Summer 2012 Speaking Series on Education

Charlotte Cares Listen-Up Forum (Left, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson; Middle, Devont’e Kurt Watson; Right, Jeff Johnson) — Charlotte, NC

Summer 2012 was abundantly productive. I delivered orations to a couple thousand people in several cities such as Charlotte, San Diego, and Houston. The distinguished cultures in the different parts of the country were very unique.  However, there is one thing that brought that still remained consistent. The thread that ties the diversity together into the American tapestry is seeing our country prosper in education.

My oration series included the most pressing issue for youth, the economy and higher education in “Scholarnomics.” This oration was delivered in four states and offered an analytical evaluation on the United States’ current position on education advancement for its citizens. Following the worst economic decline since the Great Depression, students are feeling the effects such as the recent 8.3% average increase in college family contribution. For different demographics, not attending college can be considered survival. For those who do successfully complete college, graduates enter into a competitive job market. At the time of delivering Scholarnomics, the unemployment rate was 8.2%, which recently dropped to 7.8% in the recent September jobs report. The stagnating unemployment rate that remained above 8% secured well-paying jobs for competitive employees who graduated.

Significantly, Karl Marx’s view on the economy being a dominantly controlling entity is the job market’s reality. The current job market has globally socialized citizens to seek education in order to get certified to perform a job. This creates the image that education is exclusively for job training (economically driven), not an institution that fosters personal and intellectual growth, or identifying personal community contribution as a community member. Dan Berrett of the Chronicle says that schools lack the teaching of “Intellectual Virtues.” These characteristics include transferable skills of learning to develop an applicable use of academic curricula to live a better life.

For today’s students, it is important that critical planning is conducted regarding what degree one may assume to receive. Simply getting a degree just to get it will not do in this job market. In today’s competitive markets, planning should start in middle school by identifying personal interests of a student and how that can grow and develop into a career. Unprecedented, today’s generation must make logical and serious decisions at a young age that will affect their entire life. Georgetown University’s Center for Education and Workforce says that liberal arts degrees yield the highest unemployment rate. With a job availability of over 3 million jobs, today’s students are inclined to study for the career demand in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

The economic driven ideology of getting educated can cause students to drop out because of cost or lack of support to complete college. A Public Agenda report in 2009 found that 70% of their surveyed dropouts had zero to little financial support. This variable is significant and has a relationship with any students’ decision to end or delay their education. This creates an unprecedented epidemic that hurts our job market because of the scarcity of skilled workers in the United States. Not only are jobs being outsourced, but there are no people here to fill positions which make employers look for skilled workers in other parts of the world, such as Apple.

China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in the past five years with education spending exceeding $2 Billion indicates a model for the United States. The results of Chines education investment ranks China to be one of the world’s top producing undergraduate and doctoral degree countries.

Education is a primary issue in the United States 2012 election. Today, college students are an important part of American Democracy because of the vast population of college attendees. Both candidates from both major parties have acknowledged this fact by hosting a lot of campaign events at colleges and universities. This year, legislation was passed to keep federally subsidized student loan interest rates at a low 3.4% after political upheaval. The legislation was finally passed in conjunction with a transportation spending bill.

A few weeks ago, I was startled to see the cover of Newsweek. It was a picture of two college students walking on campus with big-fat, bolded text saying “Is college worth the lousy investment?” After considering the measures for attending college, such as accruing student loans, the question that Newsweek that made blatant on the cover haunts students if the cost-benefit is not outweighed with positive results.

By making education more finically feasible for Americans, the return on investments will significantly impact our country in the future (roughly 4 to 5 years after a degree program) by having skilled people to keep jobs in America, who will also contribute to the economy by consumption of goods and services. This will ultimately have a positive effect on our overall economy by an optimistic bull expansion.

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