I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bloomberg Blows Up the Reformy Argument

When the mayor of Reformytown admits one of the fundamental arguments of the corporate reformers is wrong, that's news:
Some advice from career counselor Mayor Bloomberg: If you are a so-so high school student, steer clear of college — and learn to clear clogged drains. 
Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show Friday that going to trade school to become a plumber is a better economic bet for many teenagers than obtaining an undergraduate degree. 
“The people who are going to have the biggest problem are college graduates who aren’t rocket scientists, if you will, not at the top of their class,” he said.
Oh, my - there are more than a few of Bloomberg's compatriots who wouldn't agree with that sentiment. Start (all emphases mine) with SecEd Arne Duncan:
In today's global economy a college education is no longer just a privilege for some, but rather a prerequisite for all. In the last year, 60% of jobs went to those with at least a bachelor's degree, and 90 percent to those with at least some college. Over the next decade, as many as two-thirds of all new jobs will require education beyond high school. Along with Vice President Biden and other senior Department of Education and Administration leaders, we have held town hall discussions around the country to stress the importance of higher education. We want to make sure that all students - regardless of income, race, or background - have the opportunity to cross the finish line.
Joel Klein:
From 1960 to 1980, our supply of college graduates increased at almost 4 percent a year; since then, the increase has been about half as fast. The net effect is that we’re rapidly moving toward two Americas—a wealthy elite, and an increasingly large underclass that lacks the skills to succeed.
Geoffrey Canada:
The only benchmark of success is college graduation. That's the only one: How many kids you got in college, how many kids you got out. Everything else is interim. 
The Gates Foundation:
A college education is the gateway to the American middle class, with college graduates earning substantially more than those without a degree. But low-income students are 28% less likely to finish college than those in higher income brackets, and the education gap is widening.
Barack Obama:
President Barack Obama's assistant secretary for postsecondary education told higher education leaders gathered in Boulder on Wednesday that the country is slipping in the proportion of people with college degrees and losing its competitive edge globally. 
The United States has slipped from first to ninth when it comes to the number of 24- to 29-year-olds with postsecondary degrees, said Eduardo Ochoa, a top official with the U.S. Department of Education. 
Ochoa was a guest speaker at the St. Julien Hotel & Spa, addressing the higher education officials convened for the 58th annual meeting of the State Higher Education Executive Officers. 
Ochoa said that Obama has outlined a goal to increase the number of Americans with postsecondary degrees from 40 percent to 60 percent by 2020.
Looks like the rest of the reformy world is out of step with the reformiest mayor in America. The truth is that Bloomberg is on to something - he just doesn't go far enough.

Rational people understand that not everyone should go to college; there are plenty of other ways talented people can have careers without earning degrees. The problem for most workers these days, however - college-educated or not - is that their wages have stagnated while America's productivity has increased.

The culprits responsible for this sate of affairs are the wealthy plutocrats - like Bloomberg - who have set up a system where nearly all the productivity gains are concentrated in the earnings of the wealthy. So it doesn't matter whether someone goes to college or becomes a plumber: no matter their career choice, they are less and less likely to have a decent middle-class life.

Further, Bloomberg and the college-pushers never want to talk about the millions of workers in America who are doing low-skill but necessary jobs while living what most other advanced countries would call an unacceptably squalid lifestyle. We need salesclerks and bricklayers and truck drivers and nurses aides and landscapers and food service workers and farmhands and all sorts of other workers. Yet these people are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with no health or dental care, little time or money for recreation, and no chance for a dignified retirement.

It's an immoral situation - and it has nothing to do with our education system. We can't continue to exploit the hard labor of millions of our fellow Americans, and then declaim that the problem is they aren't "college or career ready," when we need these people to do these jobs.

"College or career ready" is a favorite expression of Common Core guru and potty mouth David Coleman. I have to wonder: who cuts his lawn? Who pumps his gas? Who washes his dishes when he goes out to eat? Who picks his lettuce? Who will empty his bedpan when he's in a hospice bed taking his final breaths? Will Coleman's proselytizing of the Common Core gospel do anything to help the workers he relies on every day?

Those people are our fellow Americans, and they are doing necessary work. Yet no one in our little education passion plays these days ever acknowledges that this country wouldn't survive without them. And no one wants to admit that focusing on education "reform" won't do a damn thing to stop their exploitation.

I'm all for changing the system to a real meritocracy, where everyone gets access to high-quality education at the earliest age, and access to college is available cheaply to all who have the talent and the desire. I think it's fundamentally unfair that Bill Gates's and Mike Bloomberg's kids get to go to schools with small class sizes and lots of extra-curriculars, setting them up for elite college admission, while the working poor continue to send their children to testing factories disguised as schools that set them up to remain in the proletariat.

But arguing about whether college is the path to the middle class or not is a distraction. The real issue is that work of all types -  professional, skilled, and unskilled - is being devalued because Gates and Bloomberg and their ilk have set up a system where the vast money of the money flows to them. Charter school expansion and the Common Core won't change that.

Making people like Bloomberg and Gates finally start paying their fair share in taxes and breaking up the monopolies in the media, however, just might.

Instead of going to college, I should have been a cowboy!

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