Fewer men in college

by Denver Dad

Men saying “no thanks” to college – This article is perfect fodder for this group:

Men saying “no thanks” to college

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180 thoughts on “Fewer men in college

  1. There was no mention of the possibility that, in addition to keeping low-skilled men out of the workforce, video games may be keeping them from college. Remember this piece?

    “The average young, lower-skilled, nonemployed man in 2014 spent about two hours per day on video games. That is the average. Twenty-five percent reported playing at least three hours per day. About 10 percent reported playing for six hours per day. The life of these nonworking, lower-skilled young men looks like what my son wishes his life was like now: not in school, not at work, and lots of video games.”

    http://review.chicagobooth.edu/economics/2016/article/video-killed-radio-star

    My unscientific observations in the hallways of three men’s dorms suggest that this might be a factor.

  2. Hmm. I am always skeptical of focusing on ratios alone, as they tend to hide the actual numbers. Based on this article — https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=98 — it sounds like the number of men attending college is actually *increasing*; it’s just that the number of women attending college is increasing faster. But I haven’t vetted the figures or anything.

    I would like to have some confidence that increasing numbers of men are eschewing college before I consider whether “don’t date rape” messages are in fact scaring them away.

  3. “When I walk the hallways of my college, the young men generally look less mature than the women. With their baseball caps and baggy pants, they look like overgrown 12-year-old boys, not 18- to 24-year-old men,”

    Is it that they look less mature or they are less mature? I assume they are less mature. Anecdotally the number of guys who know who went through college in fits and starts is much higher than number of women who had the same problem. That said, I don’t really have any insight into why college was hard for them at 18*. Admittedly I went clown college but from what I’ve read the vast majority of college students have plenty of time for school work and fun.

    * I’ve heard it’s several things among them: poor executive function related to immaturity where they just can’t get themselves to do what they need to do, an inability to manage their freedom, social problems that have them holed up in their room playing video games.

  4. I find this interesting. My dad dropped out of high school, was in the Navy for a short stint, and got a GED later on. Somewhere along the way he acquired HVAC skills and that was how he made a living. When I was in early elementary he got a job where his boss saw his potential and mentored and coached him. That boss truly made the difference in his career. My dad tried community college, but it didn’t work well. He could handle technical material, but not general reading and he could not write for the life of him. In hindsight and seeing my DD#2, I think he had some learning disabilities that were more severe than hers, but not enough to put him out of the mainstream of his era. He was able to move up because of experience vs. education.

    I think his path would not have been possible without the one boss. I also think that his path, while possible in some trades, is not as doable in other professions where education is the baseline for entry.

    My maternal grandfather, a WWI vet, was big on women’s education so they could have a profession to support themselves and not be required to marry or stay in an abusive marriage to survive. I think this economic self-sufficiency for women, given that they often end up with the children to support, drives a lot of what we see today. It was a major factor in my life growing up.

  5. “I also think that his path, while possible in some trades, is not as doable in other professions where education is the baseline for entry.”

    And even in some jobs that allow you in the door with just a HS degree, but don’t allow you to move up much at all without the college diploma. I think some of these guys are going to have a bit of a day of reckoning in a few years, when they find that either their entrepreneurial plans didn’t turn out as they had hoped, or when they discover that they are never going to move up from Operator to Shift Manager without a college degree.

    The summary I linked to earlier suggested that the number of people going back for degrees later in life was also increasing. Obviously, this article and the recent data it was discussing doesn’t reflect what people might do at 25 or 30, so it will be interesting to see how the male/female split plays out in those numbers as time passes.

  6. From people I know, some guys have joined the military, others have gone the community college route while they figure out what to do.
    Some went away to a four year college but partied too much, came home and are at local four year schools.
    I see some of this among girls too. Girls who want to train as beauticians, in some sort of medical assistant job, join the military, work in early childhood education – all these people may have some college or take specialized courses. The number of young women I observe in hospitals and doctors offices is quite a lot.

  7. I think some of these guys are going to have a bit of a day of reckoning in a few years, when they find that either their entrepreneurial plans didn’t turn out as they had hoped, or when they discover that they are never going to move up from Operator to Shift Manager without a college degree.

    I know a number of people who went back later. There is certainly no shame in not going directly to college and waiting till you’re mature enough to handle it.

  8. Scarlett, I don’t know if video gaming keeps guys out of college, but it is a habit that definitely leads to them not surviving in college! It is a rampant problem for my students.

  9. I suspect the fact that men are not as likely to head to college as young women is happening for the same reasons that men are dropping out of the labor force in higher numbers than women. I think there are a lot of guys these days who are having serious trouble getting it together.

  10. And I certainly don’t think everyone has to go to college, but for a young person to be viable in the work force, he or she needs to do something concrete! And that doesn’t seem to be happening for a certain number of young guys.

  11. So my perspective on males in/going to college is shaped by my own personal experience (i.e. it was just going to happen) to that of “guiding” My Three Sons ™ into and thru this process and what I learned along the way.

    I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up (maybe still don’t), but I went to the other flagship in my state, got a BA in Economics, thereby creating zero qualification to do anything other than go to business school which I did after working for a couple of years. I’ve done corporate finance work since.

    DS#1. In retrospect was clearly one of those guys in the dorm spending lot of time playing video games, resulting in his academic problems. So maybe he should have worked retail/flipped burgers for a couple of years until he came around and decided having a college degree would actually be beneficial. Right now he needs 14 more classes to get his bachelors in marketing, which will allow him to move up with his employer. (Honestly he could probably move up a couple of rungs with this employer with just his associates, but there is employer funding available to complete his degree.) It’s totally a check the box thing. Having a BA will remove any barriers over probably the next 10 years. By then, maybe he’ll want to get his MBA (maybe some boss will tap him on the shoulder and suggest it?) and it’d probably be on the employer’s dime. He’s been working full time for about 15 months now and so he won’t have the senior year job search on his back as he nears the end of his current program.

    DS#2. He’s like me. Has a plan, knows how to research and determine the best path. He want’s to be a doc. We talk about options on how to get into school, which schools does he like, etc. But he’s run with this from day 1 at college. No worries.

    DS#3. Too much like DS#1, but his acceptance letter/financial aid award says very clearly he needs to keep a 3.0 to keep his money, so at least till now he understands the requirements. He’ll do a more “practical” major because I don’t really see him going for a graduate degree and he’ll need to get a paying job.

    I believe college is right for everyone, just not always at age 18. I think working full time while pursuing a degree may be the best path for a lot of people. The schoolwork can be part time/take longer than the perhaps mythical 4 years. Especially for singles, the time management aspect can work itself out and usually employers are supportive of someone improving themselves even if there is no direct tuition subsidy for doing so. Emerging at 24 with a BA and 3+years of full time work experience demonstrates “grit” and looks good on a resume.

  12. I don’t think the mindset of valuing leisure time to the exclusion of responsibility is new. I knew quite a few guys in the home country whose parents foisted marriage on them, thinking that it would somehow remedy the situation. They somehow made a living but were unmotivated. The marriage, children was like background scenery while they spent their free time with their guy friends, smoking, drinking tea and discussing weighty matters (not to be called gossiping).

  13. My BIL is a pipefitter with the academic skill limitations that AustinMom mentioned. His (long) apprenticeship program was a better fit for him than 4 year college and he wasn’t ready for that until his early/mid 20’s. (He worked as an HVAC installer befoore his apprenticeship.)

    Fred, when you say that college is for everyone, do you mean “additional training beyond high school” or do you mean “4 year degree” or something else? I am biased that a bachelor’s should be associated with particular reading and arithmetic skills that probably not everyone possesses. I also work with techs who could have gotten college degrees but didn’t live in a time/place where that was supported or expected. I liked school well enough but for people who hate it, sentencing them to 13 years (our current plan) is enough.

  14. These skills based programs are great, but I see many guys who are not taking advantage. It makes a difference. In DH’s extended family, a couple of the 30 something guys illustrate this. One guy did the training that is required to be a union electrician, and now has 2 kids and a house, and is doing fairly well (the crash of 2009 was rough for him, but work has come back). The other, niece’s babydad, never went for any training after high school, and mainly does odd jobs and plays video games. He used to drink but I don’t even think he does much of that any more.

  15. My experience has been that if a job type or the job market overall has more applicants that positions, employers up the ante on what the “minimum” qualifications are to reduce the number of applications they have to weed through. This is often a degree or advanced degree, but can be years of experience, a specific type of certification or knowledge of a something specific.

    It happens even in very basic jobs. Going back years, my job in the library as a student required me to type 30 wpm on a typewriter, after excluding all words that were misspelled. It took me a bunch of times at the on-campus HR department to pass the test. Honestly, I only passed because they had four versions of the test. I basically memorized one! In reality, I didn’t need to know how to type at all. The most I typed was the first part of a title or an authors name to do either an online search or a catalog search. Mostly, I needed to be good at alphabetizing, which wasn’t a skill listed at all! I found out later that the typing test knocked out roughtly 70% of the applicants. As student jobs were hard to come by, it was common to apply for every one in hopes one would pan out.

  16. The other thing that is turning people away from college is cost. Even if they are low enough income to get all tuition and fees paid (scholarships/grants vs. loans), that doesn’t always cover housing, books, other supplies, transportation, etc. that can be as much as the tutition and fees. And, if tuition assistance comes in the form of loans, others will bypass it as the repayment plan is too steep.

    I think both of these lead to taking an initial job after college or starting local or going the military route. Getting an employer or the government to pay for your education can be the most financially savvy option.

  17. . I think there are a lot of guys these days who are having serious trouble getting it together.

    Why the change?

  18. “Why the change?”

    There’s less pressure from above to get it together. When food, hot water, and long-distance calling were expensive, parents expected their 19-year-old sons to contribute. But living expenses have never in human history been cheaper than they are now, so probably a lot of the working-class parents are more reluctant to push them out of the nest, since their staying doesn’t really cost anything. And if the Army is now turning people away, they may not have that old standby.

    Moving up the demographic spectrum, though the cost factors apply to a lesser degree, middle-class parents have been conditioned to embrace an extended adolescence.

  19. There’s less pressure from above to get it together.

    And also less reward for getting it together. The relative wages of males in the 15th percentile of cognitive ability and executive function have declined significantly over the past 30 years.

  20. I know three 18-23 males who are currently in various pursuits of some sort of career in computers. One has been taking classes off and on at a for profit college (not cheap) in hopes of getting a degree in gaming design. He was a great student until high school when anxiety kicked in and he shut himself off from the public and played video games. Now he believes that his experience in gaming makes him a great candidate. The mom is too worried about his mental health to kick him out of the house, so he continues to play video games and casually take classes. Another teenage is getting a degree in music and computers at a private college. His mom just recently mentioned that he is thinking of dropping out and starting his own business because the cost of college is too high. and the third took classes at a state college, but dropped out when he realized that bartending was making him a lot of money, and he could take community classes on web design in the afternoons. He no longer takes classes and does web design for family and friends.

    In two out of the three they are only looking short term – what is the income they can make now?

  21. I’ve said before I have an older sibling (OS) that flunked out of college freshman year from a “good” school, and then got it together a few years later and did classes at night while working during the day.

    My parents got a lot of things right and were good parents. But my mom told me recently that they had to fill out the college applications for OS. OS just couldn’t get motivated to do it, so they did 85% of it. In retrospect, that was the #1 sign. My mom says they should have just said, that’s fine, if you aren’t ready to go we understand, but you can’t live at home. You’ll have to get a job and still learn to be independent, just as you would if you were going to college.

    By the time I came along, I do think they went too far in the other direction. They didn’t take me to visit any school, and completely checked out. But I was the youngest, so I think they were just done with parenting in general at that point.

  22. I’m tackling my repairs list, and I have a new plumber here right now. I think there are still jobs that do not require a college degree, but still provide a decent living such as a plumber. I wonder how much this guy earns because it’s a small local company and they send out a bunch of different people. My old plumber was just one guy. We really liked him. But he had to retire because he couldn’t do the work any longer. He was mid 60s, so he told me he was ready. His kids never had any interest so that is it for his business. My HVAC guy brought on his son as an apprentice and now they’re working together. His son occasionally takes classes at the community college, but he told me that he just hopes to work in the HVAC business vs. getting a degree. He is aware of the risk because he was in a motorcycle accident and couldn’t work for a couple of months. I know his dad wants him to get a degree so he has that in his pocket if he ever can’t physically do the work.

    BTW, I really miss my old plumber. This guy has been out at his truck for the entire time it took me to write this post. I just want him to finish and leave my house!!!

  23. My DS likes to play video games, but currently willingly does other things. I do know he uses that as a stress reliever, so we’ll see if it affects his focus on college. He is pretty goal oriented, and I suspect he will diligently follow the course requirement sheet (like I did) rather than take whatever is of interest without really consulting a roadmap (like DH, and to a lesser extent, DD).

    On the non-college path, my BIL spent around a decade in the navy working on subs, and has worked on heavy equipment ever since. He is severely dyslexic but a savant in his field. One company will hire him away from another for small raises, and even in the obliteration of the drilling industry in Oklahoma, he has been kept on. For how much hard manual work it is, though, I’d love to see him make more. My nephew also has a background in the military and works as a diesel mechanic. He built a shop on his property and started doing side work, and built up enough of a clientele to strike out on his own at 50. Now his full hourly rate goes entirely to him and he has a lot of control over how busy he is. He is making about $90K a year doing this with a high school degree and a few years in the army. One of his siblings is the guy I have referenced before he slept on a blowup air mattress on my mother-in-law’s floor. So using him as my example, these guys with no ambition or nothing new

  24. Lemon, it is really competitive to get into the gaming business, and pay is low/hours are long. He better be a crack developer with lots of math and physics under his belt, or a really good designer.

  25. WCE – I’m saying college, but that can mean a lot of different things.

    We went to a HS grad party this weekend for a kid (guy) who is going into this program: http://www.alfredstate.edu/welding . It’s a 2yr degree. Typically their graduates start at something like $80k +, I’m told, and that’s around here (a relatively low (housing) cost area). I don’t know how much of the program is book learnin’ vs pure hands on, but I’m sure there’s enough computer based work required. The kid is smart, well spoken, but not a liberal arts type.

    And, more broadly, I mean there is really something for everyone at college. You might have to dig to find the course/program/major that really does it for you, but if you’re interested in learning about it, there’s probably an offering at a college near you.

  26. ” I’ve heard it’s several things among them: poor executive function related to immaturity where they just can’t get themselves to do what they need to do, an inability to manage their freedom, social problems that have them holed up in their room playing video games.”

    In my family example, it was immaturity, social problems, and yes – inability to manage freedom. With video games mixed in. The day of reckoning that led him to really get it together hasn’t really come, and now he is in his early 30’s with a wife and now child. It’s not a great scene. Wife has medical problems which limit her ability to work – but a few college credits & a couple of PT jobs when she’s not off for illness. (They probably shouldn’t have gotten married because that led to her getting kicked off medicaid and SNAP/WIC). And he has worked retail type jobs – nothing great. Doesn’t seem that interested in doing anything with much responsibility or payoff. Yet, they barely scrape by paycheck to paycheck and have plenty of debt. I don’t know where this ends – I suppose they are young enough to make changes, but it becomes less likely with each passing year. Executive function isn’t so much the issue – he did very well in HS and on tests leading up to college.

  27. A lot of it seems based on motivation, and then the other half (thanks Yogi) based on grit. There are some branches of families where everyone works, everyone is expected to work, and the kids are finding trades and going to a voc program in HS, for example. My nanny’s family is like this, and her BF (who works on generators and makes as much as I do at 25!). BUT there are other branches of their families where the parents are drug addicts and/or live off of disability, and the kids are struggling because of the legacy of no get-up-and-go.

    Then you have my boss’s son, who had everything handed to him on a silver platter through (private) HS with tutoring etc., and then dropped out of college after 2 years of dismal grades. AFAIK, though, they are still humoring him with no requirement to pay rent or get a job.

  28. Also – that is my bad family example, but I have other examples of non-4-year degree routes where people have been successful. But they all require additional training of some kind – 2-yr nursing degree, HVAC apprenticeship program that required CC classes for completion, union carpentry programs, car mechanic with ongoing continuing ed type training to keep up with new technology, etc.

    i definitely think that there are other routes to success than a 4-year degree (or grad school), but I don’t think just winging it for a decade in your 20’s generally leads to success.

  29. The people I mentioned don’t come from totebaggy families, and to L’s point, the parents and son are lacking motivation and grit. I also don’t think that they are facing pressure to move out of the parent’s house. I’m not sure how you change that culture.

    Interestingly enough, one of the families has a daughter that dropped out of college, took her savings and a loan, and paid $20,000 for the Aveda Institute. She is now quite successful cutting and coloring hair, is paying off her loans, and once those are paid off, hopes to start saving so that one day she can have her own salon. She is motivated and doesn’t mind doing the grind work. Not sure where she got that from.

  30. I think video games make you somewhat depressed and make you lack motivation and they do seem to be popular among young men so I bet that does have something to do with it. And I don’t think they relieve stress at all, I think going for a walk outside relieves stress. Kids sitting inside staring at a blue lit screen is not conducive to good health and motivation in life.

  31. My aunt is struggling to get one of my cousins out of her house and back to work. She just mentioned this article to me about a lost decade for some people in their 20s.

  32. Milo mentioned the reduced pressure from parents, but there also seems to be reduced pressure from girlfriends and even wives to get things together enough so that these young men can “support a family,” to use an old-fashioned phrase. BITD, a young man who wanted sexual relations had to get married (or engaged) first. Then he didn’t need to get married, but if a child appeared he was expected to man up and get married or at least provide for the child. Now, he doesn’t have to do either.

    DH has a nephew who abandoned college after spending seven years at three different directional colleges trying to get a degree in elementary education. Along the way, he fathered a child with an unstable 18 year old, quit the job he had at the time (because the babymom got state aid — he said it was “paternity leave”), moved in with the girlfriend, then moved back home after she dumped him and took off with the child. Now he has college debt, a mediocre job selling tires, and a substance abuse issue. His mom, who has only a high school degree and a modest school secretary job, has enabled many of his poor decisions, including letting him move back home even though his stepfather (a really good guy) suggested that it was time to cut him loose. This “kid” is now 28 years old, and it’s unclear how his life will improve.

    Meanwhile, his 30-year old brother went to an Ivy League law school and is now an associate in a BigLaw firm paying off his student debt and living independently.

    Funny thing is that when these boys were little, and hanging out with our kids, it was obvious that the older brother had his stuff together and the younger one did not.

  33. “Funny thing is that when these boys were little, and hanging out with our kids, it was obvious that the older brother had his stuff together and the younger one did not.”

    If this is the case, what, if anything, are we supposed to do with these young adults who seemingly can’t hack it in the real world?

  34. I’ve been thinking about the idea of a universal basic income. Along those lines, I could be persuaded to support something that would be a robust, refundable child tax credit, maybe $10k annually for the first child, and perhaps decreasing a little with each subsequent child. But for the years from 0-18, and that would be it.

    From reading these examples and seeing a few in real life, no way am I going to support this for adults.

  35. “If this is the case, what, if anything, are we supposed to do with these young adults who seemingly can’t hack it in the real world?”

    You mean as kids? Actual jobs wouldn’t hurt, and the money has to pay for things like cell phone bills, not just early IRA funding.

  36. From reading these examples and seeing a few in real life, no way am I going to support this for adults.

    What’s the alternative? As mentioned in the article manufacturing employment has fallen by 8 million even as production has increased. Are you sure there will be enough jobs for people with low levels of cognitive ability and executive function?

  37. Well, in the case of DH’s nephew, there was clearly an issue of sub-optimal parenting. The older kid is exceptionally bright and managed to get into a good college and top law school because various teachers along the way served as mentors and helped him. The younger one did not win the IQ lottery, but even with his more average gifts IMO could have landed in a better spot with a different set of parents (nasty divorce and biological dad with sexual offender record didn’t help). If he had been adopted at birth by two Totebaggers, he would have had a different life, especially if those adoptive parents had encouraged him to consider non-college training options.

  38. There are lots of jobs for people with lower cognitive ability and executive function. Right now, immigrants are doing a lot of them.

  39. There are lots of jobs for people with lower cognitive ability and executive function.

    Millions fewer than 20 years ago is the point.

  40. When I was in Japan ~15 years ago, there were street corners with 4 men directing traffic where we would have a stoplight or, in an emergency, a single policeman. We haven’t come to agreement yet on whether doing something (directing traffic with 3 other guys) should be required as part of qualifying for the social safety net.

    But I think fairly often about how often I saw four men directing traffic there.

  41. This talk of video games has alarmed me because DS plays video games. He does his schoolwork and some activities but he also loves to play video games on his computer. We don’t have XBox or similar game set ups.

  42. This talk of video games has alarmed me because DS plays video games.

    I don’t know how much you can do other reasonable restrictions. If you ban them totally it seems that would only raise the risk that they become obsessed with them freshman year of college.

  43. DS plays video games too. I would guess a large portion of boys do. Video games, to me, are the problem, in the same sense that drinking is a problem. That is – not a major problem for a large group of people who enjoy partaking, but a major problem for a subset.

  44. My partner’s parents only had 8th grade educations; his older sister started college but dropped out because she was pregnant. He went to college, in part to avoid Viet Nam, mainly because he saw what life would mean for him in his small town. They were from the “wrong” side of the tracks and weren’t the predominate religion of the community, whose members held most of the “power” in employment decisions – both in government and the private sector. He said he always knew he needed out and a college degree was a guaranteed way out of his home town.

    A family with two sisters (now adults) had a working class upbringing, but lived in an abusive and neglectful home. Older sister (OS) is a nanny and is not much better off than her parents. Not sure what will happen as she ages because she thinks she can basically work forever. She did go back and finish her BA, which does seem to be getting her more interviews, but not much better pay. It seems the current market is for 30-50 somethings who have a degree, but enough stamina to be active with the kids. Younger sister (YS) went to college, got an accounting degree and makes in the mid-six figures. She doesn’t really like the work, but plans to work until she is 60 and then either do consulting projects or hang out her own shingle for some part-time work. Both think the other is crazy. OS can’t understand why YS does a job she doesn’t really like and YS can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t do almost anything (legal anyway) to keep as far away from borderline poor as possible.

  45. “a young man who wanted sexual relations had to get married (or engaged) first”

    I call bullshit on this. I really think this is a myth. I’ll leave it there on this thread.

  46. not a major problem for a large group of people who enjoy partaking, but a major problem for a subset

    I tend to agree. Our kids love video games. But as far as I can tell, it’s a very social endeavor. They connect with friends, or friends come over and they play together, and all I hear is laughing and delighted yelling. It’s all still pretty benign – Minecraft and MarioKart (although I know their friends play much more advanced games)

    Nobody is up in their room, playing by themselves, and nobody gives us a hard time when it’s time to get off. So I don’t worry about the video gaming itself. I would worry more if it started to look like a mechanism for masking anxiety (much like drinking for teenagers), and that I do watch for.

    Anxiety in general, I think is what leads to many self-sabotaging behaviors, including drinking, drugs, and withdrawal from school/work pursuits.

  47. From that David Brooks article—a few thoughts.

    “Jay’s book is filled with advice on how to get on with life. For example, build
    identity capital. If you are going to be underemployed, do it in a way that people are
    going to find interesting later on. Nobody is ever going to ask you, “What was it like
    being a nanny?” They will ask you, “What was it like leading excursions of Outward
    Bound?””

    I agree with this completely as a hiring manager, and I’ve hired people based on having interesting, but unrelated, experience after college that they talked passionately about even if it didn’t work out or was temporary.

    “Before, there were social structures that could guide young adults as they
    gradually figured out the big questions of life. Now, those structures are gone. Young
    people are confronted by the existential questions right away. They’re going to feel
    lost if they have no sense of what they’re pointing toward, if they have no vision of
    the holy grails on the distant shore”

    This, on the other hand, I find false. I think it was just that at some points in the past there were a lot fewer types of adulthood that society (and parents) found acceptable. And I’m not sure that today’s angsty college-educated 20-somethings from the article don’t feel like they should be aiming for career/marriage/baby/surburbs or whatever anyway. I don’t think that Gen X magically had the answers to how to adjust to adulthood or “structures” to tell us what to do either.

  48. Scarlett, I don’t think they want those jobs as that “work” is too taxing. They would much rather surf mom’s couch or a friends and be able to laze about without too many “severe” consequences. An immigrant, however, may be coming from a much lower standard of living or from areas where violence and corruption are so severe that working that hard is a better option.

    I think if the government would institute the WPA from FDR’s era for able bodied workers that might be a solution. It might balance both getting paid, improving society and infrastructure as well as instill a sense of value in working. But if the program is not run well or efficiently, it just becomes another boondoggle.

  49. In my sister’s rural area, a lot of kids work for the family business, join the military or get associates or technical degrees. It also has real problems with drugs and teen suicides (usually by gun). Great place for younger kids, not so great for the college age crowd.

  50. Great place for younger kids, not so great for the college age crowd.

    Why is it so great for kids if many end up doing so poorly?

  51. I think, related to Ivy’s point, if you can weave anything you chose to do in the past into a relevant story about where you are now or where you are trying to go, an employer can respect that. For example, it can be – I was a night custodian because my mom was ill and that let me be home with her during the day and my dad to be home at night. It shows commitment to family and being willing to do what is needed.

    Also, back in the day, parents often got their teen awful summer jobs to show them the benefit of a degree or a skilled trade. For example, in my era and area, it was boys working as roofers in the summer heat or paving on a road crew were the two most common.

  52. That David Brooks article had a few good points, but mainly meandered. He didn’t seem to have a solution. And there were some things that left my mouth open. We now have to even brand and hype our underemployment???
    “Nobody is ever going to ask you, “What was it like being a nanny?” They will ask you, “What was it like leading excursions of Outward Bound?””

    What? That is just insulting. Being a nanny is far more difficult and important than leading Outward Bound excursions. It kind of reminds me of the kids who go voluntouristing to sub-Saharan Africa rather than taking a “boring” traditional summer job like camp counselor or lifeguarding.

  53. My DH spent one summer working in a wire factory, a job his father got him. He told me that everyone, including him, got sliced up constantly by the wire.

  54. “Why is it so great for kids if many end up doing so poorly?”

    I simply meant its a nice place to raise a family – 4 seasons, good/decent schools, family-friendly lifestyle and community. The drawbacks are that it is in an economically struggling area so does not provide a lot of opportunities for those just starting out in a job or career and has a shrinking and aging population.

  55. My issue with video games is twofold. First, addictive gaming just seems to be pervasive. I think these products are designed to be addictive in a way we parents don’t fully understand. Secondly, even for the kids who manage them well, gaming has replaced reading to at least some extent. Yeah, yeah, I know, gaming has probably replaced more TV viewing than reading. But I have noticed over the years – you go into a pediatricians waiting room, and you will see the little girls reading books and the boys playing on their portable game device. So yes, I think gaming does replace reading as well as TV.

    Now, what do y’all make of the even more pervasive habit of watching YouTube videos of people playing games? That one had me floored at first.

  56. “Now, what do y’all make of the even more pervasive habit of watching YouTube videos of people playing games? ”

    If not just pure entertainment, they’re sort of like tutorials. My kids are visiting family soon. I will not miss the You Tuber voices we hear regularly.

  57. ou go into a pediatricians waiting room, and you will see the little girls reading books and the boys playing on their portable game device.

    You’ll see plenty of girls playing games as well.

  58. Now, what do y’all make of the even more pervasive habit of watching YouTube videos of people playing games? That one had me floored at first.

    It’s no different than watching sports.

  59. Mooshi – I have learned that for some people video games may have crowded out reading but others simply don’t like reading for pleasure. They would rather play outside, tinker with things, watch TV, listen to music but will not pick up a book that is not required reading.
    This is so not Totebaggy behavior but it does exist.

  60. “What? That is just insulting. Being a nanny is far more difficult and important than leading Outward Bound excursions.”

    ITA with Mooshi here. And I’d much rather hire the former nanny.

    I also agree with her about videogames. I have Clash Royale on my iPad, which my nephew got me interested and downloaded, and even that’s a fairly simple, fast-paced interactive game where each match only lasts about three minutes. (You’re automatically paired up with someone else online.) I don’t play it that often, but (because?) when I do, it’s like I can’t stop. Once or twice, I’ve stayed up until 2 a.m. playing, luckily on a Friday night. And that’s not one of the all-engrossing storyline-based ones.

  61. I will also admit to playing Plants v. Zombies, Sim City Build it and Minecraft (a bit) on my own but also with my kids. Sometimes playing relieves stress, sometimes it does not. The games where you have to, say, serve food to customers within a time limit – not stress relieving at all. I avoid those types of games.

    Mostly I play to have some idea of what my kids are doing. We also own and play a TON of board and card games. We are all big readers. Time spent playing is definitely something we monitor, especially if other things are not getting done.

  62. Mooshi – my kids do that. It is VERY weird IMO but they love it. Then they will go and play Minecraft themselves with what they learn.

  63. See, mine watch videos of people playing games that they never play themselves. And then they discuss the videos endlessly with their friends. I think it is more like sports than tutorials. I guess I just found it really weird when I first saw them doing it.

  64. “It’s no different than watching sports.”

    I don’t get it, but I also don’t get watching sports, so maybe you’re right.

    Actually, I think it’s not much different than watching people cook, shop for real estate, or fix houses.

    But maybe what’s perplexing is that we feel watching video games is another degree removed from reality, since the game itself is a fantasy.

  65. I see very few children or teenagers of either gender reading books — even Kindle books — while waiting. They are ALL on their devices. So are most adults, for that matter. The girls are on social media or texting; the boys are playing games.

  66. Growing up, my brothers never read for fun. And they played a lot of video games. My husband never reads for pleasure. I have never seen him read anything other than work stuff in the 15+ years that I have known him. I love to read and do it all of the time. Anecdotes!

  67. “There are lots of jobs for people with lower cognitive ability and executive function.

    Millions fewer than 20 years ago is the point.”

    But is that really true? Granted, there are fewer manufacturing union jobs for men without a college degree. But consider residential landscaping and housecleaning services — a sector dominated by immigrants in many parts of the country. BITD, most non-rich people mowed their own lawns and cleaned their own houses, and now many truly middle-class families outsource these tasks. These jobs can easily be held by the people you describe, and the more enterprising among them can own their own businesses.

  68. ITA with Scarlett. There’s also a lot more work in food preparation, since we’ve recently reached the point where Americans spend more money in restaurants than they do in grocery stores (and that doesn’t even recognize the vast increases in prepared food at the grocery stores).

    I would take Rhett’s worries more seriously if unemployment weren’t under 5%.

  69. It’s after dinner here, so please excuse an early hijack for trip update. Great scenery, good weather but inopportune fog yesterday at key photo stops, DH pretty tuckered out from one bus ride a day and a little walking, but his bp is good – we packed the monitor, I’m having fun. We’ll see how I survive tomorrow’s day at sea with no landfall.

    Today in Molde we did our excursions in the morning and in the afternoon were invited to the home of a bridge player DH met on the Internet. The couple were lovely, the home was on a hilltop overlooking the sea and mountains. What a treat. I have met face to face with online watch enthusiasts, bridge players, totebaggers. This supposedly sterile medium of communication can lead to more, even with the initial use of screen names and avatars.

  70. “We now have to even brand and hype our underemployment???”

    Yes I think so. And how is that new? My point is – tell me a coherent story about why you were underemployed, unemployed or made a career change, why you believe that this is the right career for you now, and how that is going to help you contribute to my team. If you sell me on that story well enough, I can benefit to that over the “straight path” person who got a job in the field right out of college. Not that Outward Bound in particular is more valuable than being a nanny.

  71. I would take Rhett’s worries more seriously if unemployment weren’t under 5%.

    I thought the issue was the percentage of working age adults in the workforce? It has declined quite a bit.

  72. “I don’t play it that often, but (because?) when I do, it’s like I can’t stop.”

    Ditto. They had Tetris on the law school computers. It is a damn good thing I didn’t have a GameBoy then, because, OMG, the hours and hours I wasted in that office. Most games don’t have that effect on me, but there are certain ones that suck me in and then hours go by.

    “I see very few children or teenagers of either gender reading books — even Kindle books — while waiting. They are ALL on their devices.”

    FWIW, my DD reads many, many books on her phone. So it can be hard to tell (unless you hear the telltale beeps and boops, of course).

  73. “I see very few children or teenagers of either gender reading books — even Kindle books — while waiting. They are ALL on their devices. So are most adults, for that matter. The girls are on social media or texting; the boys are playing games.”

    Yeah, I agree with this. I actually think that the adults are generally worse than the kids. But I also don’t really care what people do in a waiting room as long as they aren’t being disruptive.

    I do not find You Tube or PlayStation on the face to be more alarming than the non-educational things that we did when we were kids. My kid does both – including watching other people play videogames, which I think is weird but also just something of the moment & not the downfall of modern society. But yeah – we try to make sure that we do our Totebag diligence to make sure that everyone gets non-screen time. Right now, my 9yo has way too much energy bottled up to spend all day playing video games or watching You Tube – after a certain amount of time he wants to do something active. And that time is usually not long enough on Sunday morning for me to finish drinking my coffee in the morning. We’ll watch it in the future.

  74. My husband never reads for pleasure.

    I’ve always been surprised by how many smart accomplished people never read for pleasure – ever.

  75. I’ve made a serious effort to not be on my phone or computer as much over the past few months and it is eye opening. I’ve even been out to dinner where a whole family (kids included) are on their phones or devices while waiting for their food and I do not understand how parents can think this is ok. Every time I am at a restaurant, even a nice one, people are on their phones. Adults are just as addicted as children.

  76. So, my DD#1’s internship is home from Day 2 of actual work. Five interns, including her, are assigned to this department. Day 1 – they were told to go to their cube area and wait for boss (this is to be the daily routine). He arrived 3 hours later due to a meeting and forgetting they don’t get a lunch break. They got a tour and did some paperwork to get computer logins and day was over. Day 2 – They waited an hour, were given a task (checking inventory tags on equipment in people’s offices) and were sent home 30 minutes early. DD#1 is feels that the boss has no idea what to do with them and is dreading 6 weeks if the pace doesn’t pick up.

    In various work places where we have had interns, I have seen a mixed bag of whether they put interns to good use. But, they were always kept busy.

  77. Rhett – I should modify that. He reads a ton of news online. But never a book. Ever.

  78. “I thought the issue was the percentage of working age adults in the workforce? It has declined quite a bit.”

    Because they don’t need the work. Nobody’s going hungry.

  79. My husband never reads for pleasure.

    Same with mine. I used to think I would have a partner with whom I would discuss in depth all the books I read but it was not to be.
    He does ask me what I am reading. I can see the summary being stored in his memory like some sort of cliff notes. I am sure if he requires it, it will be pulled up if required in conversation. He can talk about a range of topics but it is all information from watching or listening, not reading.

  80. When people stopped working on farms, the gym was invented so they could exercise. As the work they did became more valuable, the personal trainer was invented to help them exercise. I have no doubt today’s truck drivers and mail handlers will have other jobs available when AI takes those jobs.

  81. Because they don’t need the work.

    They are like modern day maiden aunts or spinsters.

  82. I have no doubt today’s truck drivers and mail handlers will have other jobs available when AI takes those jobs.

    Why wouldn’t AI do those new jobs as well?

  83. My DH reads (or actually, skims) books for his book club, and he has a ton of programming books that he consults sometimes, but he doesn’t read for fun except online articles etc. Weirdos! ;)

  84. A parent,

    Machines took over the manual labor and AI will take over the cognitive labor, that doesn’t leave humans much of a role. Robot home health aids are already in the works:

    Self driving trucks are already on the road…

  85. Rhett – Your argument has been made for hundreds of years, and you insist that “this time it’s different.”

  86. I agree that things have gotten too comfortable for some 20-30 something guys that they didn’t have to grow up. I have known a few that just weren’t “hungry enough” to get a job because they were being supported by parents. One, in particular, took over 5 years to graduate from undergrad with a ~2.0-2.5 GPA, sat around for 5 more years probably playing video games and watching TV, then got around to going to grad school around 30. He now makes ~$60K in a high COL area, but believes he “deserves” to live in a great neighborhood in this area (lifestyle he is accustomed to). Parents will likely wind up helping out. Meanwhile his sister is a doctor in a city with a much lower COL, but has plenty of money for the luxuries and vacations she wants.

    Another friend said that working construction during summers in college made him realize the importance of a college education. He did not want to turn out like his construction worker peers (sporadic work, drinking/drug problems).

  87. Rhett – Your argument has been made for hundreds of years, and you insist that “this time it’s different.”

    Because it is. If a machine can do everything than a human can do only better and for less money, why would anyone hire a human?

  88. Well, I do play computer games myself. For the longest time I was sticking to casual games — not phone games, but the kind of puzzle adventure games you get on Big Fish or similar sites where finishing the whole game won’t take more than 6 or 8 hours and you can exit the game whenever you need to without losing a fight or letting your guild down or what have you. Especially when the kids were younger, they’d play the same games with me or separately, and my daughter and I still play Vacation Adventures Park Ranger together and mock some of the weirder juxtapositions (what kind of park has both alligators and moose? Why are there so many bears right outside the visitor center?) and “buy” souvenirs with our points. But in more recent years I’ve gotten back to occasional bouts of Civ or other 4X games, and currently I’m playing Planet Coaster on sandbox. (That’s even gotten me started watching YouTube videos of other people’s amazing coaster designs. Seriously, they’re fascinating!)

    So, my thinking is that computer games are fun and stress-relieving, just like other forms of entertainment, but not so much when played too long. The optimal play time is maybe a couple of hours, and after that you start getting more and more into the zone of tiring yourself out without realizing it (because you’re so involved in the game) and finding that a large chunk of your free time has just disappeared. I’ve talked about this with the kids, too. It’s my sons who have more trouble prying themselves loose from games; my daughter’s addiction is more to Instagram and other social media.

    OK, just one coaster — check out this amazing Star Wars ride.

  89. On gaming helping with game design skills, I’d say it’s a necessary but not sufficient condition.

  90. “Younger sister (YS) went to college, got an accounting degree and makes in the mid-six figures. “

    How much is mid-six figures?

    I’m thinking the range of six figures is $100k to $999k. The middle of that range is about $550k.

    YS appears to be doing very well. I would think she could away stop working much earlier than 60 if that’s her priority.

  91. On the workforce thing – I was just listening to a podcast on farm labor in upstate New York. The podcast was focusing on organic farmers. Evidently they use that H2-A visa program extensively, which is for temporary farm workers, because they are afraid to hire undocumented workers and there is a severe farm labor shortage up there. The program was mostly about the difficulties of the H2-A program – they said that even in the past, it was always a crapshoot as to whether you would get enough workers throug the program, and now it is much worse.

    So why aren’t unemployed US citizen guys flocking to farm work?

  92. Oops, I would think she could stop working much earlier than 60 if that’s her priority.

  93. “So why aren’t unemployed US citizen guys flocking to farm work?”

    I guess the answer we’re looking for is, “they’d rather be playing video games.”

  94. “So why aren’t unemployed US citizen guys flocking to farm work?”

    Not hungry enough, like we’ve been saying. BTW, are your neighbors still racing RC cars?

  95. I have a friend who was very successful in the gaming business. He led a group in the 90’s and 00’s that developed many iterations of a successful video game franchise that I guarantee you have heard of. He made a good bit of money, semi retired, and now travels the world doing game development workshops, for a good fee, aimed at teens and college kids that he tells me don’t have a prayer of making it in that world. He has written a couple of very academic books on game design theory that are well regarded and has an affiliation with one of the major European universities.
    He also has a graduate degree in CS from Stanford, which even in the 90’s was what it took to get into a major video game company.

  96. Several years ago, it seemed to be a big deal to get Microsoft or Cisco certifications, which appeared to be a way to get around college degrees as filters for IT jobs.

    But I haven’t heard so much about them recently.

    Anyone know it those haven’t proven very successful? I’m thinking Mooshi especially might have some insight.

  97. Finn – YS makes roughly $450K a year. Yes, she is doing well, but she also spends quite freely. She could stop working sooner than that in all likelihood. IMO, she also uses work to keep her parents at a distance. If she were retired there would be no reason that she couldn’t move back to the hometown or visit much more frequently. Working to pay her daughter’s college (still in high school) is another reason she states to the parents, which they seem to accept. Her age 60 is roughly when the daughter will be graduating college.

  98. Finn, generally employers are not much impressed with Microsoft certifications, unless combined with loads of job experience. And you can get a Cisco certification at many high schools, at least in NYC. That is a dime a dozen program.

  99. MM – my oldest created a game for class (they were using RPG maker or something similar) and ended up winning a statewide award for game design. Very exciting for him! Would you recommend your friend’s books for someone with an interest in that area?

  100. Why aren’t they flocking to farm jobs? Because they are hard work that doesn’t pay all that much.

    Agricultural workers tend to make under $15k a year or roughly making $10 an hour after taxes. Working as a agricultural worker outside in the elements vs working at McDonald’s, which would you choose?

  101. When I poll my students as to their career aspirations, at least half if not more of the guys say “video game developer”. It is so sad because most of the ones with that goal are C students – weirdly, the best students tend to have more realistic goals. Many of them switch to cybersecurity, which has less CS content, because they then think they will be the hero in some cybersecurity force, hunting down the bad guys. The reality for them is a career spent making other employees change their passwords every 6 weeks, and setting the database access policies. :-). Good stable career, but probably not what they envisioned.

  102. ” weirdly, the best students tend to have more realistic goals.”

    I don’t think that’s weird.

  103. “The people I mentioned don’t come from totebaggy families, and to L’s point, the parents and son are lacking motivation and grit. I also don’t think that they are facing pressure to move out of the parent’s house. I’m not sure how you change that culture.”

    Is it necessary to change that culture? If everyone in the family is fine with their lives, the only reason I see to want to change it is to make sure they don’t collectively become burdens on society.

  104. Organic farmer is an invented job. The next step is “human sourced” food wherein you can pay 10x for food made by people instead of AI. The nice thing about AI is that it drives down price.

  105. “I’ve been thinking about the idea of a universal basic income. Along those lines, I could be persuaded to support something that would be a robust, refundable child tax credit, maybe $10k annually for the first child, and perhaps decreasing a little with each subsequent child. But for the years from 0-18, and that would be it.”

    Based on what I know now, I wouldn’t support such a credit.

    First of all, it provides an incentive for people who can’t support kids to have kids. I do like your idea to decrease the incentive with each subsequent child.

    Second, there’s nothing to ensure the credit actually benefits the kids.

    I’d prefer something more along the lines of free meals for the kids through schools, which ensures the benefits aren’t hijacked by the parents, and doesn’t incentivize having kids.

  106. why hire a farm hand when you have a tractor that can do it much better?

    That’s exactly what happened to farm labor from 98% of jobs to 2%. What about when machines can take over cognitive labor as well?

    If you want to argue that CRISPR will end up the solution then I agree that might work.

  107. MM,

    From what I hear being a video game developer is like being a humanities adjunct. The number of people who want to do the job is so much higher than the number of jobs available, employers can treat you like shit.

    Do you think there is any way to bring these kids up to speed on how the world works?

  108. A parent, either you’re using AI to mean something other than “artificial intelligence” or I am totally in the dark about the widespread use of AI in food production.

  109. “Technology has always triggered fears of mass unemployment. In 1811 it was the Luddites, who assumed they were done for. In the 1930s, it was vaunted economist John Maynard Keynes, who implicated technology as one reason for the unemployment of the Great Depression.
    The same persistent fear has been playing out in the pages of newspapers for the last century”

    https://timeline.com/robots-have-been-about-to-take-all-the-jobs-for-more-than-200-years-5c9c08a2f41d

    As Milo noted, we’ve been hearing about this problem for a long time.

  110. Rhett said “Do you think there is any way to bring these kids up to speed on how the world works?”

    I think that is the crux of the problem

  111. Some data shows that what’s unusual about this time is that technological advancement has pumped up productivity but has not boosted job growth (and maybe wages). This larger gap between productivity and employment is apparently unprecedented in recent history. Maybe this signals something dramatically different or maybe the data being collected does not capture the complete picture.

    Interesting about women reading more than men. I had not thought of this in terms of adults, only as it applied to children/teens.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14175229

  112. I find it interesting that when technology puts some people out of work it is a big deal, but others we don’t even mention. My example is secretaries – those, mainly women, who used to take the hand written reports, letters, internal memos and type them on a typewritter using carbon paper to make the duplicate.

    With computers, a good chunk of what secretaries did is now done by the worker themselves. What did those jobs morph into or are they just gone?

  113. Hijack for people with more educational theory experience than I have: looking at possibility of local STEM academy for DS for MS, but there are a lot of buzzwords that I don’t understand, so I really have no way to assess whether this is actually “real” rigorous education or some current fad. Here are some quotes from the website:

    “There is nothing common about [the school] and that is why we do not follow the common core. Our STEM-based curriculum has been developed taking into account the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), technology standards, Disciplinary literacy standards, Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and transdisciplinary core content lessons. The curriculum is designed to promote critical thinking, collaboration, and innovation in order to develop the intellectual, emotional and social skills that students will need to live and work in a globalized world.” [My problem: I *like* common core, at least what I know of it, and I have zero clue what the other words mean]

    “At the Middle School level, the integrated curriculum provides a more comprehensive standards-based, structured inquiry-based and real world problem-based learning which interconnects STEM-related subjects and prepares the students for secondary education and a broad range of careers. All lessons taught are derived from the 5E model and the Maryland State 7 STEM Standards of Practice.” [Q: Hunh? What is any of this?]

    “The 5Es represent five stages of a sequence for teaching and learning:
    1.ENGAGE:The purpose for the ENGAGE stage is to pique student interest and get them personally involved in the lesson, while pre-assessing prior understanding. During this experience, students first encounter and identify the instructional task. During the ENGAGE stage, students make connections between past and present learning experiences, setting the organizational ground work for upcoming activities. NASA eClips™ are designed to ENGAGE students. Through discussions, the videos may be used to uncover students’ prior understanding. The video format arouses students’ curiosity and encourages them to ask their own questions.
    2.EXPLORE: The purpose for the EXPLORE stage is to get students involved in the topic; providing them with a chance to build their own understanding. In the EXPLORATION stage the students have the opportunity to get directly involved with phenomena and materials. As they work together in teams, students build a set of common experiences which prompts sharing and communicating. The teacher acts as a facilitator, providing materials and guiding the students’ focus. The students’ inquiry process drives the instruction during an exploration. Students are actively learning through inquiry-based science instruction and engineering challenges. Emphasis is placed on: Questioning, Data Analysis and Critical Thinking. NASA eClips™ help students EXPLORE new topics on their own. Through self-designed or guided exploration students make hypotheses, test their own predictions, and draw their own conclusions.
    3.EXPLAIN: The purpose for the EXPLAIN stage is to provide students with an opportunity to communicate what they have learned so far and figure out what it means. EXPLAIN is the stage at which learners begin to communicate what they have learned. Language provides motivation for sequencing events into a logical format. Communication occurs between peers, with the facilitator, and through the reflective process. Once students build their own understanding, they may use NASA eClips™ to help summarize or EXPLAIN their own ideas. These segments introduce vocabulary in context and correct or redirect misconceptions.
    4.EXTEND: The purpose for the EXTEND stage is to allow students to use their new knowledge and continue to explore its implications. At this stage students expand on the concepts they have learned, make connections to other related concepts, and apply their understandings to the world around them in new ways. NASA eClips™ segments help students EXTEND and apply what they learned to new and unfamiliar situations.
    5.EVALUATE: The purpose for the EVALUATION stage is for both students and teachers to determine how much learning and understanding has taken place. EVALUATE, the final “E”, is an on-going diagnostic process that allows the teacher to determine if the learner has attained understanding of concepts and knowledge. Evaluation and assessment can occur at all points along the continuum of the instructional process. Some of the tools that assist in this diagnostic process are: rubrics, teacher observation, student interviews, portfolios, project and problem-based learning products. Video segments can be used to determine students’ depth of understanding. Students will be excited to demonstrate their understanding through journals, drawings, models and performance tasks.” [Comment: I appreciate the fact that they lay out this “5E” thing, but this all sounds like consultant-speak to me — I am especially worried about the teachers as “facilitators” and the reliance on what sounds like a buttload of videos, which together sound to me like “we hired a bunch of 21-year-olds who don’t know anything about what they’re teaching, gave them projects to give the students, and then gave them videos to explain things”]

    I’m actually a big fan of hands-on stuff, especially at the MS level, when kids can need a little more engagement and when we want them to get excited about stuff. And DS would *love* a school that allowed him to dive into robotics, engineering, and all that stuff. But I just have no clue whether this is going to be good or totally froofy. Help?

  114. Um, a hodgepodge of educational buzzwords??? I can’t parse it at all. I think I would do visits and find out what they actually teach.

  115. I agree with Mooshi – go visit. Do they allow your son to attend for a day/shadow another kid?

  116. Austin – we certainly have. A lot more therapists of all stripes hanging around and making a decent middle class living.

    As a side note, when I mentioned to my mom last weekend that I want my older kids to learn touch typing this summer, she recalled amusedly a brief period during her late high school and college years when many ambitious younger women (at least whom she knew) took a measure of pride in not knowing how to type, as they considered secretarial work beneath them and felt newly liberated to pursue loftier positions.

    LfB – I’m sure the school is fine; their description sounds like a load of crap.

  117. It sounds like they gave a college freshman a writing assignment with a requirement to fill a minimum number of words, and that’s exactly what she did.

  118. I agree with MM. Here’s one question I would ask. Are you going to teach my son to write or will you offer him the option to express himself through “drawing, illustration, design, film, music, dance/movement, visual art, sculpture or video” instead?

    It’s hard to tell from their mumbo jumbo, but it sounds as if they may be progressive in not adhering to instruction in “traditional” skills and knowledge. So it depends what you want for your kid.

  119. It’s hard to tell from their mumbo jumbo, but it sounds as if they may be progressive in not adhering to instruction in “traditional” skills and knowledge.

    That was my impression from the “There is nothing common about [the school] and that is why we do not follow the common core” bit.

  120. “A lot more therapists of all stripes hanging around and making a decent middle class living.”

    Right! And nowadays they need college degrees.

  121. “With computers, a good chunk of what secretaries did is now done by the worker themselves. What did those jobs morph into or are they just gone?”

    And back on the original topic, I think this is the kind of thing that leads to credential inflation.

    The reality is that in the 19th and 20th centuries, technology was, in fact, putting people out of jobs. The Luddites weren’t just people with a theoretical aversion to mechanized labor; the revolts originated in very real economic problems. In early 19th century England, new technology that allowed centralized production (e.g., weaving machines) led to the development of centralized factories, which brought people off of the crofts for the better wages. But when war cut off the demand for the huge additional quantities that the factories could make, many, many factories went under, families starved, and people rioted. It’s easy for us to brush it off now and say, eh, as a society we got through it — but, you know, it wasn’t our families who starved or were executed for rioting. It was a very, very big deal for those who were caught up in it.

    So, yes, over time, people adapt — maybe those that survive don’t go work in the mills, they go make horse carriages. Oops, hello, Mr. Ford. And then to the next, and the next. But what usually happens is that technology creates jobs that require higher skills — you go from someone who can spin or weave at home, to someone who can run a mechanical loom, to someone who can maintain and fix the mechanical loom, and so on. And the more advanced the tech, the more advanced the skills/knowledge needed to run it.

    And then of course there isn’t a 1:1 ratio — your factory might have required 100 line workers but only 5 techs. So the other 95 have to go somewhere. So where else do they go? Well, they can go do manual labor or roughnecking or find some industry that still needs gruntwork — but those jobs are already filled, because people were already doing them before the factory shut down. So then what? Now employers have a bunch of unskilled people vying for the same jobs — so wages go down, and both the employers and the applicants need some way to distinguish the best, most capable applicants. So, hey, I’ll go get a college degree/let’s make a degree a job requirement! And then it trickles up, so that jobs that used to require just a college degree now require advanced degrees.

    When I started as a lawyer, we had one secretary for every two lawyers, plus an overnight typing pool. When I moved here, we had one secretary for every three lawyers, plus one person on a 5-11 shift if stuff needed to be typed after work hours. Now we have 13 lawyers in my office and three secretaries — and one of the secretaries doubles as the receptionist, and the other (mine) is also the office manager. So on the one hand, my assistant makes a lot more, inflation-adjusted, than the secretaries did BITD. OTOH, many of the secretaries from BITD couldn’t do what she does now — the work requires much more organizational, time-management, and people-managing skills, and even the “secretarial” tech (word processing, time entry, Outlook, docket management, etc.) is much more complex than just “type words into a typewriter without making mistakes.” And all the people who don’t have those skills, who could have been secretaries in the old days, are health aides, call-center operators, and data entry clerks — occupations that do *not* pay the old secretarial salaries (inflation-adjusted).

    So, yes, this has happened before, and it will happen again. But when it happens, it causes major disruption, for both the lives of the people involved and the government as a whole — the situation in England, for ex., coming so close to the French Revolution, and with the Napoleonic wars and such, triggered real concerns over revolution. I would argue that one reason we didn’t end up in the same situation in the US is because of FDR and the New Deal — whereas England clamped down, the government here at least tried to signal its citizens that it didn’t want them and their families to starve.

  122. LfB, I agree with the point about “Do they learn to write?” because writing is the weakness of my three DS’s. Channeling Finn, I would also look at the peer group. If the other kids are children of engineers/technicians/similar, like DS1’s robotics team, school will be good and the quality of the teacher/curriculum won’t make much difference. If the other children are your child’s peers only in age, not in math/spatial/troubleshooting aptitude, the experience probably won’t be very good.

    I’m very skeptical of video heavy curricula.

  123. Thanks for the comments — it is very helpful to hear that my impressions were not off-base (my uneducated response was basically exactly what Milo said, although I did not say “crap”). We will probably go see it and try to pin people down more — I am not afraid at all of progressive, individualized, and all that stuff; I just want it to actually help my kid learn better than he would in the free local public school. And a GT program, at even a middling MS, is a reasonably high bar to start with.

  124. And DS would *love* a school that allowed him to dive into robotics, engineering, and all that stuff.

    I hope this is what he will actually get. The video clips, interspersed with hands on learning etc. is being done in my kids school to keep middle schoolers engaged. This type of teaching is done in most subjects (not sure of Math though).

  125. @WCE: Well, given that this school is private and costs money, whereas the MS is public and draws from a lower socioeconomic area, I am guessing the peer group at the private would be “more like us.” I have yet to determine whether that is a feature (Finn’s peer group theory) or a bug (my desire for “real” diversity).

  126. If the school cannot explain its curriculum to parents, it’s hard to see how they will be able to explain the concepts to the students. Or to the “learners.”

  127. There is actually nothing wrong with progressive and individualized, and as I have posted before, research shows that hands-on works in STEM. The important thing is WHAT are they teaching? If they expect good writing, and actually show students how to write well (sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph), and if they teach a solid math curriculum, then it is likely a good school.

  128. LfB – “real diversity”. LoL ! My niece and nephew are going to attend a very expensive and best in their city school. My SIL said that one of the reasons they were admitted was because they were the only candidates who checked the (fake) diversity box.

  129. LfB, unfortunately, you probably won’t have real diversity in a GT program. :) We don’t have a GT program, so my children experience real diversity.

  130. I don’t care to watch videos of sports or on-screen games. My son watches both, and gets ideas about his own play and behavior from both. Watching better athletes on tv as a way to improve your own play was a thing at least as far back as I was in high school.

  131. “my desire for “real” diversity”

    You might want to investigate their admissions and financial aid policies. Some privates strive for need-blind admissions and/or give URM some preference, a la HSS.

    And of course you need to look at cost, and how that affects your financial security and your kids’ college choices.

  132. As others have suggested, look at how much the focus will be on STEM (really math and science, both applied and theoretical), and how that affects other subjects.

    I wouldn’t want my kids focusing too much on math and science at that age. I also value things like foreign languages, history, economics, etc, and of course, writing, including grammar.

  133. With both the ACT and SAT increasingly moving toward measuring learning of the CC, as opposed to aptitude, a school that diverges sharply from the CC could also put its students at a disadvantage WRT college admissions and merit-based aid.

  134. “Watching better athletes on tv as a way to improve your own play was a thing at least as far back as I was in high school.”

    Just as musicians are encouraged to listen to and watch accomplished musicians, or craftsmen study the work of accomplished craftsmen.

  135. “my uneducated response was basically exactly what Milo said, although I did not say “crap””

    Yeah, well, the quiz said I’m wise, not nice.

  136. cybersecurity, which has less CS content, because they then think they will be the hero in some cybersecurity force, hunting down the bad guys. The reality for them is a career spent making other employees change their passwords every 6 weeks, and setting the database access policies.”

    Volunteering for an organization that seeks to prevent human trafficking. I met a guy who analyzes bank transactions and has been involved in finding several organizations. He rolled his eyes at himself & claimed to be noting, but I thought what he’d been able to do was incredible.

    On cell phone policies: when they food comes, they are placed face-down on the table. Once he’s gotten a few bites of food in him and isn’t hangry any more, SS loosens up and we have fun, generally so much that he doesn’t want to return to the phone, unless it’s to do something together.

  137. LfB, if this is indeed a newly started school, I might be concerned about both the lack of track record and the possibility that it could take several (expensive for you) years for it to really find its groove. Do they have a prospective course catalog? I would expect a STEM-focused school to offer AP Calculus BC, for instance (again with the calculus! but it can be a tell), as well as AP versions of all the sciences.

    Also, if their website happens to include these items in its list of STEM courses to be offered, they struck me as a little off:

    Biomedical Science
    Molecular Chemistry
    Molecular Biology
    Health Science
    Algebra-based Physics
    Calculus and Trigonometry

    Biomedical science and molecular biology — umm, that’s nice, and molecular biology is fascinating, but aren’t there other parts of biology that are generally covered in a high school curriculum? Are we skipping those?

    Molecular Chemistry — that’s . . . pretty much just chemistry. Does it sound fancier if you specify “molecular”?

    Calculus and Trigonometry — There are some high schools that don’t offer calculus, but are there really any that don’t offer trigonometry?

    Anyway, it just didn’t seem like it was written from a stance of deep familiarity with the usual STEM curriculum. But that could just be me.

  138. LfB, I concur with HM’s comment, and you probably have the same instinct given your family members. It is unclear if robotics competition will continue at my kids’ school but Mr WCE (assistant coach for robotics competition) was sufficiently impressed with Lego robotics that my boys got a Lego robotics kit that they’ve learned to program. One of the more interesting challenges was building a tail for dogbot that would wag without wagging off.

    And only on this blog (and to one? member of this blog previously) do I admit to buying my children a $300 Lego set for Christmas.

  139. The comment re dropping out of college to go to Aveda reminds me of a couple young people I’ve known who did the opposite of what this post is about. One is a young woman who, ten years ago, finished her degree at what is now a top-80 national university and went straight to Aveda. She is now married, has two children, and her husband, who lost his position when the newspaper he worked for folded, is freelancing, so her job is the steady one for their family. In another family I know, one son who has Asperger’s is going into his last year of high school. His grades are fine, not as stellar as his older brothers, but fine. He wants to be a sound engineer, so the theater EC is probably more important to him than anything else. They’ve started the college tours with him, and intend to have him do a four year degree, even though working shows, as his is doing this summer, is likely to be much more important to his path. They want him to have that experience.

  140. “Yeah, well, the quiz said I’m wise, not nice.”

    See, and I thought LFB said something stronger than “crap”!

    On the opposite course – my other brother went to college & got a CS degree from WCE’s alma mater. Worked as an entry level developer for a couple years, hated it, and now 10+ years later is a chef. Worked his way up at a nice hotel that paid for his culinary degree once he proved to be worth the investment. I’m sure the degree still comes in handy as a marker of executive function though.

  141. @Scarlett: yes, as HM noted. I had many of the same thoughts; my suspicion is that they have identified those offerings because they have various “partnerships” with various nearby high-tech businesses (they talk a lot about site visits, internships, field trips, etc., with a lot of name-dropping). I would need a lot of questions answered before seriously considering it.

    @Milo: I meant it the other way. I did not say “crap.” I said “bullshit.” 😉 Neither wise nor nice, but I suspect accurate.

  142. Laura, is that a new school? The private school DS went to overseas had a great description ( in several languages). The way it was actually run was so different that I was confused, until another mom told me that several families had written it, gotten it approved, and were fundraising for the new school when the Red Cross decided it should open a school. The Ministry of Education gave them the concept, fully formed. She and most of the others had enrolled their children, but were not pleased at the lack of interest the admin & teachers had in the way the school was to be set up. She also said she was angry about what was happening with my son. I could perhaps have stayed and joined them in fighting for a better school, but they didn’t seem to be at that point yet. Anyway, find out whose words those are and what, if any, relation they have to what’s going on in the school. Your child’s first teacher there is important, but so are potential teachers for later years.

  143. PS: not following the written description could be worse, as it was for us, or it could be better than this hot mess.

  144. LfB, is it a pretty new school? If so, it probably doesn’t have the endowment to finance much socioeconomic diversity.

    BTW, I have no problem with socioeconomic diversity, and that’s not necessarily mutually exclusive with a good peer group. I want peer groups for my kids that will reinforce the values DW and I try to teach our kids, and having some lower SES kids in their peer groups helps with that, especially in understanding the value of money and working for it.

  145. My comment must be stuck in the spam filter.
    Comments in this discussion re teaching writing have reminded me of how many general knowledge/math/spelling /grammar quizzes are supposedly really difficult. I posted a link to an easy spelling/grammar test that I aced. If those things are actually tough for even one tenth of the number of people who supposedly have a hard time with them, that is discouraging.

  146. LfB IIRC your DS is the regular one in the family and happy and successful in a more conventional school. Unless there is something about the assigned middle school that worries you prospectively, why spend money on a potentially risky situation in an unproven school. You didn’t want to buy a Giulia in its first year, did you?

  147. LfB – Haven’t read everything, so may duplicate. But, check out the school in person. Ask – where do its “graduates” go to HS? Can I talk to some parents? How are you ensuring they are ready for the HS in our area, including getting appropriately tracked in to pre AP/AP or IB classes? Writing is VERY important, ask about that.

  148. @Meme — good point. Although look where *not* buying the Giulia led me. :-)

    Yes, it is a new school, seems like founded by some guy who apparently has money and wants to improve STEM education, but as folks have noted, you can’t tell from the website whether he actually knows what he’s doing or just has a nifty idea and is throwing a bunch of money at it. I haven’t seriously considered private for DS like I did for DD, because he is so normal and likeable and will thrive anywhere. But DH is not happy with the MS and would love a STEM school; I am a little nervous about none of DS’ friends being at the assigned MS, and at least one may be going to this place; and DS is totally fixated on robotics and such. So I thought it might at least be worth looking at as an option. Plus they have before- and after-care, so my worries about DS not being able to participate in after-school activities (because it’s not a safe walk home from the assigned MS) would be addressed.

    Basically, I think I am fretting over nothing, as usual, and the school very likely is not worth it, for all of the reasons folks have mentioned above. I mean, we can always go there for 7th grade if 6th grade totally sucks, so why not try free first?

  149. MM – enjoy! Even though it’s work, it’s still Bologna! The food will be great!

  150. But, Italy being Italy and especially Bologna being Bologna, there’s a public transport strike scheduled for some time next week. I hop it does not mess up your plans.

  151. Holy cow Mooshi — have an awesome time! Eat some real bolognese and some mortadella for me (with a glass or two of wine, of course)! :-)

  152. where have you seen news of a strike? The last time I went to Italy, I had to head back to Milan a day early because of a strike!

  153. Well, I checked the Italian Ministry of Transportaion strike page, where these things get announced, and I see some minor airport personnel strike for the day before I leave, a bunch of local public transit 4 hour strikes on the day I leave (but none for Bologna or Milan) and something bureaucratic for the next day. It is a big conference, with a lot of Europeans coming in by train and the day I am leaving is the day everyone is leaving, so hopefully they will keep us updated

  154. LfB – keep in mind also that your kids will likely be on different holiday schedules with a private school. This was a reason I nixed the temptation to move DD to an IB magnet – there wasn’t any reason to, just that a lot our neighborhood MS kids go to a magnet that happens to be close to our house.

  155. After I posted about the holiday schedule, I realized how not Totebaggy I sound ;-).
    Not too concerned about the curriculum, teaching or other more important matters.

  156. OK, now I see that the strike is listed on the conference site. And of course it is the day that I and evreryone else will be leaving. Ugh. This is exactly what happened to me the last time I went to a conference in Italy. I guess I will have to do the same thing I did last time – leave the night before and stay at the airport hotel.

  157. RMS,

    Diarrhea and fractures? Talk about a gruesome end. ADA can chime in but I assume they mean compound fractures which, before antibiotics, must have been incredibly dangerous. For diarrhea, I assume that today if you monitor their electrolytes and keep them on IV fluids it’s rarely fatal.

  158. The Your So Money Podcast had Adam Braun on Yesterday. He has founded a one year program that is geared toward launching its students into a career with the necessary skills and not as much debt as a four year school. I’m not sure if this is a better model or really just another For Profit School. But you only pay tuition once you land a job of $50,000 per year. I’m wondering if they are getting students who come back to school or recent high school graduates.

    He has professors Harvard, Stanford and MIT so there is the opportunity to learn from some of the best at a lower cost. They also partner with local companies to solve problems. It is in San Francisco and you have to live within 50 miles so you can participate in the cohort. According to the interview students have moved there to participate.

    Thoughts?

    http://farnoosh.tv/podcast/episodes/

    http://www.missionu.com/

  159. Laura, there are Lego clubs that participate in the same robotics competitions as the school programs. What has changed at the MS since DD was there that your husband is no longer happy with it?

  160. Arrivederla Mooshi!
    Nice thing about flying solo is you can be flexible around strikes, etc.

  161. @SM: DD went to a different MS — she got the transfer to the one all her friends were at. So it’s the same MS we weren’t super happy about before. It’s just now it’s overcrowded (few to no transfers), but at the same time I don’t worry as much about DS going there for the personality reasons above.

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