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“Is College The Only Gateway to the Middle Class?”

In his Sept 1, 2014 blog post “Back To College, The Only Gateway to the Middle Class,” Professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich analyzed Germany’s option of free world-class technical education keeps its economy at the forefront of precision manufacturing and applied technology.

“The skills taught are based on industry standards, and courses are designed by businesses that need the graduates. So when young Germans get their degrees, jobs are waiting for them.”

While this sounds ideal, Reich has one strong reservation about the German system - students have to choose a technical track by age 14 and those who do so can’t switch back later an academic track.

He feels the United States can afford to improve our system in the USA dramatically by combining the last year of high school with the first year of technical training at community colleges. This would be in partnership with “affected industries [who] would help design the courses and promise jobs to students who finish successfully.” He would also provide an option that would allowing students who change their minds to transfer to four-year liberal arts universities.

Reich is to be praised for his positive, creative, and valuable analysis, but we have some major concerns. The whole country seems to have fallen into the current mindset that job training is the sole goal of education. And while we agree that industries should promise jobs to students who successfully gain skills, he seems to have forgotten the uproar that arose from progressives in Berkeley when Novartis "bought the University of California at Berkeley's agricultural department in order to promote GMOs, and crush the growing natural foods revolution." This scandal received little attention because food production is rarely valued by academics, who've forgotten that the U.C. system was originally created as a land grant to teach students how to grow food.

As we see it, the far greater problem is how to restructure modern education to include philosophical and moral concerns about what is produced, and at what expense and sacrifice.



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