Monday, July 04, 2005

Thinking a little differently---part 1

In the past couple of months, I have had some ideas about how to fix everything! Well, maybe a couple things. Well, not really fix, but maybe some suggestions for thinking about things differently.
There has been much discussion in my state, primarily budgetary, about the K-12 education system. In addition, not only here, but everywhere, it’s been said that today’s economy, for most people, requires education beyond high school to achieve minimal success. Well, maybe the whole problem here is that it’s a K-12 system. Why not K-13 or14? If today’s economy requires more extensive knowledge, why are we trying to cram it in the same amount of time?
Why not give young people opportunities to explore career opportunities in-depth, not just through classes, but internships, apprenticeships, in-depth job-shadowing, etc.? This would involve two more years of "free" public education.
This would create other complications, but attending to them would also solve other problems. There has been a lot of press lately given to young adults who stay home well into their twenties. We are already seeing an extended adolescence in a social context. Extending the years of education would help to validate this.
People are living longer, and the rules for Social Security will gradually require staying in the work force a few years longer. Furthermore, people tend to live longer and stay healthier, so the idea of retiring at 65 for everybody begins to seem a little quaint. It takes a little longer for opportunities in some areas of the work force to open up, so this transitional period would give young people a time to explore and even contribute to various areas of the economy.
Once kids are 18, they are generally not allowed certain benefits as dependents, such as insurance coverage, unless they are full-time students. Well, entry-level jobs, particularly the kind one gets with limited education, don’t tend to offer excellent health benefits. Also, there are problems with people like foster kids, who are released into the world at 18 without a net. Most of those lucky enough to have permanent families can turn to them at least some of the time for at least a little help. Other folks can’t. Keeping these people in the system, but allowing them some real transition/training time, could be helpful.
Now you could put what I know about economics in a thimble and still have plenty of room left over, but I do know all this would take money. However, what we do now takes money, and we are still unleashing many young adults into the world without being able to take care of themselves in a complex society…so shouldn’t we rethink how to spend the money? Also, it seems that we could have people contributing to the economy in those 1-2 extra years, the primary reward buying a little extra time to be cared for by society.
I know it’s all more complicated than this, but change starts with throwing out a few ideas, and letting smart people work with them.

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