11/5/11

School Daze #5: How the U.S. Strikes It Rich Again: A Three Step Plan of Sheer Genius


Want to know how the U.S. can get back on its economic feet? Let's face it, we've suffered a roundhouse kick to the nads in the past few years - we've come damn close to tapping out, but somehow we're still in the mix.  If history is any guide, I believe I have the one and only answer to getting out of this mess.

Here's a hint: It will not involve giving Wall Street more taxpayer money for successive bailouts. It will also not involve giving corporations more tax incentives to stay in the U.S. - that may lead to another jobless recovery, but the middle class will still remain royally f***ed.  No, those aren't the answer.  The answer is.... (drum roll, please) ...... science education.



It's going to be okay.  We just have to make our schools stop sucking.
Remain calm.  This is not a joke, nor is this a post sponsored by Dow Chemical. This is an opinion formed by years and years of past analyses ("past analyses" sounds a lot better than "endless cycle of nostalgic longing"). It's given me, I think, a clear wide-angle lens to view our country's many successes and mistakes. And my Spidey Sense is telling me that the only way out is via science class.

The fact of the matter is job creation is not necessarily a good thing.  There's plenty of people in the Philippines, India and China with horrible soul sucking jobs - do you want those kind of jobs? I hear Rick Perry brag about how many jobs have been created in Texas under his governorship; never you mind the fact that most of these jobs are so shitty you'd be better off moving to Bangkok and selling yourself into the underground slave trade.

Rick Perry soooo missed his calling.   Skinamax has his name written all over it.
This is just a long way of saying, job creation in-and-of-itself doesn't mean shit.  The real prize is landing decent jobs, and that comes only by being at the forefront of science and technology. With a billion Indians, another billion Chinese, a quarter of a billion Indonesians, etc. we are getting vastly outnumbered on the global stage.  And with our CEO's only too willing to relocate off shore to enhance their stock options, it would seem the odds are stacked against us.

Thank God technological innovation can level the playing field.  Whether it's a new discovery in medicine or a breakthrough in transportation, these things have a way of catapulting the creators to the front of the line. The personal computer, the mass produced automobile, aerospace engineering, psychotropic drug development, genetics, and the science of war (which we are still awesome at!) have put the U.S. of A. at the top of the heap.  NOT - I repeat - NOT Wall Street gambling.

Don't I know it.
Real estate, which has been the bread and butter of Wall Street of late, will never ever ever EVER make your country wealthy.  It has never happened before, and it will never happen in the future.  It will make a handful of greedy bastards incomprehensibly rich at the expense of everyone else; but, that's not the goal we're shooting for, right?

If only we had, like Iceland, told the penniless retards at the banks to fend for themselves, we may have better used the funds in the classroom.  Here's how we could've better used the $11.5 trillion we flushed down the toilets of Wall Street...

1. Make Science & Technology Cool as F**k

There's probably not a whole lot of students motivated by patriotism when it comes to getting good grades.  What motivates these young men and women at this age isn't even working towards obtaining a healthy income.... that'll come later in college if they're lucky. What they're motivated by is... well,....

right here.
Put Madison Avenue on the case.  They're experts at manipulation, creating hype, shaping what's cool and what's lame. Just as we dole money out to Lockheed Martin for defense,  I'd give a healthy portion of that $11.5 trillion into the grubby hands of the best marketing experts money can buy.  I'll guarantee you that within a few months, it'll be the Mathletes banging the prom queens, not the varsity quarterbacks.

2.  Don't Stop Educating People Just Because They're Fat and Old

We've got to think outside the box here, folks.  Our education system is set up to fail, and we've got to change it, dammit.  After you're 22nd birthday, most people are basically done with that learnin' business altogether. Sure, some may watch TLC and the History Channel on occasion; but a formal education is miles behind them in the rear view mirror.

The Challenge: Educating People Who'd Rather Be Taking a Nap
Our education system is built around the fact that people rarely lived into their forties.  Frankly, the feeling was that, if you were in your thirties, your best years are long behind you.  Best to get to work and wait for death's cold comfort.  No sense in educating someone with one foot in the grave, right?.

Today, most of our population is "old" (I put quotation marks around that word to make you and I feel better).  They are a vast untapped resource.

Okay, maybe not all of them.  LL Cool J and Duane Allman may be a challenge in the classroom.
I'm not talking about offering classes in "music therapy" or (God forbid) English Lit to geezers on their lunch breaks.  No, I'm talking about offering some of that $11.5 trillion we coughed up to the Wall Street whores as an incentive to "getting technical".  I'm talkin' fiscal rewards to taking classes in software engineering, medical technology, accounting, networking, etc.   Who knows - that disgruntled shift manager at Pizza Hut may be the next Steve Jobs - making this all well worth the investment, don't you think?

3. Most Importantly: Stop Hating on the Teachers

If you are a tea party champion who thinks making the teaching profession a low-wage, thankless career is a good thing for this country, chances are, you haven't even read this far, so I'm not going to worry about your brainless opinion.  For everyone else out there, I'm sure you realize we are living in a very unique and precarious time - a time where we need to bolster the education of our citizens more than ever.  Reducing their wages and benefits, and worst of all reducing their reputation in the court of public opinion, is probably not the direction we should be headed in right now.

Just look at that greedy teacher in action.  His greed makes me sick.  His salary would be better off in a hedge fund. 
The fact of the matter is there's a lot of kids coming from less than ideal conditions that are ill suited for the academic world.  Looking at our schools full of illiterate gang-bangers and meth-heads, it's hard at first blush to feel real optimistic. However, if resources were poured into this situation with the same degree of verve and desperation that we poured it into Wall Street and Iraq, I think we'd be surprised at what we could accomplish.

A frumpy under-payed, under-motivated teacher telling a ghetto thug to do his homework is... well, just not a recipe for success.   However, a team of highly trained, highly motivated, highly paid individuals can make it happen.  The teacher is key.  The teacher is the direct interface between our present and our future.

The New Breed of Teachers: Super hot and ready to kick some high school asses into shape... with extreme prejudice.
This thug is not retarded - with the right incentives, he has the ability to weigh his options and choose what's best for him.  If it's a choice of minimum wage (i.e. no health care, no money, no ladies knockin' at your door) versus drug dealing (i.e. lots of money, tons of babes, and a killer ghetto rep), which one would you choose?

Believe it or not, I do listen to both sides of the political argument. In fact, I've listened to Rush Limbaugh regularly over many years. Admittedly, I hardly ever agree with anything that comes out of his mouth; however, on one fact he is basically never wrong: follow the money.  When he uses this strategy to solve problems or pinpoint root causes, it is nearly always right on the..... well, money.

Twenty years from now, when Limbaugh is trying to figure out how we became the worlds greatest motherfucking superpower again, perhaps he can "follow the money" and see that it was funneled into the education system with a vengeance. That money spent was well worth the investment.  The money to Madison Avenue (Step One), to Continuing Ed. (Step Two) and Teacher Makeovers (Step Three) yielded big dividends.

And maybe Limbaugh will follow the money trail back to the impetus of this whole undertaking - this little post on a blog called Retrospace.  And maybe he'll take a swig of his Snapple and recognize this plan for what it is....


Thanks in advance, Rush.

11 comments:

  1. this needs to be printed out and posted on street corners and bathroom walls.

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  2. Unfortunately, there's tons of money being spent on the culture of failure. You'd have to fight off hordes of sclerotic bureaucrats whose regular paycheck depends on the fact that there are messed up families and to look after. Most bureaucrats and politicians don't want to solve the problems they're working on. It would make them obsolete. Look at the mega-trillions we've spent already to no avail, yet they're always promising to fix the roads & bridges.

    That point aside, I agree with everything you said.

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  3. Nope, won't work, and it's not the problem.

    The problem is that monopolistic corporations and non-productive financiers are sucking all the energy and money out of the system. If we can get them under control, the usual mix of science and service and manufacturing will be able to grow again without any particular help.

    Bear in mind that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs didn't finish college, and many of their pioneering developers also didn't finish college! Originality and drive are more likely to be squashed by education than helped by education.

    First step: Return to FDR's stock and securities laws as of ~1936; and put lots of money and effort into enforcing them.

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  4. So nice to see smart conversations between people of different viewpoints...
    Polistra made some good points against Giligan's ideas- but, Polistra, wouldn't having everyone smarter automatically fix the whole "greedy corporations" problem and just about every other problem we face? Smart and open minded people (I believe you have to be open minded to be truly intelligent) look for solutions, make plans based on facts and not hate...
    I look at these anti Obama people and I see no solutions, no respect, no ideas, no open mindedness. Heck, we can't even work with them- it's their way or no way. They're all seem very fearful and full of hatred. VOTE him out if you don't like him, until then he's the current President, so you sorta have to work with him a little bit, that's how our system works...
    Like Yoda said: "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."
    Yes, I'm a geek...

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  5. I agree with Polistra. End the culture of institutionalized and government sanctioned financial gambling. Reign in the greed merchants. Start looking after each other instead of this "every man for himself/get them before they get you/fuck everybody else" attitude that appears to prevail in the USA.

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  6. <3 douglas adams

    we bemoan the jobs going elsewhere like india, yet we demonize teachers and teachers unions and make no effort to make our schools better so jobs stay here.

    why is common sense not so common?

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  7. Just saw this today at the top Education blogger: http://www.joannejacobs.com/2011/11/to-quote-barbie-engineering-is-hard/

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  8. "Bear in mind that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs didn't finish college, and many of their pioneering developers also didn't finish college! Originality and drive are more likely to be squashed by education than helped by education."

    Yes that is why the education system needs change. Better paid, better motivated teachers can give the kind of education that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs sought elsewhere.
    Things aren't all rosy peachy keen here in Canada but some of you Americans could use an education outside of that Bible book a lot of you seem to be very fond of.

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  9. I agree with your sentiments. Also, having been in science(s) and engineering for many decades, and lifelong learner, what everyone seems to miss is that doing science in the USA means money. Big Money to procure minimum-purchase engineering samples of unique materials (or go through their sales gatekeepers) to gain access to even seemingly plain materials if they choose to do so at all, big Money to access information (proprietary, trademarks, patent, "industry standards" like IEEE/ANSI, and *especially* academic journals), big money to fight off legal threats, big money to pay for healthcare insurance, eat, and rent while working on the next-big-thing. Big money and time for advanced degrees just to participate. All the way back to Adam Smith, it has been said, badly paraphrased by me, that capitalists don't really like being capitalists - they like being monopolists, rent-seekers. They use laws, regulations, bureaucracy, obfuscation, to protect their "market" and make cost of entry to any industry very high. In short, we have created a system where we can not innovate easily, inexpensively, effectively. It is too hard, too expensive, too risky and attractive to no one. Compare this to the Chinese or the Japanese model. s-a-h-d

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