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John M. Eger

John M. Eger

Posted: September 25, 2010 09:27 PM

The Jobless Recovery? What a Concept

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Where do they get those sound bites?

"Jobless recovery"!

George Bernard Shaw, the Irish dramatist once said: "If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion." Things haven't changed.

For the past few years I have asked my graduating seniors -- about 200 each year -- "So who has a job waiting for them?"

Each year, sadly, fewer hands go up and those that do belong to students taking menial jobs that don't require their earned degrees.

The worldwide financial meltdown has, we know, gutted the job market. And when the dust settles, surely we face a jobless recovery.

More of our students earning a coveted degree from one of America's great universities are doomed to an uncertain future.

Almost 10 years Qualcomm, one of San Diego's high-tech success stories, asked me to look into giving more of our students a background in information and communication technologies. Examination of the college catalog led us to discover that more than 20 schools in eight colleges that make up the university were teaching bits and pieces of the same subject matter.

We need to seriously rethink the university curriculum, and reinvent the all our systems of education... perhaps staring with the American university.

For starters, we should eliminate all the colleges, all majors and degree programs, and rethink the entire curriculum... the "silos" of zeroed-base planning.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, an academic journal covering postsecondary education in the United States, recently raised the question of whether university majors are "silos" inhibiting learning. I believe that silos are one of the reasons that administrators and faculty have such a difficult time making changes that count.

We have recognized changes in the knowledge base, and often established new courses, even new majors to meet the challenges. We seldom eliminate any or merge them.

The university majors that exist today are not necessarily job related.

More importantly, a degree of any kind is no guarantee of a job. What is important is that young people "learn how to learn" (acquire genuine thinking skills) in college and, if possible, find out what they can be passionate about.

Though the job market is in tremendous flux, given the advent of globalization, we only add courses and new degrees, but never take any away. A fact is that we have even added colleges with more deans and overhead to handle the explosion of all this growth.

A few years ago, according to the Labor Department, people will "have 10 to 14 jobs by age 38." At the time, former Education Secretary Richard Riley, said that "the top 10 jobs that will be in demand (don't yet exist) and they will be using technologies that haven't been invented. In order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet."

With the proliferation of the Internet, the computerization of news archives and libraries available on the World Wide Web, literally thousands of references are available at the click of a mouse.

The challenge today is not acquiring information; it is determining which information is relevant. What do our graduates need to know and why in this new global technology driven world?

In an age where we are discovering that everything is connected to everything else, what we really need to do is create the interdisciplinary curriculum that emphasizes the new economy, the role of technology and the spirit of enterprise -- specifically creativity and innovation.

Given the painful cuts in education our systems face, only radical solutions will meet the challenges before us. American universities are one of this nation's greatest assets. All institutions -- private and public are being transformed. Universities must lead the way.

 
 
 

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