Economics, Knowledge, and the Keys to Success

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To the Editor:

I began reading "The Exaggerated Dropout Crisis" (Commentary, March 8, 2006) with great hope. Perhaps we Americans are doing better at graduating our students than we have been led to believe.

Then I was stunned by the blithe opening premise of Lawrence Mishel’s exposé: “Knowledge is becoming more important in the economy, and ‘returns to skill’—higher wages for workers with more education—should be growing.”

Are we supposed to accept that this thing called “knowledge,” apparently owned by those with “more education,” is the key to success in industry, at least monetarily? And that other factors, such as one’s character, attitude, and effort, and even on-the-job training don’t count?

Many studies say otherwise. For example, research sponsored by AT&T found that, among its managers, “those who had higher scholastic-aptitude scores upon graduation from college were reliably less happy and more psychologically maladjusted by their mid-adult years” than those with lower scores.

Are we to believe these less-happy, more-maladjusted, but yet more “knowledgeable” managers still made more money than their happier, better-adjusted, but less knowledgeable colleagues? Don’t such studies tell us that there must be other, more powerful factors than what passes for knowledge that determine success in industry and in life?

It seems to me that Mr. Mishel’s argument was reduced to “my assumptions in determining dropouts are better than your assumptions.”

Joseph W. Gauld
Founder of Hyde Schools
Hyde Foundation
Bath, Maine

Vol. 25, Issue 29, Page 42

Published in Print: March 29, 2006, as Economics, Knowledge, And the Keys to Success

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