Why corporate-friendly Democrats like to blame our schools for not producing enough white collar specialists
In simplistic, Lexus-and-Olive-Tree terms, the neoliberal economic argument goes like this: Tariff-free trade policies are great because they increase commerce, and we can mitigate those policies’ negative effects on the blue-collar job market by upgrading our education system to cultivate more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) specialists for the white-collar sector.
Known as the bipartisan Washington Consensus, this deceptive theory projects the illusion of logic. After all, if the domestic economy’s future is in STEM-driven innovation, then it stands to reason that trade policies shedding “low-tech” work and education policies promoting high-tech skills could guarantee success.
Of course, 30 years into the neoliberal experiment, the Great Recession is exposing the flaws of the Washington Consensus. But rather than admit any mistakes, neoliberals now defend themselves with yet more bait-and-switch sophistry — this time in the form of the Great Education Myth.
No doubt, you’ve heard this fairy tale from prominent politicians and business leaders who incessantly insist that our economic troubles do not emanate from neoliberals’ corporate-coddling trade, tax and deregulatory policies, but instead from an education system that is supposedly no longer graduating enough STEM experts. Indeed, this was the message of this week’s New York Times story about corporate leaders saying America isn’t producing “enough workers with the cutting-edge skills coveted by tech firms.”
As usual, it sounds vaguely logical. Except, the lore relies on the assumptions that 1) American schools aren’t generating enough STEM supply to meet employer demand, 2) the education system — not neoliberalism — is driving this alleged STEM drought and 3) if America came up with more of such specialists, they would find jobs.
To know these suppositions are preposterous is to consider a recent study by Rutgers and Georgetown University that found colleges “in the United States actually graduate many more STEM students than are hired each year.”
That debunks the supply-and-demand canard. But can we still blame the jobs crisis on schools failing to deliver more STEM graduates?
As researchers discovered, many students are pursuing finance instead of STEM careers because Wall Street jobs “are higher paying” and offer “employment stability” and “less susceptib(ility) to offshoring.”
This is the truth that the Great Education Myth aims to obscure. It’s not that schools are ill-equipped to train STEM specialists. It’s that the additional students who might boost our STEM workforce are choosing to avoid STEM majors because they see an economy that is more hospitable to careers in Wall Street casinos rather than in high-tech innovation — a financialized economy based less on creating tangible assets than on encouraging worthless speculation.
This doesn’t mean that our education system is perfect. But it does mean that without reforming the trade, tax and regulatory policies that reward high-tech outsourcing and incentivize careers in finance, our schools can never be an engine of value-generating information-age jobs.
Why, then, do neoliberals nonetheless press the Great Education Myth? Because it deliberately distracts from a situation that enriches neoliberals and the powerful interests they rely on.
Tariff-free trade pacts inflate the profits of transnational businesses by helping them troll the globe for cheap exploitable labor. Loopholes exempting foreign earnings from taxes encourage companies to move jobs overseas. And both deregulation and bailouts disproportionately balloon financial industry revenues.
The neoliberal corporate class makes big money off this status quo, and neoliberal lawmakers get their cut via campaign contributions. The last thing either wants is an honest debate about neoliberalism’s downsides. And so they play to our lust for silver-bullet solutions, endlessly telling us that everything is the schools’ fault.
As mythology goes, it’s certainly compelling. If only the facts didn’t get in the way.
David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and the best-selling author of the books "Hostile Takeover," "The Uprising" and "Back to Our Future." E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com. More David Sirota.
More Related Stories
- UK officials: Radical Islam behind London attack
- What economists get wrong about the jobs emergency
- Kicked out of the mall -- for an anti-cancer hat
- Amazon introduces fan fiction publishing platform
- Ted Cruz: "I don't trust the Republicans"
- Why do men pretend to be women online?
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- Glenn Beck: "The American people have just been raped"
- London machete attack could be linked to terrorism
- Naomi Watts, "Argo," "Wonderstone" among bizarre Teen Choice Awards nominees
- Conservative group blames military sexual assault on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
- Is Pittsburgh the next Portland?
- "Original Coca-Cola had a very small amount of cocaine"
- Imprisoned Pussy Riot member declares hunger strike
- Tornado survivor to Wolf Blitzer: Sorry, I'm an atheist. I don't have to thank the Lord
- The camp-free "Behind the Candelabra"
- Justin Bieber will destroy you if you live-tweet his parties
- Corporations accused of wrongdoing win battle to keep identities secret
- Weak, incompetent Democrats blow another one
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Cyber attacks could cause the next world war
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11