How Much Better is One in Six?

The other day, on my way to the airport, I was listening to an NPR piece about the job increases for April, believed to be announced in an upcoming government report. Renee Montagne was interviewing Wall Street Journal economics editor, David Wessel.

As it turned out, the number of new jobs rose higher than anticipated. Here’s a clip from a May 7 NPR article…

The number of jobs in America rose by 290,000: Sounds good!
The nation’s unemployment rate rose to 9.9 percent: Sounds bad! ((Goldstein, Jacob. “Why More Jobs = Rising Unemployment.” NPR – Planet Money 7 May 2010: n. pag. Web. 10 May 2010.))

Asked about who is being hit hardest, Wessel replied that the usual victims of recessions are young people and minoirities, But he went on to say,

…what I find the most arresting fact is this: one out of every five men 25 to 54 years old isn’t working – one out of five. They’re either looking for work or given up looking for work, or collecting disability or collecting pensions, or just getting by on the kindness of their families. I mean that’s a remarkably high fraction.

It is a shocking piece of data and a disturbing consequence of a devastating (and avoidable in my opinion) recession. But Wessel uncovers even more disturbing news.

It’s not all because of the recession. There’s been a steady decline in the share of these prime-age men who’ve been working for decades, but it plunged during the recession as industries that tended to employ men, construction, in particular, manufacturing – were hit particularly hard.

I’ve written about this before (This Would be Really Weird), how the jobs typically held by women have not be as heavily impacted by this recession. Health care, for instance, has not been nearly as hard hit by the recession as construction and manufacturing. In addition, according to Wessel, more and more women have been earning college degrees, “..turns out to be one of the things that makes workers desirable to employers – even in a downturn like the one we’ve had.”

But the hammer fell when Wessel concluded that this is not just a recession problem. He reported that,

Larry Summers, the president economic adviser, said at a conference the other day, that he anticipates when we get back to something like a normal economy, instead of having one in five prime-age men being on the sidelines, he expects it’ll be one in six.

My initial response is to ask, “Does this really surprise us?”

Haven’t people been saying for years that our boys are not being served by today’s (yesterday’s) education. Haven’t people been talking about this for years?

I suspect that I’m not the only one who has noticed this in their personal lives, that of all neighborhood kids and cousins my children grew up with, few have finished college, and they are all young women.

Frankly I can not think of any other situation that so clearly describes an education system that is obviously broken. I am also coming to believe that we are so rapidly running out of time that I’m not sure that we can wait for a federal department of education to fix it.

Perhaps, just maybe, it’s time for every single school to decide how they are going to prepare every learner for their future, act on it,

…and simply ignore what’s holding us back, the government’s ill advised accountability.. High stakes testing is an industrial age solution to an information age problem.

Location:SE Railroad St,Pocahontas,United States

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.