28 August 2013

This Ain't Lake Woebegon

Yet another post (and a Blogger blogger, to boot) extolling the virtues of better, cheaper education. And yet again, missing the point.

Which point is: the Eden of the post-WWII USofA, up to 1973 (OPEC embargo, and all that), wasn't driven by better, cheaper education. Yes, the GI bill did allow servicemen/women to get a college degree. But, no, that isn't what created the broad, demand supplying, middle class. That middle class was created by the egalitarian ethos which was the result of the socialist afterglow of shared sacrifice in war. It's that simple.

Unions were widely legal, and widely joined. Blue collar wages were middle class, so people bought cars and houses and sent their kids to State College. Corporate titans took out substantially less of the corporate revenue. The GDP was skewed toward actual production, rather than financial gyrations. The USofA controlled the international exchange system, both implicitly and explicitly, to a far greater extent than any time (save possibly, today) until the oil embargo.

So, as an R exercise, it's an interesting post. As prescriptive for "what's wrong with the US education process", not so much. If all kids get CS (or name your favourite) degrees, they'll turn themselves into dollar-a-day off-shore coders. Car mechanics and plumbers will make more (likely, many do now). Too many folks who know Process Q, may, in the short term, increase the demand for Process Q folks. The Flavour of The Month syndrome. But, capitalists being wily beasts (wilier than that coyote character), will read the data and find that there're scads of them available, and if the work products are dumbed down enough, they can be treated like cogs-in-the-machine (remind you of that Charlie Chaplin flick?).

Much of the direct cause of The Great Recession is little discussed, but is kind of frightening: a great many of the quants who were part and parcel of the process were refugees from math and science disciplines. Some because they couldn't get work in their area of training, and some because they chose to follow Mammon rather than God. The Great Recession demonstrated, in the background, alas, that we do produce lots of STEM folks. We just don't employee them in STEM (I, personally, don't count Bankstering as a STEM occupation). Do we really need to produce yet more Banksters To Be, just because we don't do much STEM in the capitalist nirvana?

Unlike Lake Woebegon, it doesn't do the majority any good if all children are above average; that just makes them all ... average. And infinitely interchangeable in a laissez faire world. Who knows, may be little Billy will get his BS in EE, and create the next Depression inducing derivative market. Makes a parent proud, don't you know?

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