Friday, July 24, 2009

Higher education cuts (expanded)

For decades, politicians have told us that lost manufacturing jobs will be replaced by jobs requiring further education. That was Dubya's standard answer, as you may recall.

I question whether those new jobs are actually there. I also question the wisdom of asking people who don't enjoy learning to go back to school. A lot of people on our college campuses have no business being there. (As the Subgeniuses say: "You know how dumb the average guy is? By definition, half the people are dumber than that.")

Those questions may now be moot. Here in California, the new budget deal has already forced the Cal State and UC systems to cull students.
In addition to increasing student fees, the CSU system also plans on reducing student enrollment. Over the next two years, student enrollment would be reduced by 40,000 students, according to Reed. The CSU has also reduced enrollment by closing spring 2010 enrollment for all CSU campuses.
Those non-students are still going to need jobs. So now what?

Like it or not -- and it pains every good liberal to say this -- but education is not the answer: We need a return of good manufacturing jobs. That statement goes against everything we've been carefully taught since Reagan was in office. It goes against everything you hear from folks like Robert Reich. But facts are facts: See here and here.

Those links concern a Harvard Business Review piece on restoring American competitiveness.
One of the authors' central claims is the importance to high-tech innovation of what they call "the industrial commons", i.e., "R&D know-how, advanced process development and engineering skills, and manufacturing competencies related to a specific technology." Such a commons is often rooted geographically; for instance, US biotech firms have clustered in Boston, San Diego and San Francisco, while Germany is known for its mechanical engineering commons due to its automobile and machine tool industries.
This "commons" concept means that manufacturing and development tend to go together. The world is a lot less flat than certain propagandists would have you believe.
An example...also shows the erosion of the US industrial commons in the personal computer industry; I was surprised to learn that "[n]early every US brand of notebook computers, except Apple, is now designed in Asia, and the same is true for most cell phones and many other handheld electronic devices."
A couple of additional quotes:

* "One [myth] is the popular belief that an advanced economy like the United States no longer needs to manufacture and can thrive exclusively as a hub for high-value-added design and innovation. In reality, there are relatively few high-tech industries where the manufacturing process is not a factor in developing new - especially, radically new - products." (p.119)

* "[The prevailing view that the migration of mature manufacturing industries away from developed countries like the United States is just part of a healthy, natural process of economic evolution] ignores the fact that new cutting-edge high-tech products often depend in some critical way on the commons of a mature industry" (p.120)
Translation: We need to go back to makin' stuff. It is racist (and self-defeating) to presume that furriners can manufacture stuff but can't invent stuff. They can do both. Very soon we (unless we change our ways) will do neither.


Alessandro Machi said...

I had the privilege of first giving basic advice to a very talented teenage girl that was auditioning for a chance to win a spot on a national TV show that aired in classrooms all over the country.

She took my advice, reshot her interview piece, we edited it with her mom, and she was only one of 15 selected out of 2,000 entries.

They liked her so much she was given extended time on the show. Then she was offered a four year deal to be host anchor of the show.

Her Parents said absolutely not, you are going to college. She went to college, finished early I think, came back, and was not offered the job anymore.
From a selfish point of view, it would have looked good on my resume if she had signed that four year deal.

Sometimes I wince when I hear that education is a must.

Anne said...

Joe, we can't make stuff here cause we still expect a decent wage. Wait till we have dirt floors for awhile, then manufacturing might return.

Alessandro Machi, if I was that girl, I'd sue the parents.

How are collages getting people to come? There are no jobs,no investments for future jobs , but you are supposed to go to collage and get 100,000 in debt...for what? So you can stare at trade school TV ads at 3:AM ?

MrMike said...

I never understood all this "We can all be rocket scientists" crap. Some body has to screw the rocket together.

Gary McGowan said...

One kind of education is "on-the-job training," or apprenticeship.

The worker [Has “worker” become a word increasingly carrying connotations of slavery?] begins at an appropriate level, gains knowledge of processes and techniques, and is promoted appropriately. Perhaps he or she even branches off as an entrepreneur, with an innovative process or product; all to the common good.

Alas, our society and culture has undergone a decades-long moral degeneration. "Value" is now perceived in terms of money.

What IS valuable is human creativity -- not to be confused with cleverness exhibited by a pet animal or ape.

We find ourselves in a war of the imperialists [empire] vs. humanity [that's us.]

"We find ourselves" thus situated not because the war is new or suddenly arisen, but because under the extreme threats and demands of these times we live in, we are re-discovering what is truly of value. We find ourselves asking, “What am I truly about—What do I stand for?”

And in that process, we may discover that "economics" takes on a whole new meaning, with money playing only a small role. By the people and for the people, we can extend credit based on a correct, rigorously-proven understanding of what IS of value. There is no need, and much danger in borrowing from supra-national institutions.

(FDR did a lot of studying and thinking when his very life was threatened by polio, which he well could have died from in those times. That was before he served as Governor of New York, where he gained further understanding, as the economy was increasingly being destroyed all around him.)

Anonymous said...

I'd go a little further than that. In addition to restoring manufacturing, we also need to develop and protect local, self-sufficient economies. That means no free trade where services and goods can be provided from within that community. That will create many, many jobs. Wal-Marts and their type of ilk have to disappear from our landscape.

But the concept of individuals and businesses thriving off of what a community and its resources have to offer is largely lost on most Americans. The idea of cheaper goods to more people is a lie when those people find themselves poorer and jobless because of it.

Anonymous said...

Education is about more than just getting a job. It is the foundation of a democracy because people cannot vote intelligently without knowing about their world. They cannot think well without learning how to think critically. Nations that want sheep scorn education and place obstacles before education for non-elites.

Anonymous said...

As GM, noted above, apprenticeship and on-the-job training are types of, I would add, is going to a technical school.

In these days of instant communication, you *could* in theory have a country focussed solely on coming up with new ideas.
The US is the only country on earth which actually believes that anything is possible, and so is the leader at this. (The old Soviet Union encouraged flights of fancy - more out of a lack of money than anything else - but that was still constrained by what was practical)
However, jobs based on ideas along with jobs to make those ideas concrete and feasible...that's an unbeatable combination.

Sergei Rostov