Diane Rehm led a panel discussion analyzing the State of the American Dream. I shared some of their thoughts in Monday’s blog. One of the guests, Dante Chinni, commented “so there are fewer and fewer of these jobs that were good jobs for people who didn't have a lot of skills and education. It allowed them to have a high standard of living and live the life they wanted. You know, we still have less than 50 percent of the population with even…an associates degree…So what we really have to do is figure out a way to get all these people educated for what's coming next because you're going to have to have more education. You're going to have to have more skills.”
The World Will Pay You What it Thinks You are Worth
I firmly believe in the importance of education. I strongly support getting all the education you can get. The civic and religious leader Gordon B. Hinckley once told the youth of the world
“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known. All around you is competition. You need all the education you can get. Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world. That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.”
That statement contributed to my going for a master’s degree in my mid 50s. The challenge, made 10 years ago, grew in importance. You need an education more today than then. A master’s degree today meets the requirements that a bachelor’s degree demanded 30 years a go. A bachelor’s degree holds the same standards as a high school diploma did 30 years a go.
Educated to Do Something Worthwhile
You must get an education, however, that prepares the student to do something that the world finds valuable. Some education qualifies a person to do more than others. For example, accounting, math, and science degrees receive higher compensation because they seem to contribute more to the revenues and profits of a company. Teaching professions do not receive compensation adequately for the good they do. Some degrees do not prepare students to earn a sufficient income. Many degrees require students to also acquire a master’s degree before they can earn decent wages. You want to ensure that you education qualifies you for the work you want to do.
Consequently, the current economy, both short-term and long-term, seems to be creating a greater inequality depending on the education you receive. Many people with college degrees must take jobs that do not require a degree. As a result, they take the jobs of high school graduates that do not have degrees. A city manger for a small community told that they advertised a part-time, seasonal meter reader position paying $9.00 an hour. He said that 376 people applied for the position. 40% of them had graduate degrees.
Lost High Wages from Long-term Training in the Trades
In addition, the trades now earn less than in the last 50 years. Automation coupled with offshoring and outsourcing decreased the number of high paying jobs for people working in the trades. The loss of collective bargaining and union strength also reduced middle class wages for millions of Americans. Highly paid and highly trained (6-8 year apprenticeships) production workers became the villains as public opinion decried their $80 an hour wages, while applauding the $200 million annual salaries of CEOs for the same companies.
I ask this question of America “What education should people get today that will allow them to earn middle class wages?” I await your answer, please comment.