Walter Rhett

Education is now less rather than more

In Education on August 27, 2010 at 11:36 pm

For all that the Tea Party and conservative Republicans becry their apprehensions and fears about the growing deficit, we are in equal danger of being damaged by the conditions of our wealth. Whatever the deficit, look around, Americans have more. But we also have less. Education is a big part of that less. Our wealth seems to have diminished our drive to grab the benefits of education. And this benign indifference, fueled in part by the many things we possess and surround ourselves with, can affect our national economic success, individual job growth, family life style, personal health, and opportunities of life in the short and long term, and become a bigger yoke than the national debt.

In an unsolved conundrum, Education has lost its purpose within the national economy. College graduation no longer leads to a corporate career path, with its cushiony benefits and retirement package; many white collar positions for college grads have been outsourced to software; the lap top on the desk has replaced the clerk once at the desk.

Nor do most colleges do a good job of preparing students for the new entrepreurial economy. One of the best non-traditional colleges focused on experiential learning, Antioch college in Ohio, fell on hard times. Colleges often rely on internships to give students experience in the workplace, but these experiences are a long way from teaching the skills needed to develop and grow an independent business with its range of demands on time and skills.

Lastly, colleges themselves suffer from this surfeit of riches. Rarely focused on cost controls, tuition continues to rapidly increase, and even with financial aid, is out of the price range for many working class families that once viewed higher education as a tool to achieve higher wages, better working conditions, and employment security. Its passageways no longer seem to be the gateway for families that are upwardly mobile.

This decline could bode trouble in the long run.


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