Educating for [Policy Making within] a New Economy

May 29, 2007

Today, the Eduwonk, citing data on the growth in demand for skilled blue-collar labor, writes about the apparent contradiction of placing schools under so much pressure to raise academic rigor when labor market projections show substantive growth in jobs that have traditionally required little schooling. He suggests, though, that in these high-tech times, even many blue-collar jobs require advanced skills and education, so the college-prep curriculum should become the default curriculum for all.

Yes.

I essentially agree with goal.

But not with the justification.

And not in its exact form.

As I’ve written before the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports labor market projections in two ways:

The data linked from The Eduwonk’s post seem be drawing from the “fastest growing” reports, in which the rate of job growth may appear impressive, even while the actual number of jobs created might be quite small (100% growth in a field with only 1,000 workers creates very few new jobs).

But a quick skim of the two right columns of the alternate way of reporting labor market projections — the actual number of new jobs in a given field — suggests that hundreds of thousands of people are finding themselves in low wage jobs that require neither skill nor education.

So, what if our education policy choices can no longer be limited to whether we educate more young people to a) start work right after high school or b) four years later?

What if even the traditional college-prep curriculum is now woefully inadequate for educating kids to find their way — as workers, and as citizens — within the seismic shifts of this new global economy? What if education was also understood to be about educating all young people to do exactly the kind of analysis, critique and advocacy of public policy that The Eduwonk himself engages in with this post, regardless of the jobs they happen to hold?

How, when too few jobs provide workers with the ability to pay the rent and the medical bills, might we educate all young people about how badly their minds are needed in public deliberation about the common good in these new economic times, even if their minds not required on their jobs?

What would that curriculum look like?

 

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