Our Kids are NOT Human Capital

Testimony regarding HB 5139-42 and 5145
To the House Workforce Development Committee October 31, 2017

Over the last ten years or so, there has been an over emphasis on college as the only alternative for our children after they graduate from high school. Clearly, there are many other viable choices. Now you are proposing a set of bills seeking to reinstate good educational programs, Career and Technical Education programs, that used to exist, but were pushed out as a result of the faddish, “College for All”.  You are proposing a solution that is unlikely to result in a better education system for our children. It is flawed in its base assumptions. It is flawed in its educational strategies. It is flawed in its design.

Before you vote on this package of bills, I urge you to consider how this “College for All” fad happened. What went wrong? Did people who sat in the legislature before intend to harm children? Of course not. They had the best intentions based on the circumstances at the time, what they knew, what they were being told.  I realize you also have good intentions based on what you know, what you are being told. I appreciate your effort to do something to help improve this educational pickle we have gotten ourselves in. I think we all agree Michigan education system has many problems.

Now as then, you are proposing a solution that is unlikely to result in a better education system for our children. It is flawed in its base assumptions. It is flawed in its educational strategies. It is flawed in its design.

The first flaw is the base assumption. Primary education in the United States was never intended to be Workforce Development. Of course our children should graduate high school capable of getting a job, but our expectation for a public education system has always been more than that. It has been about inspiring children, giving them the tools they need to be active, contributing members of a Republic governed by the people! Our education system should not just prepare kids to become an occupation, but to be capable of becoming and re-becoming based on the unknown circumstances of the future.

A few years ago, this committee heard testimony that the highest demand job in Michigan was over the road trucker. Not surprisingly, parents reported more and more of their sixth grade boys were be counseled to plan to become over the road truck drivers. Just last year, the automotive industry announced the possibility of driver-less trucks. This Workforce Development Model set our children on a path toward a job that would not exist when they graduated, then what will they do?

The second flaw is the educational strategy proposed in the legislation calling for instruction of career development starting in Kindergarten through 12th grade. Successful K-6 educational strategies focus on teaching kids to read, write and do math. These are the core skills every child needs as a basis for any job, career, for life in the US.
“Invite your working parent to school day” was a model that engaged kids, allowed for ideas, encouraging dreams. Kids were proud when their parents came in. This is community engagement, parental engagement and sufficient exposure, not instruction in career development, as called for in the legislation.

And the third flaw is design. By passing these laws, you are again playing in to the idea that government knows best. You suggest you can “fix the system” despite knowing that your predecessors, equally well-intended, failed. An educational system designed by government will never work.

Governor Snyder has said he believes we need a Pre-natal to adult seamless system to develop human capital for the workforce. The business community seems agree.

Do you believe your children and grandchildren are just human capital for the workforce?

Do you believe we should gather the private data of our most vulnerable, our children and grandchildren, and put it into what is headed to being a national data base, accessible by more and more entities for their own benefit? Do you believe we could secure that data?

Or do you believe your children and grandchildren, all Michigan’s children, should have the opportunity to learn, dream, aspire?

Do the right thing. Get government out of the way! Re-empower parents and local communities. Do you wonder why home schooling works? When schools are truly accountable to parents and their local communities, rather than state or federal governments, real and appropriate education will happen.

Don’t pass these bills.  Rather support HB 4192, Gary Glenn’s bill to Repeal & Replace Common Core, return to proven educational standards and practices, and restore parental and local control.