News and Notes: Opinions

Robert Reich on his Blog

America clings to the conceit that four years of college are necessary for everyone, and looks down its nose at people who don’t have college degrees. This has to stop. Young people need an alternative. That alternative should be a world-class system of vocational-technical education. A four-year college degree isn’t necessary for many of tomorrow’s good jobs. For example, the emerging economy will need platoons of technicians able to install, service, and repair all the high-tech machinery filling up hospitals, offices, and factories. And people who can upgrade the software embedded in almost every gadget you buy. Today it’s even hard to find a skilled plumber or electrician. Yet the vocational and technical education now available to young Americans is typically underfunded and inadequate. And too often denigrated as being for “losers.”(23 March 2015)


Academia once offered a secure job track that had both the opportunity to explore research interests and the ability to maintain a livelihood. Alas. new research out from UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education shows that for many who teach at universities, economic security is a thing of the past. It shows that part-time—adjunct—faculty members at colleges and universities are on some form of public assistance at about half the rate of fast-food workers.


Handicap Placards

“Drivers who truly need the placards are being displaced by those who forge them with color copiers, buy them online or take them from ailing relatives to secure free parking for themselves.” The comment in the Washington Post (18 April 2015) about D.C. applies to campuses as well. Every day, well-body students park in handicap spaces and jump out of the automobile to run to class. And campus officials seemingly don’t act to stop the fraud. Those who have a handicap pay the price. The state can help by placing on placards information about the legitimate owner of the placards and also providing the owner with a relevant ID card.

Ph.D. in IR?

An IR professor at Tufts writes: “Most of the professoriate in international relations comes from the elite schools. Whether this is because these schools function as a prestige cartel or not is immaterial: the reason will not change the current realities. The academic job market is brutal; getting an academic job without a degree from a top-20 institution is even more brutal. … Anyone who tells you that getting a Ph.D. is a great foreign policy career move is selling you something.”

Source: Washington Post, 18 April 2015

Liberal Arts

“The future of a country like the U.S. rests on our ability to master how technology interacts with how humans live, work and play,” Fared Zakaria said to The WorldPost. “And that depends on skills fostered by the liberal arts, such as creativity, aesthetic sensibility and social, political and psychological insight.” He has just issued his latest book, In Defense of a Liberal Education. From the book: “In an age defined by technology and globalization, everyone is talking about skill-based learning. Politicians, business people, and even educators see it as the only way for the nation to stay competitive. They urge students to stop dreaming and start thinking practically about the skills they will need in the workplace. An open-ended exploration of knowledge is seen as a road to nowhere.” And that’s what, in book length, Zakaria challenges.

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