Part 1: Will education be used as a wedge issue against Romney/Ryan team at DNC? – Nancy Thorner and Ed Ingold

September 7, 2012

Will education be used as a wedge issue against Romney/Ryan team at DNC?

Science FairBy Nancy Thorner and Edward Ingold – 

Democrats will have a chance to convince the American public that President Obama is deserving of another term in office this week at their Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. As reported by the The Wall Street Journal on August 3, the Obama campaign will offer counter arguments to the Republican proposals to revamp Medicare.

Also certain will be many references warning how a Romney administration would offer “retread of the same old policies that have been sticking it to the middle class for years, offering instead a sharp contrast between what America would look like if Obama is elected to a second term versus what a Romney presidency would mean.

Abortion rights, women’s health, and equal pay will also loom large on the Democratic agenda led by Georgetown Law student, Sandra Fluke, who has become the Democrat’s leading advocate for abortion rights.

Education as an issue?

But how will the issue of education fare at the Democratic National Convention?  It is already being used as a heated issue against Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan by the Obama attack machine.

On the campaign trail in Columbus, Ohio on August 21, President Barack Obama drew a sharp line with the Romney-Ryan team on their views of  education in the United States, telling Ohio voters that “putting a college education within reach for working families doesn’t seem to be a priority” for his opponent.

According to President Obama, it is our responsibility to see that children who want to go to college can do so without want of the money to do so, an obvious pandering to the college student (and faculty) vote, which may be crucial in the November election.

A day later in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 22, President Obama accused the Romney/Ryan team of dismissing concerns about crowded classrooms and of imposing deep cuts in education funding as reflected by policies that  favor the rich.

European model of education

To the extent that those best qualified for college should have that opportunity with financial assistance as appropriate, Ed Ingold is open to this view, but is simply wanting to go to college sufficient qualification, and what are the alternatives?  How many political science, sociology and history majors do we really need?  I exclude English majors, because as an engineer I have spent much more time writing and speaking, attending meetings and eating doughnuts, than solving differential equations. I might be better served with a degree in Comparative Literature (or e-mail Arts 202 — saying in one page what an academic might say in twenty).

Consider the European model.  It evaluates students in middle school which sets the tracks for either college or vocational school.  Relatively few go to college preparation school (Gymnasium), hence to college, and can do so at little or no cost. The majority go to vocational school to learn trades needed by society, which provide well-paid jobs.

In the United States, vocational schools, other than junior colleges, are often held in low regard by school counselors. Students are mostly on their own, financially, and often prey to high tuition costs, expensive loans, and false promises of employment.

Most of us have had  bad experiences with poorly trained (or fraudulent) mechanics and tradesmen, even wedding photographers, in an age when anyone with a digital camera is a self-described expert.  According to Fox News, there are thousand of technical jobs going unfilled for lack of qualified (or interested) candidates.

According to USA Today, there is a serious shortage of automobile mechanics in the United States. The era when people could repair their own cars is not only unfashionable, but technically impossible.

Eduction programs fell victem to paying for Obamacare

Medicare wasn’t the only program to fall victim of the mono-partisan monstrosity known as Obamacare, where $716 billion was cut from Medicare over the next 10 years to fund other parts of Obamacare.

While President Obama implored Congress on August 21 to give relief to college students in Columbus, Ohio, he concealed the fact that the Federal subsidy for student loans and Pell grants fell prey to his Affordable Health Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare“, so that it could appear “revenue neutral.

About $9 billion was used in educational savings through legislation which took over all student loans, which served as an accounting gimmick to pay for Obamacare in 2010. Now Americans are paying a high price for that little trick.

Naturally, it was the Republican House which threatened students with doubling their loan costs, by delaying passage until other pet projects of the Democrats were removed from the bill!

Alternatives to college

Who is going to build our airplanes, repair our computers, or our automobiles in the future? One way would be with on-the-job training. That puts an enormous responsibility on private enterprise – it can be years before a recruit can carry his own weight on the job. The best are often promoted to supervisory positions, where they are responsible for finding and training their own replacements.

In seeming opposition, various government agencies restrict the way in which recruits can be employed, seek to raise the minimum wage to a point where companies will only consider applicants with experience, and discourage apprenticeship programs and the use of unpaid or low-paid summer interns.

As to apprenticeship program, most are controlled by trade unions. While this tends to produce highly qualified workers, it also limits opportunities in order to preserve wages of journeymen and the power of unions. Limiting the number of journeymen is consistent with the “lump of work” tenet of trade unions – “there is only so much work available, and it belongs to us.”

There are few apprenticeship programs outside of the building trades, and none for mechanics and repairmen. We could learn something from the Navy, which trains recruits to run ships, aircraft and weapons systems worthy of Star Trek.

In short, we need a serious national effort to promote vocational training, with scholarships and loan programs like any other form of higher education.

Part 2 will indicate what is plowed back money-wise into traditional education

Part 3 will compare President Obama’s education plan with that of the Romney/Ryan team and whether Obama is justified in ripping into the Romney/Ryan team plan.

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