid entering college today could have less expected of him? The empty blue Word Perfect screen of “DOS” gone by is something to be laughed at in a museum when today’s computers, with all their button bars and other “gooey” features make using them easier than wiping your ass! And as the Legend says: toilet paper does not come with directions!
TIME FOR A NEW HORSE!
But enough about training needs for the masses… I think it’s clear that training opportunities abound and, without even bothering to add to the discussion, it’s common knowledge that financial aid is available from myriad sources. However, the problem remains that the media invented the mythical problem of inadequately trained workers. Thus, there has to be a conspiracy brewing…
The purpose of the American public school system is not to provide the country skilled workers. Any idiot can get a job and any idiot can become a millionaire in America. In some cases, even honest idiots are able to accumulate millions during their lifetimes. Its purpose is to produce good citizens. And that’s why “skills” are nowhere near as important as good, quality citizenship.
Our public schools should be concerned with teaching kids to revere our Government’s history, the historic figures who founded it and the principles to which they subscribed, allowing for radical ideas like “all men are created equal.” Kids should be taught respect for the laws of the land, and that breaking them will result in the forfeiture of one’s freedom. Children should be taught that freedom has responsibilities and that the law isn’t something to dodge in pursuit of financial gain, but something to be followed with pride, and that being free means you control your own destiny. They should be taught that hard work and careful, responsible decision-making are the paths to success and personal security. Schools need to reward hard work and should teach that justice can only be achieved when everyone plays by the rules.
On the practical side of things, besides the basic three R’s, the schools can teach that freedom and justice are the rewards of a civil society, so I suppose a few good skills to be taught would include learning how to answer the telephone properly and not to be rude to people. Respect for property, public and private, should be taught, too, as all citizens bear the costs for cleanup and repair. Kids should be taught that the reward for theft is punishment.
A good citizen will know how to read, how to write, and how to figure numbers. Of paramount importance is the ability to communicate, both written and oral, in the language of our government, English. (Not teaching English with the appropriate zeal Balkanizes the non-native English-speaking communities in which the students live, which, of course, makes them more “manageable by the police.)
Not being able to do the simplest of tasks, like reading a clock, a bill, and making change, should bring about near-suicidal embarrassment. Instead, if we are to believe the media, a child’s “self-esteem” is more important than demanding mastery of what one of President Clinton’s education advisors, Steven Leinwand, in 1997, called “the discriminatory shackles of computational algorithms.”
The Battle for Future Generations…
Thomas Jefferson, in a 1786 letter to George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence among other things, implored Wythe to champion “…a crusade against ignorance; establish and improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils, and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests, and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance…”
Education of the public, therefore, being necessary to the security of a free state, should not to be infringed. Addressing the problem of how far along one’s education at public expense would prolong, Jefferson in his Notes on the State of Virginia, outlined a plan for public education where the ultimate result would be the cultivation of genius and geniuses (i.e., talented individuals), through the selection of those students who showed the appropriate degrees of talent, all the time assuring that the most common elements would, at the minimum, know reading, writing, and arithmetic. That is, individual students would be tracked. And while there were obvious benefits, both economic and scientific, to hand-picking the students of most promise for ever-higher education, the real benefit would be that every citizen would possess enough education to protect and preserve their freedom. But these ideas are just as dangerous today as they were more than two-hundred years ago.
Dead White Whales
Robert Bork, in a recent National Review essay, remarked that the “moral cretins with high aptitude scores” to whom he would teach law at Yale in 1968 (when Bill and Hillary were in attendance) were naively thought to be anomalies, and that “the disciplines of the law and of the classroom would civilize them.” Instead, these brilliant but amoral students ended up “decivilizing and demoralizing” the professors. If law students are to represent the top of the academic heap, along with medical students and, (ahem!) engineering students, and education students.
So instead of the bearded and robed disciples of academe teaching history to the next generation of voters and taxpayers, we have the entertainment industry preach a wrong history of this nation through the subterfuge of films and television shows, produced by incompetent fifth columnist “teachers” who were easily manipulated into thinking it’s their duty to clone 1960’s radicals. The result being entire generations “graduating” from high school as pathetic “free-expression” firebrands who who’ve been taught to revile our great historic figures and can’t even read the Bill of Rights, let alone figure out the interest payment on a loan.
Lying, thievery, and cheating should be anathema to responsible American citizens, yet these are what’s required if one is to be “successful,” according to the “history” taught by the fifth-columnists who call themselves “liberals.” Apparently, honest hard work and dedication isn’t what made men like John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie wealthy. It was the exploitation of the workers — made conveniently easy thanks to the “laws” of America! (My sources? OK, I’m synthesizing what I’ve gathered from reading books by Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn.) Children aren’t taught that the freedom enjoyed by Americans was hard-fought; that thanks to a few Americans, and the RIGHT of Americans to petition the Government for a redress of grievances, backed up by the RIGHT of the Americans to keep and bear arms, those who would exploit are kept in constant check.
Is it not strange that those people comprising the perceived power-elite, the establishment politicians and such, send their children to very expensive private schools, deliberately keeping them away from the “masses”? Evil men like Hillary Clinton and Al Gore make sure their children are far removed from the common folks. After all, the next generation of leaders needs to mingle and grow up around “good stock,” with the children of other lawyers, brokers, lobbyists, and such. The rich, white power elite Democratic machine needs to assure good breeding for “future generations.”
You see, those who wish to rule want a content, ignorant working-class status quo, one that won’t get in the way of those who are truly fit to rule. By trading the uncertainty of freedom for the handcuffs of economic security, the rise of nobles, kings and priests in Jefferson’s letter will come to fruition: for those who are fit to rule, will enslave.