x + 3 = unemployed?

I was doing some surfing of the old \’net today and came across this Opinion piece from The Christian Science Monitor.

College is not a must

On face value I agree with that statement. I know plenty of people who didn\’t go to college and make a good living. Some didn\’t go because they weren\’t ready (mentally and/or financially) at the end of high school. Others didn\’t go because they joined the family business; or, to be blunt, just didn\’t give a damn.

Even the tagline of the article is something I agree with: Mandated college-prep classes inhibit high-schoolers\’ futures. I agree that mandating college prep courses doesn\’t make sense. Those who are ready and are willing should have the option of taking those classes.

However, after that tagline and first paragraph, the article goes off on some tangents that I couldn\’t believe, and do not agree with.

Despite what the public is willing to acknowledge, the importance of a bachelor\’s degree has been wildly oversold.

Studies have consistently found that those who have a degree on average earn more than those who don\’t. . But all these studies were conducted before the new global economy fully emerged. Its presence calls into question long-held assumptions.
If Alan Blinder, former vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, is correct, the only jobs that will be secure in the next decade will those that cannot be sent abroad electronically. That means plumbers, electricians, and auto mechanics, for example, will be working steadily while many of their degreed classmates will be collecting unemployment checks.

I agree that the \”new global economy\”, while not all that new, has changed some of the assumptions for all areas of business; however, the writer does not specify which assumptions are no longer valid nor provide any proof that you make more money on average by not having a college degree. His \”proof\” is a quote from the Wall Street Journal that some unionized craft workers earn more than the average college graduate. Which is true… you can hop out of high school and work for four years and be making more at that point than the average college graduate. However, what if you look at those same two people 5 years later? Ten years later? Thirty years later?

Next, significant outsourcing of white collar jobs to foreign labor in the forecast is a huge assumption. As someone who has worked for companies that have utilized foreign labor for software engineering (i.e. computer programming or \”coding\”), I can tell you first hand that the process is far from perfect and moving beyond the task of writing code to other white collar jobs is going to be difficult.

In my world a business analyst gathers requirements from business owners on what they want changed (whether it\’s a business process or an application). Those analysts work with a Technical Analyst to turn those requirements into technical specifications. Typically the \’tech spec\’ is more black and white than the business requirements, but not always. This is where the handoff to outsourced workers occurs and has its best chance of being successful. Can you outsource the gathering of business requirements? Can you outsource the writing of the tech spec? Do you have foreign workers who are skilled communicators who can accomplish these tasks? It\’s been my experience that this is difficult if not impossible for offshore workers to do well. Even exchanging the tech spec written by an onshore Business Analyst to an offshore Technical Analyst is a dicey proposition. Besides coding, what other white collar jobs can be outsourced? At one of my employers, the HR department was outsourced overseas. However, anything beyond a simple yes/no question had to be re-routed to someone else who was located where? Chicago. This wasn\’t outsourcing of a white collar job, this was outsourcing of a call center. Decidedly not a white collar job. Think about your own career. How many jobs white collar or management jobs could really be outsourced to a foreign country? Well, besides Bob in the cube next to you who could be replaced by a trained monkey. That moron! But I digress…

Also, if all those college graduates are unemployed, who is going to hire all of these well-off plumbers, electricians, and auto mechanics?

Just as abruptly as the Opinion piece moves on, so shall I. The author quickly segues into complaining that more and more students are dropping out because they are forced to take \”a rigidly prescribed sequence of courses that too often are not in line with their needs and interests\”. Right… it\’s high school. If I had the option, I would have never taken an English course. But in this country we believe in a well rounded education. In Germany, they don\’t. You start taking career specific training (akin to vo-tech) in your teens. But I digress, our author turns the harsh light on \”the requirement [that] has singularly resulted in an increase in the dropout rate beyond the 24.2 percent in the 2006-07 school year\”… Algebra 1.

So this is the college prep course that is ruining America? Elementary Algebra? Isn\’t Algebra a middle school class? I agree that everyone doesn\’t need to be able to find x in Log4(x-1) = 3 (answer: 65); but shouldn\’t everyone know how to find x in 3x + 6 = 20 ? Is that really asking for too much? Shouldn\’t a plumber know that if he\’s got 3 jobs that all require new sinks, he\’s already quoted 20 bucks for the job, and his labor is 6 bucks, how much he can afford to spend on those sinks?

I know, that\’s a silly example; but for this author (who \”taught for 28 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District and was a lecturer in the UCLA Graduate School of Education\”) to say that Algebra is taking down our school system from the inside out… it is the most asinine thing I\’ve read in a long time. Especially when he starts the argument that it is college prep classes that are the problem, and then says \”California is experiencing the harm done by this requirement. At present, just more than half of the state\’s eighth-graders are taking Algebra 1 as part of the new policy mandating the course for all within three years.\” Since when is an eighth grade math class considered college prep? Calculus… that\’s a college prep course.

The total damage inflicted on students by the college-is-for-everyone mentality is incalculable. Students who cannot measure up to the demands for a college curriculum are made to feel like failures.

Boo frickin\’ hoo. There are those who suck in gym class, there are those who can\’t build a birdhouse to save their life. Most all of us experience disappointment in the classroom at some point in our lives. Life is full of failure, get used to it.

Our competitors abroad have long understood and accepted the fact that students can have a productive and gratifying career even when they do not go on to some form of tertiary education. They grant equal respect to these students, rather than regard them as second-class.

Yes, and in some countries you are put into a program by the time you are 12 that dictates what job you\’ll likely have for the rest of your life. Does that sound like a better system to you?

Now how this all ties back to college graduates being unemployed is a bit foggy, but what our author doesn\’t understand is that those with NO post secondary training that are at risk for being jobless. The unskilled labor, the telemarketer, etc. It has nothing to do with whether or not you go to college. Even those that he thinks are so protected (unionized labor) go through \”tertiary education\” of their own. Months of classes, followed by years of apprentice ship. And, did you know that if you have an associate’s degree (two year degree) and want to become an electrician, you are exempt from nearly half the training courses required as compared to those with only a high school diploma? So even skilled labor rewards those who took some college.

To sum up:
A) College isn\’t for everyone, but you should get some education beyond a high school diploma
2) Algebra isn\’t taking down our educational system; everybody should take Elementary Algebra and be able to get a D+
iii) How can a guy who was an educator for 28 years and a lecturer at the UCLA Graduate School of Education write such a poorly thought out and poorly constructed article that gets published in a major magazine?



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