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The Future of America is Now

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 1st, 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






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