What David Sirota said:

No doubt, you’ve heard this fairy tale from prominent politicians and business leaders who incessantly insist that our economic troubles do not emanate from neoliberals’ corporate-coddling trade, tax and deregulatory policies, but instead from an education system that is supposedly no longer graduating enough STEM experts. Indeed, this was the message of this week’s New York Times story about corporate leaders saying America isn’t producing “enough workers with the cutting-edge skills coveted by tech firms.”

As usual, it sounds vaguely logical. Except, the lore relies on the assumptions that 1) American schools aren’t generating enough STEM supply to meet employer demand, 2) the education system — not neoliberalism — is driving this alleged STEM drought and 3) if America came up with more of such specialists, they would find jobs.

To know these suppositions are preposterous is to consider a recent study by Rutgers and Georgetown University that found colleges “in the United States actually graduate many more STEM students than are hired each year.”

That debunks the supply-and-demand canard. But can we still blame the jobs crisis on schools failing to deliver more STEM graduates?


As researchers discovered, many students are pursuing finance instead of STEM careers because Wall Street jobs “are higher paying” and offer “employment stability” and “less susceptib(ility) to offshoring.”

This is the truth that the Great Education Myth aims to obscure. It’s not that schools are ill-equipped to train STEM specialists. It’s that the additional students who might boost our STEM workforce are choosing to avoid STEM majors because they see an economy that is more hospitable to careers in Wall Street casinos rather than in high-tech innovation — a financialized economy based less on creating tangible assets than on encouraging worthless speculation.

This doesn’t mean that our education system is perfect. But it does mean that without reforming the trade, tax and regulatory policies that reward high-tech outsourcing and incentivize careers in finance, our schools can never be an engine of value-generating information-age jobs.

Why, then, do neoliberals nonetheless press the Great Education Myth? Because it deliberately distracts from a situation that enriches neoliberals and the powerful interests they rely on.

Tariff-free trade pacts inflate the profits of transnational businesses by helping them troll the globe for cheap exploitable labor. Loopholes exempting foreign earnings from taxes encourage companies to move jobs overseas. And both deregulation and bailouts disproportionately balloon financial industry revenues.

The neoliberal corporate class makes big money off this status quo, and neoliberal lawmakers get their cut via campaign contributions. The last thing either wants is an honest debate about neoliberalism’s downsides. And so they play to our lust for silver-bullet solutions, endlessly telling us that everything is the schools’ fault.

As mythology goes, it’s certainly compelling. If only the facts didn’t get in the way.

7 thoughts on “Yep

  1. What would happen if the weight was taken off “making money,” and instead put on “doing what you love?”
    Or would an emphasis on intangibles crash the system altogether?

  2. Glad to see many of the Sirota commenters mentioning HB-1 workers. If you can’t out-source, in-source. Close to the same difference.

    But the other part of this, that no one seems to be mentioning, is any bit of propoganda that “our schools are failing! our schools are failing!” helps the neo-liberal effort to dismantle as much of the public education system as possible (an effort that is not well-publicized but is well underway).

    A few years ago, I read that the private, for-profit college sector (Kaplan, Phoenix, etc.) was at that time, THE most profitable sector for investors. What a great revenue source for Wall Street if the same system could be set up for K-12.

    Plus you get to get rid of the teachers’ unions. What’s not to like?

  3. And of course the Washington Post ownership of Kaplan would have not a thing to do with pushing that agenda. Nope. Plain old coinky dink!

  4. Yeah, to bad Sirota bought into the Obama campaign rhetoric that Clinton, unlike Obama, was a neo-liberal. If he and a few thousand other thugs who blog for the left hadn’t their bigotry cloud their thinking, we might have a functioning liberal president right now.

  5. They’re probably just trying to increase the supply of STEM students to bring wages down. In line with the general plan that the only employees not making subsistence wages are the executives.

    You know, nobles and serfs.

  6. By the time these kind of stories come out, percolate through the education system, the system reacts and builds up programs, students enroll and take years to graduate, THE NEED FOR THOSE JOBS IS GONE.

    Then you blame the students for not being quick enough to get into the field while it is still open. In any event — if you are in trouble, its your own damn fault, because the system rewards merit and drive. If you aren’t being rewarded its because you are a loser.

    John Holt was very insightful when he said that the school system does not exist to teach students, its exists to separate the winners from the losers. And, I might add, to convince the losers to accept this judgment because they are stupid or otherwise defective.

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