Thomas D. Segel
Education in America: A Study in Stupid
April 2, 2009
How many times have the combined local, state and national governments
attempted to "fix” the American educational system? Just about everyone
lost count ages ago. Throughout the years just about every conceivable
idea has been tossed into the pot, mixed up and spoon-fed to us by our
education elitists, followed up by tepid attempts at enforcement,
resulting in not very much.
For the past eight years, the Bush Administration made "No Child Left
Behind” the mantra of his compassionate conservative movement. The end
result of the effort has not yet been measured, but when primary,
secondary and post secondary education are looked at as a whole, we find
a system awash in money, but still sub-standard on the world scene.
The Obama Administration now rants almost daily about how it will make
fixing our massive problems in education a top priority. We have yet to
hear anything close to a comprehensive plan from the same politicos.
Today, when we examine the worldwide work force we can see the United
States ranks first in high school graduates among workers 45 years of
age and older. When workers age 35 to 44 are examined, the United States
drops to fifth place worldwide. In the 25 to 34 years of age group, the
United States plummets to tenth place in worldwide high school educated
work force ranking.
In the Science and Engineering field, we have had two million baby
boomers become eligible for retirement in the past year. However, our
education system has only produced about 200,000 qualified replacements.
Where once it claimed a solid 1st Place, for the past three decades the
United States has ranked 3rd in the world in science and engineering
graduates. Our current recent graduates and those in the pipeline are so
few that again our worldwide position has shown a marked decline to 17th
For the past decade the United States has failed to increase its numbers
of young adults enrolled in post secondary education. Both China and
India exceed the United States in educating professionals in the fields
of finance, accounting and life science.
In all fields the continued educational picture for the United States
looks bleak. Anticipated annual college graduation in the United States
is estimated to be at an average of about 1.5 million students earning
degrees. In India, that number jumps to more than 3 million earning
degrees each year and in China the figure is climbing toward 4 million
graduates a year.
Why is that important? Those who make a study of future work force needs
tell us that 80% of the new jobs created in the United States today
require some form of post secondary education. Colleges are not filling
that need, and only 52% of Americans have achieved the level of
education needed by today’s work force.
According to Dr. Carol D’Amico of Ivy Tech College in Indiana, other
nations are becoming more technology savvy than Americans. There are a
continuing and ever growing number of tech workers from India and China
taking jobs, which were once reserved for our citizens. Those two
countries together are poised to fill most vacancies among the estimated
14 million high skilled post secondary education jobs, which will need
to be staffed by 2020.
Across America, claims Dr. D’Amico, we are suffering from a worker gap,
a skills gap and an ambition gap, all brought about by substandard
primary and secondary education. This is particularly true in the
education of our minority population. Today African American and
Hispanic 17 year old students are performing mathematics and
demonstrating the ability to read at the same level as Caucasian 13 year
olds. Yet these same 17-year-old minority students will be expected to
comprise 35% of our work force in the next decade.
Other problems facing our under educated work force within the next five
to ten years include a primary workforce in ages 30-49 that will shrink
by 3.5 million jobs. Added to that figure, in the next five years we
will have 16 million additional workers over the age of 50 attempting to
find employment. Amost 75% of the new jobs being created will require
existing workers to upgrade their educational levels just to be able to
compete for open positions.
While the number of workers are growing and the number of jobs
declining, employers are demanding a higher level of skill on the job.
Jobs that previously required a high school diploma and now being
upgraded to a requirement for post secondary education are varying
levels. We have such an educational and skills gap today that the United
States is ranked 19th out of 29 counties in Math, 15th out of 32
counties in reading and 14th out of 32 countries in science. When the
math skills of our highest performing students are measured against the
highest performing students of other countries , we rank 23rd out of 29
Technology has enabled business to outsource most employment. Technical
call centers, tax preparation, journalism, medical consulting, sales,
diagnostics, unit purchasing, artwork, computer graphics, architectural
design, and photo printing make up just a small fraction of the labors
that can all be handled by workers hundreds or thousands of miles away.
There are few geographic barriers remaining for employment.
To date most of the outsourcing of jobs has been in the low skilled or
unskilled category. At the same time eight out of ten new jobs becoming
available are demanding high skilled workers. As this is taking place,
almost half of our present and future work force cannot qualify for the
new positions being offered and since the American workforce is
unavailable, those jobs are being offered either abroad or to immigrants
brought in to fill particular needs.
have ourselves to blame. We have allowed parents to abandon their
children, expecting an army of educational union activists to take over
parental duties. We have allowed work-place rules and regulations to
keep sub-standard teachers on the job long after they should have been
banned from every campus. Most of all, we have failed to motivate our
children to work