Monday, May 17, 2010

Ficksing Skools (A year later)

Last year, on the award-winning *snicker* now-defunct, Lose an Eye, It's a Sport, I wrote a short series on what I thought was wrong (in part) with the public education system and some steps that would go a long way towards fixing it. If you haven't read this series, or are a masochist and would like to read it again, you can find all of the posts here. (start at the bottom and work your way up)

My main argument was that Texas, and America really, were pushing many children toward college that really didn't need to go there. From time to time I've linked to articles on my diigo feed that offered up evidence supporting that contention.

Today, in ChronBlog, I found two unrelated articles that move the ball further down the field.

(A warning signal for Latinos and Texas, R.G. Ratcliffe, ChronBlog, 05/17/2010)
If the American Dream is upward economic mobility and arrival in the middle class, the grim statistics show only a small percentage of Texas' Hispanics are on the road to success.

As the state's Latino population continues to expand over the next two decades, if current trends stay the same, Texas is in danger of developing what one academic describes as a “permanent underclass.” Widespread poverty could pull down the standard of living for all Texans.

Later on in the story, the following fact is mentioned:

Hispanics make up a third of the manual laborers in Texas. But U.S. Census statistics show that even in construction trades Hispanics account for less than a fifth of skilled labor, such as an electrician.

Which leads me to this second story, also in ChronBlog:

(College for all? Experts say not necessarily., Alan Scher Zagir, AP via ChronBlog, 05/17/2010)

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.

Their consensus is that more Americans should consider other options such as technical training or two-year schools, which have been embraced in Europe for decades.

And then, the following comment by a ChronBlog reader on the same story:

CheeryEyed wrote:
They should teach ROI in high school. Welders are in much greater demand than History teachers, and therefore make much higher wages.
For years now the American education system has been populated by public union employees whose main goal has been to feed the pipeline to create....more public union employees. This has led to an explosion of liberal arts degrees with no real, practical market purpose other than primary or secondary education. I'm not suggesting that we don't need teachers, obviously we do. But across the nation the real need is for educators in mathematics and science, not Social Studies, English etc. (unless you count ESL, which there's an argument to be made should not be taught in the first place.)

Tradition stated that the way out of poverty was to learn a skill or a trade and work your way to the middle class. After WWII an entire class of skilled laborers leveraged their skill and a hard work-ethic to realize the American dream. Somewhere along the way we've forgotten that, and allowed ourselves to be taught that the way out of the poverty class is to attempt to leverage large amounts of federally backed debt into an office career that's somehow viewed as "superior" to trades and skills that require manual labor.

In short, we've grown lazy.

By devaluing the blue-collar roots in favor of cocktail parties and ergonomic office chairs* we've cheapened what's always been America's most valuable resource: An army of workers with the desire to be put to work.

*What this doesn't mean is that we don't need accountants, engineers lawyers, and other professional positions in business. But there are too many people in colleges across America trying to ice skate up-hill in order to get a business degree they have no ability to complete. Hell, I'M an accountant who sits in an ergonomic chair all day. I went to school and have a degree that says I've been educated to perform my task. I happen to have an affinity for, and an enjoyment of, the work I do every day. That said, if the wiring in my house hits the fritz I'm sure hoping there's a licensed electrician around to repair it.


  1. There are certain things that cannot be "offshored" and that skilled tradesmen are required to do. Welders, Plumbers, Electricians, Heavy machinery operators, Mechanics, Surveyors, etc.

    None of these skills and trades require a college degree.

  2. After making a number of recent contributions to the economic well-being of my plumber, I'm seriously considering trying to find a trade school so I can learn how to do real plumbing. Seriously.

    I'm a fan of liberal education, to be sure. But it seems there's been such a hard shift in attitude so that liberal education is considered superior somehow to the trades. I don't get that. An honest day's work is an honest day's work, and increasingly I've come to appreciate that a guy who really knows how to FIX or DO something can frequently be much more helpful to have around than the dude who wrote a dissertation on American constitutionalism. :)

    I guess the question is, when in the world did we become a nation where so many people seem to devalue the FIXING and DOING of things?

  3. My fave "reality TV" program at the moment? Holmes on Homes. About a Canadian. Blue-collar (or, most of the time, no-collar) contractor. Who fixes what others have screwed up. Housing-wise.

    Highly unlikely we will see a similar program featuring, say, a CPA. Or a PolySci teacher.


  4. Ha, Holmes on Homes gets a LOT of play at our place too! That dude rocks. :)


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