First the good news: “The federal workforce is graying at a very fast rate—nearly half will be eligible to retire in five years, and there is not sufficient interest or knowledge from top talent,” according to Max Stier, president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service.
Now the bad news: Stier is trying to do something about it. “Stier said the Partnership for Public Service is working with government agencies to improve their hiring process, and conducting marketing research at nearly 600 schools to figure out ways to persuade graduates to work for the government,” according to an article by Anushka Asthana that appeared in the Washington Post.
“Most students come to college sharing their parents’ political beliefs but after four years of college they are 40 percent more liberal than their parents,” Duke philosophy professor Michael Gillespie pointed out at a conference two years ago. “Ten years out of college they are 5 percent more conservative than their parents.” Dr. Gillespie spoke at a conference sponsored by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy that Accuracy in Academia covered.
Currently, at least a decade in the private sector following graduation provides about the only alternative information to the textbooks and teachers that dominate every level of education from kindergarten through college. Stier and his friends would remove even that check and balance.
“At Capitol Hill, 20- or 30-year-olds are making extraordinary decisions about the life of the country and getting leadership experience that would take them another decade to get if they were in the private sector,” Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., told a conference of undergraduates organized by Stier. Not too surprisingly, these “decisions” usually result in an increase in government spending with a corresponding expansion of government power.
Stier indicated that he himself would like this trend to continue when he told the students “why working for the government matters,” as recorded by The Post. “Hurricane Katrina is why it matters, the Iraq War is why it matters, health care is why it matters, globalization is why it matters, and the list goes on and on.”
Actually, denizens of the Ivory Tower itself come to believe that they are the private sector of the economy. In depressed areas, they frequently are.
“These places were the economic engines of the 20th century,” retired University of Michigan president James J. Duderstadt told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Now they’re in danger of becoming economic backwaters.” Duderstadt serves on the federal Commission on the Future of Higher Education. But how did these economic engines become backwaters?
“It is a scene being played out in cities throughout the industrial heart of the United States,” the Chronicle’s Karin Fischer explains. “In places like Baltimore, Bethlehem, and Akron old-line manufacturers are downsizing, diversifying, and even departing, leaving local universities as a dominant, if not the dominant employer.”
“Now, more than ever, higher education is seen as the key to helping manufacturing-based cities catch up and compete in a highly skilled global economy.” Interestingly, some cities and states that lack this academic presence seem to be doing well. As tallied by Fisher, Arizona is “the nation’s second-fastest growing state, which has just three major public universities and a handful of private colleges.”
Source: CNN, Census Bureau
James M. Cavanaugh, the mayor of Goodyear, Arizona, told Fischer, “We have tremendous growth here, but we want to make Goodyear more attractive to young people, to families, to employers looking for an educated work force.”
“Having a college campus will make us more attractive.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.