7.2.08

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST. At Phi Beta Cons, George Leef recommends an editorial questioning the oversold degree.

For all the talk about college being crucial to gainful employment in today’s society, the Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that bachelor’s degrees are no antidote to outsourcing, underemployment and lagging pay. Among 40 occupations on the BLS’ watch list for likely outsourcing are computer programmers, aerospace engineers and microbiologists.

Meantime, blue-collar trades people — from truck drivers to plumbers to electricians — are perpetually in demand. And none of these fields requires post-secondary degrees.

Even the education sector itself reflects this dichotomy. Indian River County School District, for example, hired an audio-visual coordinator fresh out of high school and paid him $15,000 more than a beginning teacher with a master’s degree.

None of this is to suggest that higher education isn’t important for the knowledge it imparts. A college degree can enrich life and, in some fields, ensure upward
mobility.

But Paul Barton, a senior associate at the Educational Testing Service, poses a provocative question in the title of his report: “How many college graduates does the U.S. labor force really need?”

Welcome to the conversation. Note, however, the tension between job preparation and intellectual growth inherent in that fourth paragraph.

Now, think about this.
As things stand now, businesses complain about the lackluster skills of high-school graduates. Such concerns prompt Liam Julian of the education research center at New York’s Fordham Foundation to opine: “If high-school diplomas actually meant something, conventional wisdom would be less likely to demand college diplomas.”
Where is the trustee or university president who will put the onus back on the high schools, which has the potential to improve faculty morale. As would more self-selection.
For high school students, an unsentimental analysis of supply-and-demand is called for. Bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees are entirely appropriate pursuits for the academically inclined and they help keep future options open, but sheepskins aren’t for everyone. And there’s no shame in that.
But there is shame in suggesting that slackers and corner-cutters are somehow able to carry water for a patternmaker.
In the real world, lawyers appear to be everywhere, while a good, skilled craftsman is increasingly hard to find — at any price.
That's always been the case.

No comments: