Unwanted: In automated future, who needs skills?

If most jobs are automated, what skills will people need? wonders Marc Tucker. Who will be educated and how?

Some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are proposing a guaranteed basic income — everyone gets a check, regardless of need — to deal with the consequences of automation. Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, is funding a trial of the idea.

Matt Krisloff, the manager of the project, sees a day when “95 percent— or a vast majority — of people won’t be able to contribute to the workforce.”

Since the Great Recession, most of the job growth has been among knowledge workers, writes Tucker. Workers doing routine tasks may not have a future.

Raising the minimum wage for low-skilled jobs will encourage employers to replace workers with technology. Self-driving cars, trucks and trains could put millions out of work.

Those on this new dole will have time “to think deep thoughts about protecting the environment,” as one advocate suggests. They can write poetry, create art, grow vegetables or . . . play video games.

If there are a few challenging jobs for the highly educated, and the dole for everyone else, educators would have to decide who’s worth educating, Tucker writes.

There’d be plenty of recess, music, art and sports for those destined for the dole.

Would teaching be automated? I think content delivery might be, but there will be a need for humans to interact with humans. I hope.

On Sunday, Swiss voters soundly rejected a guaranteed income proposal, reports Business Insider. “Supporters had said introducing a monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,563) per adult and 625 francs per child under 18 would promote human dignity and public service. Opponents, including the government, said it would cost too much and weaken the economy.”

A dream job? Wake up

Don’t follow your passion, advises Mike Rowe in PragerU’s commencement address. Find a way to make a living — don’t expect a “dream job” –and get good at it.

“Year after year, thousands of aspiring American Idols show up with great expectations, only to learn that they don’t possess the skills they thought they did,” says Rowe. “What’s really amazing though, is not their lack of talent—the world is full of people who can’t sing. It’s their genuine shock at being rejected—the incredible realization that their passion and their ability had nothing to do with each other.”

Mobility? Non-profit colleges fall short

Upward mobility is a myth for many students who borrow to attend private non-profit colleges, a Third Way report, Incomplete: The Quality Crisis at America’s Private, Non-Profit Colleges.

New, full-time low- and moderate-income students who start at a four-year, nonprofit college have only a 50-50 shot at earning a degree, the report concludes.

Most low- and moderate-income students enroll in less selective colleges with low graduation rates. Looking at net price — what students pay after grants, scholarships and loans — the unselective colleges cost the most.

“Using our mobility metric, the average net tuition paid by low- and moderate-income students was lowest at top-quartile schools ($15,938) and highest at bottom-quartile schools ($18,776),” warns Third Way.

Six years after enrolling, nearly 40 percent of students who borrowed for college don’t earn any more than the average worker with only a high school diploma. On average, 19 percent of borrowers fall behind on repaying loans three years out of college.

Here’s what Third Way doesn’t quite say: College is an engine of upward mobility for students who have the academic preparation to get into a selective college and complete a degree. For those with weak academic skills or shaky motivation, college can lead to debt (that can’t be discharged by bankruptcy) without raising earning power.

“If we’re serious about promoting equality and removing barriers that keep the less fortunate from getting ahead,” we should ban the college box,” writes Glenn Reynolds in USA Today. “If you have to go to college to move up in the world, a lot of people aren’t going to move up.”

How to succeed without a degree

High school graduates with “high credentials” — but no college — earn almost as much as four-year college graduates at the age of 26, concludes a Center for Public Education report. High-credentialed workers earn higher wages and are more likely to be working full-time than those with two-year degrees or “some college,” according to Path Least Taken III: Rigor and Focus in High School Pays Dividends in the Future.

In high school, they completed Algebra 2 and advanced science, earned a C-plus average or better and completed three or more related career-focused courses. After graduation, they earned a professional license or certificate in the same career field.

Don’t grade me, bro


Erica Taicz, who just graduated from Johns Hopkins, and others want to retain “covered grades” in the first semester. From left are: Taicz; John Hughes, 20, a rising junior; Jonathan Liu, 21, who just graduated, and Kwame Alston, 20, a rising junior. Photo: Algerina Pena, Baltimore Sun

To ease pressure on new students, Johns Hopkins University hides their first-semester, first-year grades: Students know what they earned, but their transcript says only Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory (or the failed course is removed). Plans to change the decades-old policy in 2017, have distressed students, reports the Baltimore Sun.

A group of students who call their effort #ReCoverHopkins say reporting first-semester grades will cause mental-health problems.

Hopkins students experience anxiety, depression, and suicide at high rates which cannot continue to be tolerated for the sake of competitive academic performance.

Students from low-income backgrounds, first generation students, students struggling with mental health, students with disabilities, international students, and sexual assault survivors—as well as students whose experiences exist at intersections of marginalized race, gender, and sexuality—are disproportionately affected by the policy change.”

Students aren’t asking to be coddled, organizer Erica Taicz told the Baltimore Sun. “I’m paying to have a support network, academically and mentally. I can’t be expected to do well in class if I’m depressed and have anxiety.”

“What Hopkins students are actually paying for is a rigorous education and, eventually, a degree that demonstrates their intellectual competence in some area of study, responds Robby Soave on Reason.

“Having to receive letter grades is not a traumatic experience, it’s a normal one,” responds Katherine Timpf on National Review. “Any potential students who think they can’t handle it should really just go somewhere else.”

When my daughter was looking at colleges — it was awhile ago — I noticed that Johns Hopkins had a reputation for unhappy students, possibly because so many are competing to get into medical school. Apparently, it’s the anti-party school.

I don’t think hiding first-semester grades is a terrible policy — or terribly effective at sheltering students from academic pressures. A few other elite colleges do it. But, gee, is this the Intersectional Snowflake Generation?

‘Beating the odds’ model was college dropout


Anthony Mendez was placed next to First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2015 State of the Union address.

At the State of the Union address in 2015, Anthony Mendez — the homeless kid who’d made it to college — sat next to Michelle Obama. He was the “poster child” for “beating the odds,” writes Mendez in a painfully honest essay in Vox. A few months later, he flunked out of college.

He’d failed every course in his first semester at the University of Hartford, but got a second chance because of the White House attention, Mendez writes. Despite added support, he couldn’t handle the academics. At the end of the year, he was out.

Mendez grew up in the South Bronx. His mother was on welfare. His alcoholic father was absent. In his first year of high school, his best friend was shot and killed on a trip to the convenience store.

Halfway through the (sophomore) year, my mother got news that we were being evicted. We were forced to move into a homeless shelter in Brooklyn, miles away from my home. During our multi-month stay at the shelter, I had to wake up at before 4:30 every morning to make it to school on time. I would often get back home close to midnight because of track practice at night.

A nonprofit called iMentor provided a mentor who helped him stay focused in high school and apply to college. Nominated by iMentor, Mendez was invited to the opening of Reach Higher, Michelle Obama’s initiative to inspire students to go to college.

The summer after he flunked out, he was a Reach Higher “ambassador.” He was embarrassed to tell the truth.

. . . this is not a story of how I overcame everything to reach success. This is just me telling the truth. This is me finally letting go of all the pain and weight I hold in my heart of not wanting to disappoint anybody.

Mendez is now a full-time student at LaGuardia Community College while working almost 40 hours per week at a coffee shop.

Mendez has plenty of grit. What he lacked was preparation for college-level academics.

Employers seek alternatives to college degrees

“Depending on whom you ask, degrees are either increasing in value or about to disappear into the dustbin of history,” writes Ryan Craig, managing director of University Ventures, on EdSurge News. Employers are “demanding more degrees while simultaneously saying degrees don’t matter.”

A new report by The Brookings Institution shows that the bachelor’s degree premium remains as high as ever. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs says the return on college is falling: “In 2010, students could expect to break even within eight years of finishing school. Since then, that has increased to nine years.”

One third of employers are asking for more higher education, according to a new survey from CareerBuilder. Some are demanding four-year degrees for jobs that used to be open to high school graduates or demanding master’s degrees for jobs that used to require a bachelor’s.

Others have found “degree bias” leads to bad hiring decisions.

. . . Google’s Senior VP of People Operations has gone on record saying that grades in degree programs are “worthless as a criteria for hiring.” As a result, Google also requires candidates to take assessments, which are much more predictive of success on the job.

Credential inflation and openness to alternative credentials are logical responses to employers’ dissatisfaction with college graduates’ hard skills and soft skills, such as reasoning, communication, complex problem solving, innovation and creativity, writes Craig.

Soon, a “plain vanilla bachelor’s degree” won’t be enough. “Newly minted bachelor’s degree grads are already competing in the job market with graduates of coding bootcamps like Galvanize,” he writes. “Soon they’ll be competing with graduates of Udacity Nanodegrees, Coursera Specializations and Lynda Learning Paths.”

A New York Times editorial argues that the government should help more people go to college, even though “the economy does not produce enough jobs that require college degrees.” The Times‘ solution is for the government to create “good jobs at good pay” — and raise the minimum wage.

Oddly, the editorial says graduates can’t find jobs as teachers, ignoring the debate about whether the teacher shortage is national or just local. There’s always been a surplus of would-be elementary teachers and strong demand for math, science, bilingual and special-ed teachers.

From high school to the workforce

Politicians promise to make college affordable for more people, writes Jeffrey Selingo in the Wall Street Journal.  Yet many won’t earn a degree and nearly half of graduates are working jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. What young people really need are

Young people need alternative routes to the education and training required for high-quality jobs. writes Selingo, author of There is Life After College.

Apprentices at Siemens’ gas turbine manufacturing facility in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Apprentices at Siemens’ gas turbine manufacturing facility in Charlotte, North Carolina.

For example, Siemens and other manufacturers “developed a high-school apprenticeship program in North Carolina when they couldn’t find enough workers with advanced skills.” Students who complete a three-year apprenticeship earn an associate degree and qualify for a $55,000 starting salary.

At Walla Walla Community College in Washington state, John Deere trains students to “fix million-dollar farm equipment,” a high-paying job that requires
“advanced math and mechanical skills.”

Only 20 percent of teens have a job while in high school, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s down from 45 percent in 1998.

To make youth apprenticeships work in the U.S., policymakers should study Switzerland, where employers take the lead, and Singapore, where the government has created very effective career tech education, writes Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy.

Ivy League’s Asian problem 


Asian-American applicants need much higher SAT scores to get into Brown, Yale, Dartmouth and other Ivy League schools, a coalition charges.

Asian-American groups want the U.S. Education Department to investigate Yale, Dartmouth and Brown for racial discrimination.

While the population of college age Asian-Americans has doubled in 20 years and the number of highly qualified Asian-American students “has increased dramatically,” the percentage accepted at most Ivy League colleges has flatlined, according to the complaint. It alleges this is because of “racial quotas and caps, maintained by racially differentiated standards for admissions that severely burden Asian-American applicants.”

It’s the Jewish problem all over again, writes Glenn Reynolds (aka Instapundit) in USA Today.

Decades ago, the Ivy League colleges thought they had a problem: too many Jews. These recent immigrants, from a culture that prized education and academic achievement, had an unfortunate characteristic: They worked harder, studied longer and cared more about school.

. . . Problem was, the Ivy League didn’t really want them. Being first-generation students, these applicants didn’t have rich alumni parents who would be likely to donate big bucks. . . . And they were seen as boring grinds who studied too hard and weren’t much fun.

 So the Ivy League favored “leadership” and “well-rounded” candidates — and, when that wasn’t enough, set quotas for Jewish students.

Now Asian students “are seen as people who study too hard, boring grinds who aren’t much fun — and, of course, their parents aren’t as rich and connected,” writes Reynolds.

Here’s more on the Asian-Ivy War.

First-gen students help each other through UT


“La Raza” members kayak on Barton Springs in Austin with visiting friends from home during Spring Break 2014. From left to right: Perla de la O (foreground), Zarina Moreno, Xenia Garcia, Bianca de la O, Jose R. Peña. Photo: Courtesy of Perla de la O.

Going from Roma, Texas, a ranching town on the Mexican border, to the University of Texas in Austin is a huge leap, writes Lillian Mongeau in the Washington Monthly.

“It was overwhelming,” Jesús “Nacho” Aguilar, 23, said. “It was also liberating.”

Mongeau, who taught English in Roma for Teach for America, asked Jesús, Tomás González, 23, Perla de la O, 22, and Eduardo Rios, 20, how they succeeded at UT despite the culture shock.

They helped each other, the Roma grads said. They call their homegrown network La Raza or just “the group.”

The group holds potlucks featuring food from home. They get each other jobs. They help the newest Roma-grads-cum-UT-freshmen find housing, the laundromat, and free food on campus. They share textbooks and help each other with homework. They carpool home for the holidays. They ask each other: How do you sign up for health insurance? Can you explain this financial aid form? Where is the registrar’s office? When someone is sick, they cook him dinner. When someone is lonely, they talk. When someone is struggling, they encourage her to reach out to resources on campus they know can help.

. . . “You think you’re the only one struggling,” Jesús said. “But no. Everyone is in the same boat.”

Seeing each other struggle, knowing you’re not the only one crying in the shower that first desperately hard semester — that’s what gets you through, Tomás said.

Students who’d aced AP Calculus at Roma High discovered they were not prepared for UT classes.

“On his first college test, Jesús, a star student at home, earned a 50 percent,” Mongeau writes. He worried he was letting others down. “When I experienced failure, it wasn’t just my own failure,” he said.

The Roma students found helpful programs at the university, “special scholarships, offices full of mentors, friendly professors and former Roma TFAs who live in Austin and host welcome dinners for freshmen,” writes Mongeau. Now they advise younger students to join organizations and look for help.

“There are people looking out for people like us,” Eduardo said. “But we have to find them.”

Several members of La Raza “posed” for a photo at Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas in 2013. From left to right: Valeria Molina, who now lives in New York City, Jonathan Peña, Travis Pham, Tomás González, Jesús Aguilar and Ziyad Alghamdi, who is not from Roma but was adopted by the group. Photo: Courtesy of Perla de la O.