Large-scale education was never about teaching kids or creating scholars. It was invented to churn out adults who worked well within the system.
Of course, it worked. Several generations of productive, fully employed workers followed. But now?
Nobel-prize winning economist Michael Spence makes this really clear: there are tradable jobs (making things that could be made somewhere else, like building cars, designing chairs and answering the phone) and non-tradable jobs (like mowing the lawn or cooking burgers). Is there any question that the first kind of job is worth keeping in our economy?
Alas, Spence reports that from 1990 to 2008, the US economy added only 600,000 tradable jobs.
If you do a job where someone tells you exactly what to do, they will find someone cheaper than you to do it. And yet our schools are churning out kids who are stuck looking for jobs where the boss tells them exactly what to do.
Do you see the disconnect here? Every year, we churn out millions of of workers who are trained to do 1925 labor.
The bargain (take kids out of work so we can teach them to become better factory workers) has set us on a race to the bottom. Some argue we ought to become the cheaper, easier country for sourcing cheap, compliant workers who do what they’re told. We will lose that race whether we win it or not. The bottom is not a good place to be, even if you’re capable of getting there.