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Posts Tagged ‘social mobility’

A Good Idea That, Alas, Raises Suspicions Because of the Source

September 3, 2021 Comments off

I try to be open-minded when reading about ideas emanating from the NH Department of Education under the leadership of Frank Edelblut, but am always suspicious of the endgame, even when the ideas are good. Today’s New Hampshire Bulletin article by Ethan DeWitt is a case in point. It describes a pilot program about to be launched in four NH districts, a program that offers opportunities for post graduates to enroll in apprenticeship programs. Here’s a couple of paragraphs describing the idea:

The program, funded by the Out-of-School Time Career Pathway Grant program and intended to be run by the New Hampshire Learning Initiative, would use $1.7 million over two years to develop “expanded learning programs.”

Those programs would allow students to earn “a recognized postsecondary credential” that could follow an apprenticeship or an “industry-recognized certification,” according to a proposal presented to the council by New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut.

I am deeply conflicted by this for two reasons.

First, it looks a lot like the micro-credentialing that is beloved of corporate minded libertarians who would like to see businesses control  the programming offered to non-college bound students. In the ultimate dream world of many libertarians there would be no need for the comprehensive high school. Instead, some students would enroll in apprenticeship programs sponsored by particular businesses who are seeking to provide narrow training for prospective employees… training that would prepare employees for jobs that they could fill for a low wage until such time as the jobs are either taken over by robots or outsourced to employees overseas who are willing to work for even lower wages. And here’s the best feature of this kind of format: if high school is replaced by micro-credentials the local school taxes for the businesses would be reduced adding to their bottom line and/or the revenue stream from the taxpayers would reduce their training costs. Either way, the private sector wins and the taxpayers lose.

Secondly, will the credential be transferrable? Call me paranoid… but I am suspicious of industry-recognized certification because I see it through the same lens as I see propriety software. If I were a guidance counselor, I would urge the prospective student working to attain industry-recognized certification to make certain it is transferrable to other businesses in the field. For example, will a technology-based credential in, say, Apple be accepted in DOS world?

But here’s a complicating factor for me: encouraging high school age students to enroll in apprenticeships is unarguably a good idea for many! As we are coming to see, college degrees are not desirable for everyone. It is expensive and does not guarantee a high paying job upon completion. Yet we continue to encourage “college-for-all” because that’s the path educators took and because the prevailing narrative parents, politicians, and voters have accepted is the only ticket to the middle class is a college degree. Neither my plumber nor my electrician nor any of the tradespersons who work on my residence have college degrees and they all lead comfortable lives and hold secure jobs.

So… Frank Edelblut’s partnerships might pay off for non-college bound high school students if they provide opportunities for students to achieve credentials that are universally recognized in their trade and transferrable to competing businesses. What is frustrating to me is that public schools did not see this opportunity and take advantage of it.

This Just In: Children Addicted to Free Lunch Become Spoiled Tools of Socialism

August 31, 2021 Comments off

New York Magazine writer Sarah Jones offers a good overview of the reasoning behind the Waukesha WI School Board’s recent and widely reported decision to deny free school lunch to it’s children… and it offers an good insight to the thinking behind anti-government elected to boards and legislatures across the country. So why did the school board decide to withhold its application for universal free lunch?

According to one school-board member, children could “become spoiled.” The school district’s assistant superintendent for business services worried that there would be a “slow addiction” to the free meals. This is a fascinating way to talk about children and their families, who do possess a biological need for food. Whether that need amounts to a “slow addiction” is a matter of opinion. And opinion in this country has become badly skewed.

Conflating a biological need with spoiling children or a “slow addiction” is crazy-making. But my guess is the board member and the assistant superintendent for business are REALLY concerned about creeping dependence on the government for assistance, creeping socialism. Where is the line between “dependence on the government” and cold-blooded Social Darwinism? Providing food to needy children hardly seems like a slippery slope to socialism. Indeed, withholding funds for a critical need seems more like a slippery slope to libertarianism. The next thing you know the school board will cut busing to school because bringing kids to school “spoils them” and bringing them for free is a “slow addiction to free public transportation”… and we wouldn’t want to stifle their independence by making them ride together with other children on a bus! 

Teacher and Para-Professional Shortages in Schools Mirror Those in Private Sector… and the Reasons for the Shortages Do As Well

August 29, 2021 Comments off

Our local newspaper’s front page features an article by the local business writer with the headline “Schools Facing Educator Shortage”. The article describes the problems confronting local school districts who are opening anew after a wide range of modified virtual and in-person offerings last year resulted in a highly stressful year for everyone associated with public education. What is most noteworthy is that school districts are facing a double whammy: in our region it seems that enrollments are rising due to move-ups from other parts of the country AND the fact that children who opted out of in-person programs are returning as well. That combined with wages for para-professionals that are lower than that paid to substitute teachers makes hiring problematic.

The article quotes several administrators and teachers on the possible rationale for the shortage, which include burnout that led to early retirements, the above-referenced wage differentials, and the fact that those entering education from other fields are offset by those leaving education for other work, especially at the paraprofessional level.

Perversely, the problem of finding paraprofessionals MAY work itself out when rent subsidies and stimulus checks disappear. But if prospective hires for those positions are drawn from a pool of workers who are forced back to work due to economic circumstances, will those new hires be motivated? In an ideal world, employers would be forced to address labor shortages by raising wages… but in our desire to return to our pre-pandemic world, employers will be draw from a pool of desperate workers trying to keep their heads above water.