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Overeducation: A Tough Nut to Crack
It's a bizarre concept. At a time when there is almost universal agreement on the importance of education, both for individual well-being and for national economic prosperity, how on earth can we think of people as overeducated? To compete successfully in the global economy nations must provide high quality goods and services, produced by a highly-skilled workforce. To survive in today's knowledge-based society, an individual must be well-educated, and capable of continually updating his or her skills in a process of lifelong learning. For more than a decade, the complaint in Britain has been of insufficient investment in education and training. So how could anyone argue we are investing too much? Of course they're not--or at least not in the way you might think. But there is an argument for saying that "overeducation" is a serious problem in the UK, and that this phenomenon should lead to a reassessment of the way resources are used for education and training.
Is overeducation a real problem?
As most people know, there's been a rapid and sharp increase in the provision of higher education in Britain.
Table 1 shows that in 1997 3 percent of the working-age population had a higher degree, more than double the proportion 12 years earlier; over the same period the proportion of people with a first degree went up by almost half. Yet there has also been an increase in the number of people who are overeducated, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s.
How much is too much? This is from Fathom, which makes it difficult to point to. The original appeared in CentrePiece, The Magazine of Economic Performance.
In his book Art is Work, the graphic designer Milton Glaser states, “The act of drawing has nothing to do with being an illustrator. We draw because it enables us to see.... Drawing is the path to observation and attentiveness.” The key phrase here is “to see.” How many times have you encountered something like this? You are involved in a meeting and you have difficulty absorbing what the meeting leader is actually saying. At the end, someone asks, “Did you understand?” Your body language may say, “yes” with a hesitant dipping of the chin, but your mind nods left to right and right to left realizing you didn’t understand at all. If you could only see what was being said. If you could only see the criteria being addressed. If you could only see the ideas being relayed.
Drawing allows you to see and provides a tactile relationship between subject and interpreter. Drawing can be described as making adjectives of nouns (data). Drawing toggles between what is and what can be. With a few quick strokes, you can capture multiple views of a concept and crystallize possible solutions. Drawing is conversation of minds over matter: you can see what is being thought and said
How many hours do you weigh?
Measurement is meaningless unless you're using the correct units of measure. We think of time in seconds, hours, days, months, and years. We weigh things in ounces, pounds, tons, grams, and so on. And we have to match the appropriate scale, seconds or year?, to convey meaningful information. If you ask my age and weight, it's not very useful for me to tell you I'm about 25 billion seconds old and weigh .087 tons. Yet business people do this every day.
Yesterday at the monthly meeting of eLearning Forum, someone said "When companies aren't making any money, they don't spend any money." We've all seen it happen. The issue is why. Business is cyclical. We're in a recession. Good times will return. Can you imagine a better time to recruit great staff? The price is right. Very talented people are looking for jobs. It's a buyers market. Think back to the sellers market eighteen months ago, when signing bonuses for IT people reached ridiculous levels and researchers were saying that lack of IT staff was holding back progress. Are businesses' memories so short that they don't remember paying six-figure salaries to 25-year olds who possessed a needed skill?
Let's look at this. Assume a business cycle, from highpoint to trough and back to high, is about three years long (the red line below). Medium-term plans should be pegged to the cycle, for averaging out the high and the low is the best overall representation of the operation of the business. But that's not how it works. Instead, business thinks in terms of the earth revolving around the sun (the blue lines below). The fact that we call these years makes this no less arbitrary.
The tic-marks of years aren't a problem unless we try to use them as blinders and look at only one interval at a time. For instance, this year is looking something like this:
Decision-makers who use the wrong units of measure, e.g. years instead of cycles, always by when prices are higher.
History of Education and Childhood -- legenda what is the meaning of all those icons used in this site?
This is an interesting collection of navigational icons on a Dutch site on the History of Childhood and Education.
the tyranny of the calendar
The concept of the calendar year is an agrarian anachronism. Farmers know there's a time to plant and a time to reap. Summer, fall, winter, and spring are vital concepts for a planter.
But I'm a knowledge worker, not a farmer. My cycle is the business cycle. Its duration is more likely to be three orbits of the sun than one. Its seasons are Prosperity and Recession. Prosperity is the season to earn. Recession is the season to reflect to reflect. Prosperity is a season to do, recession a season to learn. Prosperity is the season to apply intellectual capital, Recession is the season to buld intellectual capital.
Bookstore shelves are filled with calendars for the next year. Father Time (and Dick Clark) will usher out the old year; a ball will drop in Times Square and Baby Time will come forward in his diaper. People will kiss. Some will resolve to change their ways. Few will keep these commitments, because the agrarian cycle is not in phase with their personal cycles. Less than two out of a hundred of us are farmers now. Better we should have five-year calendars or life-calendars. Days? What difference does a day make in the larger order of things? Maybe months -- a good unit for planning a trip -- or quarters, the time it takes do create business results.
My little dog must think it queer to stop without a dollar near. Turn, turn, turn. To each his own season.
Our eyes are only glass windows; we see with our imagination
William Gilpin (1792)
Web designers should know better. The whole idea behind HTML was its universality. HTML should be environment-agnostic.
Many of the people who design websites had a problem with this. They prefer control to interoperability. In the early days, the David Siegels of the world used "single-pixel" gifs, images of text in lieu of the characters themselves, and other sleight of hand to try to grab back the level of control graphic designers exercise over printed material. Siegel told us that Creating Killer Websites meant mimicing books. Siegel named his company "Verso," which means left-hand page, a decidedly print-based term.
As presentation on the web matures, designers returned to purity of form. Better that pages be usable on screens large and small than look fantastic on one size of screen and crappy on others.
And then along came Cascading Style Sheets. I like being able to specify fonts and colors and what-not in one place rather than throughout a site. But I HATE sites that specify absolute font sizes. Why does a designer presume that I want to read fly-spec type or gigantic letters? Font size should be relative. Otherwise, a webpage is not user-friendly.
I like to sit about a yard from my monitor. This position leaves real estate on the front of my desk for papers, makes it easy to look at the redwood trees through the window, and keeps my brain out of the reach of radiation. That's my privilege. And when View/Text Size/Large is deactivated because the person creating the page I'm trying to view, the word "jerk" springs into my mind.