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Aug 22, 2012


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So..... Are there/will there be jobs for the average student who just graduated from an average high school?

In 1954 that sort of person could have started to work GM or US Steel the day after graduation. By the time he was 25 was married. Couple of kids. Modest house with 15 or 20 year mortgage at a low rate. Two cars. Modest family vacation every summer. Top grade Heath Care plan. A defined benefit pension that allowed him to retire at 58 after 30 years. In the early 70's his kids went to state college for almost nothing in tuition and they weren't even the scholarship or BEOG kids.

Michael W. Kruse

I'm not sure that type of life existed for most folks even in the 1950s, though that was the aspiration. Poverty was above 20% in the 1950s. And poverty then usually meant long periods of deprivation. Not so with most of poverty today. (Poverty rate: Are Americans really poorer than in 1960?) I'd trade indigent health care today for the top grade health care plan of 1954 any day. Only 7.7% of adults had college degrees in 1960. It was 16.2% in 1980, the year prior to my graduation. (Adults With College Degrees in the United States, by County)

I'm not wanting to minimize challenges ahead but I also don't want to romanticize the past.

I think we are in the midst of something as profound as the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution reduced agriculture labor to a small portion of the economy. Wages went down but the cost of everyday goods declined even faster, the quality of goods went up, and the selection of goods ... some never before dreamed of ... came into being. The net being that standard of living went way up.

Automation ... from extraction of resources, to production of goods, to distribution ... is going to radically drive the cost of goods lower, while reducing manufacturing labor to a small number of workers. But how people are employed is going to change, just as it did during the industrial revolution. These shifts have always created new economies that good not be envisioned prior. I suspect education is going to see a complete transformation as society needs different types of workers, possibly within this decade.

We are in the middle of adaptive change and with adaptive change we can't see all the way through to what the new thing looks like. That isn't a denial of challenges but only to say that the status quo is doomed.

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