I saw Margaret Spellings, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, on one of the talking head shows on Sunday, and I have a question: is she related to Tori Spelling in some way? Her aunt? Mother? Sister even? And a follow-up question: did Bush nominate her because she was principal of Beverly Hills (90210) High School? Because, I’m sorry (actually I’m not), but the woman is an idiot.
She spent most of the time bashing America. Now, I’ll admit to being a liberal who, from time to time, bashes certain aspects of American society. But Peggy, what is up with you? She made statement after statement about how the American education system is so far behind the rest of the world (even though the U.S. still has the largest and most robust economy in the world and people from every country on earth come here to not only go to Harvard and Stanford, but to George Mason University and even NOVA!) She went on to say that kids in math class are bored, that we (and I’m assuming she means you and me) need to make math more interesting. What the hell does that even mean? Math is math. I don’t remember being bored in math. I remember being frustrated in math, and at times hating it, but not being bored. She must be confusing math with something else. American Idol, maybe.
But the best thing she said (and by that I mean, of course, worst), was that the days when you could make a decent living from manual labor are over. This statement could stand some pondering. It is at best misguided and at worst a wildly irresponsible thing for the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education to say! The message that came across to me was that if you can’t hack it in algebra 2 and trigonometry class in high school, thus eliminating you from going to college, then your life in the United States of America is pretty much over. Just wait over there, we’ll give you some hand outs when we get around to it, and if you could please hurry up and die, that’d be great, thanks! Because if, as she says, the only way to make a decent living is to go to college, these people are shit out of luck.
Of course, this isn’t true. There are many jobs (in the trades, as mechanics of all sorts, starting your own business, even bookkeeping) where a college education is not required and you can make a very good living. Anyone who has had to hire a plumber or electrician knows how good of a living they can make. The problem is getting the training to do these jobs. School districts around the country have eviscerated their “vocational” curriculums and trade schools, at a time when we sorely need them.
Case in point: there are sections of this wonderful city where the official unemployment rate borders on 40 percent. Forty freaking percent! But there are plenty of jobs in the trades, what with all the renovation work and all the mammoth construction projects around the city. The problem is, the people in these neighborhoods don’t have access to these jobs because the city has lost the capacity to bring people into the trades; this city no longer has public trade schools. (If it does, please correct me; this is a case where I’d be happy to be wrong.) These are really, really, really good jobs, by the way, with wages between 18 – 50 bucks an hour, depending the trade, most of them with full benefits. Spellings has no idea what she’s talking about.
The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education should spend her time figuring out not only how to help college-bound kids, but also how to help out the people who won’t qualify to go to college but would make great carpenters or plumbers or SAE certified mechanics or electronics repairmen, and would love to start their own small businesses doing all sorts of different things. Instead, her message to them is: there’s no place in America for you! She should be fired.