I was in the mortgage industry for eleven years, from 1996 – 2007. As part of my job, I paid attention to the various government reports that came out each month since they affected interest rates. In 2002, I noticed a disturbing trend that lasted up until I left in 2007: the jobs numbers were off. The trend may have started before 2002; that is simply when I put two and two together in my head.
At the time, the US working population grew by 150,000 people per month, so in order to maintain a stable rate of unemployment, the economy needed to add 150,000 new jobs per month. But over that five year period that I was watching, we only added an average of 120,000 per month.
Even more disturbing was the kinds of jobs drying up tended to be good paying jobs, like manufacturing, and the new jobs were lower paying, like retail store clerks. My industry was flooded with people displaced from fields that were gone for good, like travel agents. Then in 2007, the mortgage industry went away, too.
Of course, since the economy’s health was measured by consumer spending, it looked as if the economy was doing well because people were still spending like crazy. Games were played with the unemployment and inflation numbers to mask the growing problems. And in 2008, the house of cards fell.
In 2001, No Child Left Behind was enacted. Virtually everyone agrees it has been horrible for education. Instead of teaching cognitive thinking skills, kids are taught rote memorization. Instead of a well rounded education, schools focus only on subjects that are part of the testing. Teacher and school performance is now judged primarily on test scores. In an effort to get scores up, kids are given bigger quantities of homework geared at memorization, versus fewer quality assignments. It is a system that encourages cheating instead of rewarding genuine learning.
Recently, I have been wondering if the slide in quality of education at the same time as the slide in the quality of jobs was deliberate. The Bush administration was fully aware of the exodus of middle class jobs to other countries. They had to know those jobs were leaving for good.
Bush said he was enacting No Child left Behind to make sure that our children would receive the kind of quality education that would make our next generation competitive in the global work force. I guess he accomplished exactly that. Our kids have been trained to be good little robots — to spit back facts, not think for themselves, and not aspire for goals outside the box. They are perfect employees for the low end jobs that are becoming available in the global labor market.
I’ve also been wondering: If Americans fought for legislature and tax codes that encouraged companies to bring the jobs back, would education naturally follow? Would schools start adding classes to meet the needs of the up and coming work force? After all, weren’t vocational arts courses originally added to public schools to meet the needs of the job market at the time?
I think it is up to parents to get on the ball and demand these legislative and tax code changes because they government isn’t going to do it without our prodding.
Congress has been working on revamping No Child Left Behind for years, with no success. Shouldn’t they have thrown it out altogether when Race to the Top was implemented? Why are both programs in place?
And the Supreme Court recently rejected a case challenging the legality of No Child Left Behind.
Each one of us has a voice. Change will come if we demand it. It’s time to start demanding jobs be returned–not for our sake, for our kids’ sake.
image credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2b/No_Child_Left_Behind_Act.jpg/275px-No_Child_Left_Behind_Act.jpg
Christi Grab is the author of The Unexpected Circumnavigation: Unusual Boat, Unusual People Part 1 – San Diego to Australia.