Evidently, President Obama is going to be in Texas today talking education policy. The Chronicle has a nice story I have one problem with the emphasis I have seen so far: the focus seems to be on college graduations. I gather we are now 12th in the world behind Russia, among others, and the Obama and Sec. of Education Duncan see that as a threat to our economic competitiveness. Why do I have problems with that focus? For one thing, look at the sites I have linked to over the last few days. One described Hawaii's efforts to close the education budget deficit by closing the schools for some 17 Fridays during the last school year. According to a article I didn't link, a Utah state senator has proposed canceling the entire senior year of high school. That has parents, teachers and students up in arms. This morning the local news reported that the Chicago school system may try closing their budget gap by laying off up to 1200 teachers unless the union agrees to forego the 4% pay raise teachers are scheduled to receive this year. That would be a particularly bitter pill for teachers because they had worked for at least 2 years without a contract after the previous one expired and much of the pay raises were to recoup the wages they had lost during that time. I am talking about primary and secondary education here which feeds the colleges and universities. If we don't have high graduation rates of quality students from high school how are we going to get high schools where are we going to get the future college graduates? The next question that no one seems to want to answer is: what are these students educated for? Cab driving? Flipping burgers? Panhandling? Where are the jobs for college graduates in this country?
A lot of bloggers have linked to this MSNBC story this morning and it hits a nerve in this household. Like some of the people featured I took social security early after a long stint (two-and-a-half years) of unemployment. Over the past ten years I have had 3 periods of out-right unemployment lasting 9 months, 5 months and 30 months, the first and last without unemployment compensation. That makes almost 4 years out of the ten unemployed. Of the remaining seven years I had a full time job (without benefits which weren't offered at the small business I worked for) for 18 months. Ten years ago I would not have dreamed that I would take Social Security before I could qualify for full benefits at age 66. Heck, I wouldn't have taken them before age 70 if I had a job that paid my bills. At one point during this decade I had 3 part-time jobs trying to make ends meet. It simply didn't work. For nearly three years 18 hours of my days were spent commuting and working. The experience is not one I would wish on my worst enemy. Well, I will take that back. I wish it on the Republican leadership of the Senate and all of the other assholes who want to raise the retirement age for social security and don't want to extend jobless benefits for the long term unemployed.
I am back after a bit of a respite which we used for a quick trip to the grocery store. We ran out of pint freezer bags and Mom is in the middle of grinding up three large pork roasts for ground pork and sausage. She puts up the final product in half pound packages for which the pint bags are perfect. I mention this only because the trip yielded a big surprise. Actually, a couple of surprises. She needed some flour and a couple of spices/herbs so we went down the baking aisle. First surprise--oh, how the flour section had shrunk. No white flour packages between 5 and 25 pounds. Second surprise, besides white flour the only other variety was whole wheat. No rye. No specialty flours. Third surprise, the smallest packages and varieties of yeast I have ever seen. Our conclusion--not many are baking anything from scratch. And I have to wonder how many are using the bread machines that were all the rage only a couple of years ago. We have talked with increasing frequency about going back into baking our own breads but now we have wonder where would we get the necessary ingredients. It wasn't all that many years ago that I did make up all my own bread: white, sourdough, potato, ryes, whole wheat and a good may others. Now I would be hard pressed to find what I needed. Another instance of this marvelous market place which doesn't meet my needs--at any price.
Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars has an excellent take on the job market and the recent chorus of employers moaning about not finding enough 'qualified' applicants for their job openings. Her solution: hire good people and train them. Oh, and while you are at it pay them a living wage. That would be nice.