Monday, January 23, 2012

A Minor Musing About Mobility And Education

The Madville Times posts a Bryan Aukerman guest column.  Aukerman writes,
I’m a young teacher in the state who looks at this horribly misinformed Governor and his plan (which has already proven to be a failure to promote student success in other states) and say in all seriousness that I am likely to move out of South Dakota if it passes. I do not want to work in a toxic work environment where the Governor creates an incentive for me to look at my coworkers as competition.
I don't know Mr, Aukerman; Cory vouches for him and that's good enough for me.  I hope Mr. Aukerman is able to make the move and find a satisfying place to work, but the odds seem to be against most people.

A New York Times Magazine article contends,
The U.S. has always been a remarkably itinerant country, but new data from the Census Bureau indicate that mobility has reached its lowest level in recorded history. Sure, some people are stuck in homes valued at less than their mortgages, but many young people — who don’t own homes and don’t yet have families — are staying put, too. This suggests, among other things, that people aren’t packing up for new economic opportunities the way they used to. Rather than dividing the country into the 1 percenters versus everyone else, the split in our economy is really between two other classes: the mobile and immobile.
The article goes on to point out that the split is also between the knowledgeable and the ignorant; the split between what one knows and who one knows also continues.
Until now, a B.A. in any subject was a near-guarantee of at least middle-class wages. But today, a quarter of college graduates make less than the typical worker without a bachelor’s degree. David Autor, a prominent labor economist at M.I.T., recently told me that a college degree alone is no longer a guarantor of a good job. While graduates from top universities are still likely to get a good job no matter what their major is, he said, graduates from less-exalted schools are going to be judged on what they know. To compete for jobs on a national level, they should be armed with the skills that emerging industries need, whether technical (computer science) or not.
Those without such specialized skills — like poetry, or even history, majors — are already competing with their neighbors for the same sorts of mediocre, poorer-paying local jobs like low-level management or big-box retail sales. And with the low-skilled labor market atomized into thousands of microeconomies, immobile workers are less able to demand better wages or conditions or to acquire valuable skills.

Young teachers like Mr. Aukerman face a different problem.  In another New York Times article, Michael Winetrip writes,
Even if you think the Obama administration’s signature education program, Race to the Top, will not help a single child in America learn more, you have to admire its bureaucratic magnificence.
First, it has had a major effect — reaching into most public schools in America — while costing the Obama administration next to nothing.
The Education Department will spend about $5 billion on the program, and even if you’re thinking, hey, I could use $5 billion, consider this: New York won the largest federal grant, $700 million over the next four years. In that time, roughly $230 billion will be spent on public education in the state. By adding just one-third of one percent to state coffers, the feds get to implement their version of education reform.
That includes rating teachers and principals by their students’ scores on state tests; using those ratings to dismiss teachers with low scores and to pay bonuses to high scorers; and reducing local control of education.
Second, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and his education scientists do not have to do the dirty work. For teachers in subject areas and grades that do not have state tests (music, art, technology, kindergarten through third grade) or do not have enough state tests to measure growth (every high school subject), it is the state’s responsibility to create a system of alternative ratings.
The whole article is worth reading, but the introduction makes it very clear that teachers who seek a better environment elsewhere may be moving from the proverbial frying pan into the proverbial fire.

I am reminded once again that many people seem to be using Orwell as a blueprint rather than a warning.  It seems clear that Daugaard and others want all workers everywhere to emulate Boxer from Animal Farm:  Repeat the mantra "I will work harder" or "[The Boss] is always right." and when you're used up we'll kindly send you to the knacker's.

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