Sunday, February 26, 2012

Zais: Our job is to train employees for manufacturers

Less than two weeks ago, Governor Nikki Haley traveled to Greenville to make some solemn pronouncements about how important it is that South Carolina train its children to be ready for hire by manufacturing companies when they locate in our state.

South Carolina is at the heart of manufacturing in the U.S., Haley said. Companies are looking to invest in South Carolina because the state has great things to sell: the cost of doing business is low and South Carolina is a very business-friendly state, she said.

But the state must ensure it has a trained workforce for these manufacturers, and people looking for jobs need to know what certifications they need and how to get certified.

“Companies coming here need to know there is a trained workforce ready to go,” Haley said. “And we must ensure these companies have a trained workforce to help attract them to South Carolina.”

As I wrote then, I interpret these comments to mean that Haley lumps the children of South Carolina's working families together with monkeys, hair, pigeons, rose bushes, dogs, dolphins and even fleas: Things that can and should be trained.

According to our governor, it is, in fact, our responsibility as citizens to raise up and train our children to be prepared, compliant, obedient and sufficient workers for their corporate owners.

This week, Haley's act is followed up by our Superintendent of Education Mick Zais, who traveled to the same region to deliver the same talking points in a strange color-by-number message scheme. Listen to what he told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal:

“As I travel around the state and talk to businessmen and women who own companies, they are desperate to hire skilled technicians to work in manufacturing,” Zais said. “We have an enormous shortage of these people, and that’s why our career and technical centers and academies make such an enormous contribution to our work force and, frankly, the economy of South Carolina.”

Let's play a word game. I'll take Zais's comments and replace some of his words with some words of my own, okay? Like this:

“As I travel around the state and talk to PARENTS and EDUCATORS who EDUCATE CHILDREN, they are desperate to HAVE SUFFICIENT RESOURCES to TEACH in SCHOOLS,” Zais said. “We have an enormous shortage of POLITICAL WILL, and that’s why our PARENTS and HARD-WORKING TEACHERS and CHILDREN LOSE such an enormous AMOUNT OF TIME WHICH JEOPARDIZES, frankly, the FUTURE of South Carolina.”

See? My version doesn't compare children to trainable animals. My version addresses public education as a public good, not a training program for future employers. And my version pretends that our superintendent of education is the state's chief advocate for public education, not the state's chief future human resources director.

Here's why Zais was in the Upstate:

State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais visited all three of Spartanburg’s career and technology centers Friday as part of Career and Technical Education month.

Which begs a pertinent question: If we were to get the legislature to designate certain months as Public Education Months -- like, for example, all months whose names begin with a consonant or a vowel, just to be selective -- would the state superintendent of education use those special designations as a rationale to visit South Carolina's traditional public schools during those months? And would he talk about the importance of public education in South Carolina?

I have nothing against career and technology centers or schools. Students everywhere should be free to choose to attend them, once they determine that the services provided by these schools meet their needs best. I believe in making available a veritable smorgasbord of options within public schools for all of South Carolina's children.

I'm just curious about the habits of South Carolina's highest elected leaders, ones who avow a predisposition against traditional public education and who see their jobs as plant managers for corporate manufacturers, constantly demanding that the state provide more training! and better training! for their compliant employees.

Funny thing is, when Zais stops at any school -- traditional public or, in this case, career and technology center, he hears the same plea and answers with the same palaver:

After talking at length with administrators at R.D. Anderson, which serves students in Spartanburg districts 4, 5 and 6, Zais toured the school and was treated to a lunch prepared by culinary arts students. R.D. Anderson Director Sherri Yarborough said the school has grown about 200 percent in the past decade and offers more than 50 courses of study, several of which offer college credit.

Yarborough said some programs, such as the school’s popular machine tool courses, are not only at capacity but also turning away interested students. Asked by Zais how she would spend additional money, Yarborough said she would buy more equipment and build a wing on the school to serve more students.

Yarborough said career and technology educators are constantly in contact with area businesses and industry to keep up with trends. In many cases, she said centers are hindered because they can’t afford to pay for the courses, instructors and equipment needed.

“But we hear their cry,” she said.

Yarborough expressed that funding is an obstacle for the growing school, but she hopes an expansion will be possible in the next couple years.

What's the plea? More funding! More funding! We can't provide the necessary services on the meager pittances provided by our pretenders to leadership in Columbia!

And what's Zais's palaver?

Zais said the General Assembly must take a long look at the way education is funded in South Carolina.

“There are about 70 different pots of money that are earmarked and different sources of money,” he said. “It’s far too complicated.”

It's far too complicated, he says. You piteous people wouldn't understand. Just do what you're told, take what you're given and produce what is expected. We do not intend to graduate Einsteins here -- leave the educating to the private academies.

We only want you to take these little whelps, train them to read their instructional manuals and understand their numbers so employers will want them. The order is the same -- you should understand it by now -- as the order to train mill labor a century ago, and slave hands a century before that. Train them to do their tasks. Train them to comply. Train them to obey. Train them to do what they're told, when they're told, for as long as they're told, and to speak when they're spoken to.

As for yourselves, who are you? You have no standing to question your betters, and every last one of you can be replaced with cheaper help within a week, so you best be careful what you say aloud. Your job is not to educate, to administrate or facilitate; your job is to comply, and you'd better remember it.

Zais pointed out that the schools are educating an in-demand group of future workers. A news release from the state Department of Education, citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, states that nearly one-third of the fastest-growing occupations will require an associate’s degree or a postsecondary vocational certificate.

“The most important thing that I think I need to work on is to make sure that parents and teachers understand that there are lots of high-paying jobs that don’t require a 4-year degree,” Zais said. “Kids who can come to our career and technology centers and go on to get a high-level certification from our tech colleges can start off making 50 to 60 thousand dollars.”

And without any additional credentials and critical thinking skills to weigh you down with ambition, you'll learn more quickly to comply, so as to protect those wages.

Take heed. Your job is to comply. Look sharp now; your corporate owner approaches.

1 comment:

  1. Last week, my daughter went on a tour of the career center at her high school. She's in 9th grade. She was absolutely fascinated with it and talked about taking classes over there. While I'm happy that she enjoyed herself, there are 2 things I'm left asking myself. First, why would you want children in Honors classes who are planning to go to college to go on this tour? Second, why would you make these Honor students miss important class time? Her teacher is stressing because they have to have certain things covered before standardized tests and yet here they are missing class. Don't get me wrong, I think the career center is great and will in all help with these manufacturing jobs that are supposedly so abundant but focus on those who are not thinking college or are maybe thinking technical school. If you are tracking for college, you just don't have any extra time.