What Does Being Smart Have to Do With Job Security?

America’s current unemployment rate is at 9.1 percent.  In his Op-Ed yesterday, Reihan Salam comments on research by Garrett Jones, a George Mason University economist, which further details studies by Michael Kremer. The findings of the study show sustainable economic change begins with young people who still have open minds and the capacity to do quality work.  The more we age, according to Jones, the more our intelligence can become calcified as we may be less open to learning,  new ideas, and growth.

There is a high cost to our national report card which reflects the many B and C students being socially promoted.  In turn, our community colleges are flooded with 1.5 million students remediated for English and 2.5 million students remediated for math.  Many of these students will spend their first two years of college taking high school level courses. Jones found that hiring C+ workers, in the hopes that after time and training they will become B workers and then A workers, is time consuming and not cost effective. Therefore companies largely hire “smart people,” assuming an A+ report card marks them as an A+ worker. Companies are willing to pay more for someone with better grades to avoid paying for the employee’s mistakes as they learn the ropes and to make the position more desirable.

While having high marks from a prestigious college on your resume no doubt paves the way for more opportunities than a transcript marked with poor grades in remedial courses, academics are only part of the equation. A C+ in math doesn’t have any relevance to an employee’s ability to show up to work on time, shoulder responsibility, display managerial skills, or get promoted — neither does an A+. People like self-made billionaire Jim Clark or famous photographer Ansel Adams dropped out of high school (click here for a longer list of famous dropouts) and through determination, gifts, and talents, not only made careers for themselves, became successful professionals.

College students who juggle work and full-time school schedules show their ability to find a balance. Students who hold a job for more than 2 years, whether it’s in their field or at a grocery store, show their commitment to a team. Students who go to school, hold a job, and have an internship show they’re invested in their futures and their drive to succeed. We should encourage students to do their best, we should demand high schools prepare high school students with the skills they need to succeed in life and college, but we should also rally behind the average student who has dreams of being an above average, successful professional.



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