The New Economic Era’s Challenge for Educators

Chrystia FreelandThe journalist Chrystia Freeland hopes to win the Liberal Party’s nomination to run in the by-election to replace Bob Rae as the Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre.

On July 27, The Globe and Mail published an essay of hers under the title “The Failed Bargain of the Middle Class.” There, she argues that technological change and globalization have “hollowed out” the middle class. This was not a new problem, she writes. About half a century ago a new era began of almost unlimited productive capacity, which required progressively less human labour. She quotes the two scholars, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane, who had dealt with the need for educators to cope with the new challenges.

“The computerization of work (and off-shoring)” – Frank Levy had written – “increases the need to acquire new information by eliminating repetitive jobs that can be performed by following directions.” The jobs that remain require problem solving.

Chrystia Freeland believes that the problem-solving ability is closely connected with having a strong vocabulary as early as kindergarten.

“In some way this is good news,” she writes. “Teaching three- and four-year olds to read and to talk seems a lot less challenging than teaching sixteen-year olds calculus and computer programming. But it is also a reminder of another problem: the connection between a ‘hollowed out’ middle class and declining social mobility. If what you know when you are four years old will shape your professional success more than ever, being born into a rich family may matter more than ever, too.”

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One response to “The New Economic Era’s Challenge for Educators

  1. Michael Gundy

    Chrystia Freeland is certainly playing the magpie, articulating brightly coloured options gleaned from Paul Krugman, Chris Hedges, Jeffrey Sachs, et al. In the U.S., the earnings of the middle class have remained constant to down since the 1970’s. Ms. Freeland’s “solutions” are also a grab bag of “causes du jour”. At least she seems to be searching.