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The Future of America is Now

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 1, 2009 3:29 PM |

Last week I wrote The Future of America to highlight a treatise put forth by Clinton administration Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. In that post, Reich put forth – and I totally concur – that our future economy will be known as the Technology Revolution. In order to participate and prosper in that revolution, one needs to be increasingly well educated.

Reich wastes no time in writing further on this topic and I am pleased to access his work at the highly regarded financial site, Wall Street Pit. Reich writes, The Future of Manufacturing, GM, and American Workers (Part II). In this piece, Reich reiterates the critically important need for education beyond the secondary level. I concur. Reich touches on the shortcomings and failures within the educational experience for lower-middle income and poorer families. He asserts:

America’s biggest challenge is to educate more of our people sufficiently to excel at such tasks. We do remarkably well with the children from relatively affluent families. Our universities are the envy of the world, and no other nation surpasses us in providing intellectual and creative experience within entire regions specializing in one or another kind of symbolic analytic work (LA for music and film, Silicon Valley for software and the Internet, greater Boston for bio-med engineering, and so on).

But we’re in danger of losing ground because too many of our kids, especially those from lower-middle class and poor families, can’t get the foundational education they need. The consequence is a yawning gap in income and wealth which continues to widen. More and more of our working people finds themselves in the local service economy — in hotels, hospitals, restaurant chains, and big-box retailers — earning low wages with little or no benefits. Unions could help raise their wages by giving them more bargaining leverage. A higher minimum wage and larger Earned Income Tax Credit could help as well.

Not all of our young people can or should receive a four-year college degree, but we can do far better for them than we’re doing now. At the least, every young person should have access to a year or two beyond high school, in order to gain a certificate attesting to their expertise in a particular area of technical competence. Technicians who install, upgrade, and service automated and computerized machinery — office technicians, auto technicians, computer technicians, environmental technicians — will be in ever-greater demand.

I totally agree with Reich’s assessment of our situation, but I think he otherwise falls woefully short in his analysis. Reich points toward the effects and outcomes of the educational output for the lower-middle income and poorer groups in our social construct. However, Reich immediately points toward the necessity for public intervention and public obligation in providing access to education beyond the secondary level.

I strongly believe the ultimate success – or the continued failure – for those involved in the education for our lower middle-income and poor has to start at home and with the family structure. Reich regrettably does not take this issue on and plays to his strong liberal base in the process.

I have attempted to highlight the horrendous urban graduation rates (50%) and excessively high rates of single parent families (currently 40% nationwide, with rates as high as 70% within the African American population) in my post from last Fall, Give a Man a Fish, Feed Him for a Day.  I have also attempted to highlight a program supported by both private and public funding that addresses the academic, community, and family structure needed to promote success for lower income people. On the heels of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visiting the inner city of Detroit to take the pulse of “the worst school system in the country” (a graduation rate of 25%!!!), I wrote Arne Duncan Visits Detroit; He Should Visit Domus.

I am in total agreement with Reich’s assessment of our global economy entering into a Technological Revolution. I am in total agreement with him on the need to focus on education. I think he falls woefully short in his analysis of the glaring holes in our urban settings, and the costs these holes are incurring on our social fabric and nation as a whole. Regrettably, not unlike the Obama administration remaining beholden to the UAW in the ongoing developments within the automotive industry, Reich is also beholden to the strong, liberal base within the teachers’ unions. As such, he lacks the courage to prescribe the necessary medication to address our national urban education plight. Our nation deserves better.

LD

  • kbdabear

    Parents of the affluent and the bright send their kids to college to become lawyers and investment bankers, neither of which we have a shortage of to be sure. Until our schools at the basic levels teach math and science to insure compliance rather than making it “fun” or “enhancing their self-esteem”, we’re going to have to continue to import the engineers, software coders, and research scientists our economy will need.

  • TeakWoodKite

    My sister in-law teaches in a public pchool in Harlem. I can honestly say that just surviving that enviornment is a huge challenge. I would not wish those obstacles on anyone.

    I couldn’t agree more that education begins at home.

  • coe

    yet again another well struck chord, LD..though I am less sure now than ever before about the wisdom of devoting time and considerable expense to hoovering an advanced degree – witness the colossal failure of the capital markets’ well-papered leadership and technocrats with all their high grade Harvard/MIT/University of Chicago et al credentials in business, engineering and mathematics…woefully short of the “people” skills acquired by absorbing and reflecting the essence of a strong liberal arts curriculum – philosophy, literature, sociology et al..for my two cents, I agree with you in that foundations are indeed forged at the home – regardless of socio-economic underpinnings, and that absolutely frames one’s views as learning occurs through our school years and beyond (one recent example is Sonia Sotomayor’s shout out to the strength and guidance provided to her by her mother …at the same time, I am not at all implying that everyone from the hardscrabble NY projects can draw from within and head off to Princeton and Yale either)..the fact that she believes this foundation will help her in the course of her judicial deliberations may well deserve public debate as a matter of policy, but I applaud her integrity and value system in acknowledging the facts

    I think that Reich has stirred and/or drunk the liberal Kool-Aid too much and panders to his constituencies when he believes the union movement should exert more leverage – I happen to think that the world is changing, that conditions that spawned the labor union movement have changed here in America as well, and that when it comes to education, our teachers’ unions virtually institutionalize the risk of mediocrity or worse – at a time when focus and excellence are critical…just one man’s opinion

    lastly, no doubt we are in a rapidly accelerating and dizzying technological updraft…but is all of this good for society as a whole? I wonder…it’s not just the manufacturing masses losing their jobs to robots…I saw a documentary the other night on the 1964 NY World’s Fair and personally have many fond memories of that wonderful experience – can we recall that two of the most interesting technological aspects that burst onto the scene back then but seem almost quaint by today’s standards were the advent of the push button phone and the moving walkway taking people through the Vatican exhibit to see the Pieta! – yet the biggest buzz at the fair wasn’t about the technology…rather, it was all about the novelty and enjoyment of the exotic Belgian waffles! – taste trumping technology!

    and for Pete’s sake, as far as I am concerned, things have gotten way out of control when we are all subjected to the “flush-o-matic” toilet technology (most would agree that they never quite work as intended and the quality of the restroom experience in the workplace has never been worse) – is it asking all that much for society to take a second to actually flush? has anyone run out to install one in one’s own house? As Sy Sims says in his commercials, “An educated consumer is our best customer”…how right and profound is that simple phrase…keep up the great work, LD






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