Education at the Speed of Profit

ITT Technical Institute was hardly a fly-by-night operation. After 50 years in business as a for-profit technical school it was forced to close down after losing its accreditation and, shortly afterwards, eligibility for federal student loans. It’s merely the latest blow to the for-profit education market after the closing of Corinthian Colleges in 2015 and the dramatic paring back of the previously aggressive University of Phoenix.

Is there a future in for-profit education? Does the free market work, or should education be entirely run by and for the public?

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The Future of Work

It’s generally assumed that the biggest issue this election is job creation. That is interesting given how the economy has already created 14 million jobs in the last six years.  More interestingly, as we’ve pointed out, we’re getting close enough to full employment that it’s hard to imagine where enough workers will come from.

Then again, it isn’t hard to imagine a job shortage. As we also have pointed out, the key issue when it comes to jobs isn’t trade deals or unfair labor practices – it’s automation. Robots build our stuff, computers file our paperwork.

If we want to seriously talk about jobs, the first thing we have to realize is that the short-term is probably covered by the coming worker shortage as Boomers retire. That’s the good news. Over the longer haul, however, automation of various kinds will replace more and more workers. That will take careful attention to what’s going on as well as a completely new definition of “work” to get us through the other side.

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The Industrial Arts

A bizzy weekend of Robotics makes it a good night for a repeat, this from 2014.  With the Democratic Debate in Michigan the topic is very timely, too – Michigan has more FIRST Robotics teams per capita than any state and is clearly pushing this as a way to encourage a good future.  Industrial Arts?  The past and the future of Michigan, for sure.

If you have any fear for the future of America, visit a FIRST Robotics League competition. Your worries will simply melt away.

Three days with my son’s team (2491 No Mythic) at the Northstar Regionals, where we were knocked out in the Finals, constantly percolated with passion, grace, and ingenuity. The 800 plus high-schoolers in Mariucci Arena, and another 800 next door in Williams Arena, redefined competition beyond the unique sport that is something like hockey with robots. These kids make things happen and realize their visions together. As enthusiastically as they learned by doing, however, their drive showed that something might be missing from their school experience.

Call it shop class, call it “technical education”, use whatever words you want. These are the citizens that will make the world of tomorrow in their image, if only they have the tools to do it. That cries out for a revival and resuscitation of the Industrial Arts in a way that I have never seen contemplated before.

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The Future is Theirs

If you are worried about the future of the US or the world, you need to attend a FIRST Robotics Challenge Competition.  Your worries will dissolve into cheers for the moment and tears for the sheer beauty of kids doing amazing things – challenged and coached appropriately.

This year’s challenge isn’t quite the “hockey with robots” that we are used to.  They have to stack bins and put a heavy container on top of them, a feat that challenges them to power great forces with intricate precision.   It takes strategy, planning, and a lot of learning how to use power saws and drills. But the Great River School team 2491 No Mythic is hitting the challenge with great energy and determination. It’s also a lot of fun.

A study came out that says a little more about letting kids go off and do what might seem dangerous, even at an early age. It seems to fit with what I’ve seen at Robotics League.

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