Stanford's Jeff Pfeffer is the world's preeminent expert on talent. He has some important things to say about education as a magic bullet for economic woes.
The argument that "more education" (where more sometimes also means "better") will fix problems of competitiveness, income inequality, un- or underemployment, etc., essentially proceeds from a completely free- or competitive-market premise ... Just upgrade skills and provide more/better education and everything (well, almost everything) will be fine. But in domains other than science and engineering (as well as in science and engineering, as the current discussion and data suggest) this argument fails and has failed for a long, long time. Almost 30 years ago (1979 to be exact), Randall Collins wrote a book entitled The Credential Society (Academic Press). His argument ... was that a) there was little evidence that, on the educational requirements (as assessed by skill levels as derived from detailed studies of jobs and occupations) were increasing overall; and b) what education and the credentials thereby attained did was move people relative to one another on the hiring list.
Interesting stuff. Our research at the Martin Prosperity Institute points to a growing disconnect between education or "human capital" levels and regional outcomes. Educated
people frequently leave the places they were educated. That was India or Ireland
for a while. When I lived in Pittsburgh I used to say, "our greatest export isn't steel, but our highly educated people." For a time, and maybe still
today, lots of them ended up in California and especially Northern California,
even though the state had slashed taxes and was not investing a huge amount in
primary and secondary education. And we're also finding that while education levels match somewhat to regional income, they have only limited effect on regional productivity. Silicon Valley is different that Naples
Florida, the former generates wealth and productivity, the latter lives off what
was generated elsewhere.
The connection between local education and local development is broken. Something else is going on. It's important to focus the conversation on what exactly that might be. Your thoughts?