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By All Measure: 'Good Schools and Good Jobs'

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That faulty education is the root of our competitiveness problems is widely accepted. The preferred solution is setting education performance standards and blaming the educators who fail to measure up.

Standards advocates are promising too much. Schools did not make the products and services that are no longer competitive in world markets; industry did.

Moreover, the contribution of education to economic progress is long term. Graduates replace current workers at the rate of 3 percent per year. At that rate, replacing the current workforce would take 33 years.

Standards in education or industry need to be structured in a global context. Contrary to popular perception, American education like American industry is doing better than ever, but not as well as some of our international competitors.

Education reform without economic reform is folly. We can educate until we are blue in the face, but if high-skill jobs are not available for more highly educated workers, all is for naught. Higher standards for the schools under "Look, Ma, no hands'' economic policies, guarantees too many smart workers and too many dumb jobs. It is no accident that in competitor nations with better school performance, better jobs also are available to graduates. Good schools and good jobs are the result of effective policies.

Education standards need to reflect the schools' mission to serve the political system, its culture, and the economy. In a political system that depends on consent and participation and a diverse culture that values individualism, the schools are our primary producer of free-thinking citizens and good neighbors. But schools cannot meet the standards of culture and community unless graduates can get and keep a job.

A job is the price of admission into our culture and political system. Those unable to get and keep a job eventually disappear from both. At worst, those locked out of the system for generations create other cultures and other economies that threaten mainstream America. The children of those locked-out Americans need to be brought up to standard first in their interest and ours.

Anthony P. Carnevale is president of the Institute for Workplace Learning of the American Society for Training and Development.

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