Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hit the Books

More digits have been logged into essays and analyses about education than probably any other subject.  Where does America stand in relation to other countries?  Is the U.S. doomed to lose to China? Why are education standards falling?  Can K-12 schools in inner cities ever be fixed?

Let me call your attention to an interesting article by Hunter Richards titled “Technology, Employment, and Our Children’s Future.”  Richards presents a series of graphs that document the growth of IT spending, its beneficial impact on productivity, the growth of high-tech industry, rising corporate profits, higher unemployment of the poorly educated, and the growing importance of higher education.  In other words, hit the books and keep hitting the books.

A digression, but on point.  I spent 1963 in Hong Kong studying Chinese.  The first Chinese film I saw was a story about a sad neglected woman because her husband, an official of the empire, spent all his time studying.  Du shu, du shu, changchang du shu (studying, studying, always studying).  The tradition continues to this day, except that Chinese women also du shu along with men.

Richards argues that we must align education growth with productivity growth to cope with a labor market that finds fewer opportunities for the uneducated.  I believe the solution requires major overhaul of “soft” tertiary education, but most important, fixing K-12 so its dropouts and graduates can acquire some measure of “productivity-raising” education and hopefully continue to the next level.

I’d like to see Richards spell out a list of measures to resolve the problem he has elegantly graphed. That is the hard part, isn’t it, as it requires dealing with an often incorrigible political and educational reality.

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