Teach job skills, speaker advises BALTIMORE COUNTY


January 12, 1993|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Staff Writer

Leaders in education yesterday were given a grim preview of the future if changes in American education aren't made soon: Fast-food workers will be flipping imaginary hamburgers, secretaries will be searching the classifieds for work, and editors will be standing in unemployment lines.

William R. Daggett, director of the International Center for Leadership in Education, told an audience of educators at Dundalk Community College that U.S. education lacks relevancy to the job market and must change.

Mr. Daggett was the keynote speaker at DCC 2000, a program that will attempt to find the relevant path at the community college. During an afternoon session a panel of education, business and political leaders discussed educational change. The DCC staff will study the panel's recommendations and decide on changes within the next year.

"Education is in its own world," Mr. Daggett said. "It prepares the student for the next grade, but not the next job."

The International Center works with education systems worldwide, and with the education programs of corporations such as General Motors and IBM. "Europe and Asia are far ahead of us in relevant education," he said, "and it's no accident that the United States was first in real wages in 1980 and is now 14th in the world and dropping."

Whole areas of employment are being wiped out by technology, and American business is demanding the education system deliver workers prepared to handle it, Mr. Daggett said.

"You're soon going to be able to go into a fast-food place, push a button, and a high-speed laser system will prepare a hamburger exactly the way you want it cooked in 13 seconds and virtually put it on your plate," he said. "What's that going to do to the people behind the counter?"

Voice print is poised to move into the office. "The manager speaks into a machine, and a few seconds later his letter comes out with the spelling and grammar corrected, and in several languages if you so desire," Mr. Daggett said. "It's going to restructure the way an office operates, and fewer people will be needed."

Computer programs that can correct spelling, grammar and punctuation in a few seconds will lessen the load on editors and likewise lessen the need for them. "There will be fewer editors," he said.

Auto mechanics no longer listen to a car motor to determine what's wrong. "Now they have to know how to conduct a data base search to find the answer," Mr. Daggett said.

And what's the hottest skill in banking?

"Learning to set up and operate an ATM machine. Where is that taught?" Mr. Daggett asked. "And what are ATMs doing to the number of tellers?"

"Speaking and listening are the most useful skills in life," he said. "Where are they taught in the United States? Technical reading and writing require thought processes different from those of pleasure reading. Where is that taught here? Reading Shakespeare is great for the mind, but it won't get you a job."

The education system should have prepared those workers about to be displaced by technology, he said. Other points made by Mr. Daggett:

* Standards are higher in the job market than they are in education. Americans are great workers, but they are not being taught skills relevant to the real world.

* The gridlock in education is caused by special interests. "The English teacher says, 'Change the math curriculum, but leave mine alone.' "

* U.S. schools have the same school year -- 180 days, 5 1/2 hours a day -- as they did in 1950. Korean students attend their schools 270 days a year, 10 hours a day. The result is that U.S. students are undereducated for the new workplace.

* European and Asian systems emphasize statistics, logic, probability and measurement systems. U.S. schools teach algebra and geometry, which are little used once the student leaves school.

* High school dropouts have better skills than graduates because the dropouts had to get out into the world and learn those skills needed to survive.

* The student should expect to be taught reading and writing skills tuned to technology, but nowhere in the U.S. are there programs to retrain teachers in those skills.

Later, Mr. Daggett said President-elect Bill Clinton is tuned into the need for change. "I'm pretty sure he'll refer to his proposals on education change in his inauguration speech," he said, "and they'll be in line with what we talked about here today."

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