Welcome to the Dropout Economy

Paul Raven @ 16-03-2010

American pride?This one’s doing the rounds everywhere at the moment (I spotted it thanks to Chairman Bruce and John Robb), and with good reason: it’s a provocative piece, especially coming from Time Magazine. Welcome to the Favela Chic future, American style:

Middle-class kids are taught from an early age that they should work hard and finish school. Yet 3 out of 10 students dropped out of high school as recently as 2006, and less than a third of young people have finished college. Many economists attribute the sluggish wage growth in the U.S. to educational stagnation, which is one reason politicians of every stripe call for doubling or tripling the number of college graduates.

But what if the millions of so-called dropouts are onto something? As conventional high schools and colleges prepare the next generation for jobs that won’t exist, we’re on the cusp of a dropout revolution, one that will spark an era of experimentation in new ways to learn and new ways to live.

Go read the whole thing, and see Reihan Salam predict the rise of roll-your-own web-based homeschooling, resilient sub-communities based on the exchange of labour rather than money, backyard farming and permaculture, mend-and-make-do and hardware hacker attitudes, and a complete volte-face away from institutional politics.

Exaggerated for controversy and effect? Almost certainly… but grown from more than a single grain of truth, I think, and just as likely to happen over here in the Eurobloc, though maybe not so soon or so hard. [image by emseearr]

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5 Responses to “Welcome to the Dropout Economy”

  1. gmoke says:

    If it’s in Time, it’s already passe. These kind of networks have been growing in the Boston, MA area for the last decade or so. They will continue to grow. The next stage, which is already happening, is to link them internationally through the Internet.

  2. Nancy Jane Moore says:

    Wouldn’t it be pretty to think this was true? Except if you look at the people dropping out of school, you find that they’re mostly from poverty-ridden backgrounds and not likely to be able to tap into home schooling and subcommunities (unless gangs are your idea of resilient subcommunities).

    Yeah, there are real problems with our public education system in the US, and probably in the rest of the world, too. But kids who can’t read and write, use math, understand science, and reason effectively are not going to find jobs in the new economy either, especially since jobs for unskilled and semi-skilled labor are disappearing. Schools may not be doing a good job of developing those skills, but I don’t think the streets are a big improvement.

    And home schooling seems to be mostly used by people who are terrified their children might be exposed to “controversial” ideas like evolution and feminism, or else by people who are determined to make sure their kids come out OK and the hell with everyone else’s. If some of those home schoolers of the rigorous education variety (not the religious right ones) would start schools aimed at educating a chunk of people of varied social and ethnic backgrounds, they’d be actually contributing something constructive to society. If they’re willing to stay home and teach their kids, why not teach a few other people’s as well?

    I know how soul-stultifying school can be, but improving public education really is a better solution than abandoning it. If we do it right, we can build in opportunities for kids to explore and be creative, instead of just trying to cram their heads full of facts that will be irrelevant in 10 years.

  3. Jason Chou says:

    No one deserves to be institutionalized and dictated what to learn, under 18 or not. The very idea of herding “underage” people and imprisoning them in schools is against human nature, yet in the modern society people actually consider the resulted turbulent teenagers as matter-of-fact.

    As learning can happen anywhere and anytime in the information age, the schooling system inverted in the age of industrial revolution should be eliminated ASAP.

  4. Jason Chou says:

    A typo in the previous post: “invented” in the age of industrial revolution. My apologies.

  5. Septeus7 says:

    So the future is just like Snow Crash. How wonderful!