I have a somewhat grim prediction for the future of the education
system in this country (and perhaps around the world).

To understand why my prediction might come true, we first have to look
at some of the problems the education system currently has, and why
these problems persist.

Problem 1: teachers are underpaid for the importance of their work

What is the most important resource a society produces? Its people.
Without educated people, you cannot accomplish much as a country.
Smart people are necessary to do technical work, to govern
effectively, and to create new technologies that keep the country
competitive. This is a well-known fact, and despite study after study
pointing out that our kids are falling behind the rest of the world in
math and science education, we aren’t paying good, smart people with
real degrees in math and science more money to come teach.

Why is this problem persisting? There’s no incentive to fix it. Who’s
going to pay for it? Taxpayers? Would this get the taxpayers jobs or
money? No. The only benefits they would see would be abstract
(“improving the economy”) or in decades when they get a supposedly
higher amount of social security. Anyway, this is how we currently pay
for public schools, and it isn’t doing the job. How about companies?
That’s a funny one. Why would they ruin their bottom line to produce
workers that won’t necessarily work for them? (Hint: the future is
related to this problem.)

Problem 2: lack of funding for state-of-the-art facilities

Essentially the same problem as #1. No money to improve facilities
that desperately need to be improved (especially in inner-city
schools) and no incentive to do so.

Problem 3: there’s no guarantee a student will get a job after school,
no matter how well they did or how much schooling they received

Can you think of a better way to encourage working hard in school than
telling students about the horrible job prospects when they are
finished? No, neither can I (sarcasm). And it isn’t as though we can
lie to them about it. Only a moron (who isn’t going to work hard in
school anyway) wouldn’t have looked ahead to the crummy situation
awaiting them. And get this, you can be more educated and less sought
after! Some people with Masters degrees can’t find entry-level work
because they are over-qualified (whatever that means). Plus, you can
be an amazing student a know more than most people, but still be
beaten by some jackass who’s good at BS-ing at interviews. Soft skills
sadly often win jobs that don’t require soft skills. Which leads to
the last problem I’m going to talk about…

Problem 4: lack of a set of standards for many disciplines that
employers can use to select the best candidates

You may think that problem #3 persists because anybody can do any job,
so employers don’t really care. This is not the case. Employers HATE
hiring worthless employees. Businesses waste tens of thousands of
dollars on crappy employees that are difficult to fire and don’t do
work. You have to realize that employees are investments. Businesses
pay you, sure, but they’re banking on getting out more productivity
from you than they pay you in salary.

But why does this happen? How do employers end up hiring bad workers?
Well, the reason is that there aren’t a good set of standards for many
disciplines out there. Take computer science, for example. It’s
possible to come out of school not knowing barely anything about
programming. This makes it really hard to determine who is
actually a good candidate. And perhaps companies, because of this,
feel more comfortable assigning more work to employees they already
have than risking hiring new ones?

Okay, so what does all this mean? What could this very easily produce
in terms of an education system?

Check out this story I read earlier this month. IBM is going to
sponsor a school that will produce qualified IT professionals. This is
the first step. IBM is doing it, from what I can tell, as a service to
the community. But this isn’t where it will stop.

Think about this scenario: Company X is seeking qualified employees in
a time when people are increasingly underqualified and increasingly
looking in other places than Company X for work. What do they do? They
build a school. That’s right, a corporately-funded school. Why? What
does this solve?

What Company X gets out of it are people that are guaranteed (by
Company X’s own standards) to be qualified for work. They also get
their money’s worth training them because those students will be
required to sign a work contract to attend the school. Of course,
depending on how much companies spend, the contracts might have to be
for a long time, perhaps the student’s entire professional career (40+
years).

Who in their right mind would agree to this? What could the student
possibly get out of it that would justify signing their life away?
Well, let’s see… how about a job? What if the economy had a 20%
unemployment rate? As a teen you’d probably see the wisdom of a
guaranteed good education and a guaranteed job after school. Plus, the
students would get great educations, with top-notch schools and
teachers, because everything Company X puts in to that, it’s
guaranteed to get back. And if the work contracts aren’t for their
entire career, the students will have legitimate work experience they
can take to other companies. Looking ahead, multiple companies might
team up to make standards that students could take to either Company
X, Y or Z.

This solves all of the problems I have outlined with our education
system. We’d get better teachers, better schools, guaranteed
employment, and standardization of skills. Yet somehow I don’t like
the sound of this future. What do you guys think? Is this an
all-too-possible dystopian future in store for us? Or am I overlooking
something obvious that will save us from this hell? Or do you think
this situation wouldn’t actually be that bad?

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com

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