Education and Jobs

Education and Jobs


I recently attended a candidates' forum in the hotly contested Maryland Primary for the Democratic Nomination for Governor. Every candidate supported increased funding for schools. No surprise in this, as polls show "schools" to be a top concern with voters. Everyone is worried about what the future holds for their children.

As an ex-professor, who once taught Philosophy of Education, I was struck that with a thousand mentions of "schools," the word "education" was never mentioned, and certainly, never discussed. But the distinction between education and schools lies at the heart of any serious policy inquiry into either. Schools can serve many purposes, and education is only one of them, sometimes the most neglected. Alas, such seems the case in recent years (at least with respect to what I mean by "education").

All this came into focus when I read a new poll by John Zogby Strategies. It suggests that most Maryland Democrats feel the same way. They were asked:

To what extent do you agree with the following perspective: American parents are reasonably concerned about their children's economic future. They want schools to provide their children with the best skills and knowledge to succeed in an already competitive and shrinking pot of good and secure jobs. But this desire from American parents only makes the competition more intense. It doesn't increase the number of good jobs. We need to find a way to increase good jobs , but that's not the task of schools. Under this current system, all we're getting is stress on our children, and schools moving away from really important areas such as history, the humanities and the arts.

Remarkably, 33% said they "totally agree" and 47% said they "somewhat agree" with only 15% in disagreement.

I find this astonishing. It tells us that people know we are going down the wrong path, and that they don't know what to do about it. And neither do our elected officials. And this with respect to the future of our children, our greatest concern and value.

This is a society running loose on the rails. We need new political leadership, and we need to liberate the schools from trying to solve problems they can't solve, such as the shortage of secure and meaningful work opportunities for all Americans.

This society is much in need of overhaul. Above all else we have to rethink why we have an economy in the first place. Its purpose is to serve our needs, not the other way around. We have to establish as a right, or at least as a firm expectation, that this richest economy in world history will provide secure and meaningful work opportunities for all its citizens.

Once we are clear on our most fundamental objectives, we can all join together in the great national debate that awaits: How do we get there? 

First, we have to be clear and firm about where we want to go.