Education reform pt 1: Context
What’s up fam,
My heart is heavy. Recently, the board of Detroit Public Schools announced plans to close 52 schools by next year. Their rationale for this decision was in part to have school capacity reflect the rapid decline of school enrollment due to the growing exodus of families either moving to different cities or sending their kids to charter schools (or using a family member’s address to enroll in another district). I have had enough! Our school system as a whole is not where it needs to be and I am tired of hearing about how we need to reform our schools without policies in place to inform those discussions.
So I went online and I googled school reform report and I came across a report entitled, Tough Choices or Tough Times, created by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. (All subsequent quotes are from the executive summary of this report that I can’t link to because it is in pdf format)
We often hear about how we are living in a global economy and how our kids need to work hard but the way that we run our schools don’t reflect this new paradigm. But before we get into the proposals put forth, we should first understand one of Garlin’s themes for 2007; context.
The first commission released a report in 1990 that discussed how a worldwide market was developing in low-skill labor and that the work requiring these skills would end up in the countries where the price of low labor was the lowest. As a result, the commission pointed out that the United States could go one of two directions; “it could first try to compete in the low skills market and experience declining wages over time or it could try to compete in the worldwide market for high-value-added products and services. Aiming for the latter would require us to benchmark our curriculum to international standards, ensuring our children were competitive for jobs requiring advanced skills.”
Fast forward 15 years and we find ourselves in a situation where countries like India and China can offer large numbers of highly educated people willing to work for low wages. The report adds,
“Whereas for most of the 20th century the United States could take pride in having the best-educated workforce in the world, that is no longer true. Over the past 30 years, one country after another has surpassed us in the proportion of their entering workforce with the equivalent of a high school diploma. Thirty years ago, the United States could lay claim to having 30% of the world’s college students. Today that proportion has fallen to 14% and is continuing to fall.”
What I really hate is that even now, our industrialized schooling models largely corral our kids toward getting a “good job” after matriculating through high school and possibly college. What’s worse is that if we don’t make drastic changes, more and more students will find that the doors they thought education could open, will be closed. This is being aggravated by the flattening of the world economy. The report points out that
“Every day, more and more of the work that people do ends up in a digitized form. From X-rays used for medical diagnostic purposes, to songs, movies, architectural drawings, technical papers, and novels, that work is saved on a hard disk and transmitted instantly over the Internet to someone near or far who makes use of it in an endless variety of ways. Because this is so, a swiftly rising number of American workers at every skill level are in direct competition with workers in every corner of the globe.”
But here in America, we are led to believe that influxes of Mexican immigrants are taking away domestic jobs. And while corporations pull the wool over our eyes, they are outsourcing work to places like China and India. In other words, someone doesn’t have to live in the U.S. to compete for your job.
Next time, we will delve into the recommendations of the report.