Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Eugene Robinson: We need a brainpower revolution

In today's Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson writes:

Our manufacturing sector is just a shadow of what it once was, and that’s not China’s fault. Because of automation and the globalization of the labor market, rich countries can only excel at high-end manufacturing that requires more brains than brawn. Our future lies in knowledge and information. So let’s go there.

We’ve done it before. After World War II, the G.I. Bill dramatically boosted the percentage of Americans with college degrees. That one piece of farsighted legislation prepared a generation to run the industrial economy that was forged by the war — and helped absorb the excess labor that resulted from mechanization of the agricultural sector. What we need now is transformation on a similarly grand scale.

As a former school teacher, I can honestly say one of the most frustrating realities to absorb was that we were not preparing our students for the modern work force. Day in and day out, we were mandated to essentially teach to the test - passing the state-wide standardized test  was our reason for being. Don't be mistaken, students do need the basic reading and math skills assessed by the test, however, if the curriculum is solely focused on passing one test, we are not adequately preparing our students for the job market that awaits them.

As a good friend of mine (and former teacher as well) often states: We have an antiquated educational system that has not been fundamentally updated since the 1950's - when our society was industrial based. This is glaringly true and as a result, we have been derelict in preparing our students for the modern workforce needs.

As estopher (his spelling) states in Hub Pages:

America has to transform its education system so that children can graduate high school and be competitive in the job market. The education system is no longer providing adequate working skills to American children with a high school education. With the manufacturing jobs shifting to Third World countries the contemporary education system should evaluate how well we are preparing our youth for the job market without continuing on to college.

And Robinson adds:

This is a moment when policymakers should be thinking big, not small. History will little note nor long remember that the payroll tax holiday was extended for two months rather than 12. The complex and difficult questions we’re avoiding, however, may haunt us through the century.

Yes, this is the moment for our business leaders, policy makers and our educators to convene with the purpose of designing a transformative 21st century curriculum; a curriculum that aligns the needs of corporate America with the skills our schools are teaching.

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