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I have watched with great alarm the proliferation of dKos posts about being out of work and/or without housing. Today, several diarists have written about the 533,000 U.S. jobs lost in November and the 1.9M lost this year. With things so grim, it's great that we are a part of a community like dKos where wonderful people get together and create support systems like Kossacks Networking.

This is also a chance to step back to take a look at some conventional wisdom that just doesn't connect with reality. Like the conventional wisdom in education policy that public schools need to "prepare students for the global, 21st century workplace" by making all kids take rigorous college prep courses.  But are high-skilled, techno-oriented jobs 'where it's at'? Or is this CW a ploy by big biz to have a glut of skilled workers - and an excuse to outsource if schools don't adopt their agenda -in order to boost their bottom line?

Follow me below the fold...

O.K. I was going to insert this great chart that I compiled from Occupational Outlook Quarterly Job Outlook by Education 2006-2016 here, but I couldn't figure out how to do it. Anyway, according to the article, the occupations with the most openings projected for 2006-2016 (in order of most to least, with average education level of workers)are:

  1. Retail salesperson (ME*)
  1. Cashiers (HS)
  1. Waiter/waitress (HS)
  1. Customer service (ME)
  1. Registered nurses (C)
  1. Office clerks (ME)
  1. Food prep/serving workers (HS)
  1. Laborers & freight, stock movers (HS)
  1. Janitors and cleaners, except maids/housekeepers (HS)
  1. Post-secondary teachers (C)
  1. Childcare workers (ME)
  1. Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks (ME)
  1. Elementary teachers (C)
  1. Truck drivers (HS)
  1. Personal care aids (HS)

(*C= 50% or more employees in the occupation have bachelors degree or higher; ME=employees have less than bachelors, but more than high school diploma, or no majority of workers are on one education level; HS = high school diploma or less)

With the highest projected growth being low-wage service jobs that do not require a college education, one wonders about the urgency to test and standardize our children to death and place them all in Algebra by the 8th grade.

Of course, the higher the number of 'skilled' workers in the pool (with Big Biz lobbying state governments for the skills they want workers to have but want to schools to train and pay for), the better the big-biz bottom line. Educators Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian call this conventional wisdom "The Jobs for the Twenty-First-Century Scam".

[Out of work Americans] should ask the Business Roundtable, Education Trust, Progress Policy Institute, and all the other outfits pushing algebra as the gateway to success why their high-skills diplomas haven't kept them from global pirates. Standardistas continue to blather about schools preparing kids for highly skilled jobs for the twenty-first century at the same time they are outsourcing jobs faster than we can count. The truth that the corporate fat cats refuse to speak is that there are more highly skilled workers than there are jobs -- and that's the way they like it. When you have lots of people competing for few jobs, workers are scared and compliant.

All the rhetoric about 'innovative reform', 'failing schools', 'lazy teachers', and 'low expectations' has been successfully enfolded into our conventional wisdom.  I believe this is true because the Business Roundtable and its surrogates have worked so hard to shape conventional wisdom, but I also believe it's because the arguments they use have grains of truth in them. We've seen less than inspiring educators. We want the best for our children. We don't want to leave any child behind. The irony is that the high-stakes environment does just that: it fails to motivate or truly educate many, many children. And the main obstacles we progressives face is that we are painted as racist or having low expectations of lower SES kids if we resist the edu-biz reforms.

So what to do? Well, we need to reframe the issues and change conventional wisdom. Development of education policy must be a democratic process that includes the voices of parents, students, teachers, community organizers, community members, and, yes, businesses, too. We need to ask ourselves: How do we envision quality education? What should the purpose of public schools be? How do schools reflect society? How can schools further our democracy? How does poverty and it's blight, violence, lack of health care access, and feelings of hopelessness interact with schooling?

I'll end with further thoughts from Emery and Ohanian :

So if 100 percent of our children pass algebra and go to college ... there sure will be heavy competition for those college-required jobs. A CEO's dream. And there are plenty of people who think that's what all the pumped-up push for high standards and testing and raising the bar and turning kindergarten into skill-drill zones has been about from the get-go. Make kids - and future workers - feel inadequate. Make them feel they're never good enough. Convince them that it's a dog-eat-dog world out there - with everybody competing in a musical chairs game.

And consider this in light of our current economy:

The crime is not that there isn't a workforce able and willing to do thejobs that need to be done; the crime is that so many of these jobs we need to make our country work don't come with a living wage.

Originally posted to jenbie44 on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 11:37 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So We Should Educate Our Children (0+ / 0-)

    to be retail sales people?

    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle

    by webranding on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 11:42:53 AM PST

    •  we should educate out kids to think (0+ / 0-)

      and adapt
      all else is fluff

      When we say worst president in history, we're including the next 200 years as well

      by askyron on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 12:20:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Someone should! Store clerks are jerks ... (0+ / 0-)

      sometimes, and better-educated workers (in any industry) make for better products and services.

      Not that education should be 'just' for such jobs, but raising the quality of all workers can't hurt!

      Ed

      I do not belong to an organized political party -- I'm a Democrat. [Will Rogers]

      by Ed Drone on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 12:34:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  well... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dichro Gal

      we should figure out ways to value so called "non-educated" work force better in society, because the jobs need to be done and they are critical to our society. I'm not so much thinking retail sales, but I can tell you many roles I've been in do much less to contribute to society than a gardener or a mechanic.

      We can structure society to value such jobs (farming, crafts, other labor).

      That said, I largely think we need to move to green and green manufacturing economy. And we need to recreate some local production.

      I'm an Ivy grad and I grew up in a time and culture when education was seen as the ticket...Personally I think everyone should have access to higher ed AND I also think 1) not everyone is meant to be booksmart or even business smart --there are many, many other necessary skills and talents we can employ or enjoy in our culture and 2) we need to retrain our society to look on those roles as just as good as and just as important as so called "educated class" roles.

      BTW I am out of work and may never find work again in my field (even though I have multiple fields). It doesn't matter what the background is...

  •  tips for quoting Susan O (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DemocracyLover in NYC, JanL, jenbie44

    one of the first and still one of the best to see through the fallacies and hypocrisy of NCLB and standardized testing.

    Help new teachers to grow and love their work at www.newteachernetwork.net

    by Mi Corazon on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 11:59:40 AM PST

  •  I listened on my way to work about the (0+ / 0-)

    Connecticut state budget that Gov. Rell is trying to put together.  She's asking every department to cut their budget by 10%.  The ed department offered her a couple of ways to do it, but said it recommends none of them--because every single scenario will be bad for the kids.

    What I would like to see is school districts being more creative and efficient with what they have.  Here in CT, teachers are very well-paid, their benefits are comparable to what I have from industry.  But there is such a push for the latest and greatest in facilities and technology.  Seriously, it's cool to have an electronic board that you can write on from the comfort of your desk, but chalkboards worked until now.  The fancy stuff can wait.  It just isn't critical.  But that is what I see happening.  In my town, they put in a state of the art TV studio--it is said to rival the local Comcast studio--but there is no one who knows how to operate it, so it sits empty and unused for years.

    Creative and efficient.

    •  Priorities for ed spending needed (3+ / 0-)

      I agree that school districts should be more efficient with spending. What I would like to see is the end of the billions of dollars spent on tests and test prep products, tracking software, and instructional facilitators.

    •  Part of the problem with the technology (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DemocracyLover in NYC

      is that it is hailed as a solution to all educational problems. We face this every time we get "the talk" from the university president. She wants us to integrate more technology, teach more classes online, etc. At the national level, the feds demand students and teachers who are technologically proficient, but refuse to acknowledge that technology cannot take the place of good teaching or learning. Technology is nothing more than a tool.

      So, let's think about this from a pedagogical standpoint. There is push to use calculators at a younger and younger age. So, kids don't need to learn basic math skills and concepts. Many of the teachers I work with are appalled by calculators, but they are pressured. Smart boards are great, but are useless if they aren't connected. And, pedagogically, smart boards don't engage all students in the class. I personally love good old fashioned pencil, paper, and white boards that enable students to work together to solve problems and come to consensus.

      Ultimately, technology is useless if people can't think, work through data, and communicate appropriately in a given setting.

      Change. Such a small word Full of grace, it comes alive As one embraces hope. The Radical Imagination: Dreaming of the future as it might yet be.

      by Edubabbler on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 01:47:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  On the elementary level it's reading (0+ / 0-)

        A child can't read? Put them on a computer. As if any computer software can take the place of a human working with a child to read.

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