Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why Mom and Pop can't afford Education

As I look at "fixed" raises built into teacher's and non-certified personnel's contracts, I can't help but think the guaranteed raises are a thing of the past. This may be the last generation of teachers to ever see such generous increases in their lifetimes.

Here's what the rest of America is suffering from already (from the Washington Post);

Will Your Job Survive?

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, March 22, 2006; Page A21


The threat of globalization and the reality of de-unionization have combined to make the raise, for most Americans, a thing of the past. Between 2001 and 2004, median household income inched up by a meager 1.6 percent, even as productivity was expanding at a robust 11.7 percent. The broadly shared prosperity that characterized our economy in the three decades following World War II is now dead as a dodo.

Also dying, if not yet also kaput, is the comforting notion that a good education is the best defense against the ravages of globalization -- or, as Bill Clinton famously put it: What you earn is the result of what you learn. A study last year by economists J. Bradford Jensen of the Institute for International Economics and Lori Kletzer of the University of California at Santa Cruz demonstrates that it's the more highly skilled service-sector workers who are likely to have tradable jobs. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the proportion of jobs in the United States that require a college degree will rise by a measly one percentage point -- from 26.9 percent in 2002 to 27.9 percent in 2012 -- during this decade.

Since education as such won't save us, Blinder recommends a kind of particularized vocational ed. We will have to specialize more, he writes, "in the delivery of services where personal presence is either imperative or highly beneficial. Thus, the U.S. workforce of the future will likely have more divorce lawyers and fewer attorneys who write routine contracts." Now, there's a prospect to galvanize a nation.

My own sense (which I develop at greater length in the April issue of the American Prospect) is that nothing short of a radical reordering of our economy will suffice if we're to save our beleaguered middle-class majority. Every other advanced economy -- certainly, those of the Europeans and the Japanese -- has a conscious strategy to keep its most highly skilled jobs at home. We have none; American capitalism, dominated by our financial sector, is uniquely wedded to disaggregating companies, thwarting unionization campaigns and offshoring work in a ceaseless campaign to impress investors that it has found the cheapest labor imaginable.

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