Morning Ed: Education {2017.11.20.Mo}

[Ed1] So where are all these STEM graduates going to work? I’ve always considered the non-vocational majors to be somewhat dicey, but it’s surprising to see engineers there. That said, jobs outside their fields are still jobs just as jobs that don’t require a degree are still jobs. Which means that on the social level we may be too invested in STEM (unless we believe in the knowledge for its own sake, as some do with college generally) though individually it may be the right course more often than not.

[Ed2] While many universities are seeking an ever-increasing specialization in paths of study, St John’s College in Annapolis and Santa Fe are going a different route.

[Ed3] David Nakamura shares his experience teaching at a Japanese high school, and how he got different lessons than the ones he was looking for.

[Ed4] Peter Human argues that Britain needs an education revolution.

[Ed5] Grad school academic blues… not just for liberal arts graduates.

[Ed6] Most excellent! This is a stigma that, as women go to college in greater numbers, has become quite counterproductive.

[Ed7] Michael Strain argues against taxing university endowments. The endowment is one of the things my university has going for it, so I look on with skepticism.

[Ed8] What do you do when it turns out your college is a con? Within this article is the important thing that these colleges succeeded in part because they were delivering stuff people wanted that regular colleges weren’t (and I don’t mean the phony degrees).

[Ed9] Jennifer Bershire asks Gordon Lafer how and why corporations are undermining public education.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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46 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Education {2017.11.20.Mo}

  1. Ed1: As quants in finance firms? Teachers? Bartenders? I will repeat my cynical view that when politicians talk STEM, they do so to sound not too anti-intellectual. What politicians really want is the Technology and Engineering aspects of STEM and more specifically they want unicorn apps!

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      • Which is why I believe that our economy just isn’t creating enough jobs for anyone, period.

        Sure, the unemployment rate is wonderfully low, but wages are stagnant, and have been for a long while.

        I also think that it is exactly those STEM jobs that are most at risk for replacement and “downskilling” by AI.

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        • Which is why I believe that our economy just isn’t creating enough jobs for anyone, period.

          Agreed. Ideally (close to) anything which gets in the way of job creation (specifically gov regs) would be tossed. Using the gov to destroy bad jobs and force industry to carry out social policies has costs.

          We, as a society, should want the creation of a job to be the first solution industry tries, not the last. We want industry to be fighting over workers, not workers fighting over jobs.

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      • My degrees are in physics and math. I work as a health economist, despite knowing very little about economics, because this is one of the surprisingly large number of fields where you can get a lot done with limited domain knowledge as long as you know how to solve a differential equation. It’s mostly a good job, except for annoying administrative red tape, and it’s not like I would have avoided that if my job title were “physicist”.

        I know a ton of people with similar educational backgrounds, and very few of them are actually employed in the field their degree is in, but they wind up doing things using some of their quantitative skills in finance, or economics, or “data science”.

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      • Two messages to politicians who think more STEM students are the answer:

        If the question you [politicians] are thinking about has a STEM answer, the answer isn’t more STEM students, it’s greater STEM employment. If the jobs are there, the education pipeline will fill by itself. See, for example, the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s. None of this is new; when the oil companies quit hiring petroleum geologists in the 1980s, petroleum geology departments dried up and blew away (leading eventually to the oil companies asking “Why can’t we find any new petroleum geology graduates to hire now that all of our existing geologists are retiring?”)

        Relatedly, don’t fear the number of engineers that China graduates each year. Fear that China seems to be able to find engineering jobs for all of them.

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        • The growing emphasis on STEM can also be a bad sign of growing authoritarianism in American politics and society. Authoritarian regimes like Tsarist Russia during the 19th century or the various fascist and communist states during the 20th century loved emphasizing what we would call STEM education. They thought it would lead to less questioning of the regime while the humanities would get people asking uncomfortable questions.

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              • The research I’m showing demonstrates pretty much overwhelming support for Sanders on college campuses with very little support for Clinton (though there are articles that talk about how Clinton supporters feel like conservative outsiders on college campuses).

                So it looks like I don’t have any stats to back up my assertion.

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          • That might hold if the government was somehow bolstering enrollment at STEM schools that have no breadth or depth requirement, or otherwise pigeonhole the STEM students into STEM only classes. But most reputable STEM schools require students take classes outside the STEM disciplines (i.e. Liberal Arts) for this very reason.

            Well, and to bolster enrollment in those classes.

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            • Or openly requiring people to toe a Lysenkoist line.

              well, I don’t know about that one, given all the “Archived on 19 January 2017” EPA pages I’ve run across prepping my Environmental Policy and Law class this fall…

              (At least in the Academy I am still free to be critical of govt. policies, and to teach things that they may not want me to…)

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      • This sentence:

        the number of people graduating with engineer degrees really exceeds the numbers of openings for engineers

        That’s an interesting one because it is true for a lot of very popular degrees. Let’s change the sentence a hair:

        the number of people graduating with (category) degrees really exceeds the numbers of openings for (related profession)

        How many different categories and professions can we put in there before we run out of degrees?

        Journalism, for example, is the first one that came to my mind because there are more Journalism Majors graduating each year than there are jobs in the industry. That is to say: if you fired every single person with a journalism job and gave their job to a new graduate who has a degree in journalism, you would run out of jobs before you ran out of graduates.

        And, more than that, we’re *NOT* firing all of the journalists every year. All of those journalism graduates get to fight over the scraps from the one, maybe two, baby boomers who finally decide to retire and the cascading promotions that result that *MIGHT* end up with a job opening at the end rather than a manager who shrugs and figures that those tasks can be consolidated among the rest of the team.

        And I bet you dollars to donuts that journalism and engineering ain’t even close to being the only degrees that have graduates that have job markets like that.

        (I suppose it wouldn’t be a problem if a degree only cost 6 grand a year. Hey, get a degree in the humanities! It doesn’t matter that there aren’t any job openings in 18th century Italian poetry! But when a degree costs 10, 20, 30 grand a year…)

        The list of degrees that have more job openings than graduates is a list I’d like to see, but google seems to think that I only want to see lists of degrees that have more graduates than job openings.

        It’s probably full of crappy degrees like obscure STEM stuff.

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          • Sure, absolutely.

            That said, there are a number of degrees that are also “Quality Of Life” degrees. They might not help you get a job in the field, but they help you in your day to day life. Art History! Fashion Design! Philosophy!

            Sure, you don’t have a job in Film Studies but when you go out to watch Atrás Hay Relámpagos, you can be firm in your convictions that you’re enjoying it not only more than the drones watching the explodey movie at the big theater, you’re probably enjoying it more than the other two people watching it with you. So when you go to your non-degree-related job on Monday, you can feel good about how your co-workers didn’t see it and had never even *HEARD* about it.

            I have my fingers crossed that there are enough quality-of-life degrees out there to make up the gap.

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            • The original purpose of universities besides training clergy, doctors, and lawyers was to provide quality of life education to its students, so they can be more cultivated than other people. The university as a finishing school is a really old idea.

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              • I’m thinking that was an emergent phenomenon among the striving classes. The top elite didn’t go to school, school came to them. (E.g. QEII was the first British monarch not to be exclusively tutored at home)

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                • For actual royalty, this was true. For the other titled nobility and the gentry, they went to boarding school and university. Lord Salisbury, the last peer Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, went to Christ Church, Oxford. His Elizbethan ancestors, Lord Burghley and Robert Cecil, both important advisers to Elizabeth I, went to Cambridge.

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      • You mean “openings for engineers inside their own field”. However that chart doesn’t indicate these grads aren’t gainfully employed. Employers like STEM because it sends such a strong signal. Other industries see that strong signal and employee STEM grads because they’re smart and can do math.

        So basically industry uses mother nature to make sure a degree actually means something.

        …And I wonder how that chart accounts for multiple degrees in conflicting majors.

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  2. Ed3: The downside of any education system that does a lot of tracking is that its hard to bloom latter in your academic career if you don’t have a good start. In European countries, the welfare state and unions made sure that your socio-economic life wasn’t too heavily impacted by going on the vocational tract. I’m not sure about Japan. There also seems to be a near universal tendency to lavish spending on the kids and schools of the highest track and leave everybody else to hang.

    Ed7: Taxing endowments is something that many liberals believe in. A lot of liberal cynics see many elite schools as hedge funds with a university attached or a football or basketball team with a university attached. By taxing the endowments, its hoped that the schools will become less acquisitive and spend more on their true educational mission.

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  3. [Ed6] “In fact, regardless of how men’s education compares to their wives,’ husbands still end up having an edge on earnings.”

    Not demonstrated by this analysis(*). As alluded to in other subthreads, not all degrees are compensated the same in the market, a master’s in social work will not pay as well as a law degree; a bachelor’s in education will not pay as well a bachelor’s in engineering. Yet this analysis treats them as the same or presumably some artifact of a sexist society.

    (*) “In this blog, the relative education between husbands and wives is based on four education levels: high school or less, some college, college, and advanced degrees. Therefore, if a college graduate marries someone with a post-graduate degree, it is considered “marrying up.” In my earlier analysis on the similar topic, marriages between a college graduate and someone with an advanced degree were not captured separately.”

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        • Jaybird makes more money than me, too.

          In our case it has something to do with predilections (he has a lot of drive to make more money) and something to do with me having worked a very stable low-income job for nearly a decade in order for him to have the freedom to make riskier choices about job-hopping, so that he could keep going for higher-paid stuff. (Like, we literally discussed it and made that decision at several points.) By the time I started messing with my stuff, going back to school, etc., his job was far more stable and he made so much more than me that I had the luxury to make choices based on drivers other than (purely) finances.

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  4. Ed8: I do think that we (as a society) are not holding the reputable educational institutions feet to the metaphorical fire enough regarding sketchy for profit schools. There has long been a desire from students, especially non-traditional adult students, for programs that are much more flexible, and the established institutions resisted that demand for some pretty (IMHO) selfish reasons.

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    • Society could increase that pressure by leading the way through state schools.

      We’ve forgotten that the real power in education money comes from our various state governments’ demonstrated ability to build high quality universities. We’ve gone with a demand-side solution just pouring money into it (surprisingly, mostly championed by people who would call themselves supporters of “supply side” economics) and instead of growing a robust garden, we just have poisonous mushrooms sprouting up everywhere.

      We could put more effort into tweaking incentives, or we could just lead by example and expand our public universities and change their offerings to support the more flexible programs we want to see. The rest of the market would have to follow. We could start by using the money we save by cutting off the cashflow to parasite for-profit colleges.

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      • Exactly. State schools and community colleges could lead the way, and I strongly suspect the community colleges would love to, since they often have the flexible programs that non-traditional students want. But for whatever reasons, they are being constrained from doing so. Perhaps it’s a for-profit lobby working to keep state government from approving expansions, or it’s State Universities who have lost sight of their mission and want to pretend they have the same ideals as the private Ivy schools (protect the brand, etc.).

        Either way, they dropped the ball, and the for-profits picked it up and ran with it.

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        • @troublesome-frog FWIW, in Colorado Springs (and Colorado more generally), state schools and community colleges *are* leading the way, along with the private-but-Catholic Regis University. In terms of affordability and flexibility they’ve been out in front since the bleeping 80s. Programs that people want, leading to job placements similar to those the for-profits claim to provide, also, in the case of PPCC (southern CO community college system). UCCS is a little more traditional in terms of degrees but still offers almost all the things the for-profits do, usually cheaper.

          The for-profits seem pretty happy to steal their market share through outright lies and/or implicit ones, though, and Colorado has cut the heck out of higher education funding in ways that mess up the nontraditional learners as much or more than the 18-22 year olds. Plus there’s the whole “if we don’t have any money to provide the services, why are you spending money on advertising them?” budget oversight death spiral in public education. I get the sense that a lot of people in this state literally *don’t know* how easy it would be (in terms of asynchronicity, modularness, night classes, distance education, etc etc) to attend community college and/or one of the smaller state schools.

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          • Colorado has cut the heck out of higher education funding in ways that mess up the nontraditional learners as much or more than the 18-22 year olds.

            Quite a lot worse for the non-traditionals, and graduate students. The accounting gimmickry to get around TABOR that directs per-student funding — ie, the money that makes the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition — was set up intentionally to favor 18-22 year olds who finish in four years. Years back, as a public policy graduate student, I interviewed the State Senator who designed the system. She was entirely up front about who got screwed by the changes.

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          • As you and show, the problems with state schools not getting it done are different than what private schools contend with, but in either case, the reality is the same, the existing institutions were unable or unwilling to meet the demand, so someone else did.

            That said, I do think it would be very interesting to look at how much lobbying from the parent corporations of the for-profit schools impacted the ability of state schools to meet the demand through political interference.

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  5. [Ed1]

    *Does not include health care occupations.

    That’s a heck of an asterisk. Especially since one of the jobs profiled is at a cancer research center.

    There’s also gotta be some more numbers within the numbers, as the chart seems to show a big oversupply in enginnering graduates, yet median 1st 5 year salaries are still at the top.

    [Ed2] “are going a different route.” – quibble with the verb tense here, as they decided this route decades ago, and this article could have been written 25 years ago – and probably was. I mean, is there anyone that’s been in the college search process since 1980 that didn’t come across St John’s precisely because of their quirk?

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  6. [Ed9] I’ll buy the conspiracy that ‘corporations’ are fighting teachers unions because he actually explains the mechanism how they benefit – i.e. undermining any union undermines all unions.

    But I’m not buying the conspiracy where ‘corporations’ are consciously managing America’s decline by gaslighting educatonal expectations.

    Of course alternet’s gonna alternet and salon’s gonna salon, and when combined, watch out below.

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