Mike Rowe on Charles Koch

I agree wholeheartedly with Mike Rowe that college has been oversold and that we need a greater focus on and respect for vocational education. I’ve also been impressed with Rowe’s honesty and intelligence as is evident in this recent post discussing his work with Charles Koch on vocational education.

If you haven’t seen it, my name appeared a few weeks ago in a headline next to Koch Industries. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, let’s have a look.

Pablo Elvira says…Mike – I’ve never written a “protest” email before now, but I’m compelled. Your association with The Koch Brothers has obliterated my trust in you.

Steven Stahl writes… I have lost a huge amount of respect for you. Mike, you are better than this.

Mande Smogor says…Charles Koch promotes fear mongering on climate change, and basically destroy minorities, the elderly, anyone who isn’t rich, and unions. Morally and ethically I am profoundly disconnected from Mike Rowe right now. #SoLongDecadeLongCelebrityCrush…etc, etc.

You can set your watch by it. Whenever my name appears next to an individual on someone’s “List of Known Enemies,” people line up to tell me why they can no longer be my friend, or watch my shows, or support my foundation. From Glenn Beck to Bill Maher, my proximity over the years to the “wrong guy” has prompted hundreds of Facebook friends to scoop up their marbles and stomp off in a huff….

Like most of you, my opinion of public figures is influenced by what I read in the press, and what I read about The Brothers Koch leaves little doubt they they ride with The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse. Over the last few years though, my opinion has changed. Partly, because I took it upon myself to read beyond the headlines, and partly because I came to learn that our foundations are aligned on a number of issues important to me.

…We met a few years ago in California. I had just given a speech about the disastrous consequences of removing vocational education from high schools, and Charles was in the audience. One of his people invited me to lunch, and I said sure. I was eager to see the horns and smell the sulphur for myself. Surprisingly, I found neither. What I found, was a 78-year-old man with more energy and enthusiasm than I could match. We spoke at length, and I learned a number of surprising things.

I learned for instance, about his passion for criminal justice reform. He’s frustrated by the fact that punishments no longer fit the crime, and angered that minor drug offenders and rapists often serve comparable sentences. He’s proud that Koch Industries does not ask those applying for employment to “check the box” with regard to previous incarceration. He told me that once a debt is paid, the balance sheet should be clear. I was surprised, because the man I had read about seemed very much at odds with a crusader for the formerly incarcerated.

We then talked at length about the dangers of a two-tiered economic system, and his belief that cronyism was at the heart of so much unfairness in today’s society. Charles told me about a documentary his foundation funded that exposed the obscene policy of charging people (black women, primarily) thousands of dollars for a license that allows them to legally braid hair in their communities. I watched it later, and it made me angry. It also made me think about the hundreds of entrepreneurs I’d met over the years who expressed similar frustrations in their own industries. Again, I was surprised. I had read nothing from anyone about Koch’s concern for the little guy. Not what I expected.

But I was most surprised by his commitment to reinvigorate the skilled trades. I knew his foundation focused on many forms of higher education, but I had no idea we shared a common view regarding the skills gap. He pointed out that countless small businesses begin with a tradesperson who learned a skill that was in demand. I shared my belief that a chronic skills gap was more troubling than chronic unemployment, because the existence of opportunity that people don’t care about is more alarming than a lack of opportunity overall.

In short, we found ourselves in violent agreement on a number of things important to us both, and after lunch, he told me to let him know if mikeroweWORKS could ever use his help. (In hindsight, it’s entirely possible he was just being polite, but he would soon learn just how literal I can be.)

When I got involved with Project Jumpstart in Baltimore, I called Charles and told him about their incredible track record preparing inner city kids and non-violent offenders for a career in the trades. At base, Jumpstart is a pre-apprenticeship program for the construction trades. The placement rate is an astonishing 80%. Jumpstart not only trains people for the job at hand, it helps them solve problems that often prevent people in their position from succeeding. They pay a stipend, for instance, while being trained. They help with transportation to the job site, and provide extraordinary mentorship and follow up. But there are also consequences. Trainees can lose their stipends if they don’t comply with the rules. I spoke with many of the graduates, and they all talked about how important the “real world training” was to their success. When I told Charles about the program, his foundation stepped up.

When SkillsUSA came around this year, I told him I was speaking at their opening ceremony. He wasn’t familiar with the program. When I explained its impact on the next generation of skilled tradespeople, he was once again intrigued. He wanted to know how an organization that did so much good, and consisted of nearly 400,000 kids, was unknown to so many. I told him the challenge facing SkillsUSA was not so different than the challenge facing many companies looking to recruit skilled labor – basic awareness. I told him my foundation made sure that kids who qualified for the National Finals had their transportation and lodging covered, if they couldn’t afford to get there on their own. Charles liked that, and he doubled the resources we had allocated for this year’s event.

Most recently, The Koch Foundation allowed mikeroweWORKS to help more people than ever before through our Work Ethic Scholarship Program….

So – to Pablo, Steven, Mande, and anyone else compelled to share their disappointment – I get it. But look – if I only associate with “approved people,” or limit my relationships to those who see the world exactly as I do, then I might as well build a church and preach only to the choir. Where is the fun in that? The truth is, progress only happens when people find common ground and build something on it. And when it comes to closing the skills gap, we need progress.

Good for Rowe! It’s well known, of course, but my own institution, George Mason, has also benefited from Charles Koch’s investments in education.


'but my own institution, George Mason, has also benefited from Charles Koch’s investments in education.'

So coy - didn't you mean that the Mercatus Center, of which you are the chairman and general director, has benefited from Charles Koch’s investments?

Seeing as how GMU is actually a Commonwealth of Virginia taxpayer funded institution of higher learning, one where being associated with IHS and Mercatus have benefited those public policy institutes considerably more than Virginia's taxpayers or GMU's students.

You have too much time on your hands.

If a bot can be said to have hands....

That is the problem with most psychopaths- too much time on their hands. After I read the post, but before I opened the comments up, I said to myself, "Prior will have the first comment."

He's such a broken person.

If he went to vocational school, he'd be fixing a car or installing solar panels right now. Alas, he can only comment on a blog.

I thought it was lack of empathy, remorse, etc. Well, I guess most psycopaths would not cause much trounle if they were forced to toil 24/7 in the bronze mines.

Still filled with a sense of guilt at having been paid to play this game, actually, and taking the money even after it was clear what was really going on.

+1 I too though Prior will bash him for this.

You're right, but then, I do have an advantage in knowing how the GMU game is played, and for whose benefit. Til Hazel's - oops, that is so early 80s, isn't it?

Let me introduce the following information how Charles G. Koch, Mercatus Center director (according to the latest IRS 990 at https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/541436224 ) benefits GMU. According to the downloaded IRS form (and for anyone wondering how much information can be easily gleaned from IRS filings, consider this a basic introduction using rounded numbers with a certain date tolerance), the Mercatus Center took in 20 million dollars, of which less than 2 million was reported being used for grants or other assistance in general, not only to GMU. Less than what was paid to the center's employees, by the way - luckily, Mercatus is not a charity, because with its expenses representing roughly 90% of its tax free revenue, it would certainly look very, very dubious.

On the other hand, the GMU Foundation ( http://pdfs.citizenaudit.org/2015_05_EO/54-1603842_990_201406.pdf ) donated a cool 13 million to the Mercatus Center for 'Grants and Other Assistance to Governments and Organizations in the United States.'

One can do the straightforward math to figure out what sort of benefits those who actually work and study at a taxpayer funded Commonwealth of Virginia institution of higher learning receive from being associated with David Koch, while money is funnelled into a public policy institute that ensures that its only actual real connection to GMU is one of being generously funded by the GMU Foundation. To the tune of more than 50% of the Mercatus Center's total revenue, as reported to the IRS. And for the inadequately cynical, one reason it is so essential to proclaim the Mercatus Center (and IHS) as being 'at' GMU is that the GMU Foundation is not actually allowed to just hand out money and retain its tax status - it needs to be associated with some purpose related to GMU. Which, miraculously, a public policy institute that just happens to be one of the crown jewels of the sort of mission that Koch is interested in pursuing, just happens to be.

This game has been going on for decades, after all - it is just that the Internet and publicly accessible documents make it possible for people who aren't insiders to see how GMU and its students are benefitted by its Koch association, with the GMU Foundation standing in the middle, to make it harder for outsiders to see how such a shell game works.

Koch is listed on the board of directors, not as 'the' director, but then I suppose you're disappointed it can't list "puppetmaster" on an IRS document.

Well if 90% was for overhead & salaries it still is better than the Clinton foundation!

Really, better than 88% of money raised distributed to worthy causes. 12% for overhead and salaries?

Amazing how those numbers reversed once Hillary decided to run.

The numbers I have seen indicate that only 15% of funds raised by the Clinton Foundation are then provided to actual "recipients", with the vast majority going to salaries, travel and other "expenses" - and that these salaries are aid to long-time Clinton cronies.

"The numbers I have seen indicate that only 15% of funds raised by the Clinton Foundation are then provided to actual “recipients”"

The Clinton Foundation spends 87% of its revenue on programs according to Charity Navigator. You don't seem to understand the difference between program spending and spending on salaries. For instance, Doctors Without Borders is another highly rated charity and they almost certainly spend a large chunk of their revenue on salaries for the simple reason that they need to hire lots of real doctors with medical school loans to pay back in order to run their programs.

Thanks for this explanation.

Right! The Koch money should have been used to reduce tuition and fees.

Old saying: "People in glass houses should not throw stones."

Wow! You had the time and energy to gather and analyze such not world-shattering information.

As Nixon is one of my favorite presidents, for the same reasons the Koch brothers are among my favorite philanthropists. The mere mention of the name draws out the hysteria seething just beneath the skin of progressive morons (no, I repeated myself again).

You've got your panties in a bunch about what GMU Foundation does with Koch donations but you could not care less about the Clinton criminal enterprise selling America to the highest bidder. Double standard much?

Anyhow, all that just sailed over your vacuum-packed head.

Also, this post was written by AT, not TC.

"I shared my belief that a chronic skills gap was more troubling than chronic unemployment, because the existence of opportunity that people don’t care about is more alarming than a lack of opportunity overall."

That's such a good line.

Really? It immediately stood out to me as an unfortunate line. Overall opportunity is much more important than the existence of a few niches with a low supply of human capital.

If you interpret "alarming" as "problem with an easy solution," it makes sense. Wails of "no opportunity" look dumb in light of ignored opportunity.

You are assuming the normal ebbs and flows of a free economy. What he is describing is an example of crowding out or in Austrian terms, mal investment.

For some reason or reasons, the normal passing on of skills and the flow of investment capital into finding return has been short circuited.

One characteristic of all these 'opportunities' is the proximity to the raw and nasty blunt instrument of government policy. It may very well be working as designed.

The old joke about the $20 bill on the sidewalk applies.

weird for an economics blog. You would think rather than rah-rahing non-college work the "skills gap" (what a invidious phrase) would be easily solved by the classic method of solving shortages. Higher prices. In this case higher wages for the employees. But no. The problem is lazy people "not caring" about opportunity.

> The problem is lazy people “not caring” about opportunity.

It amazes me that is the assumption some get to - that this is an attack. I think the problem is many facetted, and none of them are laziness.

As one example, people's expectations have changed, and moving for work, especially somewhere like a North Dakota, is no longer something many want to consider. If people are unwilling to move for opportunity except to specific places, or we can only create opportunity where they are, all we are left with is importing (read: immigration) people willing to move where the work is. That is terrifying, because some jobs will always be geographically constrained (mining).

Opportunity is hard to create fullstop, and if we start to put more requirements on it (has to be here here or here, has to be non-physical, has to require no certification) then it is going to get really hard to create the sort of opportunity desired.

For an on the ground check on what he is saying, make a point of asking everyone you meet who is within 15 years of retirement if they are training their replacement.

I did that a couple years ago. For many reasons I run into lots of people in very narrow occupations. BC has 4.6 million people, and there are lots of occupations where there are less than a hundred people doing it in the province. Sometimes less than 10. These occupations are either skilled trades or a specific white collar specialty.

Everyone doing these, or almost everyone is about my age, in their fifties. Almost none of them are training their replacement. All these occupations, if not done or done poorly would either cause the economy to grind to a halt or some aspect of it.

All these occupations require some schooling, but the real training is the decade doing the work after schooling is done.

It could be that the lack of productivity growth over the last while is partly due to the first wave of baby boomer retirements where specific skills simply disappear from the market and have to be relearned.

By the way, I like Mike Rowe. I haven't watched may of his shows, but any time I see him is it clear that he genuinely likes the people he is in contact with. He is doing great work.

Derek, could you list the trades you have in mind?

From recent conversations

Motor rewinder, they wind the generators in power plants.
Motor balancer, who sets up the very large generators and balances them. All old, very few around, but it won't work without them.
Governor mechanic. This on hydroelectric generators to control the speed and frequency. Again, very few doing it.
This from my neighbor who works on power plants, himself recently retired. He benefitted from long experience in the local hydroelectric plants. I think he is an engineer, and has been consulting for operations, keeping them running, setting up maintenance stuff, sorting out problems, etc. Very skilled and probably has forgotten more than most people ever know. He didn't train anyone to replace himself.

Elevator mechanics. BC recently doubled the frequency of elevator inspections, or so said the guy I talked to who is retiring in 17 months. I asked who is going to do them when you retire, he said I don't really care.

My trade, refrigeration has seen a serious decrease in the numbers trained. At one time every outfit had a few apprentices going, but that is rare now for some reason, so anyone who gets training will always have a job that pays well and is interesting.

Another interesting one. A fellow who I think got some degree after working for BC Forestry for years, geotech I think, was doing land negotiations for roads. In the province in the original deeds the government has rights to access crown land through your property. So when a forestry cutting license is issued and a road needs to be built, he would go negotiate with landowners and lay out the road access. If done well it is quick and cheap, if done poorly nothing happens until the courts get around to deciding. His boss had retired quite a while ago and is in his early 70's but is so indispensable he was brought back under contract to keep the thing going. Again, something that takes years of experience across many disciplines to do well. No one is training anyone to replace these guys.

Millwright. The guy worked at a sawmill keeping the equipment running. A good millwright is worth his weight in gold, and they are well paid, but to get good you need to work for a decade or more. He was a year from retirement, and hadn't trained his replacement.

As Rowe says, not a lack of opportunity but a lack of interest in the opportunity. These are all well paying jobs that are interesting, dare say fun.

What these occupations have in common is that a university or college cannot train you to do the job as required.

By the time you are through your schooling the occupation has changed.

Someone setting up a course to teach this stuff would have to be actively participating in the industry. Some courses are done like this and are worth sniffing out and taking, your education will be very worthwhile. Most aren't.

They are so specialized that out of any class teaching it only a few would be able to find work.

The needed schooling is profoundly hands on, and unless a school is going to build an elevator from scratch every semester, they can't teach it adequately. For example.

Elevator mechanics were trained at the Rochester institute of Technology back in the day, and, i suspect, still. RIT is the odd school which offers everything from associates to doctoral degrees.

I'm not sure what deficits in higher education have to do with the problem you're describing (or deficits in secondary education either).

I suspect the elevator mechanics got a pre apprenticeship training, or ongoing apprenticeship training.

It looks similar to the apprenticeship training that my trade has. A number of weeks each year over four years.

Too quick to hit Submit.

This type of apprenticeship training requires on the job experience and training. They learn theory and lots of code, electrical and motor theory, hydraulics, etc. All aspects of the trade, but the hands on experience is what makes the qualified tradesman.

The schooling is important, but it doesn't and can't produce a qualified mechanic. And once through the apprenticeship, another five years of experience is necessary. I'm certain that there are many elevator mechanics who have only mounted rail in elevator shafts. They are good at it, quick and safe, but have very little experience with hydraulics or elevator service and inspections.

Sounds a lot like the jobs some of my classmates that studied Marine Engineering do. Those are very handson programs with practical mechanical skills in addition to the thermodynamics, strengths & materials, diffies and whatever else they were studying while I was doing cell nav.

Isn't the problem that these employers are not actually offering the job vacancies? I'd guess some of these "well-paying jobs" are being replaced by less well-paying equivalents upon retirements.

Ultimately it is the employers who are not training people, yes. In some cases the employers are government themselves.

I put this in the same category as government deficits, and the so common practice in policy of counting on current prosperity to put off hard decisions. There is seed corn to be eaten, so it is being eaten. When it runs out, I'm sure the Chinese will bail us out.

Thanks for the reply, Derek. Interesting stuff.

You know people that have spent a decade doing the same thing?
Ah, of course. They are in their fifties...

I agree wholeheartedly with Mike Rowe that college has been oversold and that we need a greater focus on and respect for vocational education.

Those following vocational programs include 60% of those obtaining associate's degrees, 60% of those obtaining baccalaureate degrees, 80% of those obtaining master's degrees, and over 80% of those obtaining doctoral or quasi-doctoral degrees. A great many of those obtaining associate's degrees in liberal arts are attempting to segue to a four-year college.

Why not eliminate the baccalaureate degree with co-ordinated state and federal legislation? You can replace it with a series of 30-credit, 60-credit, 90-credit, and 120-credit degrees in discrete subjects (re academic and arts programs) and a variegated array of degree and certificate programs on the vocational side, with the 12 month / 48 credit degree being modal.

You could shutter campuses encompassing about a quarter of the total enrollment, discharge about 45% of the arts and sciences and visual and performing arts faculties, and cut the enrollment by about 2/3 in graduate programs in the visual arts, the performing arts, the humanities, and the non-quantitative social sciences.

While we're at it, we can discharge the victimology faculty, shut down the social work programs, replace the 'education' schools with teacher's colleges which incorporate some classroom study (but consist primarily of hands-on apprenticeship), scrap the JD degree in favor of a working lawyer's degree completed in 12 months and certificate programs of varying length in specialities of law.

I have a friend who teaches at a community vocational college. He has a trades background and started by subbing for an apprenticeship program, and worked his way into setting up a training program for industrial operators. He is quite proud of the fact that when he does on site tours as part of the course he runs into people he trained. A good percentage of people who graduate from his course get good jobs.

Over the years his constant complaint was the pressure from the college to make the course more academic. Longer, more expensive, with some academic accreditation. A few times in the petty fiefdom wars in these places someone else would take over the course, and quickly the enrolment and job success would drop, prompting change and he was back fixing the mess someone else had created. He makes a point of talking to the people hiring and making sure the people he trains fit the demands.

I'm guessing the pressure to make it more 'academic' is coming from people in the administration with MEd. degrees.

You don't an MEd. to see how much more financially attractive the margins on a "more academic" curriculum are than those for a more vocational approach.

They're only more attractive if you do not suffer enrollment drops because of them.

Federal policies strongly encouraging the more academic curricula prop up both sides of the D/S curve.

I see the pressure coming from anti-government, tax cut advocates like those supported by the Koch brothers who claim government workers are way overpaid, and then point to a high school drop out getting paid $150,000 in a special contract with the community college as typical government corruption. The guy is a certified welding tester who is running a welding curriculum to supply welders needed by a big construction project for a nuclear reactor or a bio hazards lab with miles of stainless pipe, all needing zero defect welds.

Vocational training has been killed to cut taxes, or not increase taxes, because as technology evolved, the cost of the equipment doubled every five years and the wages of the master craftsmen doubled as well while the government pay scales stagnated or fell in response to stupid comparisons between the master machinist who could teach vs the machine tool operator overseen by a master machinist who owned the business, none with more than a bare GED.

OK, fine, let the private sector create the vocational schools. Never happens. Businesses find it cheaper to poach employees trained by a stupid competitor who still runs an apprentice program to fill it's need for workers.

I took machining classes in the one remaining NH campus of six that taught machining in the 70s, and most of the machines were 70s vintage. It was a great course, but the limited CNC programming and lack of real world CAM meant that lots of OJT was required to be useful as a machinist. A Federal subsidized apprentice program funded half the students, but they got most of their pay check value OJT, where they worked with equipment the college could not buy because of anti-tax policies.

Businesses moved projects overseas because they could not hire enough machinists in NH.

Since 2009, thanks to Obama's Federal grants to community colleges, they have bought lots of CNC hardware, new CAD CAM software, and the lab has been doubled in size and air conditioned to bring it up to real world standards, instead of back in the 70s.

The program was filled to capacity in 2006. With increased capacity and modern equipment thanks to lots of Federal aid, the program is filled to capacity.

But tuition has also tripled from what it was when I started in 2003. It increased 50% while I took classes through 2006. $2000 in tuition part-time for a semester while trying to work to support your family and doing that for two to four years depending how far you go is a real challenge.

Note, it would be much better if the US went metric. The difficulty fellow classmates had with fractions was amazing. And I admit to finding it a hassle converting between 55/128ths and the thousands on the machine dial.

More is spent on schooling than ever before, Mulp.

I see the pressure coming from anti-government, tax cut advocates like those supported by the Koch brothers who claim government workers are way overpaid, and then point to a high school drop out getting paid $150,000 in a special contract with the community college as typical government corruption. The guy is a certified welding tester who is running a welding curriculum to supply welders needed by a big construction project for a nuclear reactor or a bio hazards lab with miles of stainless pipe, all needing zero defect welds.

I can't say I've ever seen such an example cited as an example of government corruption. More regularly, I see some combination of (1) tenured professors in Comparative Literature or something comparably useless who earn 6-figures on top of their job security to teach 3 courses a year and publish one article every Olympics for an audience of 12; and/or (2) a welding tester or someone with a comparably useful private sector job getting paid double to triple the market rate for their services just to teach the skills (in many fewer hours per week).

If the market value of teaching welding skills is $150k/year, it's not that difficult to prove.

" we need a greater focus on and respect for vocational education." No, we need a greater focus and respect for the products of vocational education, the people that perform skilled trade tasks. Why would any sane person want to go to the trouble of acquiring skills that really don't measurably elevate them in society? Like these guys: http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/2015/05/blue-collar-vs-white-collar-conditions.html

Heh. The toilet stalls are not for the benefit of the construction workers. They are for the benefit of sensitive passersby who would be shocked at the sight of a hairy ass.

"Heh. The toilet stalls are not for the benefit of the construction workers. "

Porta-potties are awful and used way more than they should be. Using a porta-potty when it's 0 Deg F outside is pretty miserable. Some sites will bring in actual bathroom trailers now. They are much nicer, but the maintenance cost on them is far higher. So trade-offs apply. How many construction workers would actually agree to a 25 cent per hour cut in pay to cover the difference?

"The construction workers' lounge. Construction management uses well-lighted trailers."

This part is a little silly. Construction trailers generally have good lighting, but that's the best you can say about them.

Derek +1

Those are not bad conditions. Typically the trades employ men who do not need and do not care about the fancy accommodations. Many job sites I was on during college and just after make the top photo look luxurious. I've eaten sitting in trucks, on tailgates or just sitting on a bucket more times than I can remember. Who cares?

The article is idiotic. The facilities at the hospital will be used by the general public, not just the workforce there.

If the conditions are suitable during the construction process why aren't they suitable permanently? What's "fancy" about having a sanitary place to eat and a toilet where one can wash their hands? Evidently you're no longer in college, are you even now eating while seated on a bucket? Are you employed in the construction industry? If nobody cares, why are lunch facilities or bathrooms a part of buildings at all?

" Typically the trades employ men who do not need and do not care about the fancy accommodations." That's why they sleep in their cars when on vacation with their families, have yet to acquire televisions and eat Spam out of the can. The fact is that the conditions of the workplace are as they have been for decades. Why would any intelligent person want to spend their entire working life being treated worse than a draft animal?

There's nothing wrong with the dining facilities. They put up cheap facilities because they are temporary and they're meant to be strictly utilitarian.

It looks better than anything Occupy Wall Street had.

I find your comment very odd. One of my early memories was going to work with my father, who built houses. I remember him taking time to set up a bench outside under a tree where we ate our sandwiches mom made for us.

I have heard stories, never experienced or seen it, of Mexican construction crews. They show up in numbers, along with a cook trailer of some kind and the women start cooking lunch. Come time they all stop and eat very well. Then back to work.

I worked with a guy who would bring an electric frying pan every morning, and about 10am would disappear to run an extension cord to his truck. By lunch time some amazing concoction had us all drooling with the smells.

A story one of the instructors I had at apprenticeship school is funny. (and old, it was a while ago) We work on roofs quite a bit. This guy was working on a roof and his dispatch phone number got a call asking that this guy stop peeing outside my window.

On large jobs sites lunch time is usually great fun. The guys find somewhere to sit and there is usually a raucous argument over the last evenings hockey game or something. A great social occasion, everyone gets a break and something to eat. The surroundings are immaterial.

A fancy lunch place would simply mean a longer walk. These are construction sites. Those same guys sitting there probably built that shelter themselves. It will be pulled down when the job is done.

"It looks better than anything Occupy Wall Street had."

That's a truly odd comment and nonsensical.

"On large jobs sites lunch time is usually great fun."

No, it's 30 minutes or less of a sandwich and some caffeinated soft drink.

"A fancy lunch place would simply mean a longer walk."

No, it would be a clean, lighted trailer with tables and chairs, like management enjoys.


Do you think the guys would rather have a clean, lighted trailer or more money?

"Do you think the guys would rather have a clean, lighted trailer or more money?"

In my experience, almost all of them would want "more" money. Plus, construction workers are "hard" on the facilities.

Do you think the guys would rather have a clean, lighted trailer or more money?

Who knows? How much would the company have to reduce the hourly wage to pay for such a trailer? What would it cost the average worker after taxes?

Anyway, working conditions do matter to workers. Where do you work?

"Have yet to acquire televisions"


I think the point is that people, even construction workers, do in fact like amenities, and trade money for them all the time.

"focus on and respect for"? People, I say let the market do its job. Price signals are good at telling people what jobs to take. Take Alex's advice and you will end up an angry Trump supporter.

I thought it was the Bernie and Hillary crowd that's perpetually angry. One attribute of a liberal, after hypocrisy, is projection.

>I thought it was the Bernie and Hillary crowd that’s perpetually angry.

Oh, I don't know. Weren't the latest rioters in Baltimore/Milwaukee almost entirely evangelicals and small business owners?

How do you get them to riot? One can only do it on Sunday because they work the rest of the week, the other won't?

This is a fundamental injustice in society.

Dem Coloureds be gittin' your goat. Days was when they was seen and not heard down y'all's way?

In other words, you are a RACIST and a REDNECK

Calm down, darling. Just look at the polls. One side is pissed off, the other is more complacent. The latter may not be right, but those guys who want to make America great again aren't happily sitting back and watching a world where blacks and gays freely roam their streets.

Enslaving the blacks and the gays is high on Trump's agenda, you know that right? He says it openly!

When government did the 'focus on and respect for' higher education we end up with watered down credentials, high student debt, a rape crisis, and 'safe spaces'.

Please stay away. I don't want anyone to focus on me or respect me. I want you to hire me for the job I'm qualified to do and pay your damn bill.

That's all well and good, but when Government policy both distorts price signals (by raising the rewards to certain less productive professions) and obscures them (by fostering an environment in which people don't see how well plumbers actually do for themselves), it's not exactly the soundest piece of advice without some context.

>Charles Koch promotes fear mongering on climate change

This is just spectacular. It's not the Al Gore doomsday cult that is fearmongering... it's the guy whose saying the fears are overblown!

As they say, 1984 was a how-to guide for some.

I like how you accuse others of playing the fear-mongering card... and then immediately bring up 1984. Undoubtedly unaware of the irony.

I was born in 1984.

Have you read the book?

Other Jim's comment was perfectly on point. Irony--false positive.

I have no idea who is parodying and who is not at this point, but to put this on a slightly economic basis, energy is good as it generates wealth, but the world is managing to generate more wealth with less energy these days:

World: Energy Intensity - Total Primary Energy Consumption per Dollar of GDP

In terms of wealth and climate a win-win is clearly possible, so why argue "1984s" back and forth? Mood affiliation?

My comment to Tabarrok's 2011 post (on college being oversold) would be the same today as the comment I made in 2011: Tabarrok laments the predominance of visual and performing arts degrees being awarded (rather than engineering, math, and computer science) but in a culture dominated by media and obsessed with celebrity, what else should we expect. Indeed, Cowen knows the value of media and celebrity, his venture with Bloomberg confirming his status as a celebrity economist. And why shouldn't young men and women study visual and performing arts, since the most successful "tech" companies are just "media companies" (the Kinsley gaffe committed by the founders of Yahoo when they described Yahoo as a media company). Everyone wants to be like Mike, which is to say like the Silicon Valley boy wonders who have made billions the old-fashioned way: smoke and mirrors (and advertising).

Engineering, math, and computer science degrees take an above average IQ and a willingness to work really hard. A lot of the people who start such a program leave it by the end of the third semester (if not sooner) and switch to something easier (there was a NYT series on this a couple of years ago IIRC). Significantly increasing the number of people who graduate with an engineering, math, or computer science degree is a fool's errand; you're up against basic population limits.

I applaud Rowe's efforts to make the skilled trades cool again.

I have advised my Godson to learn a skill, electrical, plumbing (there's a critical shortage of plumbers), air conditioning (it's hot and getting hotter), but to no avail. I am impressed by the skilled workers I meet in my low country home; the local bankers, real estate brokers, and lawyers, not so much. If only media would promote skilled occupations, but why would they: media is all about fantasy.

One can't get around that the Koch brothers' money is a double-edged sword. If you've read my comments here you'll know I'm usually more free-marketist than Tyler, but I think for American classical liberalism Koch money more damaging than helpful, by steering classical liberals' interests towards those of the corporation and its owners versus those of the society as a whole, and (at least historically) steering classical liberalism towards radical Austrianism, and by discrediting classical liberalism by giving it those reputations. If you really try to understand how American classical liberalism is perceived from the casually interested person's point of view, you'll see that the ideology is not really understood or taken seriously largely for these reasons. We are arguably far behind Europe in that regard.

So you are saying essentially that it is would be better to have classical liberalism represented by someone who has not actually done anything in the economy because the reality of doing business means that the message would be besmirched.

So maybe the whole ideology can be best represented by disinterested but eloquent commentators who are kept employed by trusts or think tanks. The less real the experience the better to represent the ideas.

i think you have inadvertently described the institutional Right that seems to be having a bit of trouble at this moment.

derek has completely owned this entire thread. Bravo.

Kudos to Mike Rowe, Charles Koch, and Alex too.

"So you are saying essentially that it is would be better to have classical liberalism represented by someone who has not actually done anything in the economy because the reality of doing business means that the message would be besmirched."

Everyone knows that a truly enlightened aristocrat never gets his hands dirty with trade.

And it's been years since Koch was found guilty of stealing Indian oil and incinerating Danny Smalley.

Evidently, the jury wasn’t convinced. On December 23, 1999, it found Koch Industries guilty of making 24,587 false claims to the government. The company faced a potential fine of more than $ 200 million. As an additional insult, it would have to pay up to a quarter of the penalty to Bill Koch, who triumphantly declared to the press, “This shows they are the biggest crooks in the oil industry.”

“It was the first time they were defeated,” said Dubose, looking back. “We won because they didn’t have a weapon as big as the one we used.” Asked to what he was referring, he answered, “The truth.”

Mayer, Jane. Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (Kindle Locations 2628-2633). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Mayer, Jane. Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (Kindle Locations 2628-2633). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I'm sure she was scrupulously fair.

Better. She includes references to the court documents.

And it’s been years since Koch was found guilty of stealing Indian oil and incinerating Danny Smalley.

Danny Smalley is very much alive. His daughter and a traveling companion were killed when a corroded pipeline exploded. I'm sure the svengalis at Koch just relished the destruction.

Right. Danny Smalley was the plaintiff in the wrongful death suit, not one of the (direct) victims. My error, not Mayer's.

I like Mike Rowe, but like all voc-ed advocates, he doesn't understand why it's not offered as much, and why it died.

There was never a halcyon period when high schools had wonderful voc-ed programs. It's always been a dumping ground. And the idea that teachers, in particular, sneer at voc ed and think everyone should go to college, also just utter nonsense.

The real reason we can't have voc-ed is because a) we've already lowered the standards for college so much that anyone smart enough for voc-ed is capable of graduating college. The real problem is motivating the kids who are smart enough , and dealing with the kids who aren't smart enough.

We should, ideally, raise the standards for college, but we've moved a lot of voc-ed to college. And then there's the elephant in the room. https://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/vocational-ed-and-the-elephant/

We could, I suppose, try something like this: https://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/vocational-ed-advancing-the-debate/

The real reason we can’t have voc-ed is because a) we’ve already lowered the standards for college so much that anyone smart enough for voc-ed is capable of graduating college. The real problem is motivating the kids who are smart enough , and dealing with the kids who aren’t smart enough.

Again, about 43% of a typical age cohort will earn a baccalaureate degree in this country at this time. (Another 15% or so will earn just an associate's degree). About 1/4 of the jobs in the economy are low-skill. You've got a considerable swatch of territory wherein occupational training would be of use without investing years in a baccalaureate program. You've also got a mess of padding in BA degrees (and AA degrees) from distribution requirements.

And, again, most people pursuing degrees in colleges and universities are seeking occupational training.

And this is why it's good to listen to people "on the other side" directly from the source. It's too easy to let someone on "your side" give you a distorted impression of how bad the other guys are and conclude that you're opposing a bunch of lunatics. The reality is there's usually some common area sprinkled in there somewhere.

Typical liberal.

" You’ve got a considerable swatch of territory wherein occupational training would be of use without investing years in a baccalaureate program."

I agree. But the sort of training needed is not what we typically think of as voc-ed. That is, it's not about plumbing, welding, and hairdressing. The kids who can't manage college also can't manage the cognitive demands of these jobs, as we've defined college today.

The "padding" you speak of happened in part because of federal funding. Once the feds started funding college, a lot of colleges started grabbing up voc-ed programs.

I took that on here: https://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/vocational-ed-advancing-the-debate/

Basically, to pull away from college for all and rebuild a decent voc-ed program, we'd need to

1. ban college remediation (this is a big one)
2. Split community colleges into three parts. Kill one of them (voc-ed), turn one of them into adult education, ineligible for college loans, and keep the third (giving kids an affordable two years of college and a limited number of AA degrees).
3. Centralize training programs at the regional level.

None of this really deals with the kids who don't have the cognitive ability to take on college, which I talked about here: https://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/just-a-job/

The kids who can’t manage college also can’t manage the cognitive demands of these jobs, as we’ve defined college today.

You think 57% of the adult population lacks the 'cognitive skills' to be a hairdresser?

The “padding” you speak of happened in part because of federal funding. Once the feds started funding college, a lot of colleges started grabbing up voc-ed programs.

No, the padding's been there for a century or more. Higher education in this country once consisted of derivatives of the medieval liberal arts and seminary training. The college my mother attended opened in 1876. You could take two or three courses of study, no more. Within 40 years, they had a system of subject majors and general education requirements.

Basically, to pull away from college for all and rebuild a decent voc-ed program, we’d need to

We don't have college for all.

I don't think it's a terrible misrepresentation to suggest that the endgame of existing education policy is college for all, though.

In 1981, BA degrees were being awarded to 22% of a typical cohort. It keeps getting larger even though birth cohorts have in size been bouncing around a set point of about 4 million since the war. There's a larger immigrant and foreign-resident segment, but that could only account for a 15% increase in the number of degrees awarded, not the near doubling over 35 years.

Not sure where the plateau is, though Glenn Reynolds things the implosion is coming soon and that law schools are seeing the advance wave.

When I graduated from college, I had a choice between going to graduate school and working with my father building houses and selling them. My father was an electrician by training, though by that time he had mastered all the other the other trades involved in home construction through simple experience. I had worked with him during a few of the Summers after age 14, and I actually enjoyed the work. He never directly asked me to join him after college, and I might not have done so anyway. I think my parents both expected me to go further in my education, and that is what I did, and it served me well. However, at age 50, I deeply regret my choice every single time I watch something on HGTV or DIY. Craft vocations definitely don't get the respect they deserve.

This describes my father to a T. However, nothing he has done is permitted, which means the Village can screw him over whenever they want. And because he's not licensed and bonded, he doesn't really have a market for his skills, besides gray market activity. And years of heavy lifting has ruined his back and neck. Never had health insurance or any other benefits. Couldn't take any summer vacations, because that was the busy season.
My Mother makes well over six figures and has a pension. My Father probably could have done the same, but they had a daughter at 18 and 23, so, you know, drop out of college and take whatever job you can to make ends meet. I am sure my Father would have been more pleased with a desk job that wouldn't have ruined his body at age 50 and would've actually earned him more money, with more flexibility, etc. Which is why all his kids had their education paid for (we all lived at home and attended the same reasonable in-state school).
Dude, if you want me to take a 2 year course and then an apprenticeship and then work 5 years to get any flexibility and a decent salary, you need to pay me a LOT of money. That's much shittier than the corporate world. And if you demand that kind of sacrifice, you are competing for young adults who can just as easily go annnnnyyyyyywwwwwwhhhhhheeeeerrrrreeee else. Fortune 50 down the road is offering me $55,000 and a bonus a few years out. You want me train 10 years and then pay, what, 45k? With no benefits? Muahahahahahahaha, yeah, "skill shortage."

No one is recommending that anyone get a job where it takes 10 years to get up to $45k. Typically 10 years in a decent trade like auto repair, plumbing, welding, etc. you are talking about 6 figures in 10 years. If your mom was making 6 figures they must have been divorced? Why the heck would he continue?

Where do you think you're getting a six figure job? You aren't getting a six figure welder job unless you are top of the profession, and working very specific jobs, and working crazy hours, in crazy locations. If you're under-water welding on some oil well? Sure. If you're an average American? Median welder salary is in the mid-30s and the US has laid off nearly half of them in the last few decades.
My uncle has done auto and bus repair for the better part of 3 decades and is not making six figures. He has a modest house in the middle of nowhere and supplements his existence with a side-business using some of his other skills. He is also a jack-of-all-trades who killed his body or decades.

I think Cliff is out of touch if he thinks normal trade workers are making 6 figures in 10 years. $50K is probably far more accurate.

"Median welder salary is in the mid-30s "

This seems low. Most welders start around 30K and $20+ per hour is common for those with 10 years of experience.

This site indicates a median of $36K for Welder I positions. http://www1.salary.com/Welder-I-Salaries.html

$42K for Welder II positions http://swz.salary.com/SalaryWizard/Welder-II-Salary-Details.aspx

$52K for Welder III positions http://swz.salary.com/SalaryWizard/Welder-III-Salary-Details.aspx?&fromevent=swz.jobdetails.freepop

You'll note that is for "salary" and I suspect it doesn't include projects with extended periods of overtime.

I worked for the Kochs for over twenty years. My daughters were classmates of Charles' kids. Charles and David Koch are two of the most principled, generous, hard-working and imaginative people in America, and we're lucky to have them.

The tin-foil-hat-crowd's freak-out, ad-hom, sky-is-falling comments about the Kochs or Koch Industries always indicate either that Charles is onto something or the left-wingers are frightened about the truth.

What I suspect is that some of it starts with Alinskyite characters working here there and the next place who want to discourage others in business from promoting their views, and that it's quite calculated and deceitful. The rest of it is vulgar sorts who have emotional investments in their team and know when to cheer and when to boo.

All criticisms of the Koch's political activities are inherently illegitimate. Is that your point?

No, it is habitually illegitimate, not inherently illegitimate.

The Koch brothers give donations to causes they favor. The volume of their most intently political involvements is exceeded by dozens of other parties. They're transparent about what they do and why they do it. I've never seen a criticism of the Koch brothers for selecting a bad cause or undertaking some underhanded activity. I see causes branded as sinister because the Koch brothers have contributed. In the mind of their detractors, even PBS science programming is tainted if it gets Koch underwriting.

Given time and diligent reflection, the Koch obsessives may figure out they live in a world they don't own and in a world where people have disputes which arise from intractable differences in interests and values. We're not there yet.

Climate denial is a bad cause.
Walker of WI was a bad cause.

Many more.

Come on. A candidate was a bad cause? A candidate who was democratically elected? Just because you don't like the guy...

"climate denial is a bad cause". The lady doth protest too much, methinks. Although "climate deniers" are presented as flat-earthers, I don't expect there would be much objection to donations to a cause for promoting "the world is flat". Because it would not be credible. But "climate denial" is credible because we really don't know what is going to happen in the future. Sorry.

I’ve never seen a criticism of the Koch brothers for selecting a bad cause ..

Climate change denial, tjamesjones notwithstanding.

'I worked for the Kochs for over twenty years.'

And I only worked for the Kochs on a seemingly minor part time basis, over several years - starting when IHS moved its operation to the GMU campus, around the time I started working for Mason's PR department.

'The tin-foil-hat-crowd’s freak-out, ad-hom, sky-is-falling comments about the Kochs or Koch Industries always indicate either that Charles is onto something or the left-wingers are frightened about the truth.'

Well, there are plenty of records to allow one to actually see the truth, if one knows where to start looking for it. Though it certainly help to know a bit of the underground geology of how the money flows, particularly in contrast to how such flows are kept from the public eye to the fullest extent legally possible.

Which has now become apparent Mason tradition, like the unknown donor of 20 million dollars related to this - 'On March 31, 2016, the Board of Visitors approved renaming the school after the late United States Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia. The name change followed gifts of $20 million from an anonymous donor and an additional $10 million from the Charles Koch Foundation conditioned on the renaming, and was announced as requiring approval by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. The name change became effective on May 17, 2016.' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonin_Scalia_Law_School

I'm going to go out on a daringly speculative limb here, but even if the faculty and staff and students of GMU are not allowed to know the name of that unknown buyer of naming rights at a Commonwealth of Virginia taxpayer supported institution of higher learning (and really, who cares if the taxpayers are entitled to know either, right?), Charles Koch knows who wrote the check. After all, that would represent the sorts of principles and generosity that Koch seemingly believes in, and is willing to back up with his foundation's checkbook.

So naming a law school after probably the most influential SC justice of his era is a bad cause? Or is it that you oppose anyone or anything othe right of Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

You are a weird person, Prior Test 2. Don't you realize that facts infuriate Right Wing tribalists? Did you actually expect them to read and consider facts? Won't happen.

Wow, that's some heavy projection.

"You think 57% of the adult population lacks the ‘cognitive skills’ to be a hairdresser?"

I'd say that hair dressing requires average, or perhaps slightly lower than average, intellect. So not 57%, but 30% or so, yes.

You said 25% of the jobs in the economy are low skill. Hairdressers are not a low skill job.

"No, the padding’s been there for a century or more."

No, colleges have grown over the early years, it's true. But the growth was in a mapping of academic inquiries. Trade school didn't move to the colleges--for that matter, community colleges didn't even exist" until the 60s and beyond, when "increasing access" became a buzzword.

I think low-level hairdressing (e.g. barbering) is a skill that just about anyone can be trained to do

I don't know about 'just about anyone' because it may partake of particular aptitudes that are not widely distributed. He's not talking about particular aptitudes, though, he's talking about 'g'. Given that the military signs up people at the 16th percentile, I'm rather skeptical that hairdressing requires one be at the 57th percentile or the 42d percentile or whatever he's referring to.


Don't know what to make of this, but if I'm reading this right, 42d percentile is about 1/2 a standard deviation below the median for a bookkeeper. They don't have hairdressers listed. I'm guessing mastering accounting rules is a more intricate task than hairdressing.

Book-keepers are not master accountants. It is generic low-level work that is historically done by a high school grad and pays a median salary of the mid-30s. It can be largely automated and is increasingly outsourced to India. It is basically an "any idiot can do it" job, and it's still at the 42nd percentile.

Basically, these "skilled trades" are actually competing for average and above employees, and offer dramatically less salary and inferior working conditions than their competitors.
If you want to pay someone $41k on overtime, you are competing for gas station attendants and Wal-Mart greeters. If that is your talent pipeline, on the promise that you can TOTALLY make $60k a year with overtime when you finally hit 10 years experience, you are screwed. Up your wages to compete for the people who are willing to work for 10 years, IE, doctors: the jobs Derek is talking about should be offering roughly $800,000 per year with overtime, plus benefits and massive prestige, to be market competitive. If you aren't offering that, then there isn't a skills-shortage, you are just underpaying.

Sure. I'm all for more money. A doctor goes to school for 10 years with no income. Trades get paid while they are trained; that is how the apprenticeship works. There is a reason why there is a shortage, partly the money, mostly the employers don't have the margins to invest in training.

But the specialized trades that I described do very well. I ran into an elevator mechanic one time on a back road in the mountains. It was a weekday, we both had levels of freedom to enjoy where we live. He was showing off his $25k KTM dual purpose motorcycle, a truly nice piece of equipment. He was doing quite well. The motor winder that I ran across had a very nice property with animals, one of these magical spots in the mountains of BC. He would leave to work maybe half the year, make very good money for the time he was gone with a good wage and living out expenses, then thoroughly enjoy the other half of the year on his farm.

I also ran into a young guy, a very good refrigeration mechanic who did a renovation job on one of the stores we service. He makes a very good wage, probably $150k per year, but travels. Hard on the family and he was asking how I got set up. Smart guy, hard worker. He will probably get himself into a good situation in time.

There are lots of people lining up for these jobs. That isn't the problem. It is the cost of training someone that is. As I mentioned, there are almost no one training in my trade now, which is very unusual. You don't get training by going to school, you need to do the hands on work, someone has to take you on spec, spend some money, and hopefully after three years see a return.

So the question isn't why people aren't willing to take these jobs. It is why no one is hiring them even when there is an obvious shortage.

Derek, if the companies aren't focusing on training, then it's not a problem that Mike Rowe's philosophy can solve. Either way, if you're looking to train high-quality people, you need to pay a high-quality salary. Here's an anecdote: my co-worker has a friend who runs an electrical company, All the experienced electricians are retiring in 10 years tops. So he offered to pay for my co-worker's education and offered him a 70k job (with overtime) as soon as his training was complete.
Keep in mind, that's WITH overtime.
I am looking at some of these MEDIAN salaries. Let's take electricians. Median salary of $51,000 per year. I am easily clearing that now, with no particular effort, in an office job, despite graduating in a shitty recession. Most of my partners make dramatically more than that, prior to the age of 30, and are not particularly smart. Meanwhile, my brother-in-law, who was an electrician's apprentice, dropped out of the program. He did that for several years, to my recollection. Now if he was making $50,000/year in a GOOD job after a few years of apprenticing, wouldn't you think he'd STILL be doing that? Especially with 2 daughters?!

I'm constantly surprised how often there's *huge* resistance to paying someone more than what their status is worth, no matter how valuable to the company.

Twice I've seen companies idle and then cancel a project rather than admit they had to double the pay of some vital, but low status, position in order to attract someone to get some element of the project completed. It was just unreal. (Okay, I'm assuming that doubling the salary would have attracted someone.)

Instead it was just "the company cannot find someone with those skills" until project cancellation when what they meant was "we'd rather flush a million bucks down the drain than pay someone $100K for a year when they don't even have a degree."

The first time was my introduction to how companies are run by humans and not soulless automatons. Say what you want about soulless automatons, at least they're rational.

It is generic low-level work that is historically done by a high school grad and pays a median salary of the mid-30s.

No, required an AA in accounting 25 years ago.

Tom West,

Companies, like other organizations, have hierarchies, and paying a worker more than someone who outranks them in the hierarchy "breaks the rules," so to speak. Compensation in a big organization, pace the textbook writers, is much influenced by social norms.

I think we need to define what it means to pursue vocational education in high school: My recollection is that it was mostly some electrical repairs/wiring, woodwork, metal work, and perhaps some plumbing. These were all done at an introductory level, with more learning as an apprentice. Life has gotten more complicated:

1. Lots of people talk about more vocational education in high school, but I hardly hear what they are willing to take out of the curricula. Are the vocational education supports willing to pay for the extra teachers to teach vocational skills and the woodworking and metal working shops? Do they suggest that we fire the science and arts teachers and shut down the science labs in high schools? Choices have to be made folks.

2. Vocational educations exists, but it has graduated to robotics and science fairs. There is good and bad: It now attracts higher performing students who crowd out and cower out the less performing students. The learn more about electrical motors, woodwork, metal working, etc., but in a far more sophisticated environment and elevated output. Just follow the state and national robotics competitions and you will see what I mean. They are not wiring a motor; they are making a bloody robot and the motor is just purchased online. You can argue whether that is a good thing or not, but I am sure that teachers are going to ask what you prefer your kid to learn: How to wire a motor or how to buy a motor online and use it to shoot balls through a hoop 12 feet up in the air and make a machine that drives under water.

3. It now requires money and sophisticated parents: being part of a robotics team requires travel, pocket money, and parents willing to drop you off and pick you up outside of school hours, often on locations outside of school. Old fashioned vocational educations just required you to send your kid to school during regular hours.

4. Maybe if states did not give tax cuts to the likes of the Kochs, they could afford to make robotics a more egalitarian exercise.

5. A problem that is hard to overcome is that robotics and science fairs (which, again, have largely replaced vocational education) attracts the best and brightest high schools students. Johnny, who is living on the other side of the tracks, just will not fit it.

Lets stay realistic folks.

1. Lots of people talk about more vocational education in high school, but I hardly hear what they are willing to take out of the curricula.

1. Increase the length of the school year by a third, and the length of the school day by 20%.

2. Have elementary education for a student able to absorb at an average pace run from age 5 to about age 13 or 14, and make it more math-intensive. At the conclusion of one's time in elementary school, an average student should have mastered elementary algebra, English grammar, and the fundamentals of American history, geography, and civics. There should be no other classroom subjects, the social education portion should not be introduced until the 4th grade, and art and music should be treated as diversions, like athletics.

3. Further academic instruction for students on vocational tracks should be in support of the main vocational program. Math math math, maybe a bit of chemistry, &c.

4. Students in votech high schools get some serious occupational testing and counseling and a chance to sample the offerings, for a year or so. Then its to working on their certificates.

Eliminate English literature (except in support of reading instruction), eliminate foreign language instruction, eliminate graded music and art instruction, eliminate science instruction (bar as noted), eliminate 'social studies' and replace it with history and geography and civics, and eliminate such instruction re loci outside of North America.

A side comment about rich people and their causes....Do they know that when they die, their foundations will spend their money in ways that the rich person would not approve of if they were alive? Why don't the Koch brothers put billions into this idea if they really like it. Why spend your years lamenting the problem? Spend all your money now while you have the wits to direct it to the right places and have some years left to live with the successful consequences.

Yep. The MacArthur Foundation is an example of piracy.

So naming a law school after probably the most influential SC justice of his era is a bad cause? Or is it that you oppose anyone or anything othe right of Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

Above is a misposting- should read - heck with the MabArthur Foindation try the Ford Foundation

That's what the Olin Foundation did. It prevented lefties from hijacking the foundation (as they are wont to do).

I'm losing friends over politics, too, just in the last couple of years after decades of arguing with them. How did that become a thing?

Stop talking to people about politics. Are you a masochist or what? People are vicuuosly tribal about politics.

That's nice of you to support your boss and benefactor.

RM, above, outlines the obvious objections to voc-ed, some of which I tried to work through in the plan above.

Art Deco's suggestions are unworkable, as anyone with even minimal awareness of political reality would understand. That's the "elephant" I mentioned above.

Now, while I don't agree with his specifics, I do agree that we need to get beyond the current political reality. But his flatly utilitarian vision for US ed won't cut it anyway.

No job inherently requires a degree. Licensing mandated by the government requires government approved training. Much, if not the vast majority, of those licensing requirements are nothing but political rent seeking by those already in the profession. It's a common myth that regulation is resented by business. It's often promoted by existing businesses to help keep out would be competitors and to keep their prices high.

Companies find it easier to filter potential employees to see who has the discipline to finish a degree and has at least classroom knowledge of some aspects of the potential job. These days even that is a pretty low bar. All you have to do is borrow the money for tuition and show up. No one but the truly abject student actually fails.

A job itself only requires knowledge. Knowledge that can often only be gained by actually doing the work and therein lies the problem. The real world experience is what's not being handed down. The "front office" guys say to do such and such, but the experienced worker knows that if it's done that way it won't last as long or that a method that costs half as much is 99% as good as what they say to do on a job with a safety factor of 25% already built in.

Do you think Ferrari would sell me a car for $10,000 if I gave them more focus and respect?

Why can't one accept that all of the following are true:

1) The Koch's are wrong about many things.
2) They still may have some valid insights on things they are wrong about.
3) They are right about some other things.
4) Their wealth gives them too much ability to influence polic
5) They are decent people.

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