Monday, June 8, 2009

Economy & Education

On Bridging Differences, Deborah Meier comments concisely on what I agree with as the connection between education and the economy:
The connection between schooling and the economy interests me—but for different reasons than the usual PR-linkage (you’ll make more money). As long as there are jobs that pay poorly there will be “the poor,” but a well-educated underclass will have a better shot at defending their social and economic interests—as citizens. And a well-educated citizenry in general will give us a better shot at a healthy economy. Maybe. It depends on what we mean by being “well-educated.” And the latest headlines about 46 states joining together to decide year by year school curriculum (and tests) is not the way to decide this.
Will a better educated population alone change our economy? No, not if we still have low-paying jobs that pay salaries that can't make ends meet. If we neglect to teach about social issues, social justice, and social change in in our curricula, we run the risk of allowing underclasses to stay where they are. But perhaps this is in the best interest of many who make the policies and run our schools...

She continues:

The leaders of business and industry (of which there are not many left) may have messed up our economy, but they still have enough money left over to bring the same mindset to schooling. The masters of manipulating symbolic goods—money in all its varied forms—are now designing our schools with the same manipulative mindset.

But “if they work, Debby,” say a few of my critical friends, "why not?" But what do we mean by “it works?” Oddly enough, even on the measures they have chosen, the answer is, “they don’t.” But it wouldn’t convince me either way. How kids do on school tests that measure (at best) school learning is petty compared with…. It’s not a good stand-in for achievement. I want to see how those kids “produce”—the books they write, the movies they make, the cars they invent, the families they raise, the gardens they plant, the medicine they practice, the songs they sing, the fast train system they put into place, the better ways they show us to grow food, to produce energy, and on and on and on. I want to see graduates coming back to see us who are good cops, teachers, nurses, architects, furniture-makers, inventors of new products and new ideas. (And powerful, noisy, feisty citizens.)

Recommended Reading: Keeping the Promise?: The Debate Over Charter Schools

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