Friday, December 7, 2012

Peak College

Peak College?:
The idea of going to college - and the expectation that the next generation will be better educated and more prosperous than its predecessor - has been hardwired into the ambitions of the middle classes in the United States.

But there are deep-seated worries about whether this upward mobility is going into reverse.
Andreas Schleicher, special adviser on education at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), says the US is now the only major economy in the world where the younger generation is not going to be better educated than the older.

The annual OECD education statistics show that only about one in five young adults in the US reaches a higher level of education than their parents - among the lowest rates of upward mobility in the developed world. For a country whose self-image is based on optimism and opportunity, the US is now a country where someone with poorly-educated parents is less likely to reach university than in almost any other industrial country. And about one in five young adults in the US are now defined in educational terms as "downwardly mobile" - such as children who have graduate parents but who don't reach university level themselves.

When the global story of higher education is so much about rapid expansion and the race to increase graduates, it's almost counter-intuitive to find a powerhouse such as the United States on the brink of going backwards.

It's easy to overlook the dominance of US higher education in the post-war era - or how closely this was linked to its role as an economic, scientific and military superpower. The US had the first great mass participation university system. The GI Bill, which provided subsidies for a generation of World War II veterans, supported three times as many people as are currently in the entire UK university sector. An American born in the 1950s was about twice as likely to become a graduate than in the rest of the industrialised world. As the cars ran off the production lines in Detroit, the graduates were leaving the universities to become part of an expanding middle class.

But the US university system is no longer the only skyscraper on the block. It's been overtaken by rivals in Asia and Europe. Today's young Americans have a below-average chance of becoming a graduate, compared with other industrialised economies.The US Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in a speech a few weeks ago, asked how the US had in "the space of a generation" tumbled from first place to 14th in graduation rates.

So what's gone wrong?

The spiralling cost of higher education in the United States is often cited as a barrier - and the collective student debt has exceeded a trillion dollars. But Andreas Schleicher argues that a deeper problem is rooted in the inequalities of the school system.

He says that the level of social segregation and the excessive link between home background and success in school is "cutting off the supply" between secondary school and university. The meritocratic, migrant energy in US culture is no longer operating in the school system. "If you lose the confidence in the idea that effort and investment in education can change life chances, it's a really serious issue," says Mr Schleicher.
Downward mobility haunts U.S. education (BBC)

Why train for a job that doesn't exist? America's higher education system is far more expensive than anywhere else in the world. The American idea is to put yourself in massive debt with no guarantee of a job coming out the other side. Essentially, it's asking a pre-adult without rich parents to gamble with tens of thousands of dolars on the line. And the bill collectors can now do almost anything to get their money back. Oddly enough, this has produced subpar results, and our "leaders" can't seem to see why.

The costs of training to be a useful, productive member of society are entirely borne by the individual because anything else would be "socialism." This is what happens.


  1. The funny thing is: college is completely unnecessary for many good-paying businesses or professions. In fact, college/university degrees are for the most part about prestige and getting the piece of meaningless paper that many employers now use to simply cull the reams of resumes they receive.

    Do you really need a college degree for most of the paper pushing jobs out there? NO. But a college degree has become a proxy for the characteristics that employers are looking for.

    More and more teens and young adults should consider simply learning something for free, online, using the amazing resources out there. Ivan Illich, author of Deschooling, showed how much modern education has become all about indoctrination and the breaking of the spirit.

    I have an amazing amount of useless higher education under my belt, but I am making my living in a profession for which I have no formal degree or training, and which I started teaching myself as a young teen on my Commodore 64.

    Unfortunately, I suspect the zombified corpse of the current higher education racket will lumber along, taking down the hopes and crushing the lives of millions of more young adults, and adding to the crushing level of overall debt in our society, and hasten the ultimate collapse of our educational/medical/military/financial/industrial complex.

    The sooner the better, before the collapse risks becoming an extinction level event.

  2. Indeed so, a degree is merely a "work chit" and a means of keeping lower income workers out of good jobs. In my case I am unable to be licensed in most states despite having taken the exact same series of seven exams for licensure. The reason? I went to school for four years instead of six. So without paying a tithe to the university-industrial complex, my career is hampered. And trust me, there is nothing that someone with a Masters can do that I cannot. Honest employers frankly admit that architecture school is useless, but the profession uses it as a drawbridge anyway.

    My friend works in computers and makes good money. So good he dropped out of school (like Bill Gates, et. al) Now, when he interviews for jobs, he is told he needs at least a bachelor's if not a master's for the type of jobs he's applying for. Not because he can't do the jobs, which interviewers admit he can, or because he doesn't have experience. No the just need to see that piece of paper or they won't talk to you. Fortunately for him, he can finish his degree mostly online from the college he dropped out of, a luxury I do not have. This is why I often point out that schools are there not to put people into professions, but to keep them out.

    See: Degree Inflation? Jobs That Newly Require B.A.’s As good jobs vanish, this is only going to get worse as people become more desperate for the few remaining decent wage jobs. People will pay anything to get them, and the employers and the schools (and the banks) know it.

    I wish I could be more excited about online education, and I think it's good for personal enrichment, but jobs will still go to those who can attend brick-and-mortar institutions, because they will be the ones with more time and familial wealth, and therefore status, and there will not be enough jobs to go around to make online degrees worthwhile.

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