Thursday, January 10

A little more attention to human ecology

After thinking about my January 6 post (The Revolution Is Not Being Televised) a Pundita reader told me that the U.S. isn't the only country in this era that's had more college graduates than jobs, so why didn't this cause a crisis in those countries? Because one way to describe the modern era is "Exporting Unemployed College Graduates."

It's not only college graduates that were exported in large numbers to work in other countries. Around the world, impossibly corrupt regimes staved off reforms by 'encouraging' large numbers of the poorest nationals to work in other countries, from whence those immigrants or 'guest workers' sent huge amounts of money to relatives back home. The amounts skyrocketed when (with government encouragement) the expat workers started using electronic money transfers -- EFTs -- to send the money.

A fair number of Americans work abroad but I used the examples of pre-revolutionary Iran and the Germanic kingdoms in the early 1800s because as with America in the Great Recession, large numbers of jobless college graduates couldn't find work in other countries. 

The need to provide decent-paying jobs for graduates and in professions that befit their education level is a large problem in this era; allowing it go unaddressed in any country invites at best social unrest as we have in the United States and at worst armed revolutions that topple governments.

However, more Americans need to acknowledge that many good professions require only technical training and not a college degree.  

College education in America was transformed into a major industry when white-collar businesses demanded that job applicants for anything above menial tasks possess a college degree. The stipulation was a cost-saving way of pre-determining whether the applicant had the baseline literacy and numeracy to understand instructions and fit into a corporate work environment. 

Yet the stipulation has been very hard on human nature. The best time for higher learning is after a person has acquired considerable life experience outside his parental home and primary schooling. To reverse this natural order of things is to invite the kind of horror described by an American professor of history emerita and human rights activist, Dana Frank, when she first met with Washington, D.C.'s foreign policy establishment.

From Jacobin's review of Frank's book,  The Long Honduran Night: Resistance, Terror, and the United States in the Aftermath of the Coup:
She is disturbed to learn that “much of the foreign policy of the United States Congress is developed by twenty-six-year olds who, however well-trained or well-meaning, is each responsible for U.S. relations with the entire world.”
Actually, the situation is even worse than Professor Frank realized from her encounters. Moving along, the point is that American colleges are turning out graduates whose intellects can be quite developed but who possess not one jot of common sense.

Much attention has been given to Earth's ecology, but the modern era has run roughshod over human ecology. Here I recall that King Bhumibol Aduljyadej once told the Thai people that it was time to take a careful step backward. 

A careful step back is infinitely preferable to a society stepping forward over a cliff, which is what happens when large numbers of people are pushed to ignore their own nature.  


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