How to think about “Grit”

January 18, 2017 by  
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For the past several years, non-cognitive skills have been a dominant theme in education. While the concept has been around for some time, the current focus can be traced back to the book How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough. That book popularized the notion that a student’s long-term success was determined by a whole range of “skills” – grit, perseverance, conscientiousness, curiosity, self-regulation – that go above and beyond a test score.

Since the book was published, “grit” has been the star of the show. The book summarizes the work of psychologist Angela Duckworth from the University of Pennsylvania, who found that an individual’s “grittiness” – their ability to remain committed to a particular task over a long period of time – is more important to long-term success than a range of other academic factors.

So grit is important. What has been less clear, however, is how to make students grittier.

Tough’s latest book, Helping Children Succeed, takes up this question. And what he finds is that we’re likely going about it all wrong.

The problem with non-cognitive skills – grit or any other – is that we think of them as “skills,” rather than the collection of habits and traits that researchers have all lumped together under the non-cognitive umbrella. And because they’re not skills, students are unlikely to develop them the way they might other skills, through practice. Yet this is the dominant way we work on non-cognitive capacities in schools: by telling students to persevere, get that homework done, be gritty!

Instead, researchers find that the way to get students to act grittier is by changing a student’s context, rather than trying to change the student herself. More specifically, researchers have found that to get students to persevere through challenging academic tasks, we must impact the underlying mindsets that lie behind a students’ actions. In other words, rather than trying to develop non-cognitive capacities directly, we should be trying to impact how students think and feel about themselves, their school, their academic abilities, and their futures.

So how do we do this?

There are two sets of research worth mentioning here.

The first comes from the renowned experiments of psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. Since the 1970s, Deci and Ryan have conducted a number of experiments to show that intrinsic motivation is a far more powerful motivator than extrinsic motivation, and that a student’s intrinsic/internal motivation depended on their sense of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. This means that students need to feel that they have some sense of agency and choice, feel they can succeed in their work, and feel connected to the people they are working with, namely their teachers and fellow students.

The second piece of research comes from a highly recommended report on non-cognitive skills by researchers at the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago Schools Research. After analyzing literature on a range of “noncognitive factors,” they found that the surest way to develop the academic habits essential for school success is by impacting four underlying academic mindsets:

  1. I belong in this academic community (belonging/relatedness)
  2. My ability and competence grow with effort (growth mindset)
  3. I can succeed at this (competence)
  4. This work has value for me (relevance)

This all matters a great deal because armed with this knowledge, everything we do in schools to help students build key non-cognitive capacities needs to change. Knowing that we want to develop a “skill” like grit in our students, the tendency of educators has traditionally been to enact stricter discipline policies, buckle-down, exert more control, in the name of building “character” skills.

But the research on academic mindsets seems to suggest that this is the exact wrong approach. A “No Excuses” discipline policy that’s overly controlling could detract from a student’s sense of autonomy, and place students and staff in an adversarial position that may harm a student’s sense of belonging. Missing a sense of autonomy and relatedness, a student may reject school and fall behind academically, damaging their sense of competence. If this leads to acting out and a refusal to engage, the negative cycle continues.

Instead, Tough suggests that the right approach may not be about any particular program or even a focus on a certain set of discrete “skills.” The right approach may be to simply create educational environments that offer students some sense of autonomy; that allow teachers to show students that they’re valued, liked, and that they belong; that are supportive of student success; and that offer students the chance to engage in interesting work that could stir potential passions.

So as we seek to build non-cognitive capacities in our students, the focus should be not on changing our students, but on changing the academic environment our students experience on a daily basis. The sooner we do that, the sooner we may discover that we’ve been surrounded by “gritty” students all-along.


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Life Without Money In Detroit’s Survival Economy

January 17, 2017 by  
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Jerry Hebron harvests Swiss chard at the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in Detroit’s North End, where locals can volunteer in exchange for fresh produce. Photographer: Sean Proctor/Bloomberg When her car broke down, Halima Cassells didn’t have $400 to fix it. But she had logged hours in her Detroit neighborhood time bank by babysitting, and that time yielded a repair. When she was pregnant in

National Geographic: 6 Unexpected Cities For The Food Lover

January 17, 2017 by  
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Photo: Selden Standard  Move over, Milan. Get a taste for some surprising food destinations with this neighborhood guide to the best eats on (almost) every continent. NORTH AMERICA DETROIT, UNITED STATES Wait, Detroit? Yes. The city better known as a center for automakers and manufacturing is revving its culinary motors. Best Neighborhood for a Food Frenzy The city’s oldest surviving

First Comes Whole Foods, Now Comes Trader Joe’s To Detroit?

January 17, 2017 by  
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Photo: Matthew Naimi 

Time to get real about automation and the future of work

January 17, 2017 by  
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My colleagues and I have written extensively about the mounting evidence that a bachelor’s degree is an essential educational credential for job security in the 21st century workforce, but whenever we do I brace for caustic feedback from skeptics in the comments section.

Our critics often point to the economic stability they enjoy because they were trained for a high-paying skilled trade jobs as evidence that we’re dead wrong about the value of a college education. But here’s the thing: The work landscape they knew yesterday -and know today -is rapidly changing, and only those who are brave and smart enough to face that reality are going to thrive in the future. Futurists and economists have offered ample proof that broad skills like the ability to communicate, create, collaborate and think critically are what employers are hiring for. These are skills that are sharpened by a college education.

I don’t look down upon skilled trades or manufacturing work. Quite the opposite. In fact, I wouldn’t be a member of the middle class without it. My great-grandfather came to Detroit from Kentucky in 1912 and became one of the earliest African American skilled trades workers at Ford Motor Company’s famed Rouge Complex. Later, my grandfather and uncle had long careers as skilled tradesmen at the Rouge – jobs that enabled them to raise their families comfortably.

But at its height, the Rouge Complex employed more than 100,000 workers. Today, it employs about 6,000 people because much of the work of modern auto assembly is done by robots. Because of automation, General Motors’ assembly plants in metro Lansing now employ fewer than 6,000 hourly workers, down from the 23,000 who built cars in the region as recently as 1979. If these facts are not enough to jolt those who pine for a return to the auto industry’s heyday as an employer into reality, I don’t know what is.

Need more proof? My colleague Lou Glazer recently wrote a blog describing how automation is depleting job opportunities in fields like mining and fast food. “The Long-Term Jobs Killer is Not China. It’s Automation,” a recent New York Times column by Claire Cain Miller, is required reading for those who really want the straight skinny about how automation will continue to shift employment. In this blog, I have quoted extensively – some might say ad nauseam – from Andrew McAfee’s and Erik Brynjolfsson’s book The Second Machine Age and its dire predictions about automation’s potential to radically remake the entire world’s employment landscape.

Still, the fervent hope that politicians can and will magically turn back the clock to expand jobs in the American manufacturing sector persists.

I recognize that there is more than one path to prosperity. But every seasoned gambler understands the wisdom of playing the odds. If workers want to boost their odds for success in a rapidly-evolving workforce (where automation is on track to make entire categories of work obsolete), they will need to develop skills that allow them to move seamlessly from job to job. Workers who only know how to do one thing are going to be left behind.

It’s true that skilled trades jobs were once Michigan workers’ gold standard for economic stability. But automation and globalization aren’t going anywhere. Even those with jobs in the manufacturing sector are going to have to be nimble in order to be relevant in an era of quickly-evolving work. Anyone who resists this reality is simply whistling past the graveyard.

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Exploring the 2017 Detroit Auto Show–Hyundai and Hope

January 13, 2017 by  
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As a lifelong Michigander who grew up in the Detroit suburbs, I’m certainly well aware that #DetroitLovesAutos. My grandfather and uncle both worked (and retired from) one of the ‘Big Three’ car companies. The state’s economy has always been tied to how well (or poorly) the auto industry is doing. But until this year, I’d never had the opportunity to attend the North American International Auto Show (aka the Detroit Auto Show). And wow, what an experience…

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As a guest of SheBuysCars, I spent three days over the past week being wowed and impressed with all the shiny, new vehicles and concept cars on display for media preview week at the year’s biggest auto show. Car companies certainly spare no expense when it comes to showing off their latest and greatest. The excitement as a new vehicle or model is revealed under a swish of silk is palpable as journalists and photographers swarm the dais to explore and capture images of every inch.

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The overwhelming themes at the Detroit Auto Show this year are mobility, autonomy and alternative energy. Hybrid and electric vehicles are everywhere, as are multiple different versions of the ‘self-driving’ automobile. No longer are conversations about pistons and carburetors – now you hear terms like GPS, lidar and connectivity everywhere you turn on the show floor.

Companies show off their enhanced safety features such as emergency breaking with pedestrian detection, blind spot detection, lane change assist and adaptive cruise control. And technology is everywhere, from apps that keep you connected to your vehicle from miles (or even states) away to advanced navigation and entertainment systems.

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One of the brands that stood out to me the most on the show floor was Hyundai. Not because they have an amazing lineup of cars and SUVs with the latest technology and gadgets (although they do), or because they were showing off their latest and greatest in electric, hybrid and autonomous vehicles (which they were). Out of every vehicle brand at the Detroit Auto Show – Hyundai stood out to me because of their dedication to giving back and social responsibility.

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Along with displaying their vehicles, awards and showing off their NFL sponsorship, one whole section of Hyundai’s Detroit Auto Show booth focuses on their Hyundai Hope On Wheels organization. The mission is simple and important, “committed to finding a cure for childhood cancer one handprint at a time.”

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Honestly… This completely floored me. I truly never expected my worlds to collide the way that they did on the floor of the Detroit Auto Show. My own daughter is a childhood cancer survivor, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of every kid we’ve met who’s still fighting and the families we know who have lost their children to this horrible disease. Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for kids in the US. One in five children doesn’t survive. And for those who do, two-third of them will suffer from long-term effects for the rest of their lives. These statistics are grim – and real (source:

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Although my daughter currently remains cancer-free, she’s endured five surgeries, fifteen rounds of chemotherapy over ten long months, weeks spent in the hospital rather than at school, over a dozen blood transfusions, multiple MRI and CT scans, the loss of her beautiful long hair, and years of worry and stress that never go away. Every time we take her in for another set of scans, we are well aware that our lives could change in an instant, as they did in December 2014 when we heard the word ‘recurrence’ for the first time.

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Over the past eighteen years, Hyundai Hope on Wheels has donated over $115 million to help find a cure for pediatric cancer. Every time someone purchases an eligible Hyundai vehicle at a participating dealership, Hyundai and the dealer make a donation to Hope on Wheels. Only 4% of all National Cancer Institute funding goes toward childhood cancer research, so every dollar raised to help fill in that gap makes a huge difference in the lives of kids and families touched by pediatric cancers.

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Along with being blown away by the personal connection to Hyundai’s Hope on Wheels program, I was also quite impressed with their vehicle lineup. With three kids, we’re a solid minivan family – but the 7-passenger Hyundai Santa Fe SE and Limited are definitely tempting. As our kids get older and head toward vehicular independence (otherwise known as the all-important obtaining of the drivers license), we’ll be starting to rethink our options when we start looking at our next vehicle purchases. I love the height, storage and seating capacity of a large SUV, but balanced with the gas mileage and style of something slightly smaller.

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The Santa Fe provides nothing but options – for 5, 6 or 7 passenger seating in several different configurations. Not to mention the Santa Fe’s smaller brother – the Tucson. Both vehicles are perfect for families on the go. And their rugged designs are also just plain pretty too.

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Along with their SUV options, Hyundai offers a full line up of coupes and sedans as well – the Elantra, Sonata, Azera, Veloster, and Accent. The Sonata now comes in a hybrid version and the Tucson FCEV is a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle. The new Hyundai Ioniq comes in both hybrid and electric versions and Hyundai revealed their autonomous version last year.

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The future of the automobile is going to be an interesting one – but it’s safe to say that the eyes of the world will be on what happens every year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit!

I attended the NAIAS 2017 as a guest of SheBuysCars. Although this is a sponsored post on behalf of SheBuysCars and their sponsors, all opinions stated her are solely my own.

The post Exploring the 2017 Detroit Auto Show–Hyundai and Hope appeared first on Mom Of 3 Girls.

Essential Art: Part Three

January 13, 2017 by  
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One of the skills that the Becoming Brilliant authors Roberta Michnick and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek focus on as critical to future success is that of confidence. You may think of confidence as something innate—you’re born smart, or good-looking, or good at sports, and you develop confidence as a result. You might conflate it with conversations about whether kids have low or high “self-esteem.” And these aren’t necessarily irrelevant, but the argument of the authors is that confidence is a skill we can intentionally build—it’s not simply a side effect of other, inborn blessings—and second, it’s important in the future because we will all need to be more nimble, adaptive learners in a knowledge economy, and learning happens best within a sense of confidence. The authors define confidence as having two components: the willingness to try, and the willingness to persist through difficulty. Golinkoff and Hirsch-Pasek assert, “Without confidence, people cannot accept new challenges and stretch beyond their comfort zones.”

This has been on my mind for a few reasons recently. The first is that I have a 4-year-old, who I know firsthand learns best when she feels comfortable and confident. If she is asked to do things that are beyond her development, or in a situation where she is comparing herself to adults, she quickly shuts down. “I can’t do it,” she might say, which is heartbreaking (and sometimes frustrating) to a parent. More than an accurate description of her skill level, these words signal to me that she is feeling uncomfortable and out of her depth and that whatever I’m asking for needs to be reframed. (If only I could always remember that in the moment!)

The second reason is that, when I think about students who have been ill-served by schools over the course of many years, being told over and over that they are behind, or below average, or simply not good at math (for example), I wonder how they can ever be expected to develop other skills—how can they learn anything—if they have been lead to feel that in an academic environment, they do not deserve to feel confident. (The reasonableness of this concern is supported by other research showing that one of the barriers first-generation college students feel is doubt that they belong in an academic institution. This self-doubt makes them more likely to drop out the first time that they fail a quiz or don’t understand a problem set. The single failure confirms in their minds that college is beyond them. On the other hand, more affluent kids see a single failure as a small trip-up on their otherwise smooth path to success.)

Research cited by Golinkoff and Hirsch-Pasek in Becoming Brilliant shows that, “When people are concerned where they stand, they are likely to avoid tasks and situations they believe exceed their capabilities.” And in order to develop confidence, kids need to be in environments of “controlled risk,” where they can stretch with safety. They have to be able to make mistakes and learn from their missteps.

The authors specifically cite arts education as one valuable tool for developing the habits that breed confidence. Arts education creates opportunities for students to engage, persist, express, stretch/explore, and reflect. All of these experiences lead to the development of higher executive functioning, and of confidence.

In my last two posts (part one and part two), I shared some excerpts from the teaching philosophy, and memories of his class, of my eighth-grade art teacher, John Post. Below are a few examples I pulled from throughout his philosophy that relate to how to teach to build confidence in kids.

First, here is Mr. Post talking about the importance of not shielding kids from their mistakes, as an opportunity to let them grow and learn.

My first year as a teacher, I would touch up kidsʼ glazed projects as I was loading the kiln. Then I realized that if I did that, the kids would never learn to glaze correctly themselves. I was short circuiting the feedback that artists get when they make mistakes. So now, the way they glaze it, is the same way that it gets fired. When it comes out of the kiln and they get it back, they get to see the results of their efforts and make appropriate changes in the future to make the work better… Consequences are the best teacher in this case. Kids learn over time that craftsmanship is important.

Second, Mr. Post talks about the importance of offering repeated opportunities for practice (to be contrasted with, for instance, speeding through a pacing plan) to generate skill and confidence.

The materials I use in my elementary art program are the same types of materials that professional artists work with. We just don’t create one clay project a year or one painting a year. Art skills don’t grow that way. In order to become skilled at anything you have to have repeated exposure to it… By using the same materials over and over again, my students gain skills and confidence. What changes from lesson to lesson is the idea and the content of what we are learning.

Mr. Post talks in a few places about teaching developmentally appropriate skills and offering his students appropriate boundaries and support to make sure they can meet a lesson’s goals—a confidence builder to be sure.

The reason I have goals for each lesson is so that I can teach some skills to the kids or get them to look at some art and gain an understanding of the purpose, choices and decisions an artist made while creating it. I like to think of my lesson goals as scaffolding. The scaffolding gives the kids enough structure for them to learn something new while at the same time allowing to them to build and create understanding for themselves. I donʼt expect an 11-year-old 5th grade student to be able to create a perfectly proportioned clay bust. What I want kids to learn in a lesson like that is that artists have been creating portraits for thousands of years.

Finally, throughout his philosophy, you can find evidence that Mr. Post believes that “kids are people too,” and that we should give them the respect of letting them wrestle through ideas.

I am disappointed when I see student art and it looks like the teacher stripped all the life out of something to just teach one element or principle of design. Good art is complex, when teachers dumb down art to focus on one element or principle they don’t respect that kids can grasp complicated visual ideas if you let them grapple with them.

If we explain everything to kids, without providing the opportunities for them to independently grapple with complexity, how can we expect them to have the confidence that they can think critically, reflectively, on their own?

This will be my last post in this mini-series on “essential art,” though I think there are many more I could write. What I hope you do, as a reader, is think about the richest environments for learning that you ever experienced. Who was a “Mr. Post” for you? Who led you in your deepest learning? And what do you remember most about that learning experience—is it straight content (the quadratic equation or a particular rule of grammar)? Or did you feel yourself growing in a broader skill—gaining confidence, critical thinking, or creativity? Were you engaged, stretching, and wrestling with complex ideas yourself? Or was someone standing at the front of the class, lecturing you?

99% of us will answer “no” to this last question. We need schools that honor the way kids actually learn best, and acknowledge that these broader skills are necessary for future success. We need schools that are designed like Mr. Post’s art classes.

The post Essential Art: Part Three appeared first on Michigan Future Inc..

TONIGHT! Blackalicious at the Magic Bag

January 12, 2017 by  
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Thursday Jan 12th at the Magic Bag, Ferndale
Doors at 8pm

In a hip-hop career that has stretched past a decade, Blackalicious has earned respect the old-fashioned way–rising through honesty, commitment, and artistry. Blackalicious is an American hip hop duo from Sacramento, California made up of rapper Gift of Gab (born Tim Parker) and DJ/producer Chief Xcel (born Xavier Mosley). They are noted for Gift of Gab's often "tongue-twisting", multisyllabic, complex rhymes and Chief Xcel's "classic" beats.
Like a few other West Coast rap acts, including the Pharcyde and Jurassic 5, Blackalicious has generally favored what hip-hoppers call the "positive tip"; in other words, its lyrics have often been spiritual and uplifting rather than violent or misogynous. Like a lot of experimental alternative rappers, Blackalicious can be quirky and eccentric; nonetheless, spirituality is a big part of the group's music. Although Blackalicious wasn't formed until the early '90s, its members had known each other since the late '80s. Founding members Gift of Gab (Timothy Parker) and Chief Xcel (Xavier Mosley) first met in Sacramento, CA, in 1987 when they were students at John F. Kennedy High School. Neither of them was originally from Sacramento; DJ/producer Xcel (who was going by DJ IceSki at the time) was a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, while rapper Gift of Gab was from Los Angeles' suburban San Fernando Valley.
The two went their separate ways after Gift of Gab (also known as Gabby T) graduated from Kennedy High in 1989, but they were reunited in Davis, CA, in 1992. By that time, Xcel had become a student at the University of California at Davis and the Gift of Gabhad moved to Davis to form Blackalicious with him. UC Davis was where Xcel had started working with a hip-hop crew named SoleSides, whose members included DJ Shadow, Lateef the Truth Speaker, and Lyrics Born. SoleSides Records was the name of the SoleSides Crew's Northern California record company and in 1994, that label released Blackalicious' debut single "Swan Lake." Although not a triple-platinum smash, the single was a small underground hit that fared well among alternative rap audiences. The following year, SoleSides Records released a Blackalicious EP titled Melodica. By late 1997, SoleSides Records had transformed into Quannum Records, and in 1999, Quannum put out another Blackalicious EP, A2G.
In 2000, Quannum released the group's full-length debut Nia (whose title is the Swahili word for purpose). After being together eight years, Blackalicious finally signed with a major label when, in late 2000, the Californians were added by MCA. In April 2002, Quannum/MCA released Blazing Arrow, which boasted guest appearances ranging from vocalist Zack de la Rocha (of Rage Against the Machine) to the Roots' ?uestlove to veteran soul singer Gil Scott-Heron. After the requisite tour, both Xcel and Gab began developing solo material; Quannum released both Maroons' Ambush (Chief Xcel with Latyrx's Lateef the Truth Speaker) as well as a Gift of Gab solo LP, Fourth Dimensional Rocketships Going Up. The pair returned in 2005 for their third album, The Craft, with a contract in hand from the Anti- label

Automating mining and fast food jobs

January 11, 2017 by  
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Recent articles on automation in mining and fast foods reinforce that the new reality is that many jobs and occupations in a wide range of industries are likely to disappear sooner rather than later.

The mining story comes from the MIT Technology Review. Its entitled This truck is the size of a house and doesn’t have a driver. The article reports on mining companies across the planet using machines to do work traditionally done by miners. They write (emphasis added):

Rob Atkinson, who leads productivity efforts at Rio Tinto, says the fleet and other automation projects are already paying off. The company’s driverless trucks have proven to be roughly 15 percent cheaper to run than vehicles with humans behind the wheel, says Atkinson—a significant saving since haulage is by far a mine’s largest operational cost. “We’re going to continue as aggressively as possible down this path,” he says.

Trucks that drive themselves can spend more time working because software doesn’t need to stop for shift changes or bathroom breaks. They are also more predictable in how they do things like pull up for loading. “All those places where you could lose a few seconds or minutes by not being consistent add up,” says Atkinson. They also improve safety, he says.

The fast food story is from Business Insider. It takes on more significance because its about an interview  with then Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s CEO Andy Puzder, who is President Trump’s Labor Secretary nominee. Business Insider writes:

The CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s has visited the fully automated restaurant Eatsa — and it’s given him some ideas on how to deal with rising minimum wages. “I want to try it,” CEO Andy Puzder told Business Insider of his automated restaurant plans. “We could have a restaurant that’s focused on all-natural products and is much like an Eatsa, where you order on a kiosk, you pay with a credit or debit card, your order pops up, and you never see a person.”

The mining story is about automating relatively high paid jobs, the fast food story about automating lower wage jobs. At some point we are going to have to learn and develop policies that are aligned with the reality that many jobs and occupations in a wide range of industries can and will be automated. And there is nothing public policy can do––and almost certainly shouldn’t try to––to stop this.

All of this is put into perspective in a New York Times’ article entitled The Long-Term Jobs Killer Is Not China. It’s Automation. The Times writes:

The changes are not just affecting manual labor: Computers are rapidly learning to do some white-collar and service-sector work, too. Existing technology could automate 45 percent of activities people are paid to do, according to a July report by McKinsey. Work that requires creativity, management of people or caregiving is least at risk.

This is the reality we need our elected officials to deal with. How to have a mass middle class in an economy where more and more jobs can and will be automated away is not clear. But we need policymakers and advocates engaged in figuring out what to do, rather than promising that they can make the old economy work again.

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VP Biden Joins Mayor Duggan To Announce $600K In Grants To 15 Detroit Businesses

January 10, 2017 by  
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Photo: Freep Vice President Joe Biden joined Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan today at ceremonies where 15 Detroit entrepreneurs earned Motor City Match grants to open or expand their business in the city. Since the program was launched nearly two years ago, Motor City Match has distributed nearly $3 million in grant funds to more than 60 local businesses and assisted more than 570 entrepreneurs.

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