State of General Educ LO6785

Rol Fessenden (76234.3636@CompuServe.COM)
18 Apr 96 22:18:39 EDT

Replying to LO6763 --

Terri Deems offers:

I don't know if business influenced/drove educational systems, or vice
versa. I do know that especially following WWII, these two institutions
became driven by the need to mass produce and mass educate. Schools began
to look a great deal like many of our traditional work
organizations--hierarchical, content- rather than learner- (worker-)
centered, fixated on rules, etc. For many years, this seemed like a nice
set-up, making the transition from school to work more simple, more
"known" to those entering the workforce.

Makes me wonder, then, about the relationships between these two
institutions so central to our societies.

=== End quote ===

Actually, my view is that both were impacted by a change in world-wide
systems as a consequence of world war II. The balance is not yet
restored, but it will be. Let me explain.

When WWII ended there was only one manufacturing power still standing, and
that was us. To our credit, we invested heavily in helping the losers and
even the allies. nevertheless we were the only country that had any
resources, factories, workers, and financially well-off consumers who
could purchase.

So what happened? By and large, wage increases outstripped productivity
gains. There was no real competition (only the cooperating kind), so
companies just built growing the wages into prices. Wages got out far out
of step with comparable wages for comparable work in the rest of the
world. However, since there was no comparable work from 1945-1960 in the
rest of the world, it didn't matter.

Beginning in 1960 there was noticeable growth in imports at substantially
cheaper prices. Mostly due to lower wages. At first, the quality was
such that the competition remained low, but as time went on, the products
approached parity, and then some foreign products surpassed the quality
even at lower prices.

As the world re-industrialized, competition heated up, and the American
worker who was (probably still is) well-paid by world-wide standards,
started to feel the squeeze. Jobs moved off-shore, particularly in the
least-skilled sectors (textiles, steel, and so forth). Too many American
workers combined with lower wages for the same product off-shore led to
wage losses.

However, these losses were due to the feedback loop of foreign competition
being reinstated. They were definitely not the result of some kind of
business conspiracy. The history of the '50s shows that business people
would rather pay the higher wages than fight about it.

The other part that was particularly difficult for Americans was that when
things were good, we thought it was just because we were awesome. Pretty
arrogant. We did not see the large-scale systems as the cause of our
fortune. So we took credit for the good times, and then we had no choice
but to criticize ourselves for the bad times. And to look for causes that
in general were too simple.

Schools had a different issue. The baby boom put enormous pressures on
the schools. From 1946 -- the first baby boomer was born in May of that
year -- to 1960 something, the population of kids needing education
exploded. The first ones through probably did just fine, because that was
only the beginning. However, 15 years later, when facilities, teachers,
texts, and everything else was exhausted, those kids probably did not do
so well. They suffered from the emphasis on getting them through because
there were more right behind them.


Rol Fessenden LL Bean, Inc.

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