State officials know perfectly well that globalization will swallow their traditional industries. But they’re stuck. Workers vote, and a voter who has just lost his job will be an angry voter. . . . Every time a factory dies, its workers go from a private payroll to the public dole; . . . unemployment pay and retraining costs take money away from programs, such as education, that might offer some advantage in the new economy. And so the pressure builds to subsidize the old industries, to do anything to keep them from moving away. . . . The time and money [states] spend trying to keep twentieth-century jobs prevent them from creating twenty-first century jobs. (pp. 35–36)
The dirty little secret of Midwestern manufacturing is that many workers are high school dropouts, uneducated, some virtually illiterate. They could build refrigerators, sure. But they are totally unqualified for any job other than the ones they just lost. (p. 56)
[Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism]
Rushworth Kidder wrote a book, called How good people make tough choices, which I enjoyed very much several years ago. There’s this awareness in my head and heart that Midwestern business owners and politicians have tough choices to make — not between good and bad decisions, but between bad and worse. It plays out here in New England, too, and I suspect in California and the South, and the Southwest as well.
We need a new model of school, and a new model of teaching in those schools, and a new model of training for laid-off workers.
I disagree with this assertion. Most of my family had blue-collar jobs, many at GM plants, and I had a background in construction before becoming a teacher. The statement that “they are totally unqualified for any job other than the ones they just lost” is a stereotype that I find untrue.
It reminds me of a statement made to me by a classmate when I returned to college to pursue teacher certification. I was older and came to class after working 10-12 hours working in concrete construciton. I was dirty and probably didn’t smell too good! But I had over a 3.9 GPA and always participated in class discussions because I enjoyed history. After a few classes, he said to me, “You are pretty smart for a construction worker.” He meant it in a good way, but too many in our society judge a book by its cover or degree.
Many people who have lost their jobs in Michigan have found new careers or started their own businesses. Of course some workers struggle with changing careers, but I think it is unfair to say all or even most.
I have worked with construction workers with Bachelar’s Degrees and ones without. Some of the ones without were some of the smartest people with excellent problem-solving skills that I have known in my life.
As a teacher I could make the same statement about some teachers I have seen: they are totally unqualified for any job other than teaching. They are the ones that teach from the book and to the test. Teaching can be an easy job if you just “put your time in and do not really try to help kids.” These are the teachers that give our profession a bad name.
In Michigan the push toward college prep level education for every high school student is going to cause more dropouts, IMHO. Vocational education has its place in high school and can teach real-world skills that are still needed in our country: mechanics, beauticians, health care, and construction to name a few. Not everyone has to go to college to make a good living. The manufacturing jobs are gone, but their are many other good job choices too.