For the Benefit of the Sellers of Useless Knowledge

Actually, I’d argue that no knowledge is useless, although some is worse than useless. But Walt Gardner’s observation (which does not raise uselessness, by the way) is right on the money:

THE NEWS that employment opportunities for college graduates have dramatically shrunk in today’s recession comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following hiring trends. It merely confirms that the United States has been wildly oversold for far too long on the indispensability of a university degree as a haven against the dislocation caused by global competition.
The hard reality is that the overwhelming number of new positions in the next decade will require short-term, on-the-job training — not lengthy tertiary education, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The time frame is widely acknowledged to be between one week and three months, depending on the complexity of the tasks involved.

Higher education for all is the sort of unnecessary burden that folks who’ve never had to work (meaning actual work) like to impose. For a great many Americans, a standard four-year degree is a waste of time and a trap door into decades of debt.

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OldTimeLefty
11 years ago

Wow!
We are in basic agreement here. A college education is often presented as a means to a job. As such we have fewer students engaged in the educational process and more looking on college as simply a means to a larger income. The colleges are to be blamed for falling into the materialist trap and selling themselves as the key to increased personal income.
But what else could be expected from a society that glorifies the pursuit of money.
OldTimeLefty

Tabetha
Tabetha
11 years ago

Do I believe that young people (or older people, for that matter) should get a degree just for the sake of having one? No. However, I do think that it is important for young people beginning in high school (and preferably middle school) to begin investigating career options and the viability of those options in the current and projected market. Once a young person chooses a particular career path, s/he should be guided towards the kind of preparation necessary to reach his/her goals. That may mean trade school, a job training program, community college, or a four-year degree and possibly graduate/professional school. I don’t think it makes sense to bum around taking Underwater Basket Weaving and Analysis of 90s Hip Hop for four years but neither is it a smart move to expect to just graduate high school and get a job with no further preparation. Not unless a career as a Walmart greeter is the goal.

Slipperygipple
Slipperygipple
11 years ago

Schools need to able to really develop and focus on serious vocational programs. College is not the end all for many people but real life experience and job training should be looked as as a more intregal aspect of education. Perhaps with an increase in the importance ofvocational strata and pedagalogical inquisitiveness we shall see a preponderance of idealogical intrusionary and exclusionary situational pragmatism

Tabetha
Tabetha
11 years ago

Some high schools do have solid vocational programs (e.g., Davies). Such programs should be supported and expanded. However, I think it all comes down to working with students, helping them to focus on goals that are both realistic and suited to their interests, and then supporting them in working towards those goals. A student who wants to be a lawyer shouldn’t be pushed into a carpentry program and a student who wants to be a carpenter shouldn’t be pushed towards college and law school. Helping students to figure out what they want to do with their lives is the major factor that will then guide the course of action that should be taken.

rhody
rhody
11 years ago

Screw college. It’s just for lefty elitists, anyway.
If I ever run into Bill O’Reilly at an alumni function at our mutual alma mater, I’ll offer him my diploma to burn.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

I think that, together with the income of government employees, the income of blue collar workers has passed beneath the radar. Granted that many construction people are on bad times, in this economy that is not unique. Recently I had a secretary whose husband was a plasterer and averaging about $80,000 annually. My plumber charges $85 an hour, and usualy does a full 40 hours. Deducting $35 per hour for overhead, that is still $100K a year. I taught my daughter to run a back hoe when she was 16. For less than a years tuition, I could have bought her a bobcat and a dump. That was $600 a day. Now she is an Ivy League graduate, “making films” at 12K a year. Choices I guess. What seems to be forgotten in the “knowledge economy” is that many people actually like to “make things”, it is the opposing thumb that separates us from the apes. Not to mention that “knowledge” is easily “out sourced”. India has more Phd’s than we do. A guy with a slightly below average IQ can make a good living as a “machine operator” (no slight intended here). What can he do in the “knowledge economy”? It has been more than a generation since more than 2% of HBS grads went into manufacturing (largely family businesses). If we outsource everything that needs to be “made”, what do we have to export that anyone wants? We even import our manufacturing machinery from Japan. (Mistsubishi, those are the people who sent us the “Zero” in WWII) Anyone who knows about manufacturing knows that some of the best stuff in the world is still made here. But that is slipping, and fast. We no longer invest in new manufacturing processes. This may seem banal to those who do… Read more »

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

Another thought about “wealth” that came up in a discussion with a bunch of lawyers.
Most of their wealthy clients had become so by doing something “they were not too proud to do”, then kept doing it until they were the best there was.
I am thinking of one guy I know, who still speaks with an Italian accent, who has banked $7,000,000 by putting one cement block on top of another.
In my life I have come to know a significant number of millionaires, I doubt that more than 10% of those went to college.
Here is another thought. A serious guy who wants to be a plumber should be making a respectable income by the time he is 22 or so. If he forgoes the Corvette, buys a house and makes a few sensible investments; when his brother the doctor starts making a living at 32, or so, the doctor is going to have to run prety fast to catch up.

Chris
Chris
11 years ago

I’m an early 80’s Davies Voc-Tech grad. I don’t know about now, but back in those days, most of the teachers were hacks that were running out the clock until they reached their retirement (sound familiar?). I remember one Social Studies teacher that would give us a “study hall” three or four days a week so that he could spend the entire class time on the phone, making deals and ordering parts and tools for his autobody business. My shop class instructor was an older gentleman, a handful of years away from his pension, and had long since given up; he was basically just showing up every day and keeping his chair warm. My parents paid waaayy too much, through their RI state income taxes (Davies is a state-run school) for that kind of return. Though touted as being able to offer “market-ready skills” to students, it took me another four years of night classes at CCRI before I could find a decent job in my chosen field.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

Chris, “I don’t know about now, but back in those days, most of the teachers were hacks that were running out the clock until they reached their retirement (sound familiar?). I remember one Social Studies teacher that would give us a “study hall” three or four days a week so that he could spend the entire class time on the phone, making deals and ordering parts and tools for his autobody business.” I have had occaission to speak with several Voke Ed teachers. They made it clear that they were just warehousing kids, and didn’t expect much from them. I am not sure where to place the blame for this. Some certainly goes to the idea that Voke Ed is for kids who are not “smart enough”. I don’t think good “tool & die” makers are stupid, they know a sine from a co-sine. Last year Attleboro closed down their machinest course because there was only one taker. A month or so back, I encountered an elderly German man at Home Depot (the only way to get anywhere at HD is to ignore the help and look for knowledgeable customers). I mentioned that he seemed to know a lot about screw sizes and grades, he replied “Yah, I am a machinest”. I think he meant it. Look around the web for forums for people who collect old American “Cast Iron” machinery. I think the old iron with an American label “speaks to them”. Mine is all Buffalo, Clausing, South Bend and Walker-Turner. It warms my heart to know my Walker-Turner drill press made machine guns in WWII. My South Bend lathe also has a “War Production Board” label on it (the ways are hand scraped, that is something you won’t see on Asian imports). Will Japan make our weapons in… Read more »

Monique
Editor
11 years ago

“I remember one Social Studies teacher that would give us a “study hall” three or four days a week so that he could spend the entire class time on the phone, making deals and ordering parts and tools for his autobody business. My shop class instructor was an older gentleman, a handful of years away from his pension, and had long since given up; he was basically just showing up every day and keeping his chair warm.”
But we don’t need merit pay in Rhode Island …

OldTimeLefty
11 years ago

Monique,
You need to think a bit further, if you say that you “remember one Social Studies teacher that would give us a “study hall” three or four days a week so that he could spend the entire class time on the phone” and suggest that we should curb or curtail public education in Rhode Island as a result of this person’s activity, you might want to reflect on Bernie Madoff and friends actions and urge us to curb or curtail corporate capitalism.
OldTimeLefty

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