Friday, May 09, 2008

The Problem With "Retraining"

There is a standard response from the Glitterati (and not-so-Glitterati--see G W Bush, e.g.) to those who object that their jobs are being offshored.

That response is "Get re-trained, get a degree, become part of the New Society" --or whatever they call it these days.

Really? Then perhaps the Atlantic's latest issue will be of interest. Or perhaps not.

Dreher quotes "Professor X," who writes an essay in the Atlantic--a fellow who teaches at two small Northeastern Colleges--both of them 'last resort' institutions. (You know the sort--there are at least two in the Milwaukee area.)

There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass. The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces -- social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students -- that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty.

Dreher goes on to ask the right questions.

Prof. X says the whole system, premised on a false egalitarianism, is to blame here. One key question this excellent essay raises by implication is this: if quite a lot of Americans are incapable of doing college work, what does that do to the Thomas Friedmanesque understanding that in order to compete in a flattened, globalized world, US laborers are simply going to have to get retrained and better educated? What if there are natural limits to their ability to expand their cognitive skills? What then?

Re-train for what? Pharmacy? Brain Surgery? Hell, these folks cannot write a 5-page essay including footnotes...

The supposition... is the belief that cognition, and improving cognitive skills, is simply a matter of running people through a diploma mill -- and the conviction that anybody who wants to succeed in school badly enough can

The converse, of course, is to examine the actual abilities of many 'college graduates' we see these days. It amounts to a denial of reality by many people. See also my post on high school problems here.

I happen to know a number of teachers, all of whom are of good heart--and many of which cannot spell, cannot write a sentence, and cannot distinguish in argumentation. But they are "degreed," therefore Worthy.

One doesn't have to go too far to encounter college grads (or college students) who cannot make change without a register-calculator.

Who are we kidding?


grumps said...

Then why bother to educate at all? If some are predestined to be cognitively limited then they should be consigned to the workhouse as early as possible.

You seem to be making a case here that some folks should just abandon all hope of bettering themselves at all. How does that square with your usual "Pull themselves by their bootstraps," boilerplate?

BTW: It should be many of "whom" can't spell etc. ;)

Dad29 said...

No, Grumps, I'm making the case that not all people should go to college. It's a waste of time for them, and a waste of resources for the State (or the students, or their parents.)

"Workhouse"--please, Grumps. There are plenty of careers with actual upward mobility, which do not actually need a college degree.

White collar: try customer service.

Blue collar: any construction trade, or auto mechanics.

Investing: try buying income properties.

There are plenty of others.

One can "pull oneself up" without a degree and the associated encumbrance of debt (or without wasting 4+ years.)

Next time, make a serious observation, please.

grumps said...

Spare me the condescension, Daddio. You use the word retraining as if the only way to accomplish it were a four-year college.

There are a variety of retraining options available to all levels of learner.

Start with the DPI Framework for 21st Century Skills, the VTAE System coupled with Union Apprenticeship Programs or not, and the UW Colleges and Extension.

Your post smacks of a predestination to failure on the part of a portion of those thrown back into the job market and, by extension, into the educational system.

If your point is that one degree does not fit everyone's needs then say so. We can agree on that and move forward.

But don't ignore the variety of degree options available in the marketplace today.

Dad29 said...

And YOU, grumpy, speak as though the only method of learning is attending some program which happens to be staffed by State-union-belonging teachers.

And as though a 2-year "degree" is actually comparable to OJT (although I grant you that the apprenticeship programs fit within "OJT" parameters.)

The point was, precisely, that a 4-year degree not only "does not fit everyone's needs" (and by the way, doesn't fill jobs critical to the human race)--but that "education" delivered by State sources is suspect as a whole.

Look only to IT technology for an example. State institutions are telling folks about the wonders of Windoze. That's about 20 years behind the technology of today.

However, we might agree that there IS another problem--the reluctance of corporations to invest actual money into training.

grumps said...

I strongly disagree that State institutions cannot deliver high-quality, cutting edge programming.

I will agree with you that employers want a highly qualified, finished workforce but are unwilling to pay for it. I've seen this problem from a couple of different angles and one constant is that employers see the value of the programming and want their worforce to reflect it but they are unwilling to invest the time and money to see it through.

I've seen companies cut corners on internal training to deliver content in half the time. I've seen temp agencies require applicants to complete a course delivered by a non-profit but be unwilling to contribute to the costs incurred in the delivery of the instruction. I've pitched vocational training to companies and shown them the money to be saved. They nod their heads and then wonder why their employees are unwilling to take the classes on their own time and tuition.

Everybody wants to be Hank Williams but nobody wants to die young. It's as silly and short-sighted as expecting high-quality roads without paying the roadbuilders.