Jared Bernstein offers valuable thoughts on the relationship between education and work. He argues quite credibly that the wage return on higher education has leveled off since about the 1990’s. Bernstein asserts this is not because of a mismatch between what corporations need and what higher education institutions provide. However he does claim “we’d have a better economy/society with higher levels of educational attainment…to have smarter, better educated people in all of those jobs makes all the sense in the world.”
However the price one pays for his/her education should be commensurate with the ability that his/her education provides him/her to pay for it while at the same time affording the necessities of a healthy life. But the value of learning is not solely for the money it affords. Learning is far more fundamental and essential to the human condition than that! That is to say, we shouldn’t educate people for the sole purpose of providing labor to feed the economic system we must educate to develop human beings—if we intend to have a humanly productive society.
Which brings us to the issue of improving the quality of education. The many solutions offered thus far are grossly off the mark! Union busting is likely a tactic in support of the desire to privatize the system, to enable profiteering. This will not ensure quality any more than it has ensured the quality of the products and services we purchase from private corporations. Also blaming teachers (i.e. the worker) for poor quality, a common practice of American management, will not result in improved quality.
Of course teachers change student’s lives, but so too does everyone else and everything they interact with—like parents, society and community culture. The way to a value-added system of education is not through union busting or accountability for results or any other such reductionist tactic. The way to an improved system is through an unwavering commitment to quality—period.