Diane Ravitch examines new tests results from Illinois, which have been released with dire warnings about “failure.” Ravitch puts this story in the context of current trends in education. She is very strong as an advocate for teachers in a time when many forces are attacking some of our country’s most talented and dedicated employees. Is the test (PARCC) a true measure of what students are learning and teachers are teaching? Or is it a tool to promote education “reform”?
Anyone living in Illinois knows that our state politics are dysfunctional. The governor is a Democrat, and both houses of the legislature are super majority Democratic majorities. Somehow, nothing gets done. When the Democrats do agree, the Republicans through in a monkey wrench.
Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos reports some good news from my home state. A bill has passed that protects pregnant workers from doing work that would endanger their pregnancy. Clawson cites a case in which a pregnant worker at Walmart was ordered to lift a heavy box and climb ladders, which likely contributed to her miscarriage. The bill in Illinois has been sent to the governor for signing. Clawson asks why pro-life Republicans would not sponsor such a bill in the U.S. House. She then answers her own question: It would help workers. Freedom of employers trumps right to life. National politics is even stranger than what we face in Illinois. Workers need to start electing representative who will look out for their interest. What happened in Illinois is only a small step forward. It is a good step to protect pregnant workers, but we need to do much more – starting with the minimum wage.
[On Sundays, this blog looks beyond jobs and careers in “Sabbath.”]
The Art of the Impossible
The government will probably shut down next week. Compromises that were once taken for granted in Washington are now impossible. The corporate media tries to blame “both sides,” but the problem lies with the most conservative aspects of the Republican party. This group thinks compromise is getting 100% of what it wants – then it asks for more.
Let’s consider “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act. This plan should make Republicans happy. It’s based on a model from the Heritage Foundation, and it later became the model for Republican Governor Mitt Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts. When President Obama and the Democrats proposed a similar plan, Republicans began to cry “socialism” and “death panels.” Now, rather than try to make changes in the plan, they demand repeal or defunding. No compromise.
In my state of Illinois, the problem isn’t at all Republicans. It’s dysfunctional Democrats. The governor and both houses of the legislature are controlled by the Democrats, and they cannot reach an agreement on how to resolve a huge pension deficit. The governor tried to block the legislators’ pay as an incentive to push them to act. A court said this move was illegal. So, in Illinois, Democrats cannot not even compromise with other Democrats.
Both the Democrats in Illinois and the Tea Party faction in the U.S. House are playing the same game: politics. They want their core voters to feel they are being strong. In the process, they don’t care if the nation or the state suffers. They can only think about the next election. As long as the voters agree to play this game, nothing will change. At the deepest level, we don’t only need better politicians, we need better citizens.
P.S. According to today's Chicago Sun-Times (9-30-2013), the story in Illinois is not as simple as I made it out to be. While there has been infighting among Democrats, they have apparently reached a deal to adjust pensions by $140 billion. Republicans are demanding $10 billion more in cuts that the paper calls unnecessary and insignificant. This is the only mention I have seen of GOP involvement in this problem. Add to the list above -- better journalism.
A few weeks ago at a social event, I met a woman whose granddaughter is married to a recent law school graduate. She told me: “He can’t get a job. There are no jobs for lawyers.” As I’ve noted in the previous blog posts, such hyperbolic language only breeds more fear and does nothing to help anyone find a job or navigate a career.
According to a blurb published in the Chicago Sun-Times’ Grid feature, law schools in Illinois graduated 2.5 lawyers for every new job. Is this statistic true? It could be as a short term trend. However, if any profession were to create 2.5 applicants for every new job, there would be obvious consequences of the trend. People who go to law school are intelligent. If they knew three years of law school would result in no job with a big student loan debt, few people would go to law school. To my knowledge, no law schools in Illinois have closed lately. They may be admitting fewer students and the ABA might be tightening requirements for passing the bar. These measures will bring down the 2.5/1 ratio – if that statistic is true.
What could newly minted lawyers do if they can’t find a job with a law firm in Illinois? I see two obvious options. First, pursue employment in another state. Second, look for a position outside of a law firm. Lawyers have skills that will translate to other careers, especially in financial services where the ability to read a contract is highly valued.
Is there currently a glut of lawyers in Illinois? Probably. However that doesn’t mean that unemployed lawyers will never work for a law firm or that their degree is “worthless.” Like all other unemployed workers in this tight job market, the key for new law graduates is to explore all options and stay flexible. Another key: Ignore hyperbolic claims and statistics that make no sense.