(McMillan Cottom 2012) Out of the box

McMillan Cottom, Tressie. Employees ready “out of the box” at what cost? TressieMC. 2012 Jun 7. Available from: http://tressiemc.com/2012/06/07/employees-ready-out-of-the-box-at-what-cost-2/. Accessed 2012 Jun 19. Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/68YIGALhc.

McMillan Cottom addresses neoliberal critiques of higher education that attribute high unemployment to inadequately educated workers, and especially to an excess of liberal arts majors. She points out first of all that there are 12.5 million unemployed chasing 3.2 million jobs (nearly a 4 to 1 ratio), so that no change in educational methods could bring about any substantial reduction in unemployment, even if all graduates majored in technical fields. More fundamentally, she exposes the neoliberal attack on higher education as a disguised attempt by employers to externalize job-specific training costs: “Essentially, what companies continue to want are people with proprietary skills, often on proprietary equipment, that have been trained at the expense of someone else.” Jobs remain unfilled because employers have become less willing to train for them, attempting instead to shift the cost of training onto other employers, onto the prospective employees themselves (by insisting that they pay for their own vocational skills training), or onto the higher education system:

That public higher education has conceded the terms of the debate of their uselessness saddens me. College was never supposed to train thousands of widget makers. It was supposed to produce critical thinkers with fundamental analytical skills who could be trained to become widget makers. The reduction of higher education to a human capital production factory, working at the behest of the private sector is a symbol of how powerful language is. Once we start talking about skills and not knowledge, human capital and not people, training and not education, we have already lost the debate about the value of public higher education.

McMillan Cottom urges the public to reject the neoliberal attempt to conflate education with training: “If the private sector wants a perfect employee they should train one.”



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