A calmer point about education

Yesterday I went on a rant about education. After 24 hours I am somewhat calmer now but I would reference you to our website www.rjslee.com and under the articles tab please check August 2010 under Construction Equipment Digest. That was my take on education a number of years ago.

“The notion that a four year degree is essential for real success is being challenged by a growing number of economists, policy analysts and academics. They say more Americans should choose other options such as technical training or two year schools which have been embraced in Europe for decades.

Wow, what an earth moving change in thinking is finally upon us. Could it be that we are flooding the struggling job market with over qualified degree holders. Now don’t get me wrong a University education is a good thing. After all I made my living teaching at University for a time in my career. I believe in education. But there are gaps in our skills in the current workforce and coming generations. We can see severe shortages in many technical disciplines. Not the least of which is technicians.

Most parents today want their children to go to University. But they will clam up when asked what it is that these children should take at University or why they should go to University. They point to unemployment rates, perhaps, where University graduates have an unemployment rate of 4.9% versus 10.8% for high school graduates. But that doesn’t measure University against a Technical School education or a two year Junior College does it? They will point to the fact that a University Graduate will make $1,000,000 more in earnings over their lifetimes than a High School Graduate. Again the same problem exists; how does that compare to Technical School or a Junior College. And what about those growing student loans; they are now averaging, yes that is right averaging, over $25,000 per college graduate. That is a lot of money when it is paid back with net income dollars.

Perhaps we are getting to be asking the right questions at long last. Rather than propose that everyone should go to University let’s review the premise. What educational skills are appropriate for a new member to the work force?  The era of a general Liberal Arts degree being sufficient for the work force is passé today isn’t it? Ohio University Economics Professor Richard Vedder blames the cultural notion of “credential inflation” for the stream of unqualified students into the four year colleges, a common complaint from Universities across the country. :

Martin Scaglione, President and Chief Operating Officer of Work Force Development for ACT, the Iowa based not-for-profit best known for its’ college entrance exam, suggested nothing short of a new definition for educational success. He advocates “certification as the new education currency – documentation of skills as opposed to mastering curriculum.” As a former University educator I couldn’t agree more. We are focused too heavily on mastering curriculum at all levels of learning prior to post graduate degrees. It would be a wonderful change if we started maintaining an “inventory of skills”, certified skills.”

I am sure this needs to be updated somewhat but the premise is still there. We are in a changing world in many areas but also in education. How you attract and retain skilled workers is the challenge. The time is now.