Djcnor’s Weblog

Education: A Signal of US Decline

Posted on: December 4, 2008

Today I read somethig truly alarming about the US from here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/03/education/03college.html?emc=eta1

“Already, we’re one of the few countries where 25- to 34-year-olds are less educated than older workers.”

Wow. If that is true, it explains a lot. It also means that it is already too late to prevent a deep decline in US competitiveness versus the rest of the world. I want to know if it really is true. I want to know what nations that puts us in the company of. I want to know on what basis that judgement is made.

 The data on the education levels of 25- to 34-year-olds in the G-8 countries is here:

http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/international/Intlindicators/index.asp?SectionNumber=1&SubSectionNumber=2&IndicatorNumber=10

It doesn’t look so bad except for the contrast with the Russian Federation. And that’s if you think that more people in higher education is necessarily a good idea. I’ve never been entirely certain of that, especially since it seems that technological advances, and frankly, employer distrust and desire to decrease costs, have reduced the number of jobs for which such high levels of education are truly needed. Higher educations beg to be used. To have one and not have the opportunity to use the level of intelligence and knowledge you have worked so hard to gain is to be bored.

Is it OK if this vast sea of developed knowledge is predominantly used outside of work? Perhaps yes, if it really is used. If that educated population forms an active audience for news that digs below the surface, for political reasoning longer and more nuanced than soundbites. The G8 country with the smallest percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds having higher education, Italy, has a problem with chaotic politics.

And then, again, there’s Russia. Will that huge educated population translate to an eventual pressure for more true democracy? Would it in the US? Or would it simply make a true democracy a more effective democracy, less vulnerable to swft boating and other political dirty tricks?

I think I’ll go looking for more information. I also think I’ll come back to some other points in that original article.

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