September 18, 2004

Improving Public Education In the new millennium

I am going to propose a radical idea here. I believe that 90% or more of the jobs currently demanded in our economy could be filled by high school graduates. I am not basing that statement on the current curriculum and structure of the k-12 public system. The statement is based upon the possibilities of free public education, if the system is overhauled to partnership with the real time needs of businesses.

It is common knowledge that roughly and conservatively, 80% of what is learned in high school and college finds little direct application to the modern economy. K-12, as it exist now, does set the foundation of the fundamentals. However, by the time a person reaches the 9th grade, fundamentals should be established thus opening up time for teaching, preparing and training youth for jobs demanded in the economy.

What I am essentially proposing is that High School should do what 4 year colleges do now. College would then be for advanced theory, research and professions that require many years of training, such as Physicians. The benefit of this is that the inability to pay for college, in theory, should not restrict anyone from 90% or more of the opportunities in the economy. Of course there will still be schools in poor communities that lack funding, but that is besides the point I am trying to make, which is the current system is inefficient and antiquated.

What has happened is that colleges and universities has become an industry. Colleges and Universities is one of the top industries in the nation. It employs hundreds of thousands of workers. What it produces, in theory, is what the economy is demanding of its skilled labor pool, as well as, research that advances science and industry. The latter is fine, but it does a very inefficient job at the former. In fact, much of what it does for the former is what I have proposed could be done in high schools.

A little over a quarter of all jobs current in the economy requires a college degree. In truth, when one earns their bachelors degree, whatever profession or discipline they are hired in only utilizes about 10% of the totality of what they were taught in college. Moreover, when a person is hired, they are often trained or sent to training by their companies in regards to the specific needs of that company. There are people with degrees in music and English, who are now software engineers by virtue of training opportunities offered at their jobs.

In light of this, it is obvious that the requirement of a college degree, for many jobs, is not really a cumulative prerequisite to the job, but rather, simply a way to filter applicants. Once a person receives a degree, society is compelled to reward them for their hard work and discipline, over those who did not get a formal college degree. This is because of the promise of our “system”. The promise/propaganda is that education is the key to success. Thus, if this is the mantra of society, then society must reward those who seek higher and advanced education, more so than those who do not, regardless of skills and intelligence.

If current trends continue with the old antiquated construct and the cost of college keeps rising more than twice the rate of inflation, then the only people being able to afford college will be the upper classes. Thus, the societies class structure will become more rigid than it already is today. Also, the percent of jobs requiring a college degree to earn middle class status and more, is on the rise. That is because the number of jobs where people could earn middle class wages, like auto production, is on the decline. These trends are bound to reduce class mobility, with the current education construct.

In conclusion, I propose shifting at least 70% of what is taught to achieve a bachelors degree in college, back to high schools. On a personal note, I have yet to use 90% of what I was taught in my Bachelor of Science degree, in any of my occupations after my matriculation. Yet, I was out 20K in school cost, that I am still paying back to this day.


At 11:46 PM, Blogger Scott said...

I agree 100% though I think more changes are needed to make education work ing society.

#1 have public school start at Age 4. And have it go to age 16 and have it be year around. Then there would be another 2 years for specialized job training or community service before turning 18 or starting college and finishing before legal drinking age so campus could be dry and a place for learning not date rape and binge drinking.


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