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Rightfully Educated: The Ultimate Threat to America’s Workforce

On January 27th, 2012 at the University of Michigan, President Obama outlined his plan to cut public college and university costs down by working with states, universities and Congress. Meanwhile, he also emphasized that he wants America“…to be a big, bold, generous country where everybody gets a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody is playing by the same set of rules.”

We can all attest to the rising costs that come with attending college, but does everybody need to go to college after all?  Sure, people should get “a fair shot” and be judged based on their merits when it comes to college admissions. But do all Americans need to waste away their lives learning theories far removed from reality or pursue purposeless majors such as Ethnic Studies or Women’s Studies?

Although “college for all” sounds like a marvelous principle, it is an idealist concept that countries like Sweden are paying a heavy price for pursuing.  As Per Bylund explains in The Modern Welfare State: Leading the Way on the Road to Serfdom, “…many young people were gently pushed into ‘free’ (tax-financed) higher education programs to get an (additional) advanced degree while receiving grants and heavily subsidized student loans to cover living expenses” as Sweden became “progressively” more socialist (43).

Because the government heavily invested in “public-sector services such as higher education” and discouraged “low-productivity labor and firms from the labor market,’ Swedes came to regard higher education as a right, not a privilege (43). As a result, Sweden collapsed as an individualistic, self-reliant nation and thus, transformed into a welfare state favoring government dependency over individual achievement.

But what happens when everybody goes to college and “low-productivity labor” is discouraged? A weak society that lacks a strong workforce enriched with basic trades emerges. Without such a workforce, a society lacks the very self-reliance needed to produce and sustain economic prosperity. America is experiencing such a “crisis” as both middle and high schools continually do away with courses focusing on basic trades and instead promote the “need” for everybody to go to college.

High schools in America used to prepare adolescents for successful futures by requiring their students to participate in woodworking, auto shops, and home economics classes. Even though some high schools still continue to offer these essential courses, many have discontinued them.

In Oregon, teacher Glenn Campbell is trying to prevent the Hillsboro School District from closing the last auto shop existing in the district. Concerned about America’s decaying quality of STEM education and lack of manufacturing jobs, Campbell says that “if we don’t design it here, what are the odds we’re going to build it here?”

In 2010, Superintendent Shawn Himes of Enid Public Schools in Oklahoma announced woodworking would be cut from high schools due to “budget cuts.” As both of these courses are continuing to disappear from high school campuses across the country, America’s young men are being deprived of the skills needed to develop industries that produce real economic growth.

In addition, home economics, which emphasizes interior design, commercial cooking, consumer education, sewing, and other essential skills need for successful homemaking, is also being cut from K-12 education. This year, two middle schools in South Orange and Maplewood, New Jersey will have their cooking and sewing classes replaced with a technology course. By doing away with home economics, such schools are depriving young people of basic skills needed to be a functioning adult. Learning how to operate technology is important as well, but what happens when technology fails, and the future generation would have to operate without a technological device to do everything for them? Everyday activities that used to be considered standard have puzzled the dependent, entitled young people of America because we rid our schools of programs not college focused.

Instead of discouraging basic trades, K-12 education should promote trade schools as an alternative to college education, because not everybody wants or needs to go to college. Trade schools are not only perfect for people who want to directly enter the workforce, but are also important for feeding real GDP.

Anna Maria Hoffman :: University of California at San Diego :: San Diego, California :: @AM_Hoffman

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Comments

  1. You are definitely on to something here. In our rush to educate, as you point out, we have forgotten that knowing how to do things is a good thing.

    Looking forward to more of your writing on this essential topic.

    Brave and Kudos to you Anna Maria Hoffman!

  2. Nice! Totally agree!

  3. You are absolutely correct! And to paraphrase Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) in a recent pro-vocational education video: We have become so focused on getting into the corner office, that we have forgotten how to build one.
    I am not sure when the shift happened but at some point American society begin to look down upon tradesmen and craftsmen and the skilled labor they perform and begin to believe that only the “hallowed halls of academia” have anything of value to contribute to society? When is the last time a women’s studies or philosophy major repaired a broken pipe in your house? One might suspect that it is about income potential but I beg to differ: A plumber makes more than I do as a school librarian with a masters degree! Coincidentally I work at a vocational high school and I tell everyone who will listen that if you live on this planet, you need the skills we train our students to provide: auto service, construction technology, culinary arts, public safety, nursing, dental assisting, early childhood education, cosmetology, medical systems administration, tv production, electronics… I just hope the right people are listening so we can continue to provide training in these essential skills!
    Thank you for a great article that I will be forwarding to my collegues!

  4. Thank you Scott and Joe for your kind words!

  5. “Learning how to operate technology is important as well, but what happens when technology fails, and the future generation would have to operate without a technological device to do everything for them?”

    this article is terrible

  6. “We can all attest to the rising costs that come with attending college, but does everybody need to go to college after all? Sure, people should get “a fair shot” and be judged based on their merits when it comes to college admissions. But do all Americans need to waste away their lives learning theories far removed from reality or pursue purposeless majors such as Ethnic Studies or Women’s Studies?”
    I suggest that you consider an more nuanced, accurate perspective because when you the perspective of “everyone” , I have to believe that you have never studies biological statistics. And though I struggle with statistics it it boils down that there is a variable in ever group
    The ability of humans to survive to age 90 is limited by a number of factors
    if you take the US for example some citizens experience third wold rates of death when they are born . Racism, poverty, hatred, greed against helping others are some of the values which cause this death rate. The ability of individuals to be proficient at reading and writing is a skill spread out across society. The ability of citizens to perform critical analysis is also spreed out across society. Some are indoctrinated at a early age that their religion, political perspective is the one and only true one so as a result they are discouraged that by the institutionalized beliefs that questions or having flawed concepts pointed out if you want to stay with in that group are discouraged. What question have your religious and political leaders encouraged you to think about the concepts they promote.

    Who said ever one needs to go to college?
    Not ever one wants to go to college.
    So I take it you have never taken any ethnic Studies or Women’s Studies? As a consequence how narrow is your understanding of what is occurring in our world? Women represent more than 50 % of the population and you have been not encouraged to understand the injustice, the poverty that prejudicial manner that men have treated women. Have your been encouraged to take this attitude toward other concepts? Evolution, global climate destabilisation, the free market . Gangster capitalist have profited in the free market from manufacturing epidemics of death with tobacco sugar, salt and fat contaminated foods. How many of your friends and family will gangster capitalist in the free market kill with their toxic agenda. I sure hope you inform you self about the threat gangster capitalist pose to your future. You life depends on it.
    “Because the government heavily invested in “public-sector services such as higher education” and discouraged “low-productivity labor and firms from the labor market,’ Swedes came to regard higher education as a right, not a privilege (43). As a result, Sweden collapsed as an individualistic, self-reliant nation and thus, transformed into a welfare state favoring government dependency over individual achievement.”
    When did Sweden collapse? It is the US which has collapsed because politicians permitted and many are not aware that their transportation system was made less efficient, burned more of the worlds oil supply and made more toxic emitting and a larger contributor to climate destabilizing Have you educational leaders informed you about how the free market responded to peak oil production by building Hummers and less fuel efficient SUV?

  7. I’m not even going to touch why you decided to use Ethnic or Women’s Studies as examples of pointless classes/majors. Espcially coming from a Human Devlopment Major. Why not Art History or Music?

    I agree, not everyone should go to college. However, you never stated who these people are or why they shouldn’t. Considering you decided to tie this in with Obama’s intention to make college affordable, it really comes across as the poor folk shouldn’t be going to college – Accounting, Art History, Biology, Human Development are pursuits that the offspring of only the middle upper class and higher may join.

    I certainly hope you didn’t intend to imply that those who can’t afford college are better off in jobs that serve those who can afford it.

  8. She only responds to comments that praise her or are in line with her views. I wouldn’t waste my time to write a thoughtful response.

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