As I indicated in my earlier post, I really do not see China as a friend or foe. They, along with many other nations, are competitors. Competition is a good thing that can advance the standard of living for all. And you do not have to finish No. 1 to be a winner (although who doesn’t want to be No. 1, that is what competition is all about).
I previously stated that the weapons we need for this competition do not go “boom” in the night. We must develop our intellectual capital and a trained, motivated work force. And to accomplish this we must change the focus of our educational system.
For as long as I can remember, we have been telling young people that to succeed they need a college degree. The implied promise was that with a college degree you would always be able to find a good job.
There are a vast number of potential college majors to choose from. But how many of those Degrees will enable their holders to make a significant contribution to our economic growth? At the risk of offending all Liberal Arts majors, how many Philosophy, Psychology, and History majors etc. do we need? If you ask this question to recent graduates with these degrees they will tell you that apparently, not so many. The promise was a hollow promise.
So who is to blame? Everyone involved including the students choosing such majors, and the parents wanting to boast that their children graduated from college. A “college graduate” has much more standing in our culture than a plumber. Even though a skilled plumber has a much higher standard of living than many college graduates. Most institutions of higher learning make a lot of money selling these degrees; therefore, they have no incentives to change. Students, looking for an easier path to a college degree, will often choose a major that leaves plenty of time for a great social life.
I speak from my own experience on this subject. I chose to major in History. I love history and I did have a great social life. When I returned from Vietnam after three years in The Corps, I needed a job to support my wife and child. My college degree was no help at all. I went back to school for a second degree, but this time I studied Accounting. If you had told me when I was 20 years old that I would become a CPA I may have hit you. But that Degree changed my life forever, and I knew I would never be without a job again.
Getting back to our competitors, think about when you were in college. What subjects were the foreign students studying? They were focused on majors that would enable them to be productive and employable. They have it figured out. So if we are going to maintain our position as No. 1, all of us, parents, educators, politicians and students, need a new set of priorities.