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Journal of No. 118

October 8th, 2013

Morlocks and Eloi, here we come @ 06:25 am

Interesting results of a global test of adult performance on reading, math, and problem solving.

"Not only did Americans score poorly compared to many international competitors, the findings reinforced just how large the gap is between the nation's high- and low-skilled workers and how hard it is to move ahead when your parents haven't.

In both reading and math, for example, those with college-educated parents did better than those whose parents did not complete high school.


The median hourly wage of workers scoring on the highest level in literacy on the test is more than 60 percent higher than for workers scoring at the lowest level, and those with low literacy skills were more than twice as likely to be unemployed.


This test could suggest students leaving high school without certain basic skills aren't obtaining them later on the job or in an education program.

'There is a race between man and machine here. The question here is always: Are you a worker for whom technology makes it possible to do a better job or are you a worker that the technology can replace?" he said. For those without the most basic skills, he said, the answer will be merciless and has the potential to extend into future generations. Learning is highly correlated with parents' education level.

'If you want to avoid having an underclass — a large group of people who are basically unemployable — this educational system is absolutely key,' Kirkegaard said."
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From:Jason Schissel
Date:October 8th, 2013 01:39 pm (UTC)
This raises the serious (and only mildly defensive) question: how does the US have the largest economy in the world?
1) Are we simply lucky enough to have the most natural resources, so that despite our inefficient usage, we come out on top?
2) Are we still benefiting from decades-old military victories?
3) We do have a larger (and more diverse) population than any of the other countries listed, but India and China have larger populations still. Are we at a sweet spot?
4) Are the abilities tested not well-correlated with economic success of a country? Maybe some cultural/political factors have a strong weight?
5) Is there information in the *distribution* of skills (as opposed to the averages) that is critical to the story?
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Date:October 8th, 2013 03:10 pm (UTC)
how does the US have the largest economy in the world?

We may be ill-educated, but we're hard-working.

And to some extent, we've figured out how to rest the economy on the backs of the Eloi, and the Morlocks contribute more to the service industries (which is not an inconsiderable economy, either).

Some of the historical and resource ideas you mention are also probably relevant.
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Date:October 8th, 2013 03:53 pm (UTC)
1) We do have a lot of great natural resources, not the least of which is arable land. We have also recently become the top oil/gas producing country in the world.

2) I don't know that we're benefitting from old military victories per se (since we didn't extract a lot of wealth from the countries we defeated) but it is of note that most of our competitors (Germany, Japan, the UK, Russia, China) were combat zones during the second world war, and had their infrastructure devastated to one degree or another. The United States is almost unique in that respect - despite being a major combatant, our homeland was pretty much uninvolved, so we didn't have to rebuild all our factories and airfields and such after the war.

3) I think cultural factors are significant. Whatever the reasons are, English is now the world's lingua franca (er, you know what I mean.) This means that the world consumes our media, which is a not-insignificant portion of the economy.

4) We borrow money at astoundingly low rates, thus financing deficit spending that helps propel our economy, because American dollars and Treasury bonds are considered the world's safest. So, of course, the neo-Confederates running the Republican Party are about to fuck that up for good.

Journal of No. 118