Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, How the 5th US Revolution Begins and About the Author. Occasionally I do a “sense check” about the likelihood of a Revenge Revolution. Entry #318 is the most recent “sense check.” One more note — sometimes I write about another topic that does not quite fit the theme of the blog. Those comments are available on the page titled “JRD Thoughts and Comments.”
Entry #319 begins a series describing the coming technology tsunami (#319), and how the US should prepare. Last week’s Entry #330, outlined reasons why diversity will be important to prepare for…and then capitalize on…the coming technology tsunami. The entry also noted that some conventional ways of creating diversity — school busing, for example — are fraught with problems and have significant potential downsides.
Diversity seems best accomplished on its own. Our neighbors, within a stone’s throw or two, include families from at least four countries. Within this group, there are at least five religions. All that in a suburban environment.
How did such diversity occur? With government intervention? With housing subsidies? “No” to both questions. The diversity evolved from economics…and attitude.
Granted our neighborhood is a bit more affluent than most but affluence may result in less, rather than more diversity. In Entry #330, I described observations from a 5-day visit to a well-known retirement community in Florida. When leaving the community, my wife and I both remarked we had seen no blacks, no Hispanics — yes, this was Florida — one Asian, and no one from the Middle East. We also both commented while we had a lovely time visiting our friends, we wouldn’t want to live there.
So what strategy can help stimulate diversity? Throughout the technology tsunami series I’ve stressed education as a key. Education opens the mind to new ideas, both academic and societal. And for the vast majority of people, education also provides a chance to improve economic status.
Education for this discussion consists of four major stages, or chunks:
- Primary education — i.e., “readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmatic” — and some social skills
- Secondary education — middle school and high school
- University or Advanced Technical Training
- Continuing education – following initial employment and continuing throughout one’s career
For primary and secondary education, the public has consistently supported taxpayer funding. While some changes to the primary and secondary curriculum might be required for the technology tsunami, the key to preparing for the coming technology tsunami seems to lie in Stage 3 — College, Advanced Technical Training — and Stage 4 — on-going training once in the workforce.
Currently, only a small percentage of the population can afford securing a college degree or advanced technical training certificate without financial assistance. Even with scholarships or reduced tuition, many students need loans. Terms of these loans are often onerous, saddling graduates with years of debt, which in turn reduce their opportunity to save for buying a house and/or to start saving for their children’s education. (For more about the problems with people paying off loans, or thinking they have paid off loans, see 19 04 13 Student Loan Repayment Issues and Problems)
Maybe the solution to the how-to-finance-advanced-education conundrum is easier than we think. Why not take the same approach to financing education that seems to work well for medical coverage in all industrialized countries…other than the US (so far). Allow students to attend a home-state university at little or no charge for a specified period — say five (5) years. Extend the no-charge time period if a student works.
Like universal health care, offer a “private,” additional-cost option. Under this option, students could attend an out-of-state university or private college/university. Tuition and other costs would be set by the institution. The private institution could still offer financial aid to students.
Technical trade schools could have the same option. Attend state-run technical schools at no charge with the option to attend private-technical or trade schools.
Technical/trade schools would need to meet one hurdle not currently required — accreditation. Accreditation would sharply reduce considerable fraud among private technical/trade schools — Trump University being but one example. The accreditation process would be similar to that used for academic institutions.
And please don’t view subjecting the trade/technical schools to accreditation as government overreach. Educational institutions need some form of regulation. A market-based system will not work because, by the time the student understands the school is not providing adequate education, the student has wasted several years and is saddled with significant debt.
What about people who do not want additional education or who are not mentally capable? We’re not living in Lake Woebegone where all students are above-average.
A portion of the student population will not pursue additional education and a percentage of those will not even graduate from high school. While some low-skill jobs likely will continue to exist, people in those jobs should earn a minimum wage that allows them to live above the poverty line.
Policies to address this lower-education group are separate from policies to prepare the US society for the coming technology tsunami. The goal of the “tsunami series” in this blog is to outline approaches that will increase significantly the percentage of the population that is skilled adequately to thrive in a technology-based economy.
What about the education outlined in Stage 4? Ongoing education seems to be in a black hole where: (i) there is no existing infrastructure supporting such education…and none planned; (ii) no one in state or Federal government seems to be responsible for on-going education; (iii) there is no coordinated effort by private industry and/or trade groups. Policies for on-going education seem to have evolved from the Abbott and Costello routine of “Who’s on First?” Just who’s in charge of continuing education?
Logically you’d think private companies would want to maintain an educated workforce. But because of lack of restrictions…or penalties…re relocation, many US companies operate as if they have no responsibility to spend money to provide continuing education to their workforce. When the workforce skills become dated, a company, with little or no penalty, can close shop and move to another location. The new location will be selected based on which state or city is offering the most incentives, including training the new workforce.
Taxpayers at both ends – the location where the company left and the new location – get stiffed while the company management and shareholders benefit. (For more about the impact of how companies can adversely affect a community, and not suffer any consequences, see Entry #86, “Is North Carolina a Stealin’ State?” and Entry #87. There are several other entries as well that address similar issues.)
As far as addressing the issues of ongoing education, that deserves a separate entry, which will be number #332.
Note: within hours of publishing this blog entry, received the 04/14/2019 edition of the Charlotte Observer. A front-page article discussed whether eliminating certain zoning restrictions — banning single-family zoning, e.g. — would help stimulate diversity. My short answer is “No.” Tweaking of zoning regulations for single-families is different than wholesale banning, which is likely to have major negative consequences for attracting higher-income families to remain in the city limits. Link to article, 19 04 14 CLT Observer re Zoning Changes for Diversity.