"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Spellings and Miller: Portraits in Diversionary Ineptitude

Interesting story from The Seattle Times that reminds us of the diversionary ineptitude behind the American Competiveness Initiative now driving efforts to redirect the focus of the American school and college curriculums toward technology and engineering (tip from Think Progess):

Wage stagnation, long the bane of blue-collar workers, is now hitting people with bachelor's degrees for the first time in 30 years. Earnings for workers with four-year degrees fell 5.2 percent between 2000 and 2004 when adjusted for inflation, according to White House economists. . . .

When wages for people with bachelor's degrees declined in the 1970s, the cause was a flood of baby boomers entering the job market. This time, economists say, much of the blame goes to trends familiar to workers with less education.

Off-shoring, which has shifted manufacturing and call-center jobs to Mexico and India, is increasingly affecting the white-collar sectors of engineering and software design. Companies have continued their long effort to replace salaried positions with low-paid, nonsalaried jobs, including part-time and freelance positions without benefits.

Those positions make up nearly half of the 6.5 million jobs created since 2001, said Paul Harrington, a labor economist at Northeastern University in Boston.

Harrington looked at the growth of salaried jobs during the past five economic recoveries and found they increased an average of 11.5 percent, compared with 2.5 percent during the current recovery.

"There's clear deterioration in the college labor market," he said. "The American economy just does not generate jobs the way it has historically."

The education solution offered by Spellings and Miller: Blame the schools and universities for a non-existent shortage of homegrown talent, and then pressure them to churn out even more technicians and engineers that will drive wages even lower.

Perhaps Mr. Gates, one of the leaders in job exportation, could devote a bit of his billions in philanthropic dough to do something that at least does not make the situation worse.

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