I enjoyed the last panel that my work paid for me to attend on Thursday. It ran all day and focused in and around higher education technology. Just as a little background, half of my salary is paid through federal vocational rehabilitation which is a program that focuses on getting individuals the right kind of education and training for them to become gainful contributors to society. V.R. of course has its challenges, and I wanted to find out more information regarding what's out there that could help our clients to achieve success. What I ended up getting can more or less be summed up by the question: "How well does society in the United States prepare college graduates for a life of work?" I'm sure all of you have answers to that question. For me, the answer is obvious: it doesn't. The cost of higher education has become grotesque...beyond the means of people (like me) to afford. Sure, you can take out student loans. But graduates today will step into the workforce for the first time with a mountain of debt and many with skills that are obsolete within six months. So if you don't swim right away, then within a year or two, you're sinking. Is the cost of education worth it?
It's an interesting dilemma and really goes well with some of the other panels I attended at CES this week. Take for example the quandary of all of those out-of-work professional drivers who will be in their mid-forties and face obsolesence. The person in charge of that particular panel chafed at my question (if you remember) and merely said, they will have to get trained in other jobs that are created by leading innovations.
Okay...sure. So how does one get trained? Well apparently it's for the cheap cost of another $50,000 that you could either borrow or starve your family out (I suppose you could try selling your soul to the devil, but I don't think he's buying these days as sin is free).
Basically, this panel on higher education had a debate that went on for hours. They know that as of 2011, there exists 9.4% unemployment for those possessing only a high school degree. The ones that fall outside of that percentage have jobs at Burger King or McDonalds, right? But who cares, they have jobs. They just can't make any money at the jobs that they do.
The panel knows that normal "non-unicorns" are graduating with a ton of debt. A "unicorn" in this context is the "mythical" genius student that gets into Harvard at the age of 15 (my book "Slipstream" is about the life of a "unicorn" of this nature). These panelists know that a path to a degree should allow for the learner to pick and choose what they want that is in accordance with their goals. Take for example the "engineering" student that is forced to study Spanish literature and read Don Quixote. They want to put an end to this. However, to accomplish this, means to go to war against the Department of Education, and the DOE (the people that pay my salary through Voc Rehab) is an entity that moves very slowly and does not adjust to change the same as people posting a relationship status on Facebook.
It literally means a revamping of the "credentialing system." This "system" has been in place for decades, but technology has arrived. The West is well beyond what we should be doing and is facing what it must be doing in order to retain a position of leadership. The answer is a new pedagogy, because the United States is a nation that is in (right now) an educational crisis.
The United States is setting itself up to be essentially "irrelevant" within my lifetime. Nice. Here's some statistics for you: 36 million college students lost their way at some point and didn't get credentialed. They are smart, but have no certificate to show it. Because the system is the way it is, without that certificate, they are condemned to a life of poverty. Our system is not set up to help those students who may run into trouble mid-course. Our system is set up to count the dead bodies at the end. It's not a good system and creates obstacles for success to preserve the value of the certification as a reward at the end.
That would be all fine and dandy if businesses valued those credentials. But increasingly, businesses are hiring their employees based off of portfolios. They are examining the work of someone and could care less what the credentials are. That's the way Silicon Valley currently operates and is becoming more and more the business norm.
So the value of a degree is basically becoming less and less.
However, all of this discussion is moot since the Department of Education sent no representative and as far as anyone can tell, congress can't agree on anything anyway between the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling that a discussion on educational reform isn't going to happen.
Interesting eh? I found a lot of food for thought in this last summit at CES. However, being presented with all problems and no solutions I guess seems like a waste of time. But at least there's a discussion taking place (probably one that gets even less attention than the one regarding gun control in our country). I predict that both will peter out, and we'll accept our irrelevance while China, Singapore, and other countries become global leaders and the United States watches Honey Boo Boo and gets fat on "sketty and butta", but continues to feel important simply because we all own firearms (and someone in the country knows the launch codes to nuclear weapons). And as much as the evangelicals in our country will want to blame the intellectual abyss that will become America, it will not be because of gay marriage.
|"The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting."|
--Plutarch. (I really liked that quote and thought I'd share). You're welcome
Book Tour Stuff: Today I'm at Mimmi's Musing talking about my love affair with assassins. Go HERE to read about it :)
I'm talking about the hockey culture in "Oculus" on Puck Buddy's. Find the post HERE. Thank you, Jeff, for putting up the article on this blog recognized by the New York Times for its ground breaking articles.
Also I may be at Melissa Stevens tomorrow. Find that blog HERE.
Next week I shall be back from Vegas trying to resume a normal schedule. Thanks for your patience. Have a great weekend.