America Aides: The government would encourage people to hire homework helpers for their children, mentors, tutors, and personal assistants for themselves (e.g., to learn technology, Spanish, or English), members of a U.S. Beautification Army for their home and block, and companions for their aged parents.
Hire An American: Encourage job seekers to post their resume on usajobs.gov. The federal government would market this database globally, encouraging other countries to offshore to the US.
Career-Friendly Curriculum, K-16. Replace material needed by few, for example, quadratic equations, with material needed by most, for example: financial literacy, entrepreneurship, service learning.
Well-paying jobs will require ever more skills, abilities, intelligence, and drive. For the millions of Americans who cannot realistically be expected to acquire high-enough levels of those attributes, I propose America Aides. The government would mount a public awareness campaign on the wisdom of people hiring aides throughout the lifespan: as homework helpers for their children. in their career (as, for example, tutors in technology, Spanish or English, or as career or personal coaches,) for their homes and apartments (a member of a U.S. Beautification Army) to weed, paint, clean out garages and basements, recycle, etc. and for their aged, living-alone relatives.
For example, with brief training, even many low-ability people could be trained to successfully be one-on-one aides in classrooms and to seniors living alone. Imagine the peace of mind of having someone daily visit your aging parent to ensure they've taken their medications, walk to reduce the likelihood of blood clots, and keep them company to combat the loneliness common among the live-alone elderly.
AmericaWorks would, with modest government investment, create millions of rewarding, ethical and, importantly, not-offshoreable jobs that would improve the quality of life for millions of Americans and for the nation as a whole.
HIRE AN AMERICAN
Job seekers would be encouraged to enter their resume into a national jobs database: usajobs.gov. That would be made available to all government, private-sector, and nonprofit employers, worldwide.
To encourage international employers to hire from that database, the U.S. would launch an international marketing effort to promote the benefits of hiring American--for example, the creative and innovative spirit that is core to being American. Just as many American businesses have been convinced to hire offshore employees, the new American workforce, improved because of the revamped education system described above, would become more attractive to the world's 200+ other countries. American workers could become known, for example, as among the world's most intrapreneurial.
The curriculum would increase career exploration: via videos, reading, guest speakers, field trips, etc., to make career selection a part of kids' consciousness. There would be entrepreneurship programs, for example, by creating in-class businesses, e.g., divide the class into two healthy snack-making/selling businesses. In that context, kids would learn to assess risk-reward and think entrepreneurially (find a need and fill it ethically). Those skills would be threaded--at ever more demanding levels--through the curriculum, through college. In parallel, modules on service learning would be included--encouraging students, early, to consider careers in government and the nonprofit sectors.
Parents would be encouraged to create an ethical entrepreneurship-friendly atmosphere at home.
Prior to entering high school, in consultation with counselor and parents, students would select a career path based on a review of the child's academic record and an inventory of her or his career aptitudes and interests.
Importantly, high-quality career paths that don't require college would be available for students whose record suggests they'd more likely be successful and happy without attending college. Such programs would lead to apprenticeships, jobs at the elbow of entrepreneurs, the military, etc. They'd end up with such careers as MRI machine tech, chef, military officer, small business owner, etc. Students who are not academically oriented are much more likely to find successful employment through such paths than being force-fed Shakespeare, simultaneous equations, and chemical reaction formulas. Students and parents would be reassured that choosing a career path does not consign themselves to a life in that career--many of the skills taught in that career path would be applicable to many other careers. To ensure opportunities to excel, there would be honors classes in non-college-bound career paths.
It should be stressed that today's growing pressure to prepare an ever higher percentage of students to enter so-called four-year colleges (fewer than 40% graduate in four years) is destroying countless lives by forcing students into abstraction-filled academic paths where they are far less likely to be successful than if they had pursued a high-quality path that doesn't lead to a four-year college. According to the U.S. Department of Education, of the 200,000 freshmen at so-called four-year college each year who graduated in the bottom 40% of their high school class, three-fourths do not graduate even if given 8 1/2 years! And most of those who defy the odds and graduate do so from low-prestige colleges and with easy majors such as art or sociology, which impress few of today's let alone tomorrow's employers. Most of those students end up with huge debt, having enduring a multi-year assault to their self-esteem, and are less hireable for good jobs than if they had taken a non-college-requiring, high-quality career path in and/or post-high school.
For all students, effective oral and written real-world communication would take precedence over the use of onomatopoeia. Learning how to assess risk/reward would take precedence over geometric theorems. Understanding how to critique a research study reported in the media would take precedence over learning atomic structures. Strategic planning would be prioritized over macroeconomic theory. Financial literacy would take precedence over literary analysis.
Each high-school student would be paired with an mentor (probably online) who would communicate with the teen and perhaps offer him or her an after-school or vacation volunteer or even paid position. Each school would have a mentorship coordinator to prevent and address problems and to encourage people to serve as mentors.
Professional associations of the major careers would be encouraged to carefully review how much pre-service training is truly needed. Training length has increased at a time when, because of the availability of just-in-time information on the Internet, training length should be decreasing. In addition, career training often isn't best provided by universities--Those research- and theory-based professors are often less able than master practitioners to provide effective career training. Making the above changes would both improve training and increase the number of trained professionals--because of the lower cost and time of training.
Students would be required to complete interactive modules in technology, succeeding in business (e.g., how to run a planning meeting), how to manage a nonprofit or government agency, and ethics, which would be anchored by students role playing commonly occurring ethical dilemmas.
While parents should be allowed to have their children opt out, a comprehensive sex education program should be provided starting in middle school or certainly in high school. Teenage and unwanted pregnancies are too likely to produce a child who will grow up to be minimally employable. As in the ethics module, core would be simulations of critical incidents, for example, explicit "lines" commonly used by teenagers to seduce.
Colleges would be required to disclose to prospective students a College Report Card: for each major, the percentage of students who graduate within four years and, within a year of graduation, are earning a middle-class living. These data would be disaggregated by high school GPA and SAT score. The College Report Card would also include--for varying freshman achievement levels--the average freshman-to-senior growth in reading, writing, critical thinking, and mathematical reasoning.
Starting at freshman orientation, students would be required to take programs in career selection, job searching, obtaining internships and/or starting a business.
U.S. higher education leads the world in research produced but lacks in teaching quality. The core reason is that professors are hired and promoted heavily based on research productivity. That requires a skill and value set too different from what's required to teach undergraduates. Those hired to teach undergraduates should, at minimum, be required to complete a teaching bootcamp.
As stated earlier, courses in career-related majors should more often be taught by master practitioners than by research-oriented professors.
This proposal was developed by Marty Nemko. He holds a Ph.D. specializing in educational program development and evaluation from the University of California, Berkeley and subsequently taught in U.C. Berkeley's Graduate School of Education. U.S. News & World Report called him "Career coach extraordinaire." At ABC-TV's Summit on Education, he was introduced him as "The Ralph Nader of Education." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-655-2777.