Danger Will Robinson! S.O.S.???

September 30, 2016 by  
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If you saw the Spartans on Saturday, God Bless You. They sucked.  Made so many mistakes everywhere, extremely disappointing.  The ES' bud, Brock, threw out a 50-0 Wisky prediction about the game - and he was actually CLOSE.

It is only one game.  Is it an aberration?  Only time will tell.  But, there are lots of questions raised - particularly, in order...

1.  Tyler O'Conner.  He played AWFUL.  Andrew Maxwell-awful.  What took the cake was when he rolled right from pressure and did not see Donnie Corley FREE to the end zone on a post route (the other 75,000 people saw it), and instead checked down and threw a terrible INT in the short flat.  The ES threw up watching that.

2.  Tyler O'Conner.  OK, he deserves multiple mentions.  ES thought improvement - but his play vs. a redshirt freshman was embarrassing.  Can't find your tight ends? Jesus

3.  Dave Warner.  Worst game he called since... the Cotton Bowl.  Poor opportunities to throw the ball downfield.  Poor running plays - not enough trap blocking to open holes; Wisky made it tough, don't get me wrong... but lack of inspiration on the offensive line.  They looked lethargic.

4.  Defensive line.  Where were they?  Hardly any pass rush on their frosh QB?  Give me a break.

5.  MISTAKES!!!!  Spotting Wisky 20 points off turnovers (60-yard fumble return, fumbled punt at the 5 y/l, O'Conner INT at MSU 30 y/l... ugh).  You just can't do that.

6. Wisky 7-16 on 3rd downs, a diaper-dandy  (Horney-brook)16-for-26 passing????

Stripe out was tres cool.  The Spartans were ice cold.  Sucked. 

I stopped here because I couldn't take it any more.  We have lots of work to do to right this ship.

                                    WIS      MSU
FIRST DOWNS................... 15 21
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 41-122 27-75
PASSING YDS (NET)............. 195 250
Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 26-16-1 43-20-3
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 67-317 70-325
Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 1-66 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards............ 0-0 1-13
Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 2-37 4-70
Interception Returns-Yards.... 3-8 1-4
Punts (Number-Avg)............ 5-40.8 3-51.0
Fumbles-Lost.................. 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards............... 7-67 5-35
Possession Time............... 32:48 27:12
Third-Down Conversions........ 7 of 16 4 of 13
Fourth-Down Conversions....... 2 of 2 0 of 2
Red-Zone Scores-Chances....... 3-3 0-2
Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 4-20 2-11

Standardized tests and teacher evaluation

September 30, 2016 by  
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We have explored previously how an over reliance on standardized tests is contributing to students leaving  high school neither college or career ready. To make matters worse we now are putting in place a teacher evaluation system that also over relies on standardized tests.

As I wrote in my last post we need to give schools management in public schools––they already have it in charters––more ability to replace low quality teachers and other building level professionals. But doing that based on how well a teachers’ students perform on standardized tests is not a good way of assessing the quality of a teacher.

Paul Tough in his must read new book Helping Children Succeed and in an Atlantic article entitled How Kids Learn Resilience writes about research on teacher effectiveness by Northwestern University economist C. Kirabo Jackson. Tough writes:

… Jackson began investigating how to measure educators’ effectiveness. In many school systems these days, teachers are assessed based primarily on one data point: the standardized-test scores of their students. Jackson suspected that the true impact teachers had on their students was more complicated than a single test score could reveal.

… Jackson did something new. He created a proxy measure for students’ noncognitive ability, using just four pieces of existing administrative data: attendance, suspensions, on-time grade progression, and overall GPA. Jackson’s new index measured, in a fairly crude way, how engaged students were in school —whether they showed up, whether they misbehaved, and how hard they worked in their classes. Jackson found that this simple noncognitive proxy was, remarkably, a better predictor than students’ test scores of whether the students would go on to attend college, a better predictor of adult wages, and a better predictor of future arrests. (Emphasis added.)

… Jackson’s proxy measure allowed him to do some intriguing analysis of teachers’ effectiveness. … Jackson found that some teachers were reliably able to raise their students’ standardized-test scores year after year. These are the teachers, in every teacher evaluation system in the country, who are the most valued and most rewarded. But he also found that there was another distinct cohort of teachers who were reliably able to raise their students’ performance on his noncognitive measure. If you were assigned to the class of a teacher in this cohort, you were more likely to show up to school, more likely to avoid suspension, more likely to move on to the next grade. And your overall GPA went up—not just your grades in that particular teacher’s class, but your grades in your other classes, too.

Jackson found that these two groups of successful teachers did not necessarily overlap much; in every school, it seemed, there were certain teachers who were especially good at developing cognitive skills in their students and other teachers who excelled at developing noncognitive skills. But the teachers in the second cohort were not being rewarded for their success with their students—indeed, it seemed likely that no one but Jackson even realized that they were successful. And yet those teachers, according to Jackson’s calculations, were doing more to get their students to college and raise their future wages than were the much celebrated teachers who boosted students’ test scores.

Wow! Research that demonstrates that so called non cognitive skills are a better predictor than standardized test scores of attending college, adult wages, and future arrests. And shows that, by and large, the teachers that are most effective in developing these skills in their students are not the teachers that are best at getting higher test scores.

Obviously we want schools to hire and retain more teachers that are good at developing students skills that lead to students “more likely to show up to school, more likely to avoid suspension, more likely to move on to the next grade. And your overall GPA went up—not just your grades in that particular teacher’s class, but your grades in your other classes, too.” And yet we have a teacher evaluation system––because we have wrongly equated student success with a test score––that as Tough notes does not reward teachers who are good at building these skills, “indeed, it seemed likely that no one but Jackson even realized that they were successful.”

Not smart!

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Michigan’s school choice is resulting in school segregation

September 29, 2016 by  
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For decades, research has been clear that the second most powerful driver of student achievement—behind parental income—is the socioeconomic status of a student’s school. Creating socioeconomically integrated schools should be a top priority of anyone looking to improve the performance of Michigan’s schools, which, by the way, need some improvement (as a quick example: we’re 41st in the nation in 3rd grade reading achievement).

And yet, recent research shows that Michigan’s school choice regime has exacerbated school segregation.

Comprehensive reporting by Bridge released two weeks ago paints a bleak picture of how schools have become more segregated over the last two decades. Particularly troubling is the rise of “majority-minority schools,” where non-white students are concentrated—and often so is poverty.

Researchers from Wayne State, looking at Census and school enrollment data, found that:

10 school districts that took in the highest number of Detroit students since school choice began saw hundreds of local students leave their districts. And those who left moved to schools with a higher percentage of white students.

The phenomenon that appears to be happening is this: White students who live in diverse communities are using school choice to move to whiter school districts. In schools in diverse communities where the black student population is growing (due to black families from neighboring districts using school choice), white students are also leaving for whiter districts. Schools that are majority-minority are the most likely to have a demographic mismatch with their community—the white students who live there are more likely to be attending school elsewhere.

Michigan continues to struggle with its transition to the 21st century economy, where economic growth follows the presence of college-degree holders. If we do not figure out how to prepare our own kids for the future—and the only way we can do this sufficiently is by educating them to be ready for college—as a state, we will flounder. (Bonus: it’s the ethical thing to do!)

In the future, we at MFI intend to examine and share research that examines whether charters and school choice can, instead of fostering segregation, create integrated schools. For now, it is clear that Michigan’s current system does not.

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Creative accounting and Michigan’s weak safety net

September 28, 2016 by  
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This year, as the welfare reforms instituted under President Clinton turned 20, NPR’s Marketplace started a podcast called the Uncertain Hour, which takes a deep look at the consequences of those reforms. And in the fourth episode, Michigan takes a starring role.

First, some background. In 1996, the United States ended Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), otherwise known as welfare, and replaced it with the TANF program we have today, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. While AFDC was an entitlement program (if you qualified, you were entitled to aid), TANF took the form of block grants to states, with aid subjected to lifetime limits and tied to work requirements.

As the podcast notes, one of the problems with the block grants is that they ended up being excessively flexible. So while the block grants are ostensibly given to states in order to help the poor, Michigan uses some of the grants to give college scholarships to middle-class students.

How is that possible? Under the 1996 reforms, state and federal TANF funds could be spent on one of four purposes: (1) cash assistance (2) work-related supports such as job-training or job search programs, (3) preventing out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and (4) encouraging the formation of two-parent families.

It’s these final two categories where Michigan’s welfare spending gets worrisome. Putting aside the debate of whether government promotion of two-parent families is an effective anti-poverty tool, these two purposes can be defined so broadly as to allow seemingly any government expenditure to fall under their classification. The specious reasoning for giving TANF money to middle-class college students, for example, is that since those with college degrees are less likely to have children out of wedlock, this money can be classified as welfare spending. The causal leaps make your head spin.

In actuality, of course, this is simply the state using resources that should be providing a safety net for Michigan families to plug holes in the state budget.

And this is only the beginning. In 1996, at the time of welfare reform, Michigan spent 80% of its TANF funds (roughly $1.2 billion annually in federal and state funds) on core safety-net purposes: cash assistance, work activities, and child care assistance. Michigan now spends only 20% of its annual $1.2 billion on these core safety-net programs, while spending over a third of the funds, about $500 million in 2014, on programs creatively classified under marriage promotion and the prevention of out-of-wedlock pregnancies. In other words, these final two categories became a catchall, allowing the state to use welfare funds to supplant pre-existing state spending, rather than spending those funds on the cash support, work activities, and child care assistance that can help poor Michigan families get back on their feet.

While that’s bad enough, the story only gets worse. In addition to the creative classification of funds described above, the state also began counting spending from non-state entities as TANF spending. What this means is that youth programs in Wayne County, spending by the United Way, and various foundation grants – money that was already being spent on Michigan’s poor by non-governmental organizations – was suddenly counted as a government expenditure.

Through all this, poverty in Michigan hasn’t budged. Welfare reform is often viewed as a success by folks on both sides of the aisle because given a cursory glance, the number of people on the welfare rolls has dropped considerably since 1996. However, when you look deeper you find that there aren’t fewer poor people – we just stopped supporting them. At the time of welfare reform in 1996, 208,200 families with children in Michigan were living in poverty; in 2014, the number was 213,000. If the purpose of our social safety-net is to offer families temporary cash assistance and help them find meaningful work so that they can escape poverty, welfare reform in Michigan has been an abject failure.

So what should we do? What we don’t need is more creative accounting, but an actual investment in Michigan’s poor. For years, Michigan Future has described the shifts in our economy, and the characteristics of the people and places that are successful in this new economy. However, we also need to support those that have not experienced success: those that haven’t amassed the skills and education valued in an increasingly knowledge and service-based economy. Many in that group need exactly what TANF was designed to deliver: temporary cash assistance while they get back on their feet, meaningful activities that will build skill and reduce barriers to employment, and quality child care.

I’m all for college scholarships, but it shouldn’t come out of the money meant to help poor Michiganders back on their feet.

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Holding management accountable for school results

September 27, 2016 by  
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One of the main lessons we learned from our Michigan Future Schools initiative is, contrary to conventional wisdom, the core characteristic of pre K-12 schools nationally that are getting breakthrough gains in student achievement is the commitment and capability of the management of schools (the central office of both charter school networks and traditional public school districts), not building level leadership and/or the quality of the teachers.

The quality of the principal; other academic building-level leaders; and teachers, of course, matter, but they, by and large, are a reflection of the quality of the central office both in hiring and developing building-level talent and in providing building-level professionals with a playbook for meeting high student outcome standards.

Figuring out what capacities/skills children need to be college and career ready; designing schools to build those capacities/skills; and then successfully executing that design is really hard work. Expecting principals and teachers to figure that out on top of their daily responsibilities is, to say the least, unrealistic.

Our experience with the schools we worked with––almost all were charter schools––is that principals and teachers were changed regularly and yet student outcomes didn’t change much from year to year. What didn’t change much is the central office design of schools; their ability to build the capacity of the schools they managed to execute their design; or their system for hiring and developing building-level educators. To us these are the levers that matter most to getting the kind of breakthrough gains in student achievement we all say we want.

To make matters worse we have an accountability system for student outcomes that has the most consequences for teachers and principals. They can lose their jobs if student test scores don’t meet standards. Somehow we have decided that if only we could fire more easily low quality principals and teachers we would get big gains in student outcomes. Think again! Yes there are low quality principals and teachers that should be more easy to dismiss in public schools.

But there are no such restrictions to doing that in the charter sector and the absence of those restrictions doesn’t lead to breakthrough student achievement gains in charter schools that don’t have central offices that have designed and implemented systems to prepare students to be college and career ready.

(To see the needed management competencies take a look at the functions of  Uncommon Schools’ central office. They are one of the charter systems that is recognized for moving towards the kind of student outcomes that we all say we want.)

If we want to use accountability as a key lever to drive improvement in student outcomes, the system should be designed to primarily hold those who manage schools accountable. And that accountability system should be based on metrics that predict college and career ready, rather than just standardized test scores that turn out not to be very predictive of either. (For more on the inadequacy of standardized tests see this previous post.)

The hope is when you get the metrics right and the accountability system right you get central offices analyzing student success and redesigning schooling based on that analysis. (For a terrific example of how this can work see this from Yes Prep!)

The post Holding management accountable for school results appeared first on Michigan Future Inc..

#8 Michigan State hosts #11 Wisconsin: Cooking Up Badger Meat

September 23, 2016 by  
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Sagarin Ratings: MSU #28, Wisky #29

#8 MSU 2-0/0-0. #11 Wisky: 3-0
Saturday, September 24, 2016.
12:00 pm ET.
Mecca: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI

Line: MSU by 5 (vegasinsider.com)
Weather: 64 degrees, partly cloudy, wind 8 mph ENE

Depth Chart - MSU - Wisky

Injuries - Wisky.  Out - PK  Rafael Gaglianone; LG Jon Dietzen; RB Bradrick Shaw; LB Chris Orr; CB Natrell Jamerson. Questionable - LG Micah Kapoi; RB Corey Clement; RB Taiwan Deal.

Injuries - MSU.  None.  


Wow, check out that injury list for Wisconsin, particularly on offense.  This is rough for a unit that had to come back from a 17-13 deficit to squeak by that upstart team, 0-3 Georgia State, last week at home.  Bucky Badger is hurting at the right time to meet the Spartoonies... but, Wisky seems to always bring their lunchpail when playing the Big Green.

Why in the good lord did ABC or ESPN not pick up a #8 vs #11 matchup?  Very odd, because it screwed up SpartanNation's plans for 'gating.  Instead, with a Noon kick, the ES is just gonna skate over to the PB for some common sense and meet up with the gang prior to the game.  So long as it pairs up with a scUM loss to Penn State, it actually might work out just fine...

Let's cut to the chase.  The ES wuz with Ronnie and Rick at the Peanut Barrel on Thursday when CNN's Ultimate Tailgate showed up.  It was pretty cool hanging with former NFLer Coy Wire (Stanford Cardinal, Buffalo Bills) We were put on the tube rebel-rousing about the food, the beer, and left the producers with a rowdy "Go Green Go White!"  You can tune into CNN Headline News' Weekend Express between 7 am - Noon, prior to kickoff on Saturday to see the ES and the PB in action.  Thanks, Joe Bell!

There's Joe Bell (far left), proprietor of Peanut Barrel yucking it up
with Mr. Clean, a.k.a. Coy Wire and the Ultimate Tailgate Crew...
A great visit, thank you CNNHL! 
ES Thoughts?  MSU is healthy, and was incredibly impressive at times taking ND to the woodshed on the ground.  However, if there is a strength of the beer-drinkers and hell raisers, it is their interior defense which is giving up 82.3 ypg on the ground, and just 3.3 yards per carry.  Meanwhile, LJ Scott and Madre London ripped through the Irish last week for 198 yards on 35 carries. Through the air, Tyler O'Connor played the best game of his career, going 19-26 for 241 yards and a pair of TDs.  He looked sharp, and added another 46 yards on the ground.  RJ Shelton came alive as his go-to receiver with eight grabs, but Donnie Corley (4-88) looked insane as the youngster with great hands.  Looks like a stellar receiving corps that will test the Badger defense. Overall, the Badgers are allowing just 261 yards per game.

Da Badgers benched their shitty experienced QB to start a redshirt freshman, Alex Horney-brook, who led the Big Ten West stalwart back from the jaws of defeat to UGA State.  That spells trouble for UW, in addition to all their injuries against a strong Spartan defense.  If we can keep the foot on the jugular, MSU should be able to press Bucky into some turnovers and keep them at bay much of the game.

Don't expect a lot of points in this game. Nearly everyone in human history is picking the Spartans to win this one... except for Brock (see below), who is busy drinking IPAs across the Upper Peninsula.

ES sez:  MSU 20, Wisky 17

Skooz (from PB), MSU 33-17; RGMIII, MSU 24-21;  Brock, WIS 50-0; Tom (PB regular), MSU 38-21

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: MSU 21-16
Madtown Badgers:  Nick, MSU 24-17; Rayan, MSU 24-14;
FoxSports.com: Feldman, MSU 17-9; Mandel, MSU 27-20
Freep: MSU 27-13
LSJ:  MSU 27-19
DetNews: Charboneau, MSU 27-13; Chengelis, MSU 35-13; Wojo, MSU 24-10; Niyo, MSU 23-17
BTN: Dienhart, MSU 17-13; Merriman, MSU 27-15; Yarina, MSU 23-19
ESPN: Bennett, MSU 21-17; Moyer, MSU 28-20; Murphy, MSU 24-21; Temple, MSU 17-14; Ward, MSU 20-16
CampusInsiders:  MSU 20-14
Athlon:  MSU 26-20
MLive.com: MSU 24-10
CBSSports.com: MSU 20-16
Sports XChange:  MSU 31-13
College Football News:  MSU 23-20
The Oklahoman: MSU 30-19
Chicago Tribune:  MSU 23-20

Finally rising household incomes

September 23, 2016 by  
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2015 turns out to be the year that a growing economy finally delivered rising incomes for low and middle income Americans and Michiganders. Median household income nationally rose 5.2 percent. In Michigan 2.4 percent.

Michigan’s median household income in 2015 was $51,084 compared to $56,517 for the nation.

The poverty rate fell nationally from 14.8 to 13.5 percent. In Michigan the decline was from 16.2 to 15.8 percent.

And those without health insurance fell to 9.1 percent nationally and to 6.1 percent in Michigan.

(For a good overview of the Michigan data see this MLive article.)

Beyond the statistics published by the Census Bureau we looked at what happened to average wages in Michigan. What has been holding Michigan back has predominantly been stagnant wages. 2015 delivered good news here as well. With average annual wages corrected for inflation growing 3.1 percent. We also looked at fast food restaurant workers as representative of low wage workers. Here the increase was even more impressive: real annual average wages up in Michigan 7.5 percent. Almost certainly driven, in large part, by a higher minimum wage.

These increases come after real wages did not grow from 2001-2014. From 2001 to 2014 average annual Michigan wages fell from $50,041 to $48,545. In 2015 they rose back to 2001 levels at $50,063. For fast food workers the decline was from $13,615 to $12,598. In 2015 they rose back to 2002 levels at $13,544

Very good news indeed!

But as Eduardo Porter explores in a New York Times column entitled America’s Inequality Problem: Real Income Gains Are Brief and Hard to Find one year does not make a trend. And the long-term trend still is very worrisome. The basic trend Porter writes about is that it is taking longer and longer with subsequent recessions for household income to reach the previous peak.

The nation has not gotten back to the 2007 peak yet. Still 1.7 percent below. Porter writes:

How does that look compared to the nation’s recent history? After the economy slipped into recession in 1969, it took only three years for incomes in the middle to rebound and surpass their previous peak. After the downturn of 1973, it took five; after back-to-back recessions in 1981 and 1982, it took seven.

And, except for the long expansion that ran from 1991 through 2000, it has been getting worse. The economic growth from late 2001 to about the end of 2007 never even managed to deliver incomes above the previous peak for the typical household, reached near the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency. The expansion underway today may not get there, either.

Today, median household incomes are still 2.4 percent below the absolute peak they hit in 1999 — when Facebook had yet to come into existence, the big news in the music business was Napster, and the good times in Silicon Valley were about to come crashing down with the collapse of the dot-com bubble.

At the bottom of the ladder, households at the 10th percentile — those poorer than 90 percent of the population — are still a bit poorer than they were in 1989. Americans have managed to develop an internet economy, invent social media and build driverless cars since then, but not to improve the lot of those at the bottom.

As Porter details, the predominant reason a growing economy is not raising living standards for all is that income gains are concentrating at the top. As he concludes: “The current census data does suggest that growth can ultimately bring prosperity to average Americans. Still, it also points to the persistence of wide inequality as being at the center of the story.”

This is the great challenge going forward for U.S. and Michigan policymakers. Whether you call it shared prosperity or inclusive growth or something else we need to figure out how to recouple economic growth with a rising standard of living for all.

The post Finally rising household incomes appeared first on Michigan Future Inc..

Don’t Miss the Friends & Family Sale at BaubleBar

September 22, 2016 by  
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BaubleBar is a great spot to find affordable and pretty jewelry.  They carry both trendy and timeless styles that you can wear anyplace. This week, take 25% off sitewide when you use YESPLEASE through 9.26. Offer excludes sale, Maya Brenner, bundle sets and BaubleBar Essentials. We’re loving some of the delicate gold pieces for fall and this sale is the perfect time to stock up on our favorites!


y-chain-gold-necklace     initial-bar-bracelet

celestial-drops-gold     mini-pinata-tassel-drops

Go Green! Go Rgmiii

September 22, 2016 by  
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Rgmiii is the best and he predicts the Michigan State Spartans win 24-21 this Saturday at Spartan Stadium
The ES with RGM-III... right after the CNN live spot from the Peanut Barrel!  

Why a liberal arts degree holds value in the second machine age

September 22, 2016 by  
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I recently caught up with an old friend whose daughter graduated from high school this year. My friend’s pride in her high-achieving child was obvious, but when I asked about her daughter’s intended college major, her enthusiasm was noticeably muted. She admitted that her daughter’s decision to study musical theatre at a liberal arts college was a source of anxiety and concern for her family, whose definition of career success is focused on traditional fields such as medicine and engineering.

My friend’s anxiety over her daughter’s decision to pursue a liberal arts degree should come as no surprise. It has become conventional wisdom among many politicians and pundits that a liberal arts degree is a costly folly. Leaders like President Barack Obama and Florida Governor Rick Scott have disparaged liberal arts degrees as useless – despite the fact that they have provided pricey liberal educations for their own children.


In fact, while opinion leaders pitch the idea that only STEM degrees are a certain path to career stability, futurists have noted that digital technologies will likely make even high-paying STEM careers like computer programming and anesthesiology obsolete. American workers who are best trained for 21st century career success will be those who know how to adapt to an evolving career landscape by possessing broad, transferable skills.

I’m not arguing that STEM careers are a bad choice. But the skills that make all workers  – even those who choose STEM careers – valuable are boosted, not diminished, by a liberal education. In fact, in their groundbreaking book The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, authors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argue that in order to outpace the machines that will replace workers in the future, workers need to gain skills that are uniquely human.  While it has become sport to denigrate a liberal education, futurists and employers have signaled that the skills 21st job creators cherish most in workers are the very ones that a liberal education provides:  The ability to communicate, think critically, be creative and collaborate.


One need only look to Silicon Valley, where employers are increasingly recruiting liberal arts majors for top jobs. A 2015 Forbes magazine article recounts the career trajectories of the CEO and editorial director for tech juggernaut Slack Technologies, holders of bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and theater, respectively. Far from anomalies, these tech leaders represent the sector’s increasing reliance on leaders who possess the ability to add a human touch to their data-based world.

Knowing this, I gave my friend a 21st century career pep talk that she could share with friends and family members who disapprove of her daughter’s college ambitions.

“Your daughter is learning how to do a job that can’t be replaced by robots and computers,” I told her.  “You should be proud! Do you think Lin-Manuel Miranda’s parents are embarrassed by his college and career choices?”

My friend felt better after our conversation, and I felt better knowing that I had helped to bolster the support network for a young woman who is using her college experiences to pursue her passion and learn skills that will help her thrive no matter where her career takes her.

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