Kerry Terrel’s photo of the American flag with a SETTING sun shining through it seems uncomfortably poignant. Labor Day was established to celebrate the labor movement which created, through the growth of unions, the 40 hour work week, weekends off, overtime pay, paid vacations and other benefits for many jobs.
But over the past twenty years, especially, union membership has fallen like a rock, wages across the economy for those “doing labor” have stagnated or even fallen, and the whole concept of organizing to put pressure on owners and management to preserve workers’ “fair share” of the profits has all but evaporated. Most people who have little more than their labor to offer are counting themselves lucky just to have a job.
Having said all that, let’s also acknowledge computerized automation in manufacturing processes, the exportation of a large portion of the U.S. manufacturing sector and couple those with the skyrocketing cost of college or university training and education and you get a perfect recipe for a rapid decline in lifestyles for those who fall into the abyss.
The labor playing field has changed – and that change is accelerating. To turn that around our public education system needs to be geared to not only the basic three R’s but also to the big “G” – “Global.”
America is losing the global race to other countries that have already realized that the future looks not just a little or even moderately different from the past, but completely different. It means that we’ve got to spend less time yelling “USA! USA! USA!” and get busy mastering the obvious – that our children are not “costs” – they are our country’s most precious asset. EVERY CHILD requires more than they’re getting from our public schools. EVERY CHILD needs to be assessed and nurtured academically so that the VAST MAJORITY of them graduate high school with job skills that will be relevant for more than three years. EVERY CHILD needs access to a college or university education – and that such access is not poo poo’d by naysayers who claim to know who is or isn’t “college material.”
The future belongs to countries smart enough to realize what it takes to be a successful part a global whole. Countries that provide educational nurturing and uplifting support to their children are going to continue to outcompete the U.S. as long as the U.S. considers higher education a “luxury” rather than a fundamental pathway to a life worth living and an American way of life worth protecting and preserving.
If we don’t make job training and higher education more affordable for our children, or even free as some leading countries do, then we will continue to see America slip farther and farther down the ladder of innovation and prosperity.