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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Let's solve the unemployment problem

The news is telling us that unemployment is running around 9%.  Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is also making noises about waiving the requirement that all children will be proficient in reading and math by 2014 or their schools will be labeled failing.  Of course, the notion that all students would be proficient by 2014 was complete nonsense to begin with.  Now the political reality of so many failing schools is causing governors of both parties to run for the hills.  A real non-partisian fear of failure.

Let's get real.  Whether or not students can pass all those tests has little or nothing to do with whether or not they can earn a living as adults.  Every one who has ever studied learning knows that there are multiple intelligences and that all people are good at different things.  So how does the high unemployment rate have anything to do with testing?

We think if test scores go up, more people will be able to get jobs.  Here is the hard truth.  A significant minority of those unemployed don't have the skills to earn a living in this economy.  So what are out choices.  Well a very extreme choice would be to just kill off those folks who can't make an honest living  in competitive employment.  Of course that is repugnant, but it would lower unemployment.  A second choice is to accept the existence of a lower, criminal class that will prey on those who have assets  that the criminals want.  After all, humans must eat, have shelter, buy clothes.  If they do not work for the money to buy these things than the money must be given to them or they must steal it.  That brings up the 3rd choice.  The government (read American taxpayers) will declare some people unemployable for lack of salable skills and pay them a minimum wage for just living and staying out of trouble.  Of course, that is the essence of Communism, from each according to their his/her ability to pay, to each according to his/her need.  The 3rd choice would never fly either with the majority of our population.

Then what are we to do since all of these choices seen objectionable for a variety of reasons.  How about  educating people to earn a living!  Everyone does not need to go to college.  It is not even desirable.  Let's bring back those old fashioned vocational schools and teach kids to fix things that are always breaking or to sell stuff or work in the "take care of the old folk" industry.  All of these baby boomers are going to want and need caretakers.  These are real jobs that need doing.  I heard a man complain because he had a doctorate in ancient history and couldn't get a job.  Well if he knew how to fix computer problems he would probably be working.  Let's teach kids basic job skills, please and thank you would be a great start.

I don't believe we improve education by more tests and more measuring tools that measure what does not, in the long run, count for anything.  Perhaps if our Secretary of Education knew a thing or two about learning he might know that too.