365 Days in Aspen

JMO, Part 4: Education and College

jmo educationAs I write these blog posts, I realize how many of these issues intertwine. The Wage Gap with Jobs with Immigration and, now, with Education. So forgive me if I repeat myself or make the same point more than once. 

That is, if anyone's "listening" anyway. 

Yesterday I talked about how I think it's the responsibility for the government to create an economy so that there are enough jobs to support the everyone willing and able to work. I also said that I belive it is (or should be) the responsibility of the education system to teach the subjects and skills that fit the needs of the marketplace. To educate people to fill – and keep – the jobs needed now and in the future. 

Yet here's the problem: the education system isn't set up to prepare people to work and fill jobs. And it doesn't do nearly a good enough job to set up to create new jobs for the future. 

In the corporate training world, skills like interviewing, getting along with others, teamwork, communication, conflict resolution and the like are considered "soft skills." The term alone implies weakness. And it CERTAINLY implies "optional" if not "unnecessary." 

How sad is that?

Not as sad as when you consider how the education system barely even addresses these issues. They "teach" kids to sit still and be quiet for hours a day while they memorize useless facts that won't help them one iota in the "real world." Sorry to be so harsh – but this is my blog and I feel the need to make bold statements to focus attention on the issues. 

I'm not going to address the issues of the current administration other than to say that I have zero optimism they'll improve things one iota; and, instead, I'm convinced that things will get worse if only because of all the other problems they'll cause that these issues I'm identifying will be ignored completely. 

So what IS the solution? 

As I said in the other post, people get and take jobs based on skills and specifics and they lose and leave jobs based on personalities and relationships. 

Those "soft skills" I'm talking about. They're what makes people lose – or leave – jobs. They can't get along with others. They don't know how to contribute ideas. They have terrible communication skills – verbally and in writing. And, no, you don't learn this from a creative writing course. Although teaching and learning creativity is important, too. Just in a different way, for different reasons. 

I also proposed that I am in agreement with free college – with some parameters. Colleges must not only teach these skills (which should also be taught in grade schools and middle and high schools), they also need to change the curriculum in order to meet the demands of the job market. 

Some of you might argue, "then let's get rid of majors in Sixteenth Century Russian Poetry or Art History or some other major where there isn't exactly a booming job market." 

Maybe. But I'm not sure that's the answer. I've read some articles suggesting that a Liberal Arts major or college might be the best at preparing students for a job or career. The question I'm proposing is that no matter what their degree, the students need to be EMPLOYABLE. Not just to get the job, but to keep the job.  To do this, they need to learn:

  • Creative thinking and problem-solving
  • Decision-making
  • Communication – written and verbal
  • Conflict resolution
  • Teamwork
  • Efficiency and Productivity
  • Accountability
  • And I'm sure there are others to add to the list. 

I also think people should graduate from high school with proficiency not just in math, but how to manage their finances. Not just in English, but in how to write a persuasive email. Not just in physical education, but in how to stay fit and prevent illness.