‘Gifted,’ unemployed and living at home

A proud father responded to Matt Walsh’s radio show to tell him he’s  “the sort of person who never should have been a parent.” Unkindly, Walsh reprinted the email on his blog.

Nick starts by objecting to teaching children “how to think,” writing that imposing your views on a child is “tantamount to child abuse.” Instead, “let them think FREELY.”

Chores aren’t important, Nick writes.

Also, the idea that a kid should be forced to “get a job” is abhorrent. My son was very gifted so we gave him all the tools to succeed academically. This meant we didn’t turn him into slave labor and we certainly didn’t tell him he needed to go work behind a cash register. He concentrated on his school work, and we did our job as parents and financially supported him.

. . . My son is almost 29 and he’s been home with us since he graduated. Unfortunately the job market isn’t the greatest (maybe you hadn’t heard) and I’m not going to let him starve on the street. He has a college education, it’s pointless for him to be out working in a retail store or some other menial job. I will be here for him until he is able to get the job he deserves.

Nick advises Walsh to “grow up and get some life experiences.”

Children need guidance, Walsh responds.

 How ’bout I blindfold you, drive you out into the middle of the desert at night, and then leave you there without a map or a GPS? It’ll be great. You can just travel FREELY.

Walsh wonders how Nick knows his son is gifted if he he’s never accomplished anything and would “starve” if forced to take care of himself.

News flash, Nick: Junior ain’t special. He graduated school, good for him. Anyone can do that if they’ve got money, time and no pressures or responsibilities from the outside world. Your little pumpkin doesn’t “deserve” a job.

Walsh,  two years younger than Nick’s son, is married with two children.

No work experience, no respect for “menial” jobs, a sense of entitlement . . . I wonder why nobody wants to hire Not-so-Young Nick. After all, he’s a college graduate!

You’ve probably heard about the Philadelphia mother who advertised for a “sugar baby” to deflower her socially awkward 18-year-old son before he leaves for Harvard. I hope it’s a hoax.

College grads are less ‘engaged’ at work

Engagement by Education Level

College-educated Americans aren’t as engaged and challenged at work as less-educated workers, a new Gallup survey finds. That’s true for all ages and professions. Those with “some college” or a degree were less likely to say that “at work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.”

Gallup’s employee engagement index categorizes workers as engaged, not engaged, or actively disengaged. Engaged employees are involved in and enthusiastic about their work. Those who are not engaged are satisfied with their workplaces, but are not emotionally connected to them — and these employees are less likely to put in discretionary effort. Those workers categorized as actively disengaged are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace, and they jeopardize the performance of their teams.

A majority of college graduates are unengaged — going through the motions — but only 16.7 percent are actively disengaged malcontents, according to Gallup. Not surprisingly, graduates with a managerial or executive job are the most engaged workers.

Many college graduates never took the time to “think carefully about they actually like to do” and what they’re best at, speculates Brandon Busteed, who runs Gallup Education. Then there are “too few jobs for college grads in general, or too many degrees misaligned with the jobs available in the workplace.” In short, the demand for film, theater, anthropology and sociology majors is limited.

At the very least, we have a lot of college graduates getting jobs that don’t put their best talents and skills to work because of a big disconnect between degrees conferred and the jobs available today. At worst, we have a college system that is not helping students accomplish the most fundamental need — getting them closer to what they do best.

Half of recent graduates are in jobs that don’t require a degree, according to a 2012 Gallup/Lumina Foundation poll.

End welfare — but what about the kids?

Abolish cash welfare, food and housing aid, except for the elderly and disabled, writes Peter Cove, founder of America Works, in What I Learned in the Poverty War in City Journal.  We need to “move from a dependency culture to one of work-first,” writes Cove, whose company trains “the supposedly unemployable” for jobs.

The federal government would use the huge savings from eliminating welfare to create or subsidize private-sector jobs, sending money to companies to reduce the cost of hiring and paying new workers. The government could also create programs similar to those run by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, paying workers to build parks, refurbish bridges, clean streets, and so forth. The workers’ wages would pay for the basics—food, clothing, and shelter.

But once we dismantle cash welfare and other forms of aid and offer paying jobs in their place, what about the children of those few people who simply refuse to work? I think that we should seriously contemplate removing these unfortunate children from their irresponsible parents. Under current child-welfare laws, social-services agencies can already take kids away from their parents if their home environment is unsafe. Is it so extreme to extend that policy to homes ruined by willful poverty and neglect? I concede that the alternatives here are not pretty; government-regulated foster care, in particular, has its own risks of abuse. Adoption, however, works fairly well in most of the country. Another solution would be the establishment of government-funded institutions, operated by voluntary and religious nonprofits, to care for the children.

It’s time to think the unthinkable, writes Cove.

When I was reporting on welfare reform, every recipient I met said she wanted to work, if she get safe, reliable child care. My colleagues and I followed five welfare families. All found jobs. Only one quit — the one raised in a middle-class family. She got kicked out of a housing program too for refusing to make an effort to get off welfare. Her child wasn’t doing well. If she’d lost custody, her parents could have taken the child and tried to do a better job the second time around.

Fishtown slides

While college-educated professionals are thriving, the white working-class is sliding into underclass behavior, writes Charles Murray in Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.  In affluent “Belmont,” most people marry before having children, work and obey the law. In working-class “Fishtown,” the “founding virtues” have eroded.

Belmont and Fishtown are parting ways, writes sociologist Nathan Glazer in Education Next.

A 10 percent difference between Belmont and Fishtown in marriage rates in 1960 expanded to a 35 percent difference in 2010. In the census that year, only  “48 percent of prime-age whites in Fishtown were married, compared to 84 percent in 1969.” Related disparities arose in births out of marriage and in children living with a single parent—not much change in Belmont, a great change in Fishtown: almost 30 percent of white births are now nonmarital, up from just a few percent in 1960.

On work, Murray notes the great increase in the percentage of the population on disability payments, from under 1 to more than 5 percent of the labor force, and the growth in the number of prime-age males who are not in the labor force, contrasted with almost all in the labor force in 1960. On chart after chart reporting work behavior, we find stability in Belmont, with almost all males at work, a striking contrast to the large absence from the labor force, willed or unwilled, in Fishtown.

Fishtowners are much more likely to do prison time and less likely to go to church than in 1960.

While 90 percent of Belmont residents vote in a presidential election, only 51 percent in Fishtown voted in 1988, down from 70 percent in 1968, with a modest rise in 2008.

“People can generally be trusted” believed more than 75 percent in Belmont in 1970, contrasted with 45 percent in Fishtown. In 2010, 60 percent in Belmont still concurred, but Fishtown was down to 20 percent, Glazer writes.

Is it a decline in virtue or in good union-wage-paying manufacturing jobs? Murray says virtue. Glazer isn’t so sure.

Public schools should “resist the prevailing nonjudgmentalism and try to restore some of the moral authoritativeness practiced in the past and that we see today in many successful charter schools,” writes Glazer.

Schools that work, literally

In Schools That Work, Literally in National Review, Samuel Casey Carter praises the Cristo Rey network of urban Catholic schools which send students into corporate jobs one day a week.

“The educational quality of the program is fundamentally different in kind from what anyone else offers,” says Christopher Connor, the CEO of Sherwin-Williams, “because these students are employable. They have work skills and life skills to match that come through the work-study program.”

As much as 70 percent of school costs are covered by students’ earnings, allowing the schools to charge very low tuition to low-income and working-class parents. If students work extra days, they keep their earnings.

 Cristo Rey provides rich and regular opportunities for its students to acquire the skills, relationships, and professional behaviors of successful adults by exposing them to the rigorous expectations of the professional workplace.

Despite the four-day academic week, Cristo Rey students complete college-prep courses. At the school in Boston, all graduates were admitted to a four-year college or university this year. One girl is headed for MIT.

Late graduation pays off

It’s better to graduate late than to earn a GED, concludes a Center for Public Education study. Late graduates do significantly better than GED recipients in education, work, health and civic participation.

. . . when the data is controlled to compare students of equivalent socioeconomic status and achievement level, late graduates come close to on-time graduates’ achievement.

In high school, late graduates earned higher grades than dropouts but similar test scores. Persistence, rather than academic ability, is the difference.

Late graduates are slightly more likely than GED recipients to enroll in college (59 percent vs. 51 percent), but much more likely to complete an associate or bachelor degree. Again, they persist.

More late graduates than GED recipients and dropouts are employed and more hold full-time jobs. Late graduates are also less likely to earn incomes at the low end of the income scale.

Persistence shows up again in voting.

Although late graduates are no more likely to be registered to vote than GED recipients, late graduates are significantly more likely to have voted in a recent election (40 percent versus 29 percent).

Late graduates also exercise more and smoke less than GED recipients and dropouts.

“Dropout recovery” programs that make it easy for students to make up credits may not support the character traits that lead to greater success for high school graduates.

‘Career-relevant’ education, but not vo-tech

Instead of training high school students for specific careers, provide “career-relevant” education, writes Dana Goldstein.

. . . we don’t want to limit working class kids to these often low-skills, low-pay jobs. Instead, we should advocate for more creative curricular connections between school and various places of employment.

At Tech Valley High outside Albany, every student pursues an internship in January, reports The Nation.

This year, one teen shadowed an Amtrak engineer riding the Northeast Corridor; another interned at a local graphic design firm.

The flexibility of Tech Valley’s career curriculum—students can choose an internship that matches their interests, from baking to computer coding to marine biology—goes a long way toward scrubbing away the stigma of CTE as the “slow track” for working-class kids with few options. Every academic subject at Tech Valley is organized around projects intended to introduce teenagers to potential occupations. A history class worked alongside local attorneys to put Christopher Columbus and other European explorers on mock trial for decimating Native American populations. For a unit on pH levels, biology students worked with employees of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to collect Hudson River water samples and test whether the river was safe for swimmers.

Students can see how classroom learning can be used in the world of work, without being limited to a specific occupation, Goldstein writes.

 

Before college, take ‘grownup training’

Postpone college for two years of “grownup training,” advises Brett Nelson on Forbes.

Specifically: six months spent working in a factory, six in a restaurant, six on a farm and six in the military or performing another public service such as building houses, teaching algebra or changing bedpans.

. . . I’d reckon that grownup training would put undergrads deeply in touch with 1) why they wanted to go college in the first place, 2) what a special opportunity college really  is, and 3) more than a vague notion of what — and better yet — who they wanted to be when they grew up.

Nelson isn’t proposing a government program. He wants selective colleges to require grownup training before they’ll consider an application.

However, it’s not practical:  Few employers want 18-year-old short-timers.

Today’s elites have little experience with the lives of ordinary Americans, argues Charles Murray in his new book, Coming Apart. I scored 24 out of 99 points on his 25-question quiz on mainstream culture.

We don’t want well-informed elites making decisions for the rest of us, writes Ilya Somin, who scored 37, on Volokh Conspiracy. Our goals should be “an elite whose power over those masses is more limited and decentralized.”

Study: ‘Gap year’ motivates students

Australian students who take a “gap year” after high school are much more motivated in college, according to two studies in the Journal of Educational Psychology.  From Education Week:

University of Sydney researcher Andrew J. Martin . . . found that Australian students were more likely to take a gap year if they had low academic performance and motivation in high school. Yet former “gappers” reported significantly higher motivation in college — in the form of “adaptive behavior” such as planning, task management, and persistence — than did students who did not take a gap year.

While Europeans and Australians often take a gap year, only 7.6 percent of 2004 graduates in the U.S. delayed college entry for a year: 84 percent worked and 29 percent traveled or pursued other interests.

In the U.S., students who take a year off the academic track are less likely to complete a degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson, co-authors of the 2005 book The Gap Year Advantage, are working on a new book tentatively titled The Gap Year, American Style, Ed Week reports.

. . . students reported their top-two reasons for taking a gap year were burnout and wanting to “find out more about themselves.” Moreover, nine out of 10 students returned to college within a year, and 60 percent reported the time off had either inspired or confirmed their choice of career or academic major.

Students who’ll be the first in their families to college are urged not to step off the academic track for fear they’ll never get back on. But the “gap year” is catching on with affluent parents who are confident their high-achieving children will earn a degree.

“We found we were counseling everybody to [go to] college, and we were finding a lot of these students were just not ready to go on,” said Linda Connelly, a counselor at New Trier High in suburban Chicago. “The parents wanted them out of the house, and we wanted to give students another option.” New Trier now holds a “gap” fair so students can learn about pre-college programs.

“Taking gap time can really save a lot of the floundering around that students do,” said Holly Bull, the president of the Princeton, N.J.-based Center for Interim Programs, which studies gap-year programs and counsels students on options. “Changing majors, changing schools … it gets very pricey to be confused in college.”

I think many students would benefit from a year to grow up, explore and clarify their goals. Those who go to college after a gap year may work harder and party less. But others will drift away from their college goals.

If the gap year catches on in the U.S., we’re likely to see more serious college students and fewer lemmings — those who go to college only because everybody else is doing it. That sounds like a good outcome, but it will undercut the president’s goal of making the U.S. first in the world in college degrees.