Response to News & Observer Article – Is North Carolina Slipping?
A News and Observer article today has some experts weighing in on what is wrong with our state. You can read that article here. After reading it, I felt a little unsettled by what was deemed “the solution” to all our woes – education.
It’s not that I think education is bad (disclosure: I hold a doctorate level degree), but I also do not think that having educational institutions as the proverbial gatekeeper to success is sustainable in the internet world. Many great American success stories are of people who eschewed traditional education in favor of pursuing a singular vision. While their peers were busy studying, they were busy creating. The time spent in college would have served as a delay or completely taken them off course of their own independent vision.
In a tech-driven and socially connected world, this seems more and more plausible.
Coming back to the issue at hand, North Carolina appears to be sliding, even if it’s artificially caused by the mass relocation to one of “America’s Top Cities to Live.” Since 2000, population has grown by 20%, and jobs by a mere 0.3%. That is a pretty troubling statistic.
“We seem to be living in the past, living off of our past brand – a very positive brand – but the brand has gotten old and stale, and it hasn’t been updated with a new vision.” – Pat McCrory
I tend to agree with that statement, and to me that means a new solution would be necessary. However, it is at this point that educational institutions are held up:
“New opportunities spring up, but workers need to prepare for them, We need more education; we need people getting more education; we need people acquiring skills, because you really need that to function in this kind of economy, if you have not done those things, you are going to probably end up classified as poor.” – Mike Walden, NC State Economics Professor
“Investment in education that matches business demands for the jobs of the future.” – Walter Dalton
I would argue with Mr. Walden and Mr. Dalton that more education isn’t necessarily what is needed for everyone. We need more ingenuity, creativity, and more support for entrepreneurial pursuits. I don’t think everyone needs a graduate-level education to function in this economy – they need a clear vision and tools to help them implement that vision. Entrepreneurs not only create jobs, but they create new spaces in the marketplace. That is what keeps you from living in the past. The rationale that people need to pay a gatekeeper in time and money for an education in order to “secure” work seems to fly in the face of freedom.
In today’s economy, the flexibility of a startup or small business to adapt to change in real-time is a strategic advantage it has over the large corporation (where jobs are highly competitive and will employ many pursuing an education) . This should be leveraged to better connect with one’s marketplace, dynamically responding to it’s needs.
Final thought: Education does not necessarily provide ideas, and certainly doesn’t propel action. Those are the two things we desperately need as a state.
Caveat: I have no problem with education. I simply do not think it necessary that people of great mind and ambition have to spend that much of their life delaying their pursuits to get a higher education. The cost has to be weighed for the individual, and should not be a requirement of the whole.
About Cole Bradburn
I'm a writer and doctor in lifelong pursuit of health, happiness, and adventure. I currently live in Raleigh, NC with the love of my life and our amazing boys.