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Fitting Education to Develop Minds and a Real Career
Regarding Kirk McDonald's "Sorry, College Grads, I Probably Won't Hire You" (op-ed May 10): Mr. McDonald, I am sorry to read you won't be hiring the college graduates you believe you need because they lack the computing skills your cool, rapidly growing company requires. As an English professor at a state school, however, I won't be changing the vocational advice I give to many of my students.
Rather than off-loading your training costs to potential employees who will have to borrow tens of thousands of dollars to get the training your company seems unwilling to offer, may I suggest you engage the labor market with something more than a promise of foosball and free bottled water. How about higher initial salaries and job security?
For centuries industry leaders induced labor to acquire skills by paying salaries, training and then promoting. They didn't demand that employees hit the ground running. When you next place a want ad, put two small words at the end. "Will train." Invest in people. Then your employees will know exactly what you want them to know.
My students attend classes hoping for careers, not jobs. Can you guarantee my 20-somethings that when they are 30-somethings their skills won't be outsourced to some place in the global economy where $8,000 per year constitutes a fortune?
So while my students and I appreciate your good wishes at their achievement, I will continue to educate them to the fact that while technical skill sets come and go, business world-wide cannot be conducted without language and critical thought. Less techie, to be sure, but a far superior investment for the long haul.
Mr. McDonald rightly focuses on how today's job market requires fundamentally different skills from our work force, demanding proficiency in technical, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. And while it's fair to urge young people to gain these skills outside of the current education system, it's essential for K-12 schools to play a larger role in preparing students for productive careers.
Unfortunately, across the country too many electives are being cut due to tight budgets, and too few schools offer career and technical-education programs. Schools and districts should consider how online learning can bring high-quality career education to more students and to invest in the tools and curriculum to make this possible where it might otherwise be untenable. It can enable more students to pursue instruction in technical fields, even at modest enrollment levels in rural communities or in budget-strapped districts.
If school leaders seriously consider new ways to deliver career-related curriculum, more students will hear "you're hired" from CEOs like Mr. McDonald in the future.
I am all for computer literacy in this age of technology, but Mr. McDonald's piece reminds me that we've been there before. That's why the military academies—technology universities of the highest level—have revised their humanities curriculum, so that their graduates at least know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite. Mr. McDonald, computer literacy without the knowledge of how the world operates intellectually just won't cut it.
I love what Kirk McDonald says about the need for young people seeking careers in media to learn a little programming. When I was in high school, we had shop and home economics. You could learn to make a wooden cabinet, sew a shirt or fix a car. Few of us became carpenters, tailors or mechanics, but we entered the world with some understanding of manufacturing processes, however rudimentary. Software is today's manufacturing, and learning to write code in any language teaches the nuts and bolts.
Jamie Dimon Is the Right Man but the Wrong Target
Regarding your editorial "Targeting Jamie Dimon" (May 10): Jamie Dimon should treat the coming vote on separating the roles of chairman and chief executive officer at JP Morgan Chase as what, in fact, it is: a vote of confidence in his leadership. He should make clear that, if shareholders vote to strip him of one of the two roles, he will resign, effective Dec. 31. Mr. Dimon may be concerned that this will appear petulant or prideful. I don't think so, particularly if he gives the JPM board the time it needs to make alternative arrangements.
I have a feeling that if the shareholders understand clearly that they are making a choice between keeping Jamie Dimon or supporting the ideological agenda of Sen. Carl Levin, Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis, they will make the right choice.
Mr. Dimon has handled one of the most challenging jobs in the business world with great skill and diligence for the benefit of JPM shareholders, and during a most challenging period. He has also been a much-needed and well-informed public voice for sensible financial regulation, warning of the potential unintended consequences of a hurriedly and poorly conceived effort to overhaul an incredibly complex and interconnected global system. In the latter role, as you point out, he has crossed the grandees of his own Democratic Party. Mr. Dimon is young and energetic. He has one of the finest business minds of his generation, and he doesn't need the money. There are many ways in which he can serve his country in either the private or public sector. If he resigns, his talents will quickly be deployed elsewhere.
I worked with Jamie more than 25 years ago. Then, as now, he was intelligent, resourceful and possessed a rare business savvy. So I was not surprised when his bank weathered the financial crisis better than its peers. Even the "London whale" fiasco (with which I am sure no one was more irritated than he) didn't prevent him from turning in record profits for the year. So it is clear the assault on his leadership has nothing to do with his business acumen. He is an outspoken critic of Dodd-Frank and a general defender of the financial-services industry. His views fly in the face of the progressive orthodoxy that the financial crisis was a result of unregulated banks and investment firms run amok. Such dissent cannot be tolerated, especially from one of their own. So out come the long knives.
John D. Hatch
Tarpon Springs, Fla.
Educating the Young Unemployed
Daniel Henninger writes in "Meet Generation Jobbed" (Wonder Land, May 9) that while Republicans are engaged in an internal, self-destructive battle over immigration reform, they are missing an opportunity to exploit the growing discontent of young people with poor job prospects in President Obama's slow-growth economy.
Historically, the traditional way to turn young, left-leaning idealists just out of college into productive conservative realists is to let them get their first real jobs and real paychecks. After years of proper social-justice conditioning, young paycheck recipients tend to sour on wealth-spreading as soon as they see how much of their paycheck is extracted for federal, state and local taxes. The best way for the left to disrupt the evolutionary track from college collectivist to postgraduate realist is to sidetrack any private-sector job experience, keeping unemployed or underemployed workers dependent for as long as possible on parents or the public sector.
A reasonable case can be made that America has passed the proverbial tipping point, so that lack of private jobs and heightened need for government benefits are net positives for the Democratic Party. That's not to say that Democrats are plotting to stifle job growth, but they may have other, higher priorities. If you are a college graduate with a degree in, say, sociology who can't find full-time employment, the escalating cost of government programs is a hypothetical, while the public-sector benefits to you and others in the same boat are real.
Republicans suffer from the chicken-egg dilemma that paycheck-producing policies require paycheck-receiving voters. The "Economy 101 tutorials" suggested by Mr. Henninger will be hard-pressed to jump-start those simultaneous stimulants, whether or not Republicans are beating themselves to a pulp over immigration reform.
While unemployment and underemployment remain ridiculously high, especially among America's young people, staggering levels of new student-loan debt are adding insult to injury. And like mortgage loans before the great recession, the dirt is beginning to show. Changing the student-loan rules in an attempt to sweep the dirt under the rug is now a practical thing for the left to do. However, it will fail, and there will be nobody to blame. Plato rightly observed to be wary of the "protectors."
Military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Returns
Mollie Ziegler Hemingway describes the Pentagon's seemingly confused approach to religious proselytizing or evangelizing within the ranks ("The Pentagon's Problem With Proselytizing," Houses of Worship, May 10).
Diversity advocates argued that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy had to end because gays were unfairly forced to conceal their sexual orientation. Now there is controversy about whether Christians will need to hide their religious beliefs. If the Pentagon really wants to make life comfortable for gay soldiers, atheists and women, while stifling the religious expression of the other 80%-plus in the military, it better hope that an awful lot of gays, atheists and women are ready to fill the combat boots of straight Christian males—in case the latter group senses that their religious freedom has been fragged.
Falls Church, Va.
Tag Outprices My Bag
An eye-catching Hermès luggage tag at $445 to go on a $920 Rimowa Classic Flight Suitcase that "will make you a winner in the baggage-claim game"? That's one game I sure hope I never get to play, let alone win ("Fast Five," Adventure & Travel, May 4).
West Linn, Ore.
Leveraged buyout firms, now called private-equity firms, sprang up to break up inefficient conglomerates and unlock shareholder value ("Private-Equity Firms Build Instead of Buy," page one, May 15). But if they actually build and run disparate ventures, haven't they just become like the dinosaur conglomerates they set out to eradicate?
The photograph of Patricia Volk accompanying her Five Best column (Books, April 27) was taken by Stephen Deutsch. It was incorrectly credited to Ms. Volk.
Letters - WSJ.com