Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mediocrity in the Job Market Won't Cut It Anymore

I hardly consider myself a fan of the New York Times. However, Thomas Friedman recently penned a piece entitled "Average Is Over," and I have to say that I enjoyed it. The premise of the article is that being average, whether in education or job skills, used to get an individual a cozy lifestyle. Due to such phenomena as globalization, technological progress, and economic liberalization, being average no longer suffices.

The value of a high school education is not what it used to be. Median wages for those with just a high school education has been dropping over the years. This would have something to do with the fact that the American economy has put more emphasis on the service sector and less on the manufacturing sector. The service sector requires more skills than manufacturing, which is why the college degree has an increased premium.

If America is to compete in the global job market, education reform is going to have to be a top priority for America. Although getting into actual education policy is a topic too grandiose for this single blog entry, I still would like to briefly highlight an important policy goal: improving the quality of K-12 education. 

Why do I under-emphasize college education reform? I'm not saying that a college education is unimportant. Quite the contrary! The college education premium has only increased in recent years. 

Rather, there is no reason to focus on college education if K-12 education is not addressed first. If children are not developing necessary skills and common sense in the primary and secondary school systems, there are going to flounder all the more if/when they reach college.   

There was a time in which a high school education had career-based value. If we want American to avoid a fate of becoming a mediocre nation, it would be nice if we could re-establish the worth of a high school degree that was enjoyed in previous years.

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