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Education Truthiness: Media Spotlight


5 in the collection  

    Need an Education Fact? Invent It

    by Susan Ohanian

    Truthiness is a dominant element in New York Times coverage of education, and Thomas Friedman is a notable practitioner.

    "This is dangerous at a time when there is increasingly no such thing as a high-wage, middle-skilled job --the thing that sustained the middle class in the last generation. Now there is only a high-wage, high-skilled job. Every middle-class job today is being pulled up, out or down faster than ever" --Thomas Friedman, Need a Job? Invent It, New York Times, March 30, 2013
    This alarming claim is repeated over and over by reporters and editorialists across the country: Become an elite or you're nothing. Nothing is left for the middle class.

    I decided to look at the jobs available in Burlington Vermont. The requirement for a few jobs is highly technical:

    * Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering and Electronics or Microelectronics Engineering
    * 2 years' experience in Device Design and Compact Modeling

    Most job postings are for sales and you can guess the qualifications they ask for: "Excellent communication and interpersonal skills and Personal motivation/?drive."

    • Wedding Sales Stylist
      Requirements: self-motivated individuals with upbeat, outgoing personalities and excellent communication skills.

    • Bilingual Call Center Agent

      • High school diploma or equivalent
      • Ability to demonstrate basic computer skills and navigation
      • Ability to demonstrate strong communication skills, both oral and written in English and Spanish

    • Solar Sales

      • High school diploma required
      • Computer skills including Microsoft Office suite -- proficient with email.?
      • General understanding of the sales process and experience achieving and exceeding sales quota goals
      • A positive, friendly personality and professional demeanor

    • School Paraprofessional
      Requirements: High school diploma
      Patient and creative individuals

    • Human Resources Team
      B.S. Degree in Human Resources, Business, Engineering, or related field
      Minimum 7 years of Human Resources Business Partner or Generalist experience
      Experience managing company-wide or site-wide Human Resources projects
      Outstanding communication skills -- both written and verbal
      Outstanding organizational skills; demonstrated ability to manage multiple tasks simultaneously and able to react to shifting priorities to meet business needs
      Strong proficiency in MS Office Suite, specifically Excel and Word

    • Public Sector Account Executive
      Job Requirements:
        Ability to work both individually and in a team environment
      • Self-motivated with the ability to work in a fast paced and constantly changing environment
      • Strong organizational and planning skills
      • Strong written and verbal communication skills
      • Proficiency in MS Office tools - Outlook, Work, Excel, PowerPoint
      • Knowledge and Familiarity with Public Sector customers

    • Human Resources Generalist
      A bachelor's degree in HR or related field and at least four years of progressively responsible experience in a fast-paced, deadline-driven HR support position with emphasis on recruitment and talent management.?
      Effective time management skills, organizational skills, analytical and problem solving ability, strong process orientation, project management skills and flexibility.?
      Excellent interpersonal and customer service skills are essential.? Demonstrated ability to effectively prioritize and manage a variety of tasks with the appropriate level of urgency.? Intermediate use of Microsoft Word and Excel are required.?

    The Army National Guard is advertising to pay people while getting trained in jobs ranging from Dental Assistant to Light-Wheel Vehicle Mechanic to Land Combat Electronic Missile System Repairer to Intelligence Analyst. The National Guard also wants bandpersons who already know how to play Tuba, Trombone, Euphonium, Bassoon, Electric Bass Guitar, Saxophone, Flute or Piccolo, Oboe, Clarinet, French Horn, Percussion, Cornet or Trumpet, Guitar, and Keyboard.

    Friedman's emphasis is, of course, on "high wage." I doubt that a Wedding Sales Stylist earns much and I don't know that I'd want to defend such a job as providing much value. But the job posting for a Senior Sonographer at the University of Vermont Hospital in interesting. Requirements include: High school graduate or equivalent, graduate of an approved CAHEA/JRCT school of Radiologic Technology, or a two year allied health equivalent. The pay ranges from $31.15 to $46.73 an hour. Plus benefits.

    Probably a billionaire who lives in a house valued at $9.3 million in 2011, has a different view of "high wage," than most of us, but I'd say that qualified sonographers are doing pretty well, not to mention providing a valuable, needed service. People doing this job can have the satisfaction of doing good in addition to doing well.

Addendum: Friedman loves interviewing the guy in charge of all hiring at Google (formerly a management consultant at McKinsey & Company) and then passing on advice to anxious parents:

Students "are much better off being a B student in computer science than an A+ student in English because it signals a rigor in your thinking and a more challenging course load."

Okay. Full confession: I have a Master's in medieval literature and the only college course I dropped out of was Basic programming, offered by NYU as part of teacher retraining in my district. My husband warned ne against it, saying I didn't have the temperament for it.

He was more than right. I struggled and struggled and finally just quit, the only course I ever gave up on.

When you talk about high skill jobs, it really does depend on what you mean by skill. It also depends on finding out what you're good at.

— Susan Ohanian
January 06, 2016

Index of Education Truthiness

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