Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Educational Change/World Work Force

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How can we train Americans to compete in a constantly changing world work force?

In November 2000, Condoleezza Rice stated: The growing international trend toward democracy and market economies will only be positive for the United States if our job structure in the New Economy matches our workers’ skill sets. There is a growing gap between the knowledge-based, technology-intensive jobs that are driving the U.S. economy and the skills of American workers. Education is the top national security issue of the 21st century.

Since then, we have obviously shifted our security concerns in response to Sep.11, but the competitiveness of our national workforce is still a top concern. The United States ranks 10th in adult literacy among 17 high-income countries. Our nation has the largest gap between highly educated and poorly educated adults. The young adults in our country are the most shocking. We perform worse compared to our peers in other countries from ages 16-25. Individuals have the responsibility to learn the necessary skills to compete in the workforce. We need to improve our education system at all levels to make a change.

Competing Against the Global Workforce[edit]

For the United States to remain competitive in the knowledge based global economy it is critical that we create and maintain a world-class education system that prepares our workforce with world-class skills.

—President George W. Bush

In his State Of The Union Address, President Bush announced The American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) to encourage American innovation and strengthen our nation's ability to compete in the global economy (January 31, 2006, Office of the Press Secretary). To compete more effectively in the global marketplace, the American Competitiveness Initiative proposes $380 million in new Federal support to improve the quality of math, science, and technological education in our K-12 schools and engage every child in rigorous courses that teach important analytical, technical, and problem-solving skills (January 31, 2006, Office of the Press Secretary). Under the ACI, we are training 70,000 teachers over five years to teach Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate math and science classes. We are also trying to bring in math and science professionals to teach high school. At the early level there is a program called Math Now for elementary and middle school students. Thirty years ago, the United States had thirty percent of the world’s college students. Now, that number has fallen to fourteen percent and is falling. Countries like India and China are providing more educated workers for less pay. Indian Engineers make $7,500 compared to $45,000 for an American with the same qualifications.

Education System[edit]

Our education system was designed for jobs that required a less technical background. Most of our teachers come from the bottom third of college graduates. The main problem is the pay a teacher makes is considerably lower than other professions. We must educate the future generation with more qualified teachers. Other countries send their kids to college at sixteen. We need to look at how we can modify our system so it is always improving and we can continue competing. Perhaps our high schools should be more like college where students can choose a concentration of study their freshman year. We should provide more specialized schools early on for students interested in vocational studies. Now, as the world is growing more and more technologically advanced, we need to look at improving the system to fit the new demands of the global labor force.

Adult Education Programs[edit]

Although emphasis is placed mainly on the K-12 student population learning job related skills, adult education programs are becoming more and more important in the U.S. “Either through choice or necessity, more and more adults are seeking career assistance, and in order to address career or job concerns, are frequently enrolling in educational programs” (Keierleber and Sundal-Hansen, 1985). Layoffs have disrupted the lives of millions of Americans over the last 25 years. We as a nation must offer these displaced workers retraining and more education so they may find new and better-paying careers. Adult Education can provide adult courses in math, in English as a second language and in preparing for a high school diploma. It provides job-hunting assistance, with help in conducting interviews, filling out applications, and writing resumes. It also steers workers into on-the-job training with future employers. There are may Hispanics living in our country today who have never had to communicate in English and about 50 percent who are high school graduates but functioning at a fifth- or sixth-grade level. Therefore, adult programs are needed to meet the increased demand of adult education and training to provide qualified workers for a growing economy.

Mississippi Board of Education[edit]

Changes in our education system are already starting. The Mississippi Board of Education has a five step outline to improving their school system and the 26.6 percent dropout rate. They are making the curriculum more challenging, improving on quality and quantity of teachers, improving the quality and quantity of school leaders, create a culture in Mississippi that values education, and redesigning their education system for the 21st century workforce.

U.S. Secretary of Education[edit]

"We cannot prepare students for the global economy if we don't get them to grade level first."( Secretary Margaret Spellings). She supports the No Child Left Behind Act, which says our schools must bring our students up to grade level in reading and math by 2014. As a result of this act, test scores have risen and achievement gaps have shrunk in states across the country. Secretary Spellings believes we must not retreat from the world in the face of increased competition(U.S. Secretary of Education—Biography).

A Vulnerable American Economy[edit]

The report is based on an detailed survey of 431 human resource officials that was conducted in April and May 2006 by The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management(The Conference Board, Oct. 2, 2006). The interviewed employers said more than forty percent of high school graduate entry level positions are not qualified. They also said that forty seven percent of two-year and four-year college graduates were lacking in writing skills. "One message of this study to educators, policy makers and those concerned with U.S. economic competitiveness is that new entrants to the U.S. workforce are not demonstrating levels of excellence necessary to compete successfully in the face of rising global labor market challenges," says Susan R. Meisinger, President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management(The Conference Board, Oct. 2, 2006). "It is clear from the report that greater communication and collaboration between the business sector and educators is critical to ensure that young people are prepared to enter the workplace of the 21st century," says Richard Cavanagh, President and CEO of The Conference Board. "Less than intense preparation in critical skills can lead to unsuccessful futures for America's youth, as well as a less competitive U.S. workforce. This ultimately makes the U.S. economy more vulnerable in the global marketplace."(The Conference Board, Oct. 2, 2006).


The challenge we now face is to answer the question, “How do we reform our out dated educational system to meet the demands of a constantly changing global market?” We have proposed solutions and have instituted action. The competition for the U.S. economy to ever adapt and improve is here. We must start early at the education level and raise our standards to meet and surpass the rest of the world. With a more educated workforce, we can provide higher quality products and innovative ideas to keep us ahead in the global economy.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

Among 17 high income countries, where does the U.S. rank in adult literacy?
A. 4th
B. 10th
C. 2nd
D. 1st

B. 10th

According to Condoleezza Rice in 2000, what was our nations top security issue?
A. Terrorism
B. Education
C. Border control
D. Technology distribution

When you find the answer, you can add it here by clicking "edit".

In the 2006 state of the union address, what does President Bush propose to compete in the global market?
A. No Child Left Behind Act
B. Exploit cheap labor in China and India
C. Generate revenue through a war in Iraq
D. The American Competitiveness Initiative

D. The American Competitiveness Initiative

Thirty years ago 30% of the world’s college students were in the U.S. Today we have:
A. 35%
B. 45%
C. 20%
D. 14%

D. 14%

Most of our teachers today graduate college in the:
A. Top 3rd of the class
B. Bottom 3rd of the class
C. top 4th of the class
D. Middle 3rd of the class

B. Bottom 3rd of the class

Adult Education Programs can provide courses in
A. English
B. TV watching
C. Game show host
D. Hunting

A. English

Displaced workers may need
A. Subscription to magazines
B. Retraining and education
C. New hair style
D. Brown eyes

B. Retraining and education

What percentage of Hispanics are high school graduates but functioning at a 5th or 6th-grade level
A. 10%
B. 90%
C. 50%
D. 64%

C. 50%

Essay Question[edit]

How do we reform our out dated educational system to meet the demands of a constantly changing global market?