The School That Is Changing American Education
Rana Foroohar @RanaForoohar
Feb. 13, 2014
Where students are innovators and educators reshape secondary education
Two years ago, I visited a school in Brooklyn called P-TECH, the Pathways in Technology early college high school, which seemed very much like the future of education to me. [One possible future.] It knitted together educators and job creators, and gave kids not only a high school degree, but a two-year associates degree and a job guarantee at one of the country’s top blue chip firms, IBM. [It seems to me that I heard of this sometime ago, at least a year or two. It has several things that I question. Number one: High school is not a degree—minor point. Getting an associate’s degree simultaneous with a high school diploma cheapens both. Most high school courses and community college courses taught are survey courses. Anytime you substitute a community college course for a high school course you only get one course. Take American History as an example—You take it both in high school and college but they are two different courses. Heck you can get a PhD in the US Civil War. There is just too much history to have only one year of it. Number two: High School itself should not be for technology. It was meant to be academic in nature. Number three: Since when do we prepare students for IBM? What about other employers in the area? I would be crying foul if public tax money went to produce IBM employees. Plus what can you do for IBM with only a two year degree? What is the rush to get 18 year olds an associates degree? So I do not think that education should go in this direction at all. There is never a guarantee of a job. How can IBM guarantee a job that requires only a high school diploma, if the degree is not attained?] In my latest piece in TIME, I look at how the amazing educators and “innovators” (that’s the P-tech word for students) behind this school are changing ideas about what secondary education in America should be. For a taste of what that looks like, check out our video on the school, which was the site of President Obama’s first visit to Brooklyn last year, above.
It’s about time. The last great national leap forward in secondary education was during the post World War II period, when state governments decided that high school education, previously optional, should be mandatory in order to ensure the kind of skilled workforce needed to compete in a new, higher tech industrial era. [I have my doubts that high school was truly needed to be on an assembly line tightening a screw. Most of these jobs do not exist for even those with Associates degrees, and bachelor’s degrees as well. When more than ½ about 54% of all college graduates are NOT in jobs that require college degrees we have a glut of college graduates even in STEM. There is no STEM shortage.] Now, many leaders – including the President [An Appeal to Celebrity and Appeal to Authority Logical Fallacy. Because he is POTUS then he must know everything? Governments historically are well behind the times, fighting old battles and have old beliefs, such as, there is a STEM shortage. There was a computer science shortage in the 1960s, 70s and maybe into the 80s. But by about 1990 there was no shortage.], education Secretary Arne Duncan [Same here – An Appeal to Authority Logical Fallacy. His critics say that his ‘improvement’ of Chicago schools was more due to the change in the State’s test so that more kids could pass. It effectively lowered the bar. His degree is in sociology and not education.], scores of blue chip CEOs and executives [Yes. The rich like Bill Gates, Michael Dell etc want the public schools to train their future employees and they have already flooded the market with college graduates, thus lowering their cost (payroll) and increasing their profit, making them even richer.], and most top educators– believe we’re once again at such a turning point. [Ah, yes – only Top educators believe this. Meaning anyone that does not think so is not a Top educator. What do educators know about technology. They were trained to teach.] When it comes to high school, an increasing number of them buy into the idea that not only should educators and job creators be much more closely connected [Business needs to stay out of education.], but that as Stanley Litow, the IBM executive behind the program puts it, “six should be the new four.” [This sounds like Communism, having the State training our kids for specific jobs.] The push for all American kids to have a post high school future, like Tennessee governor Haslam’s recent calls for two years of free community college for every student in the state, seem to come almost daily. [Ah yes shades of Truman. His report in 1947 called for free Community College for all those who could benefit from it. The past haunts us?]
The statistics support it. A four-year high school degree these days only guarantees a $15 an hour future, if that. [I have seen a two year college degree in Electronics only pay $10 or $14 an hour. High School jobs do not provide a livable wage.] According to projections by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, the U.S. economy will create some 47-million job openings in the decade ending 2018, but nearly two-thirds will require some post secondary education. [Actually nobody knows. They cannot predict the future. Funny the Bureau of Labor Statistics say just the opposite. According to Diane Ravitch’s book Reign of Error, ““The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecast that two-thirds of the jobs available between 2008 and 2018 would not need any post-secondary education. Most would require on-the-job training. . . .” ” and ““The jobs that are growing are the type that cannot be outsourced, such as, truck drivers and janitors. . . . but we should stop pretending that “putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have.” Having a college degree is no longer a guarantee of getting a job, and it will be even less true in the future.”  “] The Center projects that only 36% of American jobs will be filled by people with only a 4-year high school degree – half of what that number was in the 1970s. What’s more, the cost of not trading up educationally could be catastrophic — workers with an associates’ degree will earn 73% more than those with only a high school diploma. [I read that the research neglected all of the jobs that disappeared in the recession and that are not coming back. So who to believe this University study or the Labor Department? Also, I dispute the 73% more part too. The jobs are NOT out there. Also, my wife is making $15/hour slicing meats and cheese at a Deli for a job that requires only a high diploma (really a high school dropout could do the job), while I made about $16/ hour for a job requiring an Associates degree in Electronics. That is 0.73% ($1 increase of $15) or 1/100th of the increase you say. Most two year degrees may pay a little better but long term they are low paying dead end jobs.]
“What’s very clear to me is that high school education as it is envisioned today isn’t sufficient for the modern workplace, or the modern economy,” says Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who decided to launch six P-tech schools of his own after reading about former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s success working with IBM in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. [One school only. This is a drop in the bucket. I cannot see this working in the macro, even if it does work in the micro.] “It definitely triggered my competitive spirits!” he says with a smile. To read more about how P-tech is changing education, and the labor market in Chicago, and the rest of the country click here. [There was never a need for change.]