American Elephants

Education Is Not Spelled J-O-B-S* by The Elephant's Child

Education is always one of the first answers President Obama has for the problem of unemployment. How to create jobs? His response is improving education and hiring more teachers. Yet this is the president who refused to continue the District of Columbia’s Opportunity Scholarships until absolutely forced into it.

He brought it up again in the debate last night. And he said he intended to hire hundreds more teachers. Always more teachers, yet since 1970, the public school workforce has doubled — to 5.4 million from 3.3 million. Two-thirds of those new hires are teachers or teachers’ aides. School enrollment over the same period — numbers of students — has grown only 8.5 percent. Employment of teachers has grown 11 times faster than enrollment.  We have too many teachers.

The Washington DC schools are usually rated as the worst in the country.  The capitol city spends $30,000 per student, and poor black children are suffering. Our kids remain high in self-esteem and lousy in math and science.

Young people are the losers in today’s economy. In the past four years the unemployment rate for Americans age 16 to 24 has been twice the rate for the general population.  It’s currently around 17%.  For young blacks, it’s 33%. Black workers, statistically less likely than whites to have a college degree, suffered as the economy shed lower-skilled manufacturing and construction jobs. Minority-owned small businesses are often the first to feel the pinch as corporations retrench.

These last statistics explain why President Obama answers the “Jobs question” with “education.” He wants young blacks to be college graduates so they can be successful. Yet this same president refused to continue the Opportunity Scholarships as we understand because the teachers’ union was opposed to them. This is the conundrum that liberals face. They divide people up into voting blocks to get their vote, promise goodies for that group, and then the needs of one group begin to conflict with what is promised to another. Obama has confidence that he has the black vote, for the election of the first black President is a source of intense pride for millions of blacks. But as Bloomberg’s David Lynch said: “The nation’s first African-American president hasn’t done much for African-Americans.”

Accuracy in Academia has developed a “Youth Misery Index,” which adds together youth unemployment, average graduating student debt (in thousands) and national debt per capita (in thousands).

Youth unemployment is at 17.4 percent—one of the highest levels since World War II. Average graduating student debt has reached a record-breaking $26,300. National debt per capita is $46,900—the highest ever. Add it up, and the Youth Misery Index comes out to 90.6 (17.4 + 26.3 + 46.9 = 90.6).”

Nick Schulz of AEI wrote recently of a recent dinner with representatives from major manufacturing companies. “I listened as the talk turned to how hard it is to find qualified applicants for jobs. What exactly are the skills you can’t find?” Schulz asked some of the captains of industry. “One of the representatives looked sheepishly around the room and responded: ‘To be perfectly honest…we have a hard time finding people who can pass the drug test.’ Several other reps gave a knowing nod. Applicants were often so underqualified, they said, that simply finding someone who could properly answer the telephone was sometimes a challenge.”

Even college graduates seldom have the skills that a new job requires — that’s why employers always ask for experience, and usually experience in a similar job. Large companies used to have training programs, some helped employees with potential to complete degrees. I suspect that in the current economy, educational help and training programs are less common.

Government job-training programs have been a flop.  Nine federal agencies are in charge of 47 employment and job-training programs. A report  found that with one exception, none of the programs are effective in helping unemployed workers find new jobs, and most overlap with similar programs.

Sounds to me as if after-school classes are needed to teach young people the basic workplace skills. Is that a job the black churches can take on? And for the economy in general, a rising tide raises all boats. A healthy economy will provide jobs. We need to worry less about job-training and more about getting the whole economy moving.

*Headline shamelessly borrowed from Accuracy in Academia.

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