Opinion | What the Working Class Is Still Trying to Tell Us – David Brooks, The New York Times 9-9-18

This is an article well worth reading in total. I think it makes some excellent points. While our policy makers focus on more subsidies for college i.e. free tuition they miss the core problem. There are many ways to become a knowledgeable, educated person. And there are many ways to become successful , including fiscally secure.

I maintain that many of our empathetic sounding policies and programs inhibit that success.

Similarly, for the last several decades American, welfare policy has focused on consumption — giving money to the poor so they can consume more. Yet we have not successfully helped poor people produce more so that they can take control of their own lives. We now spend more than $20,000 a year in means-tested government spending per person in poverty. And yet the average poverty rate for 2000 to 2015 was higher than it was for 1970 to 1985. “

“What if people’s ability to produce matters more than how much they can consume?” Cass asks. The bulk of his book is a series of ideas for how we can reform labor markets. For example, Cass supports academic tracking.

Right now, we have a one-size-fits-all education system. Everybody should go to college. The problem is that roughly one-fifth of our students fail to graduate high school in four years; roughly one-fifth take no further schooling after high school; roughly one-fifth drop out of college; roughly one-fifth get a job that doesn’t require the degree they just earned; and roughly one-fifth actually navigate the path the system is built around — from school to career.

We build a broken system and then ask people to try to fit into the system instead of tailoring a system around people’s actual needs. Cass suggests that we instead do what nearly every other affluent nation does: Let students, starting in high school, decide whether they want to be on an apprenticeship track or an academic track. Vocational and technical schools are ubiquitous across the developed world, and yet that model is mostly rejected here.

One comment

  1. These are some horrible college stats. To think for the last 50+ years the US policy in education is to push everybody through college yet only 40% finish and only 20% use their degree. What a waste of resources for both the government and the students.

    I’ll admit that I am one of the 20% who did not use my degree. In fact I got my degree as a result of my job knowledge and it took me 29 years to do so. I wanted a piece of paper to wrap up a lifetime of vocational training if I needed a next step in retirement.

    The managerial theories in college were interesting and most have been tried on me during my career. What worked best is what I learned in the Air Force. Every airman had a mentor (supervisor) and every airman had a trainee at every rank. Everybody trained their replacement in case of being killed and everybody learned the job above them in case you became in charge. On-The-Job training was stressed and did not rely on all classroom instruction. When you cannot fire your fellow soldier from the job then you learn other ways to get along and complete the tasks. In six years I probably was only given 3 orders to do something. All the rest were “suggestions” that I willing did.

    You cannot not sit in a classroom for four years and depend on that knowledge to grow you and or your company for the next 40 years. In the IT world, the name of the game is earning certificates because computer programing changes so fast. We need to be that agile in other vocations too. Vocational and on-the-job training is where the money should be spent for 80% of the people.


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