Monday, December 06, 2004

Education and Economics

Education and economics. These are two issues facing the United States that have a great impact on every aspect of the U.S. and the rest of the world. This post will concentrate on U.S. domestic ideas on how these two can compliment one another.

Having worked in an educational organization (not as a teacher), I had a unique opportunity to see many things that happen involving some of the processes that go on. Spending was one of them. I was amazed at the number of industries that benefit from educational spending. This gave me insight on a variety issues that I had never thought of before.

Education could be one of the strongest forces for economic growth in more ways than teaching people how to perform certain tasks. With newer technologies, education has to expand its playing field to be productive. Schools pay a great deal of money for computers, peripherals and software. With computer purchases, schools tend to purchase new types of overhead projection systems. Ones that connect to the computers so the teacher can have the same thing on the screen that the students do. This allows the students to better follow the teacher’s instructions because the teachers can have a simulated one on one with every student in the classroom. Getting back to the subject, education provides a large buyer base for the technology industry.

Technology is only one field in which educational spending is beneficial. New construction projects give work to a variety of fields. Educational spending contributes to even more areas than that. Think about all the things that go into schools. Books, food, janitorial, building and automobile maintenance, sporting equipment, landscaping, office supplies and furniture, science equipment, health care equipment for nurses and special needs classes and the list goes on. All of these areas provide vital cash flow for our economy.

Vocational classes in middle and high schools should be provided to give our children a chance to experience real world work place environments. Wood, metal and automotive classes should begin in middle school to give students skills needed to help them to be more self sufficient in dealing with basic issues such as doing home repairs and basic car maintenance. These should be considered basic life skills to better prepare them for common issues that they will most likely encounter once they are old enough to own a car and eventually, a house. Another area that should be added and/or improved is computer knowledge. Computer knowledge is something that students will need to have in order to function in their future. Purchasing for the needed tools and materials will cover industries sales for each of their respective points.

In high school, vocational classes need to be expanded to include a much wider spectrum. Vocational classes should build on computer skills and provide for personal and small business management. At this stage, a wider range of electives should be introduced. While maintaining the basic core curriculum, students should have more elective course studies available to them. General manufacturing concepts should be available as should service industries. In the 1980’s it was widely accepted that service industries would be the primary industries in the U.S.. Service industries have grown but they still need to be supplemented by manufacturing industries. These two areas need to find common ground if they are to be successful. If nothing is manufactured, what will need to be serviced?

Educating our youth in how to be productive and efficient as members of society is very important to our future economy and overall development as a civilization. At one time, the U.S. was seen as one of, if not the, most productive nations on the planet. Today, we are seen as taking a back seat to other countries such as Japan, China and a few others in terms of general manufacturing. This needs to change. It would be one thing if the U.S. was holding a commanding lead in service areas but we are losing ground in that area as well to other areas of the world such as south east Asia, the EU and some south American hemisphere nations.

It is my strong belief that education needs to focus on preparing our youth to be more competitive in the world market. Not just to get by in the world. With today’s growing arena of economic diversity due to globalizing economic structures, the U.S. must begin to hold an edge in industrial education if we are to continue to be one of the best.

Where do we start? To build the nation to a power house in economics that it once was, we need to look at the “link in the chain” that needs to the most work. I feel that the weak links are in education and industrial.