Back in September, Ohio's Governor (and lonely failed Presidential candidate) John Kasich decided to unravel a puzzle-- the mismatch between Ohio's open jobs and unemployed workers.
One might think that a possible answer might be that the hundreds of thousands of blue collar workers whose jobs have been outsourced or robo-sourced do not match up with the new jobs available in the state. But Kasich decided to focus on the idea that schools were not cranking out the kind of meat widgets and cogs required by corporate leaders.
So Kasich sicced his Executive Workforce Board on the problem. The EWB is usually billed as "made up of legislators, business leaders, labor leaders, educators and others." If we break down the actual list of twenty-eight members, we get one governor, four legislators (state and fed), one county commissioner, one union guy (IUOE), one superintendent of a CTO, one emeritus community college president, the Ohio higher ed chancellor, and eighteen business and investment guys. Also, zero representatives of any sort from the K-12 public education system.
The board's recommendations include these four "top" items:
* Establish stronger connections between schools and businesses so that schools produce grads with the skills businesses want
* Fill in the skills gap so that schools produce grads with the skills businesses want
* Build awareness of employment paths that don't involve college so that grads will do a better job of graduating with the skills businesses want
* Rebrand libraries as continuous learning centers so that former grads can go learn about the skills businesses want
Just in case I haven't drawn the pattern out for you clearly enough, here are some other items from the list of forty recommendations from the board:
* Require schools to offer project-based learning
* Require school leaders to "engage" with local business leaders
* Create an "in-demand jobs" week
* Expand business engagement opportunities
* Leverage effective practices
* Create state-level data analytics infrastructure
* Focus on early employability and career readiness
* Foster a statewide learning culture
Yeah, I'm not sure what "early employability" refers to. Maybe bringing back child labor? And that fostering a statewide learning culture-- right on point, folks. I'll bet nobody has ever thought of that, and it will probably revolutionize Ohio education.
But wait-- there's more. Some of these could be implemented by setting up middle schoolers with local businesses (so, yes to child labor?). And a personal favorite-- why not give businesses and chambers of commerce three seats on every school board in Ohio? Non-voting seats, mind you, but they would be right there, keeping all those elected officials from being distracted by, you know, stuff that voters want, and guaranteeing that the voices of business interest won't be lost in the crowd of educators and teachers and people who know what the hell they're talking about when it comes to running school districts.
Remember-- this is coming from a board that includes just two members who have any connection to education of any kind.
I get it. We don't do our students any favors by graduating them fully-qualified to repair horse-drawn carriages or manufacture quill pens. And I am a huge fan of vocational-technical education.
But we are here to serve the interests of the students and the community first and foremost. Serving the interests of businesses is way, way down the list, particularly in this age in which business (and Ohio is just loaded with the ghosts of these guys) feels absolutely no loyalty to its workers or the community that it calls home.
I will offer business leaders the same deal I have offered them for years-- I will prepare a student specifically to work at your business if you will guarantee that student a job for life. But to train ten students for a line of work so that business can pick three and discard the other seven, and then five years from now also discard those three in favor of cheaper Chinese labor-- that is an absolute dereliction of duty for the public education system.
My job is to prepare my students to have the life that they want. My job is not to prepare meat widgets to be corporate fodder. The modern business community has proven repeatedly that it doesn't give a rat's rear about the lives of its corporate drones, and that means it's all the more necessary that public education should care.
Contrary to what amoral bloodsuckers like Rex Tillerson assert, public schools are not turning out "products" to be "consumed" by businesses. We turn out human beings, and we are trying to get them ready for life. Work is certainly part of having a life, but it is not the only thing and certainly not the only important thing.
John Kasich, you will be unsurprised to learn, thinks the board's recommendations are excellent and he can't wait to implement every single one. I know that responsible Ohioans who care about public education must get tired of saying, "Stop, no, that's a terrible idea." But it's time to say it again.