Tag Archives: New York Times

Counterpoint to Friedman’s Assessment of PISA

Thomas Friedman, in the New York Times, has noted that the United States continues to trail other countries on the PISA assessment of student learning in primary and secondary school.

One important note on the PISA tests, and other international benchmarks of student learning, is that the United States has  never led the globe in student achievement — it has always been about where it is today, sitting around 15th place internationally, yet we have the largest GDP and most productive workforce. This suggests that educational achievement is the only factor in productivity and employment.  As Friedman notes, this is partly due to the fact that we once had an economy rich in manufacturing — which required less skill in the workforce. Some believe the preference toward education and skill is overstated though.   Harry Holzer and labor economists have shown that there is still, and will continue to be, a significant middle skill job sector in America.  What they find is that these middle jobs will require some postsecondary training — in programs that may only be a few weeks or months at venues like community colleges.

Most American workers (about 70 percent currently) do not work in jobs that require a college degree (nor does 70 percent of the population hold the degree).  Even as the country becomes more “high tech” and more “new economy” only 40 percent of workers (in the highest of estimates) will need a college degree.  The major gap in learning is for workers who will need “some” postsecondary training, but not a degree.  Our educational system doesn’t address the educational needs for future non-degree holding workers as well as it does for those continuing to a four year college.

Friedman is also correct that students who do best on PISA tests feel some ownership over their education.  America could build more student “ownership” over education by providing more than one track of learning.  This could happen by building out a significant career and technical training program in America’s schools.  The Harvard Graduate School of Education makes a similar argument in its important Pathways to Prosperity report.


Kenneth Jackson on Historic Preservation and Skyscraper Development in Midtown Manhattan

Kenneth Jackson, an urban history professor at Columbia University, has written an op-ed on the current opposition to dense skyscraper development in Manhattan.

Jackson contends that without significant dense development, the city could follow the path of “second tier” cities.  Many current office buildings are aging and the city is challenged with being able to provide class-A office space for traditional financial and service firms that have driven the city’s economy.  Jackson notes that dense development and job opportunity draw young people to the city for chances at upward mobility and finding people to build families with.

He worries that the historic preservation movement in the city has extended beyond its original purpose to protect important, historically significant buildings to preserve any building that maintains the current streetscape.

Is Harvard Business School a Microcosm of American Inequality?

Jodi Kantor, writer for the New York Times, chronicles class division and inequality at Harvard Business School.  In addition to $50,000 plus a year tuition, students are expected to spend significant amounts of money for extracurricular events and activities.  Some students interviewed in the story estimated that the costs of social events were upwards of $20,000 over the program.  Kantor also noted increasing division between students of middle and lower socioeconomic status and students (both domestic and international) who come from incredibly wealthy backgrounds.

Paul Krugman commented on the article today in the New York Times.  He suggests that wealth inequality is moderating the benefits of education, making upward mobility more difficult.