Thinking about labor and education

Well it’s more than a month since I’ve said anything. Mostly this was writer’s block and other preoccupations. But to resume:

It’s common now for labor to outsourced from countries with high living standards and strong regulation to countries with lower standards of living and weaker regulation. Large businesses do this to reduce their costs. Perhaps some of you out there might disagree with the following but, I think that as the world continues to shrink to due better transportation and communication technology, this process seems unavoidable short of cutting a local economy entirely out of the global one.

The other threat is that technology continues to advance. It continuously creates, destroys and redefines jobs. This process seems much faster now than it did a hundred years ago.

So what can you do? Most of us, unless we have a lot of money, have learned that jobs are not to be relied on. Automation, innovation or cheap foreign labor keep everything in stressful continuous change. It seems to me that the only way to really deal with this is greatly improve training and education. This cost of new education must be cheap enough so that the cost of staying relevant doesn’t prevent people from making a profit and saving for retirement

The problem, at least to me, is that educational methods and technique are terrible. It’s my view that they’ve been only marginally efficient since the Chinese invented printing in 1041 thus making mass literacy and numeracy possible. We’ve invented all kinds tools–free, public libraries, the Internet, educational films and so on–to try to help people to quickly learn new things but it seems that the gaussian curve still prevails. One of the problems is that everyone has highly idiosyncratic ways of learning and comprehension, this makes it certain that some people will find a classroom too slow or too hard.

And as entire industries change in the space of a few months or a few years, this problem is going to be more and more accute. The continual change in the job market drives stress and fear which I think is bad for the political climate. These days it seems that the voting public is mean-spirited and fearful and easily beguiled by demagogues promising easy solutions.

Trying to improve pedagogical methods is one of the hardest problems we face and I don’t really have any answers but I wonder if any of you out there have any ideas?

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