Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A thought about education

I saw a news broadcast the other day about a school in California that had a special program which it described as life preparation. High school age kids from a poor neighborhood were taking a course preparing them for jobs in the health service industry. They had a lot of on site training for entry level jobs.

On the one hand, I think it is great that these kids, who come from families where parents may not have finished high school and certainly did not go to college, are likely to get jobs right out of high school -- jobs other than flipping burgers in fast food restaurants.

On the other hand, I wonder if they are not being shifted off into a side track that is going to be a dead end. Will they be able to get more education later, shift into higher paying jobs, and have careers that will offer real upward social and economic mobility.

My Dad finished high school but my mother did not. Most of my close friends similarly had parents who had not gone to college. But my did wanted me to go to schools that had good academic preparation and chose to buy a house in the catchment area for such schools. A lot of my fellow students did have parents with college educations, and a lot of them expected to at least graduate from college -- many planned careers that would involve graduate degrees.

So my close friends and I rather naturally adopted the aspirations of the majority of our fellow students. Moreover, we all went on not only to graduate from college, but to get graduate degrees; I got a Ph.D. Dick was the exception -- he got two doctorates.

We tended to change careers, and the educational preparation helped us to do so. It also helped the country -- one of my high school friends went on to invent the computer hard drive.

In a globalized economy, where America competes with low income countries, people with relatively little education may be competing with people in those low income countries on the basis of pay -- dooming the yanks to low pay. The folk with little education are also likely to be challenged by automation of their jobs. While people with hands-on service jobs may see their incomes rise somewhat with the rise of the general economy, they may also face more competition for those jobs with people who have not received the necessary education to get jobs in creative industries, especially as others in their boat have lost their jobs to automation.

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