Mass Unemployment :The Irony in Education for the Masses

The reality facing us today, regardless of the level of education we’ve attained is there’s very little cause for hope if we continue the same determinist approach in our schools, universities and colleges; that is educating to serve an increasingly redundant and collapsing economic and social order. Unemployment is at catastrophic levels throughout the world. In the West, the vast majority of jobs for the lower and middle classes have been outsourced to the developing economies of India and China. Moreover, those that remain are jobs which simply prop up an economic and educational system where any diploma or degree once earned is immediately undermined through a corrupt meritocracy that promotes anyone able pay to the front of the queue. In a desperate attempt to invent new ways to make money (and make people think they are valued) we have created the priority queue. This insidious idea is that a person pays to get through a queue quicker-they don’t have to wait. The system is used in supermarkets, medical centres, places of worship, night clubs, and movie theatres and themes parks. It even includes priority traffic lanes, priority seating in airplanes, lounges, restaurants, and priority classes in Colleges and schools, even priority restrooms! All the obverse of the morally corrupt idea that if you slip a couple of bucks to anyone you’ll get through the door and be ahead of everyone else. Money talks. Knowledge and its pursuit for the greater good of everyone is becoming increasingly irrelevant in an age of impulsive and reckless capitalism.

The values of respect for individual differences, social class, understanding, care, compassion, tolerance, patience and hard work have been usurped by a money culture which deludes everyone into thinking they may gain access to the top of the pyramid. Since the catastrophic collapse of the world economy in 2008, mainly caused through greed and usury by those at the top of the pyramid, most of the jobs in industry, manufacturing, middle management, and other semi-skilled professions in some of the key western industrial based economies have disappeared-never to return. Furthermore, rapid advancements in technology have eroded job vacancies in manufacturing, the auto-industry and traditional white collar professions. What’s more developments in technology are usurping the way we learn and undermining the teaching and learning profession. Educational theories and methodologies are being duped into promoting a kind of interactive edutainment in the belief (mainly endorsed by multi- billionaire corporation like Samsung,  Apple Inc. and Microsoft) that learners will be better educated in the present and the future. This just isn’t true. The inexorable fact is we live in an age of uncertainties and insecurities and the kinds of inventions and innovations which laid the foundations for economic growth, education and security in previous centuries and created entire industries, no longer exist for us today. It is unlikely such a golden age will ever return. Some would argue (like most of our leaders) that this is not the case, and that technology,  Ed. Tech. tools, mobile devices, computers and the Internet, which have given rise to mini-industries in their own right have created new opportunities for everyone. But, the reality is that the jobs and opportunities which have been spawned in the technology sector are highly specialized for the most part and also there just aren’t enough of them to go around the 200 million plus people unemployed in the world today. For example, retail opportunities presented through Ebay, Amazon and other online industries, are limited in number, and do not even begin to make inroads into say the USA unemployment figure of 12.5 million or the United Kingdom’s 2.59 million unemployed. What’s more the applications and services made possible by Face book, My Space and LinkedIn etc. along with the mobile cosmos opened up by the deluge of smartphone and other mobile device manufactures hasn’t alleviated unemployment in the slightest, despite claims that it has done so. The truth is the world needs to create a further 400 million jobs over the next ten years to avert a further increase in the current world-wide unemployment rate, and even if it does so –which is highly unlikely-this would still leave 900 million workers living with their families below the US$2 a day poverty line, largely in developing countries.(ILO, 2012)

High Tech companies like Apple Inc. while grabbing a billion dollar market to promote their gadgetry in a failing education sector, outsource most of their work from the USA and avoid paying decent wages and humane employment conditions to their workers (some who have been found to be underage). It seems not only do economists and educators have their heads buried in the sands of their own ideological mindsets but so do the world’s leaders. We hear what they say clearly: “we’ll create more jobs, more opportunities for economic growth…” and so on; but what we see everywhere doesn’t match this kind of utopian rhetoric prophesying recovered economies and good times ahead for everyone. Among a plethora of crises facing the world in general and the educational sector in particular is unemployment:

Country

% General   Unemployment

% Youth   Unemployment

Angola

26

17

Australia

6.5

11.9

Austria

4.2

8.8

Argentina

7.2

21.5

Belgium

7.2

22.4

Bosnia  & Herzegovina           27.6                 47
Brazil

5.3

17.8

Chile

6.6

22.6

China

4.1

7.6

Denmark

7.6

15.1

Egypt

12.4

25

France

9.6

21.8

Greece

18

51.2

Germany

6.8

7.9

India

3.8

10.5

Italy

8.4

30

Kenya

40

64

Mexico

4.9

9.1

New Zealand

6.8

16.9

Nigeria

23.9

56

Peru

6.2

14

Poland

12.4

22.3

Russia

6.6

17.2

South Africa

23

74

Spain

25.1

51.1

Thailand

0.9

4.3

Turkey

8

15.4

United Kingdom

8.0

21.9

United States

8.9

23.4

Venezuela

7.4

13.6

Zimbabwe

95

24

Source: multiple sources were used to compile this graph-please contact the blog for details

There just aren’t the jobs which were once guaranteed at the end of one’s high school diploma or University/College degree.  This begs the question of why we continue to educate for a world which no longer exists. Why not educate for a world which could exist, a world in which hope grows out of struggle and caring for one another, and cooperation and support are valued over aggressive competition. A world where human beings are not debased because of how much they earn or have accrued throughout their lives, but are valued for who they are as persons.

An alternative archetype of education to challenge today’s deterministic model needs to be liberating. We seem to have come full cycle because such a model was argued for by John Dewey and the social Reconstructionists nearly a century ago. The model proposed below for the post-modern age is similar, and one predicated on the principle that education should not simply be a matter of reproducing the values, knowledge and skills of a dominant culture that sets up one social class against another; rather it must advance a just and fair society while promoting an emancipatory approach to understanding ourselves in relation to the times we live in:

Group

Topic Area

Description

A

Languages & Cultures A study of Narratives  and Lifestyles from throughout the world

B

Linear   Theories and Models of Thinking and Being Mathematics and the Natural Sciences

C

Knowledge and Human Societies A cross cultural study of the teaching and learning people have created throughout history to add   meaning to their lives

D

Gender   Studies Understanding Social Constructions of self and the ‘other’

E

Learning to Understand Cultures, Religion and   Spirituality A study of the  paradigms of thought which add meaning to people’s lives

F

Awareness   and Understanding of Self Design your own program of study based   on the themes within  the table’s influence

G

Sports Science & the Creative and Performing Arts A Collaborative approach to kinesthetic learning and knowing

H

Environmental   Awareness and Understanding Learning to live a sustainable lifestyle

This model has a compelling epistemological foundation, along with sufficient time set aside to promote, cultivate and encourage critical thinking, reflection and rumination on what is taught, learned and achieved throughout the years of formal education.  It is based on the ‘uncertainty of being’, which is a significant characteristic of living in our late post-modern societies. It places the learner at the centre of the teaching and learning process. It does not subordinate the procedure of teaching and learning to any specific ideology or methodological processes, neither does it shackle teaching nor learning to the hype and technophoria of multi-media and edutainment; rather it places such gadgetry in its proper servitudinal position, as instructional tools which may or may not be helpful at any given point in the formal educational process. In the model above learners are required to undertake a course of study from Groups A,E,F,G and H plus one elective from B, C, D or E. Or they may negotiate a course which best suits their circumstances and aspirations. Self assessment against criterion referenced descriptors would form the basis of formal learning appraisal. Students would be learning at their own pace and not be fiercely competing against one another to achieve the highest grades. Moreover, they’ll gain an understanding that the future grows out of their own creation and doesn’t need to be dependent on the deeds or misdeed of others. An essential part of this alternative model to education today is the personal growth and development of the individual. If education is to be liberating for communities, societies and nations, then it must begin with liberating the self.

ILO. (2012, October 4th). Exceutive Summary. Retrieved October 4th, 2012, from International Labor Organisation: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/@publ/documents/publication/wcms_171679.pdf

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