Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Henry Rollins: Letters to a Young American - Part 2

Henry Rollins: Letters to a Young American - Part 1

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Skills Mismatch" Causing High Unemployment?

I've posted about this a number of times, HERE and HERE for example, but the Wall Street Journal, NYTimes, Washington Post, et al continue to roll out a series of articles about every quarter that laments our valiant business and industry leaders struggling to find workers with the skills they need... The latest from the Washington Post HERE says that manufacturers are just begging to hire 600,000 workers, if those workers weren't... well, stupid I suppose.

A very smart rebuttal at the Huffington Post HERE points out the idiocy of the WP piece, which is essentially serving as a mouthpiece for the Manufacturing Institutes propaganda.  From HP:

"Since the beginning of the century, manufacturing wages for production workers have barely increased, Sum said. And in the last two years, as employers have said they've been having difficulty filling spots, wages have declined slightly.

"If there was a big shortage of workers, than we should find wages rising. But this just isn't the case," Sum said. "That doesn't mean that specific companies won't ever have trouble finding a machinist, but when you add it all up, it doesn't amount to very much."...

 "The point of the argument is to then say: 'We don't need to ramp up demand or infrastructure investment. We need to fix people,'" said Paul Osterman, a professor of human resources and management at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management. This rhetoric, Osterman added, fits well with another priority for business owners: "Firms are always interested in shifting the costs of training to the public sector," he said."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Collaborative Education

Was intrigued by the above article @ Fast Company for a couple reasons…
1)      They need more engineers in Silicon Valley, so they opened a tuition free school and charged the businesses a placement fee of $20K for their graduates – what a model! Now, all the businesses out there that are bitching they can't find the talent they need... follow suit!  If talent matters to you pay for them.  Or perhaps it doesn't matter that much to you and you use that as an excuse to pay less?

2)      And they don’t really do traditional instruction at this tuition free school:

“And once school opens, there's no instruction. Instead, participants work side-by-side on personal projects, usually involving open-source software. The learning comes by being jammed together in the same place and having smart people nearby to learn from and ask questions of. "It's like a writers retreat for computer programmers," Albert tells Fast Company. "You don't learn English at a writers retreat, but you hone your craft." 

I’ve read two other pieces of late that talk about the importance of collaborative learning… yet, all three are talking about different students:  
“For the next hour they did field trip follow-up. Ms. Krings gave them Muni-Meter math problems. At the block station the boys kept building racing tracks and knocking them over while Yudy He Wu made a municipal parking garage and lined the top with Matchbox cars. They never stopped chattering to one another, which Ms. Krings said was good. “They’re working together to resolve problems and developing their verbal skills,” she said.”

b)Harvard Students -  Twilight of the Lecture
“Reviewing the test of conceptual understanding, Mazur twice tried to explain one of its questions to the class, but the students remained obstinately confused. “Then I did something I had never done in my teaching career,” he recalls. “I said, ‘Why don’t you discuss it with each other?’” Immediately, the lecture hall was abuzz as 150 students started talking to each other in one-on-one conversations about the puzzling question. “It was complete chaos,” says Mazur. “But within three minutes, they had figured it out. That was very surprising to me—I had just spent 10 minutes trying to explain this. But the class said, ‘OK, We’ve got it, let’s move on.’

Finally, there was this interesting, and I think related, piece in the Washington Post last week - which made me wonder if part of the way we've set up learning in the schools (don't cheat and talk to your neighbor!) is because of this hero myth Gabler identifies in entrepreneurship -
WP: The end of lone-wolf capitalism - HERE

All of which argues, as I've done many other times on this blog, for blowing up the way we do K-16 education and starting all over again. 

Krugman: Severe Conservative Syndrome

An excellent piece by Krugman this week - Severe Conservative Syndrome - HERE

"How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality? For it was not always thus. After all, that health reform Mr. Romney wants us to forget followed a blueprint originally laid out at the Heritage Foundation!
My short answer is that the long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy — a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security.
Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control."

I thought of this riding back to the office after lunch today, I was flipping the channels and ended up on Neal Boortz, but you can have the same experience listening to Michael Savage, or Rush Limbaugh, etc.  They've absolutely lost their bloody minds... I try to remember that they can't possibly believe anything they say, and that their only real mission is to get ratings, but the schtick that these bastards are saying on the radio is nuts.  It's beyond reason that anyone could look at this presidency and think it's been anything but a right of center, middle of the road, compromise machine from day one.  But, policies aside, these clowns are arguing he's evil, and depending on their mood he's either a fascist or socialist hell bent on destroying the world.  And the challenge is that millions of people, who are struggling to find their place in a dynamic global economy where technology, globalization, and demographics are completely changing the way we live, work, and learn are looking for easily digestible solutions... and it's real easy to believe that the guy who looks different than they do is freakin' Dr. Evil.    And demagogues like Boortz, Savage, and Limbaugh are all too willing to play to people's fears, and with people's lives, to make themselves rich.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Our inability to act

Experts, research, data, practitioners, and just plain common sense tells us that the current school reform efforts are not preparing our children to function in the dynamic global economy.  Why the hell can't we fix it?  It's clear to me that the money of the Gates, WalMart, and Broad Foundations, and the hedge fund guys who are making a killing off of the push for Charter Schools simply don't care that we're ruining the lives of millions of kids in this country... and it's a prime example of where we've either become so docile or manipulated as a society that we can't do a damn thing about it...

Excellent 2 minute video from the great Diane Ravitch on Standardized Testing -