Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Unemployable

Nick Schulz reports that in 2011 600,000 American job openings went unfilled because there were not enough qualified applicants.

The American school system has failed America’s students. It has especially failed to teach the skills required to do the kinds of high tech jobs that are increasingly available.

American children are deficient in science, technology, engineering and math, in what are now known as the STEM subjects.

It should surprise no one. A pedagogical policy promoting self-esteem over achievement must diminish the best students in order to make the worst students feel good about themselves. The result: a large cohort of undereducated underachievers who are proud of their incompetence.

In STEM subjects there are right and wrong answers. When these subjects are taught correctly, you will find that some children are markedly better than others.

Children improve because they emulate their betters. They strive to get better because they want to be as good as someone else.

If the best students are rewarded other children will want to emulate them. If the best students are demeaned no one will want to emulate them.

If you refuse to call on them in class, if you refuse to hold them up as exemplary, if you turn math exercises into storytelling and feeling sharing you are going to drag everyone down.

If you say that no one is better than anyone else, you are saying that no child should strive for greater achievements.

The result: 600,000 job openings unfilled in 2011.

That’s only the beginning of the story of America's educational dereliction.

Schulz points out that Americans are not just lacking in advance STEM skills, they also lack the soft skills that are so essential to business.

The next time you bemoan the fact that your telephone call to tech support has been re-routed to Bengalore keep in mind that American companies are having trouble finding people who have the skills required to answer the telephone. Yes, to answer the phone.

Schulz reported the views of manufacturers:

Applicants were often so underqualified, they [manufacturers] said, that simply finding someone who could properly answer the telephone was sometimes a challenge.

And that’s just the beginning. Schulz continues:

But considerable evidence suggests that many employers would be happy just to find job applicants who have the sort of "soft" skills that used to be almost taken for granted. In the Manpower Group's 2012 Talent Shortage Survey, nearly 20% of employers cited a lack of soft skills as a key reason they couldn't hire needed employees. "Interpersonal skills and enthusiasm/motivation" were among the most commonly identified soft skills that employers found lacking.

Employers also mention a lack of elementary command of the English language. A survey in April of human-resources professionals conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management and the AARP compared the skills gap between older workers who were nearing retirement and younger workers coming into the labor pool. More than half of the organizations surveyed reported that simple grammar and spelling were the top "basic" skills among older workers that are not readily present among younger workers.

America’s schools and America’s parents are producing graduates who lack motivation, discipline, manners, punctuality, reliability and literacy.

Of course, they have no work ethic. They might have a love ethic. They might have a play ethic. But, no one has ever taught them the value of hard work.

Buttressed with high self-esteem they believe that they are entitled to be compensated no matter how good a job they do.

And then, there’s the literacy problem. You would think that English teachers would teach basic English grammar. Apparently, they do not. You would think that they teach proper spelling and punctuation. Apparently, they do not. You would think that they teach elementary expository writing. Apparently they do not.

One understands why they don’t. Grammar, spelling and punctuation have right and wrong answers. You cannot teach them without correcting errors and downgrading the students who make them.

If English teachers are not teaching English, what are they doing?

If I had to venture a guess, I believe that they are teaching their pupils to be poets, to speak and write creatively and to express their feelings. The child who cannot write a grammatically correct sentence gets a good grade because… it’s poetry. He has given full illiterate expression to his emotional turmoil.

Apparently, English teachers have never heard of the fallacy of imitative form.

And then there are the parents. How are they bringing up their children?

If you remember the uproar over Tiger Mom Amy Chua’s rigid and authoritarian disciplinary standards, you will understand that American parents have tended to be more permissive and less demanding than the Tiger Mom.

Parents rose up en masse to denounce the Tiger Mom. They accused her of importing alien techniques. They said that she was abusing her children and turning them into automatons.

American parents were horrified to see the results of Confucian parenting. At least they were until the Tiger Cub got into Harvard.

American parents wanted their children to be creative free spirits. One television commentator denounced the Tiger Mom for not allowing her children to have “fun.”

Apparently, he believed that perfecting your ability to have fun will make you more employable.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating, American parents now take their nurturing orders from experts.

Parents no longer respect traditional ways of bringing up children. They have put their faith in a coterie of experts whose pseudo-scientific studies have told them that discipline is repression, that work is neurotic and that a happy and healthy child is a free spirit who will flourish in the world by fulfilling his creative potential.

Today, these creative free spirits have become the army of the unemployable.


Jeff Dorsai said...

I work at a major mutual fund company and this summer we had a intern from a well respected local college ... he we a nice young man who worked very hard and was able to ask questions and learn new skills thru out his time with us ...
At the end of his "tour" he gave a presenation to the team describing his experience and what he learned during his time with us.

I found that while he was comfortable with public speaking his delivery was horrible ... he often devolved into valley girl like speech patterns that I found to be very off putting ... I knew he had turned out to be a very capable worker but based on his presentation I would never have thought he would have been able to interview for a full time job and impress anyone ...

I'm sure we'll hire him on a full time basis if he chooses to return to us when he graduates in a year (based on his great work as an intern) but I would not hold out alot of hope of him actually interviewing successfully at another firm ...

It didn't help that he made a big deal about returning to school where as he put it, "I don't have to be anywhere at 9 am every morning" ...

Mark said...

"Today, these creative free spirits have become the army of the unemployable.".......or President of the United States, so depraved is the electorate.

The Valley Girl speak - like oh my god, like weird, like grody dude, like like - is like a mental toenail fungus. It should be mocked mercilessly.

haiku said...

I am amazed that you subscribe to the myth that it is impossible to fill positions due to lack of suitable applicants.

My experience closely mirrors that of Dr Peter Cappelli, which is that the real culprits are the employers themselves.

For those not acquainted with Dr Cappelli:

This, of course, presumes that you will see an interviewer at all:

For myself: I must retire because I have reached the company's madatory retirement age. The boss is complaining that he can't find a suitable replacement.

I am healthy, have worked for the company for about 15 years during which time I have never received a negative appraisal, and do not wish to retire.

They won't even consider a short-term contract ...