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Michigan's workforce of 16 to 24-year-olds has declined by over 300,000 workers.

FAILURE TO EDUCATE: Excluding Many Students Decimating Michigan Workforce

October 3, 2017       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Talk about a no-win situation for all!

Michigan legislators and educators have reacted to falling test scores and low high school graduation rates by with counter-intuitive remedies: tougher tests, raising graduation requirements and defunding high school completion programs.

The result is that Michigan's workforce of 16 to 24-year-olds has declined by over 300,000 workers. About 100,000 jobs are going begging for lack of qualified applicants. The available number of workers who meet minimum qualifications is sinking slowly into the abyss approximating that of a Third World country.

In the mid-Michigan/Great Lakes Bay region alone there are about 25,000 persons aged 16-24 who are qualified as "lost workers," many who don't have a high school diploma. That number amounts to about 7.5 percent of the Michigan total of 326,000 "lost workers" over the past 17 years.

Do you remember the frequently stated goal: "we will have a 100% high school graduation rate," as more money was poured into K-12 budgets while other secondary educational areas -- especially so-called "adult education" which really is just high school completion programs -- were being starved for funds?

These misguided attempts to improve education have resulted in more youths unqualified for jobs, training, the military, and higher education. About one in five students don't finish school on time and most reach an educational dead-end.

After 25 years of these remedies, and well-intentioned striving for perfection, we are faced with the fact that the high school graduation rate has remained relatively constant -- about 80 percent or less -- over the last several decades. Last year it was 79.6 percent, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

Dropouts, kick outs, pushouts, falling through the cracks -- you name it, but whatever it is called it is a failure by educators and legislators and all of us to provide a viable path to economic security for one out of five students.

According to the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University: "A student is pushed out when adverse situations within the school environment lead to consequences, ultimately resulting in the dropout. [S]tudents can be pulled out when factors inside the student divert them from completing school. A third factor is called falling out of school, which occurs when a student does not show significant academic progress in schoolwork and becomes apathetic or even disillusioned with school completion. It is not necessarily an active decision, but rather a side-effect of insufficient personal and educational support."

Apologists for this pathetic situation will quickly blame the student, or their parents, for the outcome. "They didn't try hard enough," you hear a lot. Or, lately, it's the fault of the school, as if a building has supernatural power to educate or fail in doing so. But the consequences fall on us, the taxpayers. We are the ones who are "not trying hard enough." We are failing in our duty. To paraphrase Cool Hand Luke, "what we have here is a failure to educate."

Our failure costs all of us dearly and short-changes a large segment of society who are not allowed to participate in the American Dream. They live on the fringes of society, couch-surfing, homeless, preying on women who have the "golden goose" of illegitimate children the state must support for humanitarian reasons. Those under-educated people, men, and women, excluded from society make up our welfare rolls, jail and prison populations, lines outside drug addiction treatment centers, Salvation Army bread lines, food pantry applicants.

We give them food stamps and handouts as a sop to our consciences, putting out of mind the prime reason they are desperate -- lack of education.

The result is that Michigan's workforce of 16 to 24-year-olds has declined by over 300,000 workers. About 100,000 jobs are going begging for lack of qualified applicants. The available number of workers who meet minimum qualifications is sinking slowly into the abyss approximating that of a Third World country.

In the mid-Michigan/Great Lakes Bay region alone there are about 25,000 persons aged 16-24 who are qualified as "lost workers," many who don't have a high school diploma. That number amounts to about 7.5 percent of the Michigan total of 326,000 "lost workers" over the past 17 years.

Besides a critical shortage of skilled and ready workers for Michigan's industries, the implications of this are many and well known: higher welfare and corrections costs, drug use and health problems created by insufficient education. The fact is: Eliteism just doesn't work in education!

By trying to create super students for the technological world we now live it, we have excluded fully one-fifth of the population from healthy, productive lives and created a massive burden on society. And an inequitable society akin to the days of serfdom in Europe. The gulf between the haves and the have-nots is growing and no way to bridge it appears under current thinking.

Like Rip Van Winkle who awakened to find a whole new world, we have allowed this crisis grow catastrophically for over two decades. Now is the time for educators and citizens alike to act: please talk to your legislators and make the case for restoring funding for high school completion. This is a legislative priority that should be embraced by all citizens who wish to continue to live in a progressive, caring society.

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at carraroe@aol.com)

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