By Haddon Libby

It is hard to believe but many high schools and colleges start in less than a month.  Locally, I always struggle to understand why our kids start school during the hottest month of the year.

Wouldn’t an October 1st start date make more sense?

As for recent 2015 grads, 8% of college graduates are unemployed with an underemployment rate of 15%.  For 2015 high school graduates who are not planning on going to college, the unemployment rate is 19% with a 37% underemployment rate.  Even worse, adjusted for inflation, today’s graduates makes 5.5% less than they did in 2000.  When you factor in the redefinition of the inflation rate that has kept that number artificially low, you can see how today’s graduates have a far harder road than previous generations.  Exacerbating that problem is the fact that America is currently producing the 21st best qualified workforce in the world.  Considering the fact that the average state school costs $18,000 a year and private school $41,000, results are dismal.

The odd thing is that current graduates are the best educated in our nation’s history.  What this points out is that the rest of the world is working harder than us in order to rank higher in key educational metrics.  Our competitive decline is expected to have significant long-term negative consequences on the types of jobs available to future generations of Americans.

Some college and university course offerings point out how our educational system squanders learning opportunities.  Schools opt for class popularity that do not help in developing key math, critical logic and language skills.  For example, Frostberg University and the Otis College of Art and Design offer classes on Harry Potter.  Not dumb enough you think? Georgetown University offers a Philosophy degree with a focus on the television and movie program, Star Trek.  Prestigious Harvard College has a class studying the heroes of the movie, Frozen, while UC-Berkeley has a logic class where students argue against the Judge Judy television show.

Nearby, UCLA has combined studies in Queer Theory with the Science of Music to create a Queer Musicology class.  Not to be outdone, Occidental College’s Critical Theory and Social Justice program offers a class in “The Phallus” and its relevance and meaning in society.

So you know this pending end of civilization as we know it is not limited to our domestic educational system.  Staffordshire University in the United Kingdom has a course that studies “Football Culture” and the David Beckham phenomena.  Numerous schools worldwide offer classes in Parapsychology which is the study of the paranormal.  Melbourne University in Australia goes one step further and offers a Doctorate of Philosophy in UFOlogy…seriously, it’s a thing.

Locally, the University of Redlands offers a class on Oprah Winfrey via their Women’s and Gender Studies Department which (at least) is better than New York’s Skidmore College and their class on “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus.”

The point of all of this is that the quality of life in the United States will continue to weaken as long as we do not prepare our children for a world where competition for jobs is global.  The more we spend our energies focused on entertainment and pop culture while not addressing unsustainable government pension plans or an increasingly uncompetitive workforce, the less prepared future generations will be to enjoy a life on par with or better than ours.

Additionally, the rapid concentration of wealth in the United States means that there is a growing segment of the population that will not have the option to improve their lives as has been the case in past generations.

The world of tomorrow is different than the world of yesteryear and educators, politicians and parents all need to realize the dramatic shifts underway in order to prepare our next generation as previous generations have done for us.

Haddon Libby is Managing Partner of Winslow Drake, an investment management and advisory firm, and can be reached at hlibby@winslowdrake.com. 

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